The Nauticam EMWL for “Bugeye” Pictures

The writer want to thank Nauticam for supplying their NA-Z9 housing for the Nikon Z9 and the 160° goal lens for the Extended Macro Wide Lens (EMWL), and Nikon Australia for offering the Z9 mirrorless camera used on this assessment.


Weedy seadragon (Nikon D810, Nikon AF-S 105mm f/2.8, Nauticam EMWL with 160° goal lens, f/20, 1/25s, ISO 800, 25% crop)


Do you like macro or wide-angle images? My vote goes to shut focus broad angle (CFWA), a way that produces partaking, color-rich photographs the place the primary topic seems giant and detailed. These are elements for beautiful images, which look nice on journal covers and repeatedly place in competitions.

As a CFWA shooter, you at all times wish to get nearer to your topic, as a result of you recognize it will amplify all of the aforementioned benefits of that method. For years, the limiting issue was the dimensions of your dome port, with one of the best CFWA setups counting on 100mm mini-domes (round 4 inches in diameter). Then, alongside got here the Nauticam Extended Macro Wide Lens, or EMWL, a brand new method of pushing by means of the boundaries of CFWA, with a set of “bugeye” moist lenses.

On this article, I’ll briefly introduce the varied parts that make up the EMWL, earlier than concentrating on the 2 entrance parts that I’ve used extensively as a result of their increased bugeye potential—the 160° objective lens and the 100° objective lens. I’ll take a look at how these goal lenses differ, the number of photographs you may create with them, and the restrictions of the EMWL system as a complete when used with each DSLR and mirrorless cameras.


A “bugeye” picture of a sabertooth blenny, guarding its eggs in a discarded bottle (Nikon D810, Nikon AF-S 105mm f/2.8, Nauticam EMWL with 100° goal lens, f/22, 1/250s, ISO 640, 15% crop)


So What Is a Bugeye Lens?

A bugeye lens permits your digital camera to see the world from the attitude of a tiny creature—a bug, an anemonefish, a smurf—by combining a small entrance factor, a large discipline of view, and shut focusing capabilities. In a nutshell, this can be a device for excessive CFWA.

For land images, the Laowa 24mm “probe lens” might be probably the most well-known bugeye possibility. That is the lens behind Karine Aigner’s now-famous bee mating ball picture, which gained not solely the 2022 Wildlife Photographer of the Yr contest, but in addition the Massive Image 2022 grand prize.

Within the underwater realm, Inon has been providing bugeye lenses for greater than a decade, however these have remained area of interest, specialist instruments. I haven’t used these myself, however I’ve heard that picture high quality and focusing challenges have gotten in the way in which of a broader adoption.


Saddleback anemonefish, buzzing round their host anemone. That is in all probability how you’d see the scene in case you had been their measurement (Nikon D810, Nikon AF-S 105mm f/2.8, Nauticam EMWL with 100° goal lens, f/18, 1/80s, ISO 640, crop to 16/9 ratio)


In case you had been a kind of small anemonefish, that is how large and intimidating this two-inch-long flamboyant cuttlefish would seem (Nikon D810, Nikon AF-S 105mm f/2.8, Nauticam EMWL with 100° goal lens, f/18, 1/250s, ISO 640, 10% crop)


The Nauticam EMWL System

When absolutely assembled, the EMWL system attaches in entrance of a flat port, utilizing a bayonet mount (by way of an adapter on the port’s 67mm thread). Behind the port sits your macro lens, whose slender discipline of view will likely be transformed right into a a lot wider one by the EMWL.

The EMWL system is made up of three parts:

  • the focusing unit
  • the relay lens
  • the target lens

They’re all “moist optics” and join to at least one one other by way of bayonet mounts, so you may assemble/disassemble them within the water.


The EMWL, seen from the critters’ perspective. The small goal lens is much less intimidating than an entire housing, making the strategy simpler


The main focus unit is the bottom factor that mounts onto the flat port. Nauticam has three variations of this focus unit masking Canon RF- and EF-mounts, Nikon F- and Z-mounts, Sony E-mount, Panasonic L-mount, Fujifilm G-mount, and the Micro 4 Thirds mount. Consult with the Nauticam port chart to seek out out which one is suited to the macro lens that you simply intend on utilizing.

The relay lens is a 150mm (6in) tube, which is put in between the main target unit and the entrance lens. Its position is just to invert the picture: With out it, the scene will seem upside-down on a DSLR viewfinder. If you’re a mirrorless person, you would possibly be capable to invert the show in your digital camera menus, which supplies you the choice of doing with out this element.

Lastly, there are 4 goal lenses to select from, providing totally different fields of view, focus distances and entrance factor diameters. My curiosity is creating probably the most excessive CFWA impact, so I’m going to deal with the entrance optics which I really feel serve that objective greatest: the 100° and 160° goal lenses.


Juvenile sharks under a desk coral. The relay lens makes the EMWL longer, which is helpful for squeezing into tight areas the place a housing and a mini-dome can not match (Nikon D810, Nikon AF-S 105mm f/2.8, Nauticam EMWL with 100° goal lens, f/14, 1/80s, ISO 640, 30% crop to 16/9 ratio)


There are two the reason why the 100° and 160° goal lenses are going to supply probably the most excessive bugeye impact: (i) They each focus proper on the entrance glass, and (ii) their entrance glass could be very small—respectively, 21mm and 20mm in diameter (about 0.8in). See the 100° lens subsequent to my son’s toy dinosaur? The toy is just 70mm tall (2.75in), however the entrance optic is even smaller, making the dinosaur look large.


The 100° goal lens subsequent to a 7cm (2.75in) tall toy


Earlier than the EMWL appeared, my favourite CFWA setup was the Tokina 10–17mm fisheye zoom, producing diagonal fields of views from 100° to 180°, behind a Zen 100mm (4in) mini-dome port. The diameter of that dome is about 5 occasions bigger than that of the 100° or 160° goal lens. To place it one other method, with the EMWL, I can produce photographs that I may take with my Tokina/Zen setup if I used to be in a position to shrink the entire housing 5 occasions—whereas conserving my strobes at their regular measurement. Fairly cool, eh?


This bushy frogfish was about 15cm (6in), but it surely appears 5 occasions bigger when shot with the EMWL, in comparison with a CFWA fisheye setup (Nikon Z9, Nikon Z 105mm f/2.8, Nauticam EMWL 160°, f/20, 1/200s, ISO 640)


Picture High quality

Contemplating the small measurement of the entrance factor of the EMWL and the acute growth of the sphere of view, I used to be not sure what to anticipate by way of picture high quality. Within the following, I’ll element my observations based mostly on greater than 70 hours of diving utilizing the EMWL with my Nikon D810 DSLR, and round 17 hours with the Nikon Z9 mirrorless digital camera. Additionally, I’ve owned the 100° goal lens for for much longer, which is why there are extra photographs shot with the 100° relatively than 160° on this assessment.

Mild Transmission and Digital Noise

The very first thing I seen is how a lot gentle the entire system cuts down. There are a number of lenses concerned within the EMWL, and as soon as I connected it onto the flat port, my DSLR viewfinder appeared noticeably darker. With the Z9, this wasn’t noticeable, because the digital viewfinder compensates by brightening the show.

In fact, this impacts ambient gentle and strobe gentle in the identical method, so I handled this by working at increased ISO values. Below brilliant daylight, I sometimes shot at ISO 400 or 500, and beneath darker circumstances, I discovered ISO 640 to 800 to be mandatory.

Utilizing a full-frame digital camera is unquestionably a bonus right here, as digital noise stays low at these reasonable ISO values. With my nine-year-old 36MP D810, I used to be joyful utilizing the EMWL at ISO 800. With the Z9’s extra trendy sensor, I didn’t assume twice about working at ISO 1000 and even ISO 1250 when steady lights had been concerned.


