Nicolai Deutsch

A black and white image of a diver filming a large shark as it swims close to the ocean floor, taken from above.

Filmmaker and Canon Ambassador Nicolai Deutsch specialises in shooting incredible footage from beneath the waves. In this photograph, Nicolai films a large shark with a Canon camera. "They're just so majestic and calm," he says of these often maligned creatures. © Michael Geyer

German filmmaker and cameraman Nicolai Deutsch is as comfortable behind the lens on dry land as he is underwater, but what motivates him most is exploring the depths of the ocean, making captivating films that "give the rest of the world a new perception of nature".

From shooting video for premium brands including dive-wear company Fourth Element, Poseidon Diving Systems and Swiss watch producer, Delma, through to capturing shark footage for Netflix's 2021 documentary Seaspiracy, Nicolai has become a creator who thrives in the deep.

Hailing from Stuttgart in Germany, Nico began diving with his father at the age of seven and had gained his PADI Junior Open Water Diver qualification by the time he was 10. An underwater camera for his twelfth birthday soon followed, as did a passion that became his career.

"The reason I became interested in the underwater world is because my dad loves diving and took me at a very early age," says Nicolai. "As a kid you always want to go, but your parents say, 'You're too young!' At that age, if you can't do something, you want to do it even more.

"I went as soon as I was allowed, and really enjoyed it. My camera took terrible pictures, but I had a lot of fun and it was always on the underwater holiday trips that I wanted to document and film things."

A headshot of filmmaker and Canon Ambassador Nicolai Deutsch wearing diving gear.
Location: Stuttgart, Germany
Specialist area: Underwater filmmaking
Favourite kit:
Canon EOS C200
Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM
A still from filmmaker Nicolai Deutsch's underwater showreel showing lots of small, colourful fish swimming close to a coral reef.

During a student exchange program to New Zealand, Nicolai took a class exploring analogue photography with his uncle's Canon AE-1 35mm film camera. It was a move that led to him enrolling to study digital film and animation when he returned to Germany. His first DSLR was the Canon EOS 600D (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 850D), followed by the Canon EOS 5D Mark III (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV) and a Canon EOS C100 (now succeeded by the Canon EOS C70).

"I tried to combine my love for underwater with the filmmaking knowledge that I gained, so I started to make underwater music videos and film projects for my bachelor thesis underwater," he says. "One thing led to another and I decided to get a housing for my next camera, the Canon EOS C200, which was a quite a big investment for me at the time. It was a big step for me to decide that this was something I wanted to do."

Nicolai regularly attended dive shows while studying and began working for companies selling underwater camera housings. Through this, he made contacts that resulted in him being sent to shoot commercials for tourist trips.

A man wearing shorts, sunglasses and a t-shirt and leaning against a car boot, adjusts his diving and camera equipment.

"I Iike the ease of use of Canon cameras," says Nicolai. "They're just so intuitive – from the built-in ND filters to the menu system and shortcuts that I can programme." © Alex Schuchmann

A man wearing a wetsuit and mask and kneeling on the floor of a pool, films a swimmer from below.

"I really like the Canon autofocus system, because you have to deal with so many things underwater at the same time," says Nicolai, who also provides photography and marketing services. © Sarah Gauthier

Nicolai's curious spirit still has a place in his work, with his most challenging project being a self-initiated shoot filming under the frozen surface of Siberia's Lake Baikal, the oldest, deepest lake in the world. "It was self-financed and I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but the whole concept of the video was to show the lake's extremes," says Nicolai.

"We shot under two-metre-thick ice in winter at -30°C while the water was one or two degrees. I didn't know what to expect, but when you jump into that water for the first time you feel like someone is pushing needles into your skin. You can't shoot the way you do when you have an hour of diving. You have to get the right shots before you freeze. It was also very challenging to think about the whole concept and film at the same time."

Looking to the future, Nicolai says: "I've filmed a few documentaries but one day I really want to do my own full 60 to 90-minute documentary. That's a big goal."

