Nauticam WACP on a Crop Sensor or Super 35 Sensor – Overkill or Just About Perfect?

Images and Text By Kevin Palmer & Tanya Burnett

By now, a lot of people have heard about, and seen images taken with, Nauticam’s impressive WACP on full frame cameras. The water contact optic has been a game changer for sharp wide angle performance offering corner to corner image quality and aperture flexibility. Less has been seen with APS-C sensors, though videographers have made excellent use of the WACP with S-35 sensors that are similarly proportioned. This article hopes to demonstrate that the WACP should certainly be on the list for consideration if you are wide angle enthusiast shooting crop sensor DSLR cameras.

WACP: What is it?

For those that haven’t gotten familiar with this Nauticam product, the name stands for Wide Angle Conversion Port. This is not a wet lens in the traditional sense of the word; where water is in contact with both the front and rear of the optics. But it IS a water contact optic, designed to only be used underwater. It is also a port in that it takes the place of a dome or flat port and mounts directly to the housing over a compatible camera lens. These optical lens elements built into the port actually correct many of problems associated with shooting wide angle lenses behind a dome. It is a conversion port, because it converts the angle of coverage of the lens that is being used behind it – making it wider. A ballpark rule of thumb is that it approximately doubles the field of view of whatever focal length you are zooming to, while reducing minimum focus.

Lens options:

One of the most versatile options for Nikon and Canon crop sensor Shooters are the trusty old 18-55 lenses sometimes disparagingly referred to as “kit lenses”. Perhaps that is their origin, but for an underwater image maker this provides a huge zoom range utilizing a fairly modern lens. If you want to go even more state of the art, then the Sigma 18-35 f1.8 Art series offers a fast lens and superb results, albeit with a bit less zoom range.

Why?

The answer to this will vary from person to person. Those used to shooting fisheye zooms like the Tokina 10-17, maybe perfectly happy with that lens which is great. Others find that it just doesn’t have enough “reach” for a lot of applications – particularly at destinations like Galapagos, Socorro, Sea of Cortez and Cocos. These places have lots of big animals, but without baiting, they are not usually right in front of your face. Even with Whales and dolphins, the fisheye is sometimes too much and provides a lot of distortion near the surface.

This is where the WACP really shines. It does provide super-wide angle at about 130 degrees, (roughly 15mm on a 10-17 fisheye zoom), but with a bit less distortion. From there, you have a huge zoom range with a lens like an 18-55 that will offer quite a bit narrower angle of coverage and provides a minimum focus of less than an inch throughout the zoom range. Once you get used to this enormous flexibility, it is hard to prefer any other option in this zoom range.

So, what can the combination deliver on a dive trip?

Tack sharp shark photos for certain.

Zoom in for great close ups as well.

Intimate reef behavior shots with a wide angle lens behind a dome are almost impossible unless you have the zoom range and close focus ability offered by the WACP.

 Then turn around and shoot the big dudes on the same dive.

Beyond the zoom range, the real beauty of shooting wide angle with the WACP is just how sharp the wide angle is – from center to edge and corners. Look at the soft corals in the upper right corner.

In darker situations, you can shoot your lens at F7 or even F5.6 and still get sharp results.

It is amazing the variety of shots you can capture once freed from conventional wide angle limitations.

Amazingly detailed close-focus wide angle.

 But if all you want to do grab great shots of pelagics - the WACP is pretty hard to beat.