AOI UWL-09 Wide Angle Lens Review & Tests

AOI UWL-09 Wide Angle Lens Review & Tests

As more compact cameras are released with wider, 24mm focal lengths, we have started to see new wet wide lenses created to help photographers capture great wide angle on these wider focal length cameras. First was the Dyron Super Wide Lens, a small, lightweight lens designed to offer a 140° angle of view. This worked well for most people, but was limited by a lack of zooming ability. Next, Nauticam released the WWL-1, Wet Wide Lens which was a breakthrough in optical quality, with little to no chromatic abberation, high quality corner sharpness and full zoom through capability with a 130° angle of view at 28mm - and that lens has fully lived up to its hype.

Enter the latest wide angle marvel, the AOI UWL-09. This specs on this lens compare against the Nauticam WWL-1 in several ways: full zoom through, 130° angle of view at 28mm, good corner sharpness, etc. We wanted to see if it would also live up to the hype so we took it in the water to test this new lens out against the others on a variety of cameras and housings.

UWL-09 Review | Lens Adapter Options | Zoom Through | Sample Photos | Conclusion

Angle of View Tests:

Sony RX100 | Sony RX100 III / IV / V | Canon G7X & G7X Mark II

 

UWL-09 Underwater Images from Socorro

UWL-09 Specs:

  • Bezel Material: Aluminum alloy with black hard coating 
  • Lens Construction: 5 groups and 5 elements 
  • Magnification: 0.45X
  • FOV (Field of View): 130 degrees (using with a 28mm Lens)
  • Lens Coating: Hard coating on the Polycarbonate dome lens + Multi layer AR coating on all glass lenses 
  • Thread: 67mm 
  • Dimensions: 133.3 x 94.4 mm / 5.2 x 3.7 inch  
  • Weight: 1033 g / 36.4 oz 
  • Included in Box: Lens cover, Adapter B, lens carrying case and secure string 
  • Depth Ratio: 60 meters / 200 feet

Initial Thoughts:

Right from unpacking, it is easy to tell that the UWL-09 is a quality lens. It ships with it's own carrying case, perfect for protecting the lens during travel and even when it's not in use, sitting at home. The lens is heavy; very similar in weight to the Nauticam WWL-1 Lens. After checking it out, testing the adapter and shooting some pool tests, we feel the image quality is very good. It performed well, focuses easily, even when zoomed in, and with the dual adapters included, it provides a nice wide image with every camera we tested.

The only small downside to this lens is that, like other wet wide lenses such as the UWL-04, the shade is plastic and attached via four very small screws. If adjusted often, it could be easy to strip the connection between the shade and screws, so we highly recommend getting it set for your camera then not moving it, and if you have to readjust, do so very carefully so that you do not over tighten the small screws.

For our final thoughts of the lens vs the other options available, skip to our overall conculsion!

Pros & Cons for the UWL-09

PROS:

  • Versitile - will work great on a variety of different cameras and housing brands
  • Full Zoom Through - gives you more options than just very wide when shooting without removing the lens
  • Easy to use - 67mm threads screw onto most housings, and shade is easy to adjust
  • Very Wide! This lens has a 130° angle of view at 28mm
  • High Quality - the 5 lens elements provide a bright, clear image
  • Good Price - priced at $699.95, it is priced below other lens options

CONS:

  • Heavy - this will add weight to your camera system, no buoyancy accessories available
  • Plastic Shade - if not careful it would be easy to strip the screws that keep it in place
  • Acrylic Dome - fairly standard in wet wide lenses, but easy to scratch

 

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UWL-09 Set Up - Choose the Right Adapter

One thing that really sets the UWL-09 lens apart from other options is that it ships with two adapters. Both adapters are 67mm threaded, so to attach to the housing, we recomend aligning the lens, then turning counter clockwise about one 1/4 turn to ensure you have the threads lined up correctly before turning clockwise to screw the lens to the housing.

