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 I surf photographer uri magnus

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 I zoom telephoto lens for surf photography
Recommended ranges of lens for surf photography from the shore:

The following zoom ranges are the most popular on the market:

100 – 400 mm I 150 -600 mm I 200 – 600 mm I 100 -500 mm I 80 -400 mm I 200 -500 mm I 18 -400 all around

Here you can find the exact lens model and links for amazon, b&h:

Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports Lens (CANON, NIKON, SONY) This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is amazon-logo-preview.pngThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is download.png
Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
(CANON, NIKON)
VIEW AT AMAZONVIEW AT B&H
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens
VIEW AT AMAZONVIEW AT B&H
Canon RF 100-400mm f/5.6-8 IS USM Lens
VIEW AT AMAZONVIEW AT B&H
Sony FE 100-400mm F4.5–5.6 GM OSSVIEW AT AMAZONVIEW AT B&H

Sigma 100-400mm F5-6.3 
(SONY, CANON)
VIEW AT AMAZONVIEW AT B&H
FUJIFILM XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR LensVIEW AT AMAZONVIEW AT B&H
Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmar 100-400mm f/4-6.3 VIEW AT AMAZONVIEW AT B&H
Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 80-400mm f.4.5-5.6G EDVIEW AT AMAZONVIEW AT B&H
Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E EDVIEW AT AMAZONVIEW AT B&H
Sony FE 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 G OSSVIEW AT AMAZONVIEW AT B&H
Canon RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1 L IS USM VIEW AT AMAZONVIEW AT B&H
NIKKOR Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR SVIEW AT AMAZONVIEW AT B&H

Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 DI-II VC HLD (crop sensor all around lens for SONY, CANON)
VIEW AT AMAZONVIEW AT B&H
Zoom telephoto lens for surf and water sport photography

Prime Telephoto lenses:

A prime telephoto lenses are 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:

so the most popular prime zoom lens are: 300 mm I 400 mm I 500 mm I 600 mm f4/f2.8 and the 200 F2 Prime lens.

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

So 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.

fisheye lens for surf photography
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
Here are examples of popular fisheye lens are on the market today:
Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L VIEW AT AMAZONVIEW AT B&H
Nikon AF-S 8-15mm f/3.5-4.5E ED This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is amazon-logo-preview.pngThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is download.png
Tokina Fisheye 10-17mm f/3.5-4.5 AFThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is amazon-logo-preview.pngThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is download.png
Sigma 15mm f/2.8 EX DGThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is amazon-logo-preview.pngThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is download.png
Nikon AF DX 10.5mm f/2.8G ED Fisheye (crop sensor)This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is amazon-logo-preview.pngThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is download.png
Samyang 12mm f/2.8 ED AS NCS This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is amazon-logo-preview.pngThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is download.png
Rokinon 12mm F2.8 Ultra Wide Fisheye Lens for Sony E MountThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is amazon-logo-preview.pngThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is download.png
fish eye lens for surf and water sport photography

Wide Angle Zoom Lenses

Wide angle zoom Lenses are equipped 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).

wide angle zoom lens for surf photography
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

In this table you will find the most recommended WIDE ANGLE ZOOM lens for mirrorless camera. this lens are suitable for photographing surfing from the water:

SONY E-MOUNT
Sony – E 10-18mm F4 OSS Wide-Angle Zoom Lens This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is amazon-logo-preview.png
SONY FE 12-24mm F2.8 GM Full-frame Ultra-wide Zoom G Master LensVIEW AT AMAZON
FE 12-24mm F4 G Full-frame Ultra-wide Zoom G LensVIEW AT AMAZON
SONY FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM Full-frame Wide-angle Zoom G Master LensVIEW AT AMAZON
SONY FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G Full-frame Constant-Aperture Wide-angle Power Zoom G Lens VIEW AT AMAZON
ZIESS & SONY Vario-Tessar T* FE 16–35 mm F4 ZA OSS  Full-frameLens with Optical SteadyShotVIEW AT AMAZON
TAMRON FOR SONY 17-28mm F/2.8 Di III RXD (full frame)VIEW AT AMAZON
TAMRON for Sony 11-20MM F/2.8 DI III-A RXD E APS-C ( crop sensor)VIEW AT AMAZON
SIGMA FOR SONY 14-24mm F2.8 DG DN | Art VIEW AT AMAZON
FOR NIKON Z MOUNT
NIKKOR Z 14-30mm f/4 S VIEW AT AMAZON
NIKKOR Z 14-24mm f/2.8 SVIEW AT AMAZON
FOR CANON R
Canon RF 14-35mm F4L IS USMVIEW AT AMAZON
Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8L IS USMVIEW AT AMAZON
FOR FUJI
FUJI XF8-16mmF2.8 R LM WR (CROP SENSOR)VIEW AT AMAZON
FUJI XF10-24mmF4 R OIS WR (CROP SENSOR)VIEW AT AMAZON
FUJI GF20-35mmF4 R WR (FULL FRAME)VIEW AT AMAZON
Zoom telephoto lens for surf and water sport photography

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

info@urimagnus.com

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

choosing the right water housing for surf photography

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