A typical octopus displaying off in a sponge backyard. I needed to bump up the ISO to seize the small quantity of ambient gentle that remained at nightfall (Nikon D810, Nikon AF-S 105mm f/2.8, Nauticam EMWL with 160° goal lens, f/16, 1/25s, ISO 1000, 10% crop)


A black frogfish on the sand is kind of a difficult topic by way of dynamic vary for any digital camera sensor. At ISO 640 on my venerable D810, I used to be nonetheless in a position to get better shadows and many of the highlights (Nikon D810, Nikon AF-S 105mm f/2.8, Nauticam EMWL with 160° goal lens, f/16, 1/250s, ISO 640, 10% crop)



Apparently, the EMWL provides photographs a green-yellow coloration solid. That is simply fastened in post-processing with a white steadiness adjustment, however I’ll state the plain: To get one of the best picture high quality out of the EMWL, you should shoot in RAW format. I seen the Z9’s auto white steadiness handles that coloration solid higher than the D810, however nonetheless, it deserves a closing contact in modifying software program.

When I’m house and I’ve completed importing the RAW information into Adobe Lightroom, I take a white steadiness measurement, and apply it to all of the images from that final dive. Then I sit again, chill out, and watch the photographs come to life, with vibrant and contrasty colours revealing themselves. Total, I’m very happy with the colours I can get out of the EMWL, particularly when working near the topic—which is what the lens is supposed for.


Leafy seadragon in Speedy Bay, South Australia. The colours look pretty much as good as one would count on from a fisheye lens (Nikon D810, Nikon AF-S 105mm f/2.8, Nauticam EMWL with 100° goal lens, f/16, 1/250s, ISO 400)


Lens Flare

After dozens of dives with the 100° goal lens, I have to say it’s fairly liable to flare. Below daylight circumstances, be it beneath a jetty or within the open, whether or not or not the solar is within the body, I skilled flare as a rule.

To unravel this, I typically connected my lens hood over the entrance factor, however this restricted how shut I may get to the topic by an inch or so. In lots of circumstances, this didn’t restrict my photographic alternatives, besides when I discovered a small topic that tolerated the lens up shut. In such circumstances, to maximise the bugeye impact, I’d take off the hood and flare would return. In these cases, I resolved the problem by slicing off the ambient gentle fully: I elevated the shutter pace till the background was black, which additionally masked the flare. This is the reason my most excessive CFWA pictures taken with the 100° goal lens are likely to have a black background.

Against this, with the 160° goal lens, I didn’t discover any flare, regardless of utilizing it for round 14 hours. I would want to dive that lens longer to confidently say that it by no means displays flare, however I already developed the behavior of utilizing that lens and not using a hood.


To get the magnification I wished with this small coconut octopus, I needed to take off the lens hood, which resulted in seen flare (Nikon D810, Nikon AF-S 105mm f/2.8, Nauticam EMWL with 100° goal lens, f/16, 1/20s, ISO 640)



I’ve to admit that I’m not a lot of a pixel peeper, so I haven’t photographed pool partitions to determine if I preferred the EMWL’s capability to resolve particulars. My qualitative opinion is that it’s wonderful: When working at an in depth focus distance (lower than a foot or 30cm), which is what this method is optimized for, I discovered the extent of element nearer to my macro lens than to my fisheye lens.

Once more, it’s a qualitative assertion, but it surely’s value mentioning that a few of my EMWL photographs have gained worldwide awards, have been printed in magazines, and look good when printed giant, so for me, they tick all the proper bins with regard to picture high quality. This is applicable additionally after cropping: Not all critters allow you to get shut sufficient to fill the body, and I’ve cropped numerous my 36MP D810 information by as a lot as 33%, to 24MP. I’m very happy with the extent of element captured even with such substantial cropping.


