The Nauticam EMWL for “Bugeye” Images

The creator 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 huge angle (CFWA), a method that produces partaking, color-rich photos the place the principle topic seems massive and detailed. These are elements for beautiful images, which look nice on journal covers and often place in competitions.

As a CFWA shooter, you all the time need to get nearer to your topic, as a result of you understand this may amplify all of the aforementioned benefits of that method. For years, the limiting issue was the dimensions of your dome port, with the very 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 means of pushing via the boundaries of CFWA, with a set of “bugeye” moist lenses.

On this article, I’ll briefly introduce the assorted parts that make up the EMWL, earlier than concentrating on the 2 entrance components that I’ve used extensively attributable to their greater bugeye potential—the 160° objective lens and the 100° objective lens. I’ll have a look at how these goal lenses differ, the number of photos you may create with them, and the constraints of the EMWL system as an entire 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 digicam to see the world from the angle of a tiny creature—a bug, an anemonefish, a smurf—by combining a small entrance aspect, a large subject of view, and shut focusing capabilities. In a nutshell, this can be a instrument 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 photograph, which gained not solely the 2022 Wildlife Photographer of the 12 months contest, but in addition the Large 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 most likely how you’d see the scene should you have been their dimension (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)


Should you have been a kind of small anemonefish, that is how huge 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 totally assembled, the EMWL system attaches in entrance of a flat port, utilizing a bayonet mount (through an adapter on the port’s 67mm thread). Behind the port sits your macro lens, whose slender subject of view shall be transformed right into a a lot wider one by the EMWL.

The EMWL system is made up of three components:

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

They’re all “moist optics” and join to 1 one other through 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 method simpler


The main target unit is the bottom aspect that mounts onto the flat port. Nauticam has three variations of this focus unit protecting 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 search out out which one is suited to the macro lens that you just intend on utilizing.

The relay lens is a 150mm (6in) tube, which is put in between the main focus unit and the entrance lens. Its position is barely to invert the picture: With out it, the scene will seem upside-down on a DSLR viewfinder. In case you are a mirrorless consumer, you would possibly be capable to invert the show in your digicam 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 aspect diameters. My curiosity is creating probably the most excessive CFWA impact, so I’m going to concentrate on the entrance optics which I really feel serve that function finest: the 100° and 160° goal lenses.


Juvenile sharks under a desk coral. The relay lens makes the EMWL longer, which is useful 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 explanation why the 100° and 160° goal lenses are going to provide 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 barely 70mm tall (2.75in), however the entrance optic is even smaller, making the dinosaur look big.


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 instances bigger than that of the 100° or 160° goal lens. To place it one other means, with the EMWL, I can produce photos that I may take with my Tokina/Zen setup if I used to be capable of shrink the entire housing 5 instances—whereas maintaining my strobes at their regular dimension. Fairly cool, eh?


This bushy frogfish was about 15cm (6in), however it seems to be 5 instances 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 dimension of the entrance aspect of the EMWL and the acute enlargement of the sector of view, I used to be uncertain what to anticipate when it comes to 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 digicam. Additionally, I’ve owned the 100° goal lens for for much longer, which is why there are extra photos shot with the 100° slightly 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 means, so I handled this by working at greater ISO values. Below vivid daylight, I sometimes shot at ISO 400 or 500, and underneath darker situations, I discovered ISO 640 to 800 to be vital.

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


A typical octopus exhibiting 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 sort of a difficult topic when it comes to dynamic vary for any digicam sensor. At ISO 640 on my venerable D810, I used to be nonetheless capable of get better shadows and a lot 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)



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

When I’m dwelling and I’ve completed importing the RAW information into Adobe Lightroom, I take a white stability 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 Fast Bay, South Australia. The colours look nearly 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 vulnerable to flare. Below daylight situations, be it underneath 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 usually connected my lens hood over the entrance aspect, however this restricted how shut I may get to the topic by an inch or so. In lots of instances, this didn’t restrict my photographic alternatives, besides when I discovered a small topic that tolerated the lens up shut. In such instances, to maximise the bugeye impact, I’d take off the hood and flare would return. In these cases, I resolved the problem by reducing off the ambient gentle fully: I elevated the shutter pace till the background was black, which additionally masked the flare. That is why my most excessive CFWA photographs 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 wish 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 with no hood.


