If you’ve looked into underwater camera accessories or aftermarket additions, there’s a seemingly endless array of light, flashes, housings, lenses, trays, grips, etc, that are all “essential” to taking great photos underwater. The truth of the matter is, as long as you have a basic understanding of how light works underwater and know how to compose a photo—and a camera that is either waterproof or has a housing, you don’t really need anything. A camera is a camera, and no amount of accessorizing will guarantee you a better image. A good image isn’t created from cameras and accessories, it’s created by the photographer’s understanding of light and composition. That being said, there are a few things that actually do make a difference in your overall underwater images, so long as they are combined with a basic understanding of underwater photography. Here are a few things we recommend as aftermarket purchases for our favorite underwater camera, the Olympus TG-6.
The Olympus TG-6 is already waterproof to about 50 feet or 15 meters. However, we strongly suggest purchasing an underwater housing for the camera as an added precaution. The TG-6 cameras are durable and very well built, but it would be a real bummer if you accidentally forgot to lock the little door where the battery & SD card go after downloading the images, causing a flood and destroying your camera.
The most reasonably priced housing on the market that’s really well built is the Olympus housing. It’s small enough to fit in one hand, but the added size does help stabilize your hand in the water making for smoother video clips and an easier time focusing on your subject. There are some other housings out there that are better in some ways, but they are significantly more expensive as they are made out of heavy-duty aluminum. If you just want an added barrier between the saltwater and your precious camera, the Olympus housing is perfectly suited for the job.
Wide Angle Lens
If you’ve been reading our blogs about underwater photo tips you’ll see we are big fans of wide-angle images as opposed to macro or reef fish photos. The main reason being, as snorkelers we have the best perspective for shooting incredible reef scenes and large marine life like mantas, whalesharks, and turtles who spent a good deal of their time right up in the shallows, if not at the surface. Macro subjects are just so small and require a serious amount of effort, skill, and a solid set of lungs in order to be able to dive down to them and capture them well.
If you already have a housing, there are a few really solid wide-angle lenses that fit the threads of the Olympus housing. The camera has a 62° lens, which is not very wide where wide-angle photography is concerned. A wide-angle lens really starts with a field of view around 90° but is most commonly around the 120° mark and wider. There is a range of high-quality lenses that fit the Olympus housing that range in price and field of view.
If you don’t have a housing, there is still one good option for a wide-angle lens that works on land and underwater. If you are searching online for cheaper options, you will find plenty, but more than likely the quality will be quite poor and you’ll get a heavy black ring or a vignette around the entire image and you’ll have to zoom in to get rid of it…abolishing the whole purpose of a wide-angle lens. Not to mention the fact that the Olympus FCON-T01 Fisheye Converter is constructed of materials meant to be taken underwater.
Our recommended place to purchase these lenses, as well as the housing, is Backscatter Underwater Video & Photo.
Backscatter does not carry this lens but it can be found on Amazon, just make sure you get the required adapter as well otherwise it won’t mount on the camera.
To learn more about why wide-angle lenses are so important you can check out this blog here.
Lights are one of the most popular underwater camera accessories, they are relatively cheap, there are a ton of different options, and come with a very promising sales pitch of being able to bring out the natural color of the reef. The one thing missing from the product description is that underwater lights, no matter how powerful, are only effective when the subject is less than a foot away and relatively small. One or two underwater lights are never going to illuminate an entire reef or a manta. It might help bring some color to a shrimp or a nudibranch if you can get within 6 inches of it, but that’s about it. The only thing an underwater torch is great for is night snorkeling where it will help you see the reef, but not photograph it. One final point for not purchasing a torch for the purposes of underwater photography, we are snorkelers visiting tropical destinations, which means, nearly all of our subjects are bathed in the natural light of the sun and no underwater torch is really needed, especially when we are white balancing.
To find out about what white balance is and how it helps bring out the natural colors of the reef, check out this blog.