Adapter A comes installed on the lens, and works with any housing with 67mm threads. It is a standard adapter, that allows a little extra room between the port and lens element. Adapter B is designed for housings that have a deeper thread, or one that is pushed up away from the port a bit. This adapter allows the lens element to sit further down, meaning it will be closer to the front of the port.

Based on the thread style of your housing, Adapter B may cause the UWL-09 lens to hit the front of the port which can cause scratches on the housing port. In addition, it may not even screw into your housing. We went through before testing the lens underwater to find which adapter works best with each housing, here's our list:

Adapter A:

  • Nauticam
  • Fantasea w/ 67mm Threads - RX100 III / IV / V & G7X Mark II
  • Recsea Aluminum*

Adapter B:

  • Ikelite
  • Recsea CW
  • Recsea Aluminum*

*The Recsea Aluminum housings can accept the B Adapter, which does provide slightly less vignetting on the G7X Mark II - meaning you can get a tiny bit wider than 130°. However this adapter will only screw onto the housing about 3/4ths of a turn, so it may not be as secure as the A adapter which attaches with several full rotations. Use at your own risk!

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Full Zoom Through, Focus & Quality

Unlike many other wide angle lens options, the UWL-09 allows for full zoom through. This means that the lens will focus even when the camera has been fully zoomed in. This gives the shooter much more flexibility underwater, allowing you to shot wide angle and mid range shots without removing the lens from the housing. As anyone who has used screw on lenses knows, not having to remove and replace the lens underwater is always a plus!

100% crop of the zoomed in image above shows good focus!

In addition, the UWL-09 features a nearly 0" focus ability, meaning you can pretty much focus with something on the dome of this lens! Close focusing opens up a world of creative options when shooting underwater, so it is important to have a lens that offers good close focusing, while still maintaining quality on the edges of the frame, which the UWL-09 does!

100% of the full image in the corner showing high quality results in the corners of the image

 

100% crop of the image in the corner, where dome was nearly touching the tiles when captured - still in focus!

 

Clarity from the UWL-09 is excellent, with very little chromatic abberation visible throughout our tests. The UWL-09 consistently came out better than both the Dyron SWAL and the Nauticam WWL-1 when we examined the poles in the photo tests. The pole in the UWL-09 photos is both sharper and has less chromatic abberation across all three cameras and the various housings tested. We also noted that the UWL-09 does bend the image more in the style of a fisheye lens than both the SWAL and WWL-1 lenses do, which is likely what gives it the look of a slightly wider image in the tests. In addition it would account for why the UWL-09 pole looks smaller in the 100% crop below compared to the Super Wide Lens and the Wet Wide Lens.

 

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Sample Photos:

Sony RX100, Nauticam housing, UWL-09 Wet Lens. Socorro Islands. ISO 125, f/5.6, 1/80. Photo: Erik Lukas

 

Sony RX100, Nauticam housing, UWL-09 Wet Lens. Socorro Islands. ISO 400, f/4, 1/50. Photo: Erik Lukas

 

Sony RX100, Nauticam housing, UWL-09 Wet Lens. Socorro Islands. ISO 400, f/4.9, 1/50. Photo: Erik Lukas

 

Sony RX100, Nauticam housing, UWL-09 Wet Lens. Socorro Islands. ISO 400, f/4, 1/50. Photo: Erik Lukas

 

Sony RX100, Nauticam housing, UWL-09 Wet Lens. Socorro Islands. ISO 400, f/4, 1/50. Photo: Erik Lukas

 

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Final Thoughts:

Overall we are very impressed by the UWL-09. It offers the flexibility of full zoom through and works great with a variety of cameras and housings. The total package is well put together, with a nice travel case and two adapter options, to help you get the best results from your housing.