To get the magnification I needed 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 resolve if I appreciated the EMWL’s skill to resolve particulars. My qualitative opinion is that it’s glorious: When working at an in depth focus distance (lower than a foot or 30cm), which is what this technique 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, however it’s value mentioning that a few of my EMWL photos have gained worldwide awards, have been revealed in magazines, and look good when printed massive, so for me, they tick all the proper containers 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 various 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 method, 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 Discipline

When the topic is a foot (30cm) or additional away from the entrance aspect, I discovered that f/11 to f/14 gave me enough depth of subject 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 severely 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 practically 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 greater magnification ratios, when your topic practically touches the entrance aspect, the depth of subject actually shrinks and the background goes to be out of focus, even at stopped-down apertures. This can be 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 it’s a must 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 much like utilizing a moist diopter for tremendous macro, which means having to make use of a robust focus gentle to assist the digicam 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 sudden: I all the time thought-about my D810 to be gradual (for a DSLR), particularly when put next with my Nikon D500 and its cousin the D850.


The main target is tack-sharp on the attention, regardless of this 2in (5cm) toadfish swimming into the EMWL at night time, one way or the other mesmerized by the crimson 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 have been purposefully swimming throughout the bay after I noticed them. I positioned myself on their path and will take simply a few photographs 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 photographs being good and sharp, with the main focus precisely the place I needed it. I estimate my success charge at about 90%, and that features swimming topics, daylight capturing in lower than 15 ft visibility (with no focus gentle), and night-time capturing with a crimson dive gentle. With out the EMWL, my D810/105mm mixture doesn’t get wherever near that success charge!

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


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


Nikon Mirrorless Digital camera

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 photographs.

With out getting too technical, mirrorless cameras autofocus in numerous methods to DSLRs, every digicam model having its personal expertise. Cameras of various manufacturers will open up the aperture to numerous ranges to assist focusing (the extra gentle, the better the job), however this will lead to a bodily phenomenon known as “focus shift,” with the chance of manufacturing back-focused images. Once more, totally different digicam producers differ of their method, when it comes to 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 formulation is modified by including the EMWL system into the equation.

The EMWL focus-shift state of affairs is understood to affect Nikon mirrorless cameras (which I may verify in my testing), whereas Canon mirrorless our bodies are basically unaffected on the stepped-down apertures that I beneficial earlier. Present Sony and Olympus mirrorless cameras seem like unaffected too, however the challenge was reported with older Sony our bodies (e.g., the Sony A7R III). Luckily, when capturing video with the EMWL on the Nikon Z9, I haven’t skilled any back-focus challenge—which is smart, because the aperture stays fastened whereas recording a video.

As I’m writing these strains, Nauticam are conducting intensive testing to slender down the problem and are investigating options to reinforce the expertise on affected cameras.

Regardless of the back-focus downside, I’ve taken some nonetheless images that I’m very pleased with 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, obtained the aircraft of focus the place I needed it (Nikon Z9, Nikon Z 105mm f/2.8, Nauticam EMWL 160°, f/20, 1/200s, ISO 800, 20% crop)


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

Total, the expertise I had when capturing the EMWL with a mirrorless digicam was nearer to what I used to be anticipating initially—having to be extra fingers on with the autofocus. It’s positively workable, and the picture high quality is great, when following the above suggestions. Compared, utilizing the EMWL on a Nikon DSLR is ridiculously straightforward (I haven’t tried with a Canon physique), and I hope Nauticam will discover a approach to elevate the bar to that very same degree 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 capable of produce excessive CFWA photos which are merely not possible to attain with a fisheye lens, with spectacular magnification ratios. Normal CFWA photos are simpler to provide, too, as a result of the entrance aspect of the EMWL is much less intimating than a mini-dome and housing to many marine creatures.

The 160° goal lens has change into my go-to EMWL lens for day dives: It’s straightforward to fill the body with a 2–4in (5–10cm) topic, and at 160 levels, it may well cowl bigger topics like turtles, gropers, and sharks. Additionally, its wider subject 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 angle could also be achievable with a fisheye lens, however there isn’t a likelihood 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 aspect, even bumping into it once in a while. 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 provide 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 desire for the 160°, I nonetheless carry the 100° goal lens in a pocket and can swap as quickly as the topic is a bit too skittish to attain a superb magnification ratio with the 160°. Some topics are additionally too small for the broader lens: The “slender” 100° subject of view provides me a extra beneficiant working distance, which additionally makes lighting a bit simpler—although, sure, we’re speaking a one-inch (2–3cm) distinction!

For night time 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 it is going to 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 could 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)


Closing Ideas

The EMWL system exceeded my expectations when it comes to picture high quality and ease of use. I now all the time have the EMWL clipped onto a D-ring every time I dive with my 105mm macro lens. To place it one other means, after I go for a CFWA dive, I have a tendency to choose the EMWL as an alternative of my fisheye lens, understanding I’m able to swap to macro if the necessity arises. This offers me an excessive amount 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 gives a unique perspective on the very same topic, telling a narrative concerning 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)



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



When buying underwater images tools just like the merchandise talked about on this article, please assist DPG by supporting our retail associate—