The uncommon noticed handfish is troublesome to strategy, and I needed to crop this shot to fill the body. Nonetheless, the element within the resultant 27MP picture is spectacular (Nikon D810, Nikon AF-S 105mm f/2.8, Nauticam EMWL with 100° goal lens, f/18, 1/200s, ISO 640, 25% crop)


The sharpness of that crocodilefish’s eye feels just about “macro grade” to me (Nikon D810, Nikon AF-S 105mm f/2.8, Nauticam EMWL with 100° goal lens, f/18, 1/250s, ISO 640)


Depth of Subject

When the topic is a foot (30cm) or additional away from the entrance factor, I discovered that f/11 to f/14 gave me adequate depth of discipline on both of the full-frame cameras I used. As I get nearer to the topic, I sometimes labored between f/18 and f/22 when chasing probably the most excessive bugeye results.


A male weedy seadragon, whose lengthy snout begs for a significantly stopped-down aperture! (Nikon D810, Nikon AF-S 105mm f/2.8, Nauticam EMWL with 100° goal lens, f/20, 1/250s, ISO 500, 5% crop)


A caramel nudibranch almost touching the lens (Nikon D810, Nikon AF-S 105mm f/2.8, Nauticam EMWL with 100° goal lens, f/25, 1/250s, ISO 640, 10% crop)


At increased magnification ratios, when your topic almost touches the entrance factor, the depth of discipline actually shrinks and the background goes to be out of focus, even at stopped-down apertures. It is a key distinction with fisheye-based CFWA: On the highest magnification ratio, with the EMWL, you merely can not get a pointy background.


With this form of magnification—the red-fingered anglerfish was about 2in (5cm) tall—the dive mannequin goes to be out of focus (Nikon Z9, Nikon Z 105mm f/2.8, Nauticam EMWL 160°, f/16, 1/80s, ISO 640, 10% crop)


Having a pointy dive mannequin is feasible, however you need to again off from the foreground and get the mannequin nearer (Nikon D810, Nikon AF-S 105mm f/2.8, Nauticam EMWL with 100° goal lens, f/14, 1/60s, ISO 640, 10% crop)



When the EMWL was introduced, the pitch was an underwater bugeye lens with “usable” autofocus. Earlier than attempting the EMWL, I used to be anticipating the expertise to be just like utilizing a moist diopter for tremendous macro, which means having to make use of a powerful focus gentle to assist the digital camera and resorting to handbook focus frequently.

Nikon DSLR

In 2021, the day lastly got here after I took the EMWL for a primary dive, and I used to be blown away by the autofocus pace and accuracy on my Nikon D810. This was surprising: I at all times thought of my D810 to be sluggish (for a DSLR), particularly when put next with my Nikon D500 and its cousin the D850.


The main focus is tack-sharp on the attention, regardless of this 2in (5cm) toadfish swimming into the EMWL at evening, by some means mesmerized by the pink gentle (Nikon D810, Nikon AF-S 105mm f/2.8, Nauticam EMWL with 100° goal lens, f/16, 1/200s, ISO 640)


These striped catfish had been purposefully swimming throughout the bay after I noticed them. I positioned myself on their path and will take simply a few pictures earlier than they turned away (Nikon D810, Nikon AF-S 105mm f/2.8, Nauticam EMWL with 100° goal lens, f/18, 1/250s, ISO 400, 25% crop)


The magic of physics and Nauticam’s intelligent design resulted within the overwhelming majority of my pictures being good and sharp, with the main target precisely the place I wished it. I estimate my success price at about 90%, and that features swimming topics, daylight taking pictures in lower than 15 ft visibility (and not using a focus gentle), and night-time taking pictures with a pink dive gentle. With out the EMWL, my D810/105mm mixture doesn’t get anyplace near that success price!