When shooting a camera at 24mm like the G7X Mark II there is likely going to be vignetting regardless of what lens you use. The additional zoom range of that camera (24 - 100mm range) means that the port has to be a bit longer to accomodate for when the lens is fully zoomed. This means the UWL-09 (or any wet lens) will be further away from the actual camera lens. This is why you seen vignetting on the test images below for all the G7X Mark II housings, but not on the RX100 IV housings which also offer a 24mm lens. The RX100 IV has a shorter focal range at only 70mm, so can have a shorter port overall.

UWL-09 or Dyron Super Wide?

Paired against the Dyron Super Wide lens, we find that the angle of view is so close that any difference is negligable, and the added flexibility of the full zoom through makes the UWL-09 the better choice for just about any underwater photographer. However, if price is an issue, then the less expensive Dyron is the way to go. In addition, the Dyron lens will be smaller and lighter than the UWL09.

UWL-09 or Nauticam Wet Wide Lens?

When looking at image results from the Nauticam WWL-1 vs the UWL-09, they are nearly identical. Both have a 130° field of view, and both allow for high quality zoom through across the full focal length of the camera. If you study overall image quality, the glass dome of the WWL-1 will provide better optics than the acrylic of the UWL-09, making it the premium choice.

When compared side by side on the G7X Mark II, we found that you can zoom past all the vignetting on the UWL-09 at about 26mm, where as the Nauticam still shows a small amount until 28mm, which results in a slightly wider image from the UWL-09. For the G7X Mark II on the Nauticam housing you can use the N50 Short port which returns no vignetting with the UWL-09 at all, yet still just a very small amount from the WWL-1. This requires you to zoom with the WWL-1, which can be challenging because if you zoon too far the lens will hit the front of the port and the camera will shut off.

For the RX100 IV there is no vignetting seen on any camera / housing combination with the UWL-09, and just a very tiny amount with the WWL-1. However, the UWL-09 still retains the advantage because you do not have to worry about zooming at all. 

In conclusion, for the widest angle of view, and ease of use (no zooming) on an RX100 IV camera the UWL-09 wins out. For the G7X Mark II, both lenses require some zooming so either would be a great choice.

The Nauticam WWL-1 still comes out ahead in terms of overall construction. The glass front element provides better optics, full metal shade, with easy thumb screws allows for quick adjustments with no extra tools, where as the UWL-09 has a plastic shade and requires an allen key to adjust. In addition, Nauticam has a variety of useful accessories such as the bayonet mounting system*, which is much easier for mid-dive lens changes than screwing on the 67mm threads and the buoyancy collar which helps to offset the weight of the lens underwater.

We should also point out that only the Nauticam WWL-1 lens supports a bayonet mount, although it is only on Nauticam housings. Being able to easily add or remove the wide-angle lens through a bayonet mount is a very nice feature, and a must-have for many wet lens shooters.

If fine tuning your buoyancy, or quick changes underwater are important and you shoot on a Nauticam housing, then Wet Wide Lens may be worth the extra cost. If you are worried about stripping the screws on the shade of the UWL-09 and are not bothered by the extra cost, then the WWL-1 may also be the lens for you. However for many folks, the price point of the UWL-09 and the high quality results make it a great solution for shooting wide angle with your compact camera.

*Bayonet mounting system is only compatible with Nauticam Housings.

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AOI UWL-09 Underwater Tests

For the lens tests, all cameras were put in a housing and tested from the exact same spot, on the floor of the pool angled up at the stairs. The distance from the stairs to each camera remained the same and none of the images have been cropped or modified to skew any results.

Sony RX100 III, IV & V

These cameras should work excellently with the UWL-09 on any housing with built in 67mm threads. We tested on the RX100 IV specifically using the Nauticam, Recsea CW, Fantasea and Ikelite housings*.

There was no vignetting with any of these housings and the resulting image was wide, and clear. Just as expected from previous tests, the Dyron Super Wide also returned no vignetting, but surprisingly we found it slightly less wide than the UWL-09. The Nauticam WWL-1 lens returned a small bit of vignetting on all housings tested as we saw when we tested this lens specifically earlier in the year. It was easy on all housings to do a simple one click zoom in to about 26mm and there was no vignetting. However, this puts the UWL-09 as the clear choice for ease of use (no zooming), angle of view (widest) and quality.

*We were unable to test the Recsea Aluminum, which does require the use of an adapter. As soon as we have lens and housing in the store again we will update this article with our results!*

Lens Test Results - Sony RX100 IV

Sony RX100 IV and no wide angle lens

 

AOI UWL-09 and RX100 IV

 

Dyron Super Wide and Nauticam RX100 IV

 

Nauticam WWL-1 and RX100 IV (very slight vignetting of the lens shade on left and bottom)

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Canon G7X Mark II

Much like the G7X this camera features an extended focal length from wide at 24mm to zoomed at 100mm. This means the port on any underwater housing is going to be longer, making it not so great for any wet wide lens. We were pleased with the overall results from the AOI UWL-09 with the G7X Mark II, and believe these results will hold strong with any G7X, S120, S110, S100, etc housing that includes 67mm built in threads.

If you have to use a 67mm adapter, we only recommend one that screws onto the housing, this lens is heavy and push on adapters may fall off due to the weight of the lens. With a 67mm adapter, the lens should still return good results, you will likely need to zoom in a little more than below, so you will not get the full angle of view that you see in the test images below.

We tested the G7X Mark II with the Nauticam, Fantasea, Recsea Aluminum, Recsea CW and Ikelite housings. The UWL-09 resulted in the least amount of vignetting and least amount of zooming needed to clear it out. The Dyron SWAL had the worst vignetting, and you had to be extremely careful about zooming to clear it, because if you zoom too far the lens will not focus.  The Nauticam WWL-1 had similar vignetting to the UWL-09, except the shade vignettes more.

**On the Nauticam housing, you have the option to switch out to the N50 Short Port. When using this port there is no vignetting on the UWL-09 and Dyron SWAL. There is a tiny amount on the Nauticam WWL-1, that you can carefully zoom to clear.**

Overall the  UWL-09 provided the widest angle of view with the least amount of vignetting across the board.

Canon G7X Mark II Test Images

Canon G7X Mark II with no wet wide lens attached

 

Canon G7X Mark II with UWL-09 fully zoomed out

 

Canon G7X with UWL-09 zoomed in to remove vignetting

 

Canon G7X Mark II and Nauticam Housing with N50 Short port and UWL-09, no vignetting.

 

Canon G7X Mark II with Dyron SWAL, fully zoomed out

 

Canon G7X Mark II with Dyron SWAL, zoomed in to remove vignetting (carefully!)

 

Canon G7X Mark II with Nauticam housing and N50 Short Port and Dyron SWAL - no vignetting.

 

Canon G7X Mark II and Nauticam WWL-1, fully zoomed out

 

Canon G7X Mark II and Nauticam WWL-1 zoomed in to remove vignetting

 

Canon G7X Mark II and Nauticam housing with N50 short port, very little vignetting.

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Older, 28mm Cameras - Sony RX100 & RX100 II

These cameras at 28mm work flawlessly with the UWL-09, returning clear and wide results with no vignetting at the wide end of the camera's range. As long as the housing has built in 67mm threads the UWL-09 will work great.

For cameras with longer zoom ranges, and housings that do not include built in threads, you likely will see vignetting which may make the UWL-09 lens not a great choice. This includes options like the Canon G16 camera in Fantasea and Recsea housings. It may work in the Nauticam housing as that included built in threads, unfortunately we no longer have any G16 options in the store to test.

We tested the Sony RX100 Camera in the Recsea Aluminum Housing with the Type A adapter on the UWL-09.

RX100 Camera with no additional lens

 

RX100 with UWL-09 Lens - no vignetting, very wide angle of view

 

RX100 with Dyron Super Wide Lens - not quite as wide as the UWL-09, but very close.

 

RX100 with Nauticam WWL-1 - the UWL-09 is slightly wider, but only slightly.

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03/07/2017
 
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