What do you most enjoy filming underwater?

"I like big fish and really enjoy filming sharks. People are so afraid of them, but there's not that much to be afraid of when you dive with them."

Some people fear the ocean. Did you initially have any fears and what advice would you give someone to help with overcoming them?

"I don't think I ever really feared the ocean; I have a big respect for it because it can be tough and strong. When you're somewhere in the blue and you know it goes down to 1,000 or 2,000 metres and you can't see anything, I have respect for that and I understand people that fear it. But usually most of the fears are of animals such as sharks, for example. If you know and understand sharks, there's nothing to fear. It's easy to overcome those fears once you learn about them."

You've dived in open seas, lakes and rivers all around the world. Which is your personal favourite place to dive?

"Indonesia was the best scuba diving I've done so far because the reefs are still very healthy and there are a variety of species. It feels like this is what all the oceans around the world should look like. In the protected areas especially, that's how I imagine it could be everywhere if the ocean was left alone."

How important is conservation to you?

"The importance has grown bigger and bigger. I'm doing quite a bit of work with underwater cameraman and marine biologist [and fellow Canon Ambassador] Robert Marc Lehmann, who is a big conservationist. He now has his own non-governmental organisation (NGO) and while working for that, as well as making films together, you gain more and more knowledge. I was never this big environmentalist, but once you work with all of these people and document what's happening [to our seas], that's also the sad part. Because of all of these things I became a vegetarian."

One thing I know

Nicolai Deutsch

"Often when I take a new step or job – whether it's diving in Lake Baikal or getting a new client – I feel fear and think, 'This is now a big step.' Every time I have this feeling, I know it's good because it means I'm getting out of my comfort zone and improving my skills and knowledge. In short, getting out of your comfort zone feels right because it means that you're evolving."

Facebook: @NicolaiDeutschFilm

Instagram: @nicolaideutschfilm


Nicolai Deutsch's kitbag

The key kit that the pros use

Nicolai Deutsch's kitbag containing Canon cameras, lenses and accessories.


Canon EOS C200

A compact and versatile high-performance camera for a wide range of shooters that captures sharp 4K 50p images. Nicolai says: "Reliable autofocus is very helpful, especially now in 4K and 8K filmmaking, where it is so crucial to nail the focus. When you have to deal with so many other things, it's just nice to let the camera do it. In many cases, it will do a much better job than if you do it yourself."

Canon EOS R5

Capture sensational 45MP photos at up to 20fps or flick a switch for cinematic 12-bit 8K RAW video using the entire width of the camera's sensor. "What I love about the Canon EOS R5 is the size, as you don't look like a professional filmmaker," says Nicolai. "You just look like a tourist with an expensive camera, which is great when I don't want to attract attention."


Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8L IS USM

Capture more, even in low light, with this fast, ultra-wide-angle 15-35mm zoom with 5-stops of IS. Nicolai says: "For most of my underwater work I prefer a good, fast and reliable wide angle – the 15-35mm is all of those things."

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM

Superb optical engineering, a fast f/2.8 maximum aperture and a 5-stop Image Stabilizer help you to stay creative in all conditions. "This lens is ideal for documentary work as it has a silent and very smooth autofocus, a perfect focal length range and very solid IS. It gives very nice and sharp images as expected from any Canon glass," says Nicolai.

Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM

A 35mm prime lens with a 4-stop Image Stabilizer and f/2 maximum aperture – ideal for low-light photography. "The 35mm is probably my favourite focal length. I really love the EF 35mm f/2 due to its compact size and the IS," says Nicolai.

Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM

This fast portrait lens delivers clear, sharp images full of contrast and colour with razor-sharp detail, ideal for high-resolution sensors. Nicolai says: "Whenever I am in a situation where I need a pretty image, but the location or surroundings won't allow it, the 85mm can save the shoot. This lens has rescued my shots many times."

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