I used to be mystified how an additional piece of glass could possibly be bettering autofocus efficiency, so I went to Nauticam for a proof. In layman phrases, the 105mm lens focuses sooner for 2 causes. First, the EMWL “compresses” the focusing distance vary, which means the lens doesn’t must “hunt” for focus anymore. Second, the EMWL is designed to enhance distinction underwater, which additionally helps the digital camera attain focus.


A bushy frogfish swallows a fortescue at evening. When the motion hots up, I’m fairly assured that autofocus will get the job carried out (Nikon D810, Nikon AF-S 105mm f/2.8, Nauticam EMWL with 100° goal lens, f/18, 1/200s, ISO 400)


Nikon Mirrorless Digicam

Autofocus accuracy points have been reported when utilizing the EMWL on some mirrorless cameras. When utilizing the Nikon Z9 and the Z-mount 105mm lens, I’ve additionally skilled these difficulties—noticeable back-focus issues on my EMWL pictures.

With out getting too technical, mirrorless cameras autofocus in numerous methods to DSLRs, every digital camera model having its personal know-how. Cameras of various manufacturers will open up the aperture to varied ranges to help focusing (the extra gentle, the better the job), however this will lead to a bodily phenomenon referred to as “focus shift,” with the danger of manufacturing back-focused images. Once more, totally different digital camera producers differ of their strategy, by way of the workarounds they use to mitigate that focus-shift downside. These workarounds are designed for particular lens constructions, and sadly, a few of them don’t appear to carry when the optical method is modified by including the EMWL system into the equation.

The EMWL focus-shift scenario is thought to impression Nikon mirrorless cameras (which I may verify in my testing), whereas Canon mirrorless our bodies are primarily unaffected on the stepped-down apertures that I really helpful earlier. Present Sony and Olympus mirrorless cameras look like unaffected too, however the subject was reported with older Sony our bodies (e.g., the Sony A7R III). Luckily, when taking pictures video with the EMWL on the Nikon Z9, I haven’t skilled any back-focus subject—which is sensible, because the aperture stays fastened whereas recording a video.

As I’m writing these traces, Nauticam are conducting in depth testing to slender down the problem and are investigating options to boost the expertise on affected cameras.

Regardless of the back-focus downside, I’ve taken some nonetheless images that I’m very proud of utilizing the Nikon Z9 and EMWL mixture, however I needed to adapt the way in which I shoot the system.


Specializing in the underside jaw, versus the attention, received the aircraft of focus the place I wished it (Nikon Z9, Nikon Z 105mm f/2.8, Nauticam EMWL 160°, f/20, 1/200s, ISO 800, 20% crop)


When autofocusing repeatedly (AF-C 3D), I picked a spotlight level sightly in entrance of the place I wished the main target aircraft to be (sometimes the attention). Generally, I needed to disable animal recognition, as a result of the Z9 would cheekily acknowledge the attention and attempt to deal with it. When the topic wasn’t transferring a lot, I discovered that switching to handbook focus—with focus peaking turned on—was workable, too. If you considered utilizing back-button autofocus, be aware that focus peaking will show solely whenever you begin overriding the main target manually, by way of the lens’ focus ring.

Total, the expertise I had when taking pictures the EMWL with a mirrorless digital camera was nearer to what I used to be anticipating initially—having to be extra fingers on with the autofocus. It’s undoubtedly workable, and the picture high quality is great, when following the above suggestions. As compared, utilizing the EMWL on a Nikon DSLR is ridiculously simple (I haven’t tried with a Canon physique), and I hope Nauticam will discover a approach to increase the bar to that very same stage for all mirrorless shooters.


With focus pre-set (handbook focus), I relied on focus peaking to know when to press the shutter, because the porcupinefish was getting nearer (Nikon Z9, Nikon Z 105mm f/2.8, Nauticam EMWL 160°, f/20, 1/200s, ISO 640)


160° vs 100° Goal Lenses: Which One?

