While there is an excellent selection of lenses optimized for Nikon’s cropped sensor “DX” format DSLRs, both from Nikon and other manufacturers, the best quality glass is reserved for Nikon’s full-frame “FX” format cameras. As you’d expect, lenses for full-frame bodies tend to be heavier and bulkier than their “DX” counterparts, which is one reason why underwater photographers prefer the latter format, but there can be little doubt that Nikon aims to maximize the optical quality of its full-frame lenses.
Full Frame DSLRs That Are Best Suited To Underwater Photography
- Nikkor AF-S 8–15mm f/3.5–4.5 – Fortunately, it seems to have been worth the long wait: This “Gold Ring” 8–15mm Fisheye offers the highest quality results throughout the zoom range. The frame-filling image you get at 15mm offers an ultra-wide angle of view that’s perfect for reefscapes and the biggest pelagics. The circular images you get at 8mm won’t be to everyone’s taste, but there’s no denying that the effect is unique, and there’s no telling what creative tangents it could lead you to explore.
- Sigma 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye – is equivalent to the company’s 10.5mm f/2.8 Fisheye for cropped-sensor DSLRs, with a frame-filling 180-degree angle of view. But Sigma’s similar prime ultra-wide lens is slightly wider, at 15mm, focuses closer, and costs considerably less, while matching the Nikon 16mm in terms of optical quality. Its perspective works a treat for subjects such as sharks and sea lions, but creative shots of small subjects can also be achieved using the close-focus wide-angle technique.
- Nikkor 14–24mm f/2.8G ED – The 14–24mm can take on any wide-angle subject, but as a rectilinear lens, it is particularly well suited to shooting such things as wrecks, piers, and kelp forests. Keep in mind that the lens does require a very large (and expensive) dome port.
- Nikkor AF-S 16–35mm f/4 – a “Gold Ring” series lens—offers good image quality throughout a very useful zoom range.
- Nikkor AF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro – the 60mm is considered to be the more versatile of the two, and can be used to shoot portraits of medium-sized subjects as well as macro critters up to life-size.
- Nikkor AF-S VR 105mm f/2.8 Macro – works nikon full frame lenses in bright, clear conditions, and can sometimes struggle to gain focus if the light level or visibility isn’t ideal. It can also shoot up to 1:1 reproduction ratio.