Everything you Need to Know about Wide-Angle Lenses
TG-6 Camera underwater

What is a wide-angle lens?

Wide-angle generally reefers to the photographer using a lens or a lens adapter that either goes onto the camera itself or mounts on the housing and will significantly increase the field of view beyond what the human eye can see.

How wide is a wide-angle lens?

A wide-angle lens will generally be anywhere from 120-180 degrees.

The red line indicates what a standard lens on a compact camera will capture.

If I zoom all the way out with my compact camera will I be shooting wide-angle?

Most likely no, unless you are using a Go-Pro or another action-cam type of camera. Most compact cameras will have a lens that’s somewhere between 70-90 degrees.

How do I know how wide my lens is?

All lenses, whether it’s on a compact camera or the interchangeable type will give you a number referencing its focal length in milometers. For example, the lens of the Olympus TG-6 has a focal length of 25-100mm. Basically, the smaller the number the wider the lens. Generally, you want your lens to be somewhere around 16mm, this will provide you with the best wide-angle results underwater.

Can I buy an adapter for my camera to make it wide-angle?

Yes, most compact cameras now as well as mirrorless cameras have wide-angle adapters that you can put either directly on the camera or housing. Backscatter is an awesome underwater camera shop in California and their website is an excellent source for finding out what wide-angle lens options your camera has.

What’s a wide-angle wet lens?

Basically, it’s what I just explained above. It’s what “they” call an adapter lens that goes on the housing. Water will flow freely between the housing’s flat glass port and the backend of the adapter lens.  A DSLR or mirrorless style camera with interchangeable lenses will usually have a wide-angle lens mounted on the camera with a larger acrylic or glass dome port over the lens.

There are a lot of different wide-angle wet lens options with a big difference in prices, how do I know which one is good?

Well, generally in this case the more expensive the better. Cheaper lens adapters will have an acrylic dome which can have some issues when it comes to lens flares and corner sharpness. More expensive models will have glass optics which are a lot harder to scratch and really provide much better sharpness throughout the image. One of the big things to look for is how good is the “corner sharpness”.

About Author

Alex Lindbloom
Alex is a Snorkel Venture and Dive Safari Asia guide as well as the video and photo pros for both companies. Alex is also a field editor for a popular underwater photography magazine. Prior to joining Snorkel Venture in 2018 Alex lived and worked all over the world working as an underwater cameraman, with five of those years living/working on a yacht in Indonesia. Alex's images and videos have garnered many international awards such as Underwater Photographer of the Year and can be seen on NatGeo, Discovery Channel, the UN Building, and various magazines.