How To Choose Wide Angle Lens

By | 31/10/2022

As a lensman, you accept a vast selection of lens options to choose from. Those that evidence a vast portion of the scene are chosen wide angle lenses. But do you need ane? And which wide angle is the best lens choice for y’all?

To tackle this question, let’s look at the different types of wide bending lenses bachelor, and when to use them.

A Nikon dslr camera and two different wide angle lenses resting on a map
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What Is a Wide Angle Lens?

Showtime, we must clarify the significant of broad angle.

The near common description is that a wide angle lens displays a wider field of view than our vision. However, this doesn’t translate direct to millimetres (mm) and degrees.

So, what focal lengths (in mm) tin exist considered broad angle? The popular definition is that a lens beneath, or equivalent to 35mm is considered a wide bending lens. This is roughly 65 degrees of diagonal field of view.

Does a Wide Angle Lens Zoom?

All lenses, including broad bending lenses, come in either a
prime number
or a
version. A
lens has a fixed focal length, meaning you can change your field of view by moving physically closer or further away.

Primes are mostly lighter, faster, cheaper and produce improve image quality. The
Canon 24mm f/2.8 STM is a cracking example of a inexpensive and small prime.

lens has a variable focal length (zoom range). Some all-around “travel” zoom lens options comprehend wide, standard and telephoto focal lengths alike. Most zoom lenses are more specific, giving you one or two of these.

Zoom lenses very versatile, allowing to go along your gear to a minimum. But, more often than not, a zoom lens is heavier and more expensive, due to extra mechanisms and glass within the lens. Kit lenses are exceptions, they are oftentimes quite small, but they come with serious compromises.

Zooms’ image quality is normally surpassed by prime lenses in the same cost range. They are a jack of all trades, master of none in particular. The
Catechism EF 16-35mm f/4 lens is an fantabulous example for a professional person wide angle zoom lens.

How Wide Is a Wide Angle Lens?

We have to make a disclaimer here. The photographic camera that yous utilize influences how your lens will ‘look’. Smaller sensors crop out the centre portion of whatsoever lens, resulting in a tighter field of view.

For simplification, all focal lengths mentioned here are total-frame equivalent. If yous desire to know how these interpret to your camera, separate them past 1.5 (APS-C) or 2 (M4/3).

As I mentioned, by pop definition, wide angle means anything beneath 35mm. But in that location’s withal a lot of room for further specification.

Focal lengths between 35mm and 24mm are consideredstandard wide angle. Between 24mm to 16mm is what we usually refer to when maxim
wide angle.
Focal lengths below 16mm are considered
ultra wide angles.

The most popular wide angle zoom range is 16-35mm. Most kit or standard zoom lenses go down to 24mm or 28mm. The widest lenses on the market place are 10mm (rectilinear) and 8mm (fisheye).

What Are the Three Chief Types of Broad Angle Lenses?

In terms of distortion, we differentiate between three main sorts of wide bending lenses.

Fisheye Wide Bending Lens

Fish-eye lenses are special ultra-wide angle lenses. Their angle of view is usually
180°, allowing y’all to run into half of a full rotation.

They have a distinctive, hemispherical type of lens distortion. They cram in every bit much data as possible. Thus, they don’t produce straight lines.

In terms of focal length, they are at the bottom of the scale.

Rokinon HD8M-C 8mm f/3.v Hard disk is a great example. At that place are also fish-eye zoom lenses (though simply a few), such every bit the Catechism EF viii-15mm. There’s an ultra-rare 6mm f/two.8 fish-eye made by Nikon.

Most action cameras, like the GoPros, besides feature built-in wide fish-eye lenses.

A street view through a window showing fish-eye distortion
Fish-eye baloney. Image by Phil Hearing on Unsplash

Rectilinear Wide Angle Lens

Rectilinear broad angle lenses are the other type. These are not free from baloney either, but they keep lines (shut to) straight.

You might notwithstanding notice moderate barrel distortion on some. Information technology is more obvious in architectural images, where the lines bow outward, abroad from the centre. But, it’s also easy to right during mail-processing.

