Sharp Underwater Photos with the Sony RX-100 II and UWL-04 Fisheye Lens

Sharp Underwater Photos with the Sony RX-100 II and UWL-04 Fisheye Lens

Aug 15
Sharp Underwater Photos with the Sony RX-100 II and UWL-04 Fisheye Lens

By Nirupam Nigam


In the past few days I have been lucky enough to use and test the much anticipated Sony RX-100 II soon after it was released. I must say that I am very impressed with this camera! It is certainly the best compact camera that I have used and the image quality is great. I am very happy with its low light capability and 1 inch sensor!

Great detail of these anemones in this photo taken with the RX-100 II in low light conditions under an oil rig.

As an underwater photographer, two perspectives of photography are more important to me above all others – wide angle and macro. By definition, compact cameras (e.g., the Sony RX-100 II) do not have interchangeable lenses. Thus, in order to create wide-angle and macro capabilities underwater, a photographer must use “wet” lenses that are placed over the housing and can be switched out even while underwater.

The development of such lenses has produced some amazing products with amazing capabilities. One such lens is the UWL-04 Fisheye lens which has a 165 degrees field of view! The UWL-04 can be used with all RX-100 and RX-100 II housings! This is a big deal because wide angle capabilities are often lacking for compact cameras.

I have recently tested the UWL-04 fisheye lens with the new Sony RX-100 II while diving on the Eureka Oil Rig off the coast of San Pedro, California and in the pool. The field of view on this camera is certainly wide – very wide. Capturing large subjects while still being able to get close in order to retain great color is not a problem in the least. All you need to do is screw the lens on – from above water or from under! Keep in mind that if you attach the lens on land, you need to “burp” the air out underwater.

Great field of view with the UWL-04! The blur in the image is my fault – I was shooting at too low of an ISO. f/1.8, 1/50, ISO-100. Read below to see how to get sharp photos.

However, one issue did present itself during my dives and pool testing – soft corners. When shooting at large apertures, the corners will often be out of focus while the center of the image or the focus point is in strong focus. Luckily, this issue is easily resolvable. First, one must start by shooting at an ISO of 200-400 instead of 100-200. This enables you to shoot with smaller apertures while maintain good exposure. Noise is not an issue, especially with the RX-100 II’s new improved sensor technology. Next, shoot with a small aperture. At apertures of f/5.6 and smaller, more than enough of the image will be in focus enough to produce beautiful photos. This can be demonstrated in the pool tests bellow. Look at the label on the ice tea bottle to see the change of detail in the corners as the aperture gets smaller.


The detail on the bottle is lost because of soft corners at large apertures. f/1.8, 1/2000, ISO-200


Soft corners become less of a problem at medium apertures. f/5.6, 1/640, ISO-200

The UWL-04 produces very sharp, very wide images at small apertures. f/11, 1/100, ISO-200

I also conducted tests demonstrating how the depth of field changes with two objects on two different planes. There is change but minimal change in depth of field as one would expect with a wide angle lens.

The depth of field is similar between large and small apertures as would be expected. f/1.8, 1/2000, ISO-200

The depth of field is similar between large and small apertures as would be expected. f/11, 1/60, ISO-200

All in all, this is a great lens which gives compact users wonderful wide angle capabilities! Again, if you are worried about soft corners, the easy fix is to shoot with an ISO of 200-400 and an aperture of f/5.6 or smaller. This works for any fisheye lens with the RX-100 housings. If you desire an extremely sharp wide angle wet lens, the Bluewater WA-110 lens is another great option. This lens is sharper but the field of view is a little smaller at 110 degrees. No matter what wide angle option you choose with this camera system, the RX-100 II certainly cannot be beat in the world of compact systems!

Soft corners are close to non-existant even at f/1.8 with the Bluewater WA-110! f/1.8, 1/2000, ISO-200