By Megan Griffin September 2019
Photo By Tim Sullivan
I recently took a trip to Curaçao, Dutch Antilles where I brought along my Panasonic GH5s and Nauticam housing. I used to work on Curaçao as an underwater videographer before coming back to Florida and this was my first trip back, so naturally, I had a shot list in my head of what I wanted to come back with. One of my must-dives was a site called Tugboat- a very easy dive with a small tugboat wreck after a quick wall dive. What the tourist books don’t tell you is that there is an incredibly large decommissioned exploratory oil rig docked at the pier of this site that has been sitting there since I left Curacao about two years ago. When I learned that this ship was still sitting there and that many of my friends and former colleagues had been diving it, I knew I had to bring along the widest optic I could get my hands on. The only catch was that there is also an abundance of macro life at this site that I didn’t want to miss, so the obvious choice became the MWL-1.
As a video micro 4/3rds shooter I typically always gravitated towards the WWL-1, another great wide-angle optic, but I knew the pier at this site, as well as how giant that ship was, so going with the fisheye coverage of the MWL-1 with its 150 degrees field of view seemed like a better fit, and it truly was.
Some takeaways on the MWL-1:
This optic worked incredibly well with the low light capabilities of the Panasonic GH5s. I primarily used my high native ISO due to the nature of the lens and its need to be shot like a traditional macro lens- near that f/18 sweet spot. I was able to capture quality light rays with minimal aberrations and the images were sharp when shooting both close focus and traditional wide-angle shots.
Just as with any fisheye optic you get that barrel distortion on the edges, I personally enjoy this look in certain applications and piers are high up on that list. I filmed my buddy fairly often to test out the distortion on human subjects and as long as I kept him in the center of the frame the distortion went unnoticed. The extensive coverage also worked in my favor for close focus wide angle because I was able to include more background which really made this imagery stand out from my traditional WWL-1 imagery.
The ability to use this lens with the MWL Flip holder is pretty unique since you don’t have that opportunity with the WWL-1. The Flip makes the transitions quicker so you miss fewer opportunities. Typically with the bayonet system, I start with the wide-angle optic and then switch when I see something worth switching for and then stay on my macro or portrait lenses for a fair amount of time before switching back. I don’t enjoy removing optics completely when I am on a task loaded dive, so I feel like the ability to flip on the MWL-1 is a huge benefit for most situations.
The Olympus M. Zuiko 30mm f/3.5 Macro Lens focuses so closely that it is not compatible with most macro wet lenses. The upside to this is that the 30mm already gives you greater than one to one reproduction ratio behind a port. It’s not ideal for shy, small subjects such as the beloved yellow-headed jawfish, but it was so versatile with it’s focusing abilities that I was able to get some nice portrait shots of squid, who are also traditionally very skittish. I would consider the 30mm a lovely portrait lens, but for a dive with a lot of teeny, shy critters, a longer macro lens would make more sense.
Overall this was a very fun dive and I really enjoyed being able to use the MWL-1 in a situation where it thrived. This is definitely a specialty lens with unique characteristics, that once fully understood, offers sharp imagery, easy functionality, and is entertaining to work with. You can view the video from my dive to see the results for yourself.