The Right Lens for Surf and Water Sport Photography

Lens for surfing photography I עדשות לצילום גלישה

Lens for Surf Photography

So how we are choosing the right Lens for Surf Photography ?

What mm lens is best for surf photography and water sports?

As a surf and water sport photographer, I use a range of equipment that enables me to photograph from in the water and on the shore, thus widening my film angles and bringing the observer closer to the experience.

In this blog, I am delighted to share with you the information I have accumulated over the years on lenses currently in the market that are suitable for water sport photography and surf photography.  All of this information is derived from personal experience, articles I have read and written and personal contact with other sea sport photographers.

We all know that the rate of technological development over recent years has increased greatly, as has the rate of production and development of new photography equipment and lenses.  Prices may range from inexpensive to exorbitant, but are also determined by the optic quality of the lenses, which can range from standard to high quality optics.

Let me recommend a number of lenses currently on the market, with two separate objectives in mind:

  1.  Photography from in the water
  2.  Photography from the shore or on land

Lenses for filming on land:

What is the best focal length of lens for shooting from the beach?

When we film on land, whether at sports competitions, surfing sessions or any other event where we find ourselves distant from the surfer:  We may be standing on the beach or on a cliff, boulder or boat at a distance that requires us to use telephoto lenses, which are mostly intended to bring very distant objects up close.

צלם גלישה אורי מגנוס

There are two types of telephoto lenses:

Zoom Telephoto lenses

The advantage in these lenses lies in their varying zoom, so we can catch different situations more quickly without having to change lenses.

This is very important when filming action, sports and surfing.

עדשת טלה זום לצילום גלישה
Recommended ranges of lens for surf photography from the shore:

Sigma sport/Tamaron 150-600 mm

Sony/Canon/Sigma/Panasonic/Fuji 100-400 mm

Nikon 80 – 400 mm

Nikon 200 -500 mm

Sony 200- 600 mm

canon RF 100 -500 mm

Tamaron 18 – 400 (crop sensor all around lens)

Prime Telephoto lenses:

Recommended more for low lighting on cloudy winter days or when we are distant from our object and still have no need to use varying zooms.  and for major quilty! These lenses are usually more expensive.

lens for surf photography

The recommended prime zoom range for surf photography:

f4/f2.8  zoom 8  300 mm

f4/f2.8  zoom 8  400 mm

f4/f2.8  zoom 8  500 mm

f4/f2.8  zoom 8  600 mm

With these lenses, you can also attach a teleconverter, thus increasing your zoom by x 1.4 or x 2.

Lenses for surf photography when we filming in the water

How do you photograph surfers from the water?

When we film from in the water, we usually try to get as close as we can to the surfer

and therefore, we usually have to use one of 3 types of lenses:

Fisheye lens

This lens creates an intended distortion of the picture to obtain a very wide camera angle.

We use this lens for several objectives:
  • Catching an ultra wide scene/frame while very close to the object.
  • Surfing inside the barrel – catching the surfer together with the wave.
  • Wave photography, “barrels” and angles from an inside-out wave
  • Half and half photos
  • Underwater photography
Examples of popular fisheye lens are on the market today:
Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L VEW AT AMAZON
Nikon AF-S 8-15mm f/3.5-4.5E ED VEW AT AMAZON
Tokina Fisheye 10-17mm f/3.5-4.5 AFVEW AT AMAZON
Sigma 15mm f/2.8 EX DGVEW AT AMAZON
Nikon AF DX 10.5mm f/2.8G ED FisheyeVEW AT AMAZON
Samyang 12mm f/2.8 ED AS NCSVEW AT AMAZON
fish eye lens for surf and water sport photography

Wide Angle Zoom Lenses

Lenses with varying zooms, including ultra-wide angles.

We usually use these lenses when we want to catch an situation

from up close, where the object will fill a large part of the frame and will still be in focus.

Also good for wave photography and inside the barrel photography.

These lenses are good for obtaining an ultra-wide frame with no significant distortion (as with a fisheye lens).

The following ranges are popular in the market (Sony, Canon, Nikon, Tokina):

Sensor:  Crop

  • 10-18 mm
  • 11-16 mm
  • 11-20 mm
  • 10-20 mm
  • 10-24 mm
  • 12-24 mm

Sensor:  Full frame

  • 12-24 mm
  • 14-24 mm
  • 15 -35 mm
  • 16-35 mm
  • 17 -35 mm
  • 14 -28 mm

Zoom Lenses:

when the ocean doesn’t allow you to get close to the surfer – high waves, stormy seas, current etc.

Or when we want to catch various situations without having to switch lenses, we take zoom lenses with us to the ocean.

עדשת זום I zoom lens for surf photography
zoom lens example
There are different types of ranges that are popular in surf photography:

Sensor:  Crop

16-55 mm

17-50 mm

18-55 mm

16-70 mm

Sensor:  Full frame

24-70 F2.8 mm

24-105 F4 mm

28-75 F2.8 mm

28-60 mm

Popular telephoto lens for water photography:  70-200 mm (f2.8, f4)

Prime Lenses

Lenses with a fixed zoom and preference for open aperture (f1.4, f1.8, f2, f2.8)

Using these lenses will provide us with a higher probability of sharp, quality photographs, with a shallower depth of field.

They are also easier to use in filming in the water (you won’t have to use a zoom gear system inside your housing).

popular PRIME lenses:

20 mm, 24 mm, 28 mm, 35 mm, 50 mm, 55 mm, 85 mm

PRIME LENS FOR SURF PHOTOGRAPHYI צילום גלישה עם עדשת פריים

In conclusion

The lens market fluctuates from year to year, and new lenses come into the market to replace older models that are being removed from store stock.

If you engage in photography and are interested in testing out a new lens before purchase, or you need this lens for a special project, I recommend you rent a lens for one day.  You can test the lens quality, its weight and ease of use and then make your decision.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have on equipment or on lens for surf photography and water sport

If you’d like advice on your selection of the appropriate lenses for surf photography, I am always available by email.

Uri Magnus : Surf and Water Sport Photographer

visit my article about choosing the right water housing for surf photography:

choosing the right water housing for surf photography

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