My Inon UCL 165′s changed the way I shoot underwater photography, and I am so glad I got them to compliment my G9. I almost didn’t buy them, but after hours and hours of research, I finally decided to roll the dice. It really was a roll of the dice too, since I could hardly find any information on how to use dual-stacked Inon lenses, and what they actually did. I only knew that other photographers were using them with much success. I couldn’t find a good guide on exactly what they did, how to use them, or how to attach them. I just had to put it all together for myself. Hopefully this guide will help those of you who are looking into it get the information you need with much less effort.
What are stacked INON UCL-165′s?
The INON UCL-165 is a special Macros wet lens that allows photographers to get more magnification from their macro shots. This is not to be confused with zooming in on a subject; you will have to get up-close and personal with your subject in order to use them at all. I was a bit disappointed when I first got my lenses at how close I had to get to my subject to use them (I was under the impression that they would give you the same macro from farther away, but this is not the case).
Most of the time, when shooting a subject with my macro lenses on, my camera lens ranges from practically touching the subject to shooting from several inches away. Don’t buy these if you want to shoot really mobile critters or things that spook easily close up.
The unique thing about the INON lenses is that they are threaded on both sides (67mm thread), meaning they can be attached one directly on top of the other, so you are not magnifying only once, but twice. This is what we mean by “stacked” lenses. Below are some dry-land shots that illustrate the difference between no lenses, a single lense, and stacked lenses.
How Do I Use Them?
There are a few things you need to know about how to attach and use INON Macro Lenses. First of all, there are two basic types of mounts for these lenses, “bayonet” mounts, and threaded mounts. The difference between the two is how they attach; bayonet mounts attach with a quick turn and click system, and threaded mounts, which need to be screwed on. The bayonets mounts are much quicker to attach and detach, and thus are generally preferred. Threaded mounts are more universal in that there are many adapters that you can buy to attach threaded lenses to a wide variety of cases. You will have to do some research to find which mount will work with your case. As far as the Inon macro lenses go, the UCL-165AD is the bayonet mount, and the UCL-165 M67 is the threaded version. The lenses are identical except for the mounting system. Be sure to be check which one will work with your case before you buy.
Also be aware that each case is different, and unless it is a dedicated case manufacturer (i.e. Ikelite), you will likely have to purchase a some sort of after-market adapter to attach a wet lens. In my case, with the Canon G9 and the Canon WP-DC21 case, the only available adapters were of the threaded variety.
In order to take macro photos, you will have to use some sort of flash. This is due to the fact that macro photography reduces the distance to the subject, an in the process significantly shortens the depth of field. The only way to counter this is to shoot at a f-stop of 6.3 or higher. Shooting any lower that that will yield very small depth of field, and you will have only a very tiny portion of your shot in focus. Unfortunately, this rules out using natural lighting under almost all conditions underwater, since a higher f-stop will allow a much smaller amount of light in.
As far as a flash goes, you have two options: using the internal flash, or using external strobes. I won’t go into too much detail with this in this article, but external strobes are generally better to use if you can afford them. If you can’t, there are some neat tricks that can yield some really high-quality macro results without an external strobe. All you really need is a few tools, a piece of metal, and some time in order to create a few simple mods that can get you by with just your diffuser. Learn more here: http://wetpixel.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=25455. I currently don’t use an external strobe, but am planning on getting one eventually for two reasons; I am sick of dealing with excessive backscatter in my photos, and my wide-angle attachment blocks my internal flash, so I will be forced to get an external arm if I am ever going to use flash to shoot wide. In my opinion, one can easily get away without an external strobe for most situations with some work, but it is better to get a strobe if you can.
Lastly, if you are looking to use these lenses for dry-land photography, stop now. These are designed specifically for use underwater, and they take advantage of the light refraction qualities of the water to function. I tested them out myself with a 67mm threaded Sigma lens that I have for my DSLR, and I can verify that it is not suitable. What happens on any subject with depth, (you can’t see it on the coin examples I shot above, since they are a flat plane) is that you get a blur or halo effect on the subject as it moves away from the lens. Click to enlarge the rose photo to see what I am talking about. It is pretty evident.
Well, that is all I can think of for now. Hopefully this helps anyone who is interested in getting started with macro photography using stacked Inon UCL-165 lenses.
[Update: I got a few extra tips from a fellow Flickr member on how best to use Inon lenses for underwater photography, I made a post about it here.]
I will leave you with a quick gallery of photos that I have shot using my Inons: