The Design
Nauticam’s CEO Edward Lai claims to have used a revolutionary approach in developing the SMC: “This new lens design, developed through hundreds of engineering hours using computer software to model its optical properties, took the radically different approach of taking into account the complete system – camera, lens, port, air and water – as a whole to yield the best image quality possible.”
The optics of the SMC lens incorporate precision-ground, low-dispersion, optical-grade glass with broadband anti-reflective coatings.
This is said to reduce common optical issues such as chromatic, comatic and spherical aberrations and field deformation associated with underwater macro photography using traditional magnifying lenses.
The optical lenses are set in a rugged hard anodised aluminium housing, nitrogen-purged during assembly to prevent fogging. The lens housing has a 67mm male thread at the rear and a 67mm female thread at the face.

SAGA Flip Adaptor
The SMC’s 67mm thread is designed to be screwed directly onto the front of dedicated Nauticam macro ports.
Users of other makes of underwater camera-housing systems need to use an adaptor, and SAGA makes a range of “flip adaptors” that enable the use of the SMC on most, if not all, other systems.
The Subal version I used is built from anodised Duralumin and simply pushes over the end of the Subal flat port and is securely held in place with a large-diameter O-ring.
The SAGA SMC ring flips up or down, enabling it to be quickly and easily put into or out of play without the need to unscrew the lens when taking traditional macro shots.
A precision ball-bearing catch holds the SMC in position in both the up or down positions.

Super Macro
To achieve the maximum magnification of 1:1 from my 105mm macro lens, the image has to be captured at the lens’s minimum focal distance of 314mm.
By adding the Nauticam SMC the 105mm lens will focus at a minimum distance of just over 50mm, which has the effect of magnifying the image to a ratio of 2:3.
In other words, a subject area of 15.6 x 10.4mm will fill the whole frame of a 36 x 24mm (full-frame) sensor.

Under Water
OK, enough of the techno-babble, what was it like to use?
Well, it was difficult at first, is the simple answer. The weight of the supplementary lens alone made it feel a little unwieldy, and as I decreased the focal distance to get more magnification the depth of field correspondingly diminished too, so initially I struggled to get any shots that were actually in sharp focus.
For the first couple of dives I grew increasingly frustrated, but subject selection proved to be the key. I found that by choosing marine life that didn’t move too quickly and was not spooked by having a huge camera shoved in its face I could take more time and eventually get the shots I wanted.
The flip adaptor allowed me to shoot in either traditional or super-macro mode at will, even alternating between shots of the same subject. After a slow start I got the hang of the system – and started to capture some amazing images.
I photographed tiny amphipods and nudibranchs that I couldn’t actually see with my tired old peepers, instead having to rely on the eagle eyes of much younger guides.
Shrimps were shot in their entirety without the SMC – then, with a simple flip and a closer approach, their incredible eyes were captured, filling the frame with unbelievable clarity.
The narrow depth of field became an advantage instead of a hindrance as the SMC rendered beautifully smooth out of focus areas (bokeh), enhancing the sharp, in-focus subjects.
The resulting images took my breath away when subjected to close scrutiny on a high-resolution 27in display – there wasn’t a hint of colour fringing (purple or green edges), or any signs of diffraction, even when using wider apertures.
As the trip progressed and I used the SMC more I gained in confidence, actually using a third strobe and snoot to backlight miniscule subjects such as the 5mm-long “Sean the Sheep” nudibranch pictured.

Conclusion
From a frustrating start to capturing some of the best super-macro images I’ve ever achieved took only a handful of dives. Of course, it helped that I was diving at one of the world’s most prolific critter destinations.
The Nauticam SMC has proved to be an outstanding imaging tool, and the results appear optically perfect; so perfect, in fact, that DIVER columnist and photography genius Alex Mustard had an image of a nudibranch shot using the SMC chosen by a panel of judges as a finalist in the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.
His pin-sharp image stood out from tens of thousands of other entries.
I was so impressed with the SMC that I actually parted with my hard-earned wonga and have made it a permanent part of my underwater imaging arsenal.
This review is for a wet lens designed to be used almost exclusively with DSLR camera and macro lens combinations, but Nauticam has added another to its impressive line-up.
This one, designed for compact or mirrorless four-thirds users, is named the Compact Macro Converter (see GearNews).


NAUTICAM SUPER MACRO CONVERTER
PRICE £400
MAGNIFICATION 2:3
MINIMUM FOCUS DISTANCE 105mm lens, 50mm
ATTACHMENT 67mm thread
WEIGHT 515g
EXTRAS Supplied with rubberised end caps and drawstring neoprene pouch.
CONTACT www.nauticam.co.uk
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SAGA FLIP ADAPTOR
PRICE from £250
ATTACHMENT Push-fit
SYSTEM COMPATIBILITY Subal, Hugyfot, Aquatica, Sea & Sea.
MATERIAL Anodised Duralumin
CONTACT www.uwvisions.co.uk
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