From the Caribbean to the Coral Triangle, the Backscatter team has spent hundreds of hours shooting compact cameras underwater. The team has shot and tested dozens of compact (a.k.a. point-and-shoot) cameras with accessory lenses to find the best match between performance, price and the goals of both aspiring and experienced underwater photographers. These top-performing lenses will enable compact cameras to capture stunning wide angle and macro images underwater. Here are our picks for the best underwater lenses for compact cameras in 2020.

Why Do Compact Cameras Need an Underwater Accessory Lens?

There are basically three types of underwater photo: Wide Angle, Fish Portrait, and Macro. Each type of photo requires a lens with different focal length, field of view, and reproduction ratio.

The built-in lens on a compact camera is set up for doing fish portrait shots right out of the box. The built-in lens isn’t wide enough for true underwater wide angle, especially since a lens will lose 25% of its field of view when shot behind a flat port underwater due to refraction.

Some cameras have a “macro” mode that allows a camera to focus closer than in the normal focus mode, but this is still not enough to get into true macro territory underwater. By being able to focus closer, the camera can get closer to the subject and increase the size of the image projected onto the sensor. By adding a macro accessory lens the camera can focus even closer than its minimum focus distance. This gets the camera closer to the subject, further increasing the size of the image on the sensor and filling more of the frame with the subject.


The built-in lens of a compact camera may be great for fish portraits like this one, but it will require an accessory lens when it comes to shooting true wide angle or high-magnification macro.
Shot with Sony RX100 V and No Accessory Lens


A shipwreck is just about the largest object to shoot underwater. For a scene like this the widest possible lens available will yield the best image quality. By getting closer to the subject and eliminating as much water between the lens and subject, the image will have better contrast and clarity, and the light from the strobes will be close enough to reach the subject.
Shot with Olympus TG-6 and Backscatter M52 Wide Angle Lens


The Sony RX series has no built in macro mode, so all macro shots must be done with an external macro lens. Even with this relatively large nudibranch, a +5 lens is necessary to pull off the shot.
Shot with Sony RX100 VII and SAGA +5 Lens


Comments are closed.