Each the 100° and 160° goal lenses are in a position to produce excessive CFWA photographs which might be merely unattainable to realize with a fisheye lens, with spectacular magnification ratios. Commonplace CFWA photographs are simpler to supply, too, as a result of the entrance factor of the EMWL is much less intimating than a mini-dome and housing to many marine creatures.

The 160° goal lens has develop into my go-to EMWL lens for day dives: It’s simple to fill the body with a 2–4in (5–10cm) topic, and at 160 levels, it could cowl bigger topics like turtles, gropers, and sharks. Additionally, its wider discipline of view makes it a lot simpler to incorporate a mannequin behind your bugeye topic. Lastly, I like with the ability to work with out flare and let ambient gentle brighten up my water backgrounds, even at excessive topic magnifications.


This attitude could also be achievable with a fisheye lens, however there isn’t any probability this fiddler ray would have tolerated my mini-dome and housing so shut (Nikon Z9, Nikon Z 105mm f/2.8, Nauticam EMWL 160°, f/14, 1/125s, ISO 640, 10% crop)


This moray eel was fairly curious and adopted my EMWL entrance factor, even bumping into it every now and then. The quick distance wide-angle provides this portrait its “T-Rex” really feel (Nikon D810, Nikon AF-S 105mm f/2.8, Nauticam EMWL with 100° goal lens, f/25, 1/250s, ISO 500, 15% crop)


The 100° lens was too tight to supply an attention grabbing bugeye shot with out lacking components of this turtle (Nikon D810, Nikon AF-S 105mm f/2.8, Nauticam EMWL with 100° goal lens, f/16, 1/20s, ISO 1000)


Regardless of my choice for the 160°, I nonetheless carry the 100° goal lens in a pocket and can change as quickly as the topic is somewhat too skittish to realize an excellent magnification ratio with the 160°. Some topics are additionally too small for the broader lens: The “slender” 100° discipline of view provides me a extra beneficiant working distance, which additionally makes lighting somewhat simpler—although, sure, we’re speaking a one-inch (2–3cm) distinction!

For evening dives, I choose the 100° goal lens, as a result of I’m not going so as to add a mannequin within the body, I do know that flare gained’t be an issue, and will probably be simpler to fill the body with smaller topics. I’ll take the 160° lens in a pocket in case a much bigger animal reveals up.


This frogfish was about 1.5in (4cm) lengthy, and I think it will not have tolerated the 160° goal lens shut sufficient to permit me to fill the body (Nikon D810, Nikon AF-S 105mm f/2.8, Nauticam EMWL with 100° goal lens, f/18, 1/250s, ISO 640)


Last Ideas

The EMWL system exceeded my expectations by way of picture high quality and ease of use. I now at all times have the EMWL clipped onto a D-ring at any time when I dive with my 105mm macro lens. To place it one other method, after I go for a CFWA dive, I have a tendency to choose the EMWL as a substitute of my fisheye lens, realizing I’m able to change to macro if the necessity arises. This offers me quite a lot of flexibility and ends in more-productive dives.


A traditional super-macro topic: an emperor shrimp sitting on a donut nudibranch (Nikon D810, Nikon AF-S 105mm f/2.8, Nauticam SMC-1, f/18, 1/250s, ISO 800, 15% crop)


The EMWL affords a distinct perspective on the very same topic, telling a narrative in regards to the setting it lives in (Nikon D810, Nikon AF-S 105mm f/2.8, Nauticam EMWL with 100° goal lens, f/18, 1/250s, ISO 800, 15% crop)



Concerning the Reviewer: Nicolas Remy is an Australia-based professional shooter and founding father of on-line underwater images college The Underwater Club. His photographs have been extensively printed in print and digital media, and have gained over 35 worldwide picture awards. To see extra photographs that Nicolas and his spouse Lena have shot with the EMWL, go to their web site,, and seek for “EMWL.”



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