My Underwater Photography Rig

I’ve been taking pictures and video underwater since I got certified back in 2014, but I really stepped it up in 2018 when I went from a GoPro Hero 3 to a TG-5. The TG-5 was an awesome camera for me, but I wanted to take things to the next level with manual control.

I landed on the Olympus E-PL9 with the Backscatter Octo Housing, which offers full manual control, interchangeable lenses, a compact Micro 4/3 format, all at a reasonable price. The E-PL9 comes with a 14-42mm lens, but I opted to grab a 60mm macro lens with the required port extension to fit the lens.

The rest of the gear:

  • SHOOT double handle tray
  • Ultralight arms and clamps (some are Ultralight, others are knock-offs)
  • Light & Motion Sola 2000 Spot/Flood focus light
  • Sea & Sea YS-01 Strobes
  • Backscatter MF-1 with Optical Snoot
  • Stix Jumbo Floats (keep the rig “light” underwater)
  • +6 Diopter wet lens on 3-D printed flip diopter
  • Backscatter M52 Wide Angle

Macro Configuration

For macro, I’ll typically use the 60mm lens with flip diopter. This combination enables some serious magnification for those really tiny subjects. For example, this “Shaun the Sheep” nudibranch is only a couple millimeters long.

Shaun the Sheep nudibranch

Recently, I’ve been swapping the Backscatter MF-1 with snoot in for one of the YS-01 strobes.

Macro configuration with snoot

I’ll definitely do a post on the snoot because it’s an awesome option to really play with lighting. Here’s an example snoot image:

Macro configuration with snoot

Wide Angle Configuration

For wide angle, I use the 14-42mm kit lens that came with the E-PL9 and add the Backscatter M52 Wide Angle wet lens I purchased for use with my TG-5.

Wide angle configuration

I have only used this configuration a couple times as I’m a macro photographer at heart. We did one day of diving over at Apo Island and then a snorkel with whale sharks at Oslob in the Philippines. I really like my wide shots of the whale sharks, which are about as wide a subject as you’ll find.

Wide angle configuration


While not the fanciest setup, I am really enjoying this mirrorless setup. It is more to pack than the TG-5 with extra lenses, the port extension for the 60mm, and the diopter but the results are well worth it. It was absolutely fantastic through all of the macro diving in the Philippines and has been great for our nudibranch season so far. Thanks for reading!