Basically, whatsoever lens that’s not explicitly marked equally fisheye is rectilinear.

They won’t requite yous a full 180° field of view, although some are shut. The widest currently available are the Samyang XP 10mm f/three.5, the Laowa 10-18mm, and the Voigtlander 10mm f/v.half-dozen.

Y’all can get lenses with shorter focal lengths, but they are solely for cropped-sensor cameras (like the Sigma 8-16mm).

Keep in mind that you cannot compare a 16mm fisheye with a 16mm rectilinear wide angle lens. Because of the baloney, the fisheye lens will give a different, slightly wider paradigm.

TheCanon EF 28mm f/ane.viii USM is a proficient example of an accommodating, rectilinear wide angle lens for Catechism. If you have the budget for it, I strongly recommend the Canon 24mm f/one.4L Two lens. It’s one of my all-time favourites.

Photo of a couple sitting on the coast of a waterscape at sunset shot with a wide angle lens
The lines here are straight. Photo by the Author

Tilt-Shift Wide Angle Lens

Although tilt-shift lenses don’t accept to be broad angle lenses necessarily, most are. Neither of the previously mentioned two lens types allows you to right for perspective distortion.

This type of distortion is peculiarly prevalent in wide angle lenses. It happens you’re non viewing two parallel lines straight from the heart. With a standard rectilinear lens, they would converge.

Tilt-shift lenses accept rectilinear a step further.

They project much larger images than the full-frame sensor. You tin can move the lens on the plane parallel to the sensor both horizontally and vertically. Thus, they can brand converging lines parallel, or parallel lines converge.

You also have the choice to independently control (tilt) the plane of focus.

These lenses are extremely sophisticated and very expensive. They are the most pop lenses among professional architecture and fine-art photographers.

My favourite is the Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L. It’south a very versatile lens. Y’all tin can even attach a teleconverter to make it a longer tilt-shift lens.

Photo of the patio of an older building shot with a Canon EF  TS-E 17mm wide angle lens
I corrected the perspective by shifting the lens

When to Employ A Wide Angle Lens (with Recommendations!)

So, what is a broad bending lens used for? Wide bending lenses are generally used for scenes where you want to capture as much every bit possible.
Landscapes, cityscapes, and compages
are the master categories that use a broad angle lens.

A fish-center lens captures fifty-fifty more than of the scene just is mainly used for
creative and artistic purposes. They are wide enough to nicely capture the two-worlds scene that I am sure we have all seen and admired.

Be aware that you lot take to be very conscious of your composition to piece of work well with a broad angle lens. It is easy to autumn into the trap of showing also much.

A person standing beside a turquoise pool full of fish in golden evening light, shot with a wide angle lens.
Epitome by David Doubilet, National Geographic

Street Photography

I oftentimes employ my wide angle lens for street photography. If I need to get closer to a subject field, I move there myself.

As Robert Capa taught us, “If your images aren’t good plenty, you’re not close enough”. This tin be a pain with broad angle lenses, as you need to arrive really close.

In turn, it can give a dramatic perspective and a sense of presence.

I recommend a fast 35mm or 24mm prime lens for street photography, particularly in challenging lighting conditions.

Photo of people at an Asian market food stall shot with a wide angle lens

Travel Photography

When you’re travelling, y’all don’t unremarkably want to bring a lot of lenses. Lighter gear means more room to pack other stuff or more than convenient travel. So, most photographers opt to choose a standard zoom lens, maybe an extra telephoto lens.

If yous’re going to a identify with a lot of landmarks, or vast landscapes, I suggest you include at least a moderately wide lens. If your kit lens goes equally depression as 24mm, it might exist enough. (Keep in heed that the 18mm kit lenses are equivalent to 28-30mm.)

I really seldom bring a standard zoom lens when travelling. Instead, I tend to rely on a wide angle prime lens and a short telephoto prime.

My two favourite lenses for travel are the 24mm f/1.4 and the 85mm f/1.eight. Sometimes I throw in the 40mm f/two.8 pancake lens because of its tiny size.

Photo of a bridge at night
A 24mm view is unremarkably enough for travel. Image past the Author

Architecture and Existent Manor Photography

For these specific purposes, y’all’ll demand to have a wide lens. An ultra-broad lens is recommended for interiors.

Aperture and build quality are not really of consideration here. What you need is a versatile, sharp and wide lens.

You might opt for a tilt-shift. They give you excellent image quality, advanced controls, and baloney-free results – for a loftier toll.

Catechism and Nikon both brand fantastic tilt-shifts, often for astronomic prices. Samyang, a third party manufacturer, offers less expensive options which still requite you a lot of value.

Photo of skyscrapers with glass windows shot with a wide angle lens

Landscape Photography

For landscapes, you inevitably need a wide angle lens. As yous’ll probably do it from a tripod, the aperture is not a very important cistron. Instead, size, weight, epitome quality and atmospheric condition sealing are.

The lens we honey for landscapes is the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4. Learn the ins and outs of landscape photography in our Simply Stunning Landscapes course.

Photo of a landscape with mountains in the background at sunset
Photo by Josh Dunlop

Issue Photography and Photojournalism

These fields (among other gear) require fast and wide lenses. You take to exist set for numerous possible lighting and activity situations.

Use wide angle lenses when you lot demand to capture the all-encompassing shot. Or, use information technology to get actually close-up for dramatic angles – call back Capa’s words.

You accept several options.

You can choose a wide zoom lens. On the Catechism and Sony sides, in that location are several 16-35mm f/2.8 lenses, which are very pop. Nikon makes a 14-24mm f/2.8, forth with Sigma.

These are all versatile, well-built and provide adequate image quality, only are all serious investments.

Sadly, with zooms, you very rarely get below f/2.eight. To capture moving subjects in depression light, you still have to raise the ISO quite a bit – resulting in more than noise.

The way I prefer is going with wide aperture primes. Equally mentioned, I’thousand a large fan of the 24mm f/i.four lens but at that place are other options. Almost brands make 35mm f/1.4 lenses. Tamron recently brought out their own, which I like a lot.

If yous demand wider, Sigma makes a 20mm f/1.4 lens. If you need even wider (rarely), at that place’s the 14mm f/one.8 – a unique lens, not challenged by anything else on the market, merely not especially suited for photojournalistic applications.

Photo of a family sitting beside a lake at sunset
Photo by the Author

Night Sky Photography

If you want to photograph the night sky (maybe the Milky Style), fast prime lens are the mode to go, too, especially the same 14mm f/1.8 lens.

Follow our guide in the Milky Manner Mastery course to know all about this field, and the use of wide angle lenses in it.

Photo of a tree with the starry sky above
Photo by Josh Dunlop

Why Non Employ Your Normal Lens?

You could use a multitude of lenses to try to replicate the view from wide angle lenses.

If y’all were to utilise a standard 50mm lens, for example, you lot would have to shoot a few dozen images and sew together them together for a 16mm view. Half-dozen to eight images may be enough to embrace 28mm.

Here, you’ll need an editing programme such as Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom. If y’all take the fourth dimension, the non-moving subject, and the attempt required, you tin can be quite successful with this. Your combined image will also take a much higher resolution than a single shot.A photo montage comprising of many images creating a large landscape image

There’south likewise a unlike consideration to stitching. You tin utilise it to replicate the shallow depth-of-field look of large formats. In that location’s nada to cease you lot from doing it with portraits or product shots.

The pioneer of this technique is Ryan Brenizer, a wedding photographer from New York. He achieves impressive background separation and broad angles simultaneously with information technology.

Of course, other photographers likewise borrow his fox. It takes fourth dimension to perfect (particularly with portraits), just the results are rewarding.

A guitar resting on an outdoor table shot with wide angle lens
Photo past Kevin Landwer-Johan


Beginner photographers often neglect broad angle lenses. But they are powerful tools of expression, providing options that no other lens blazon is capable of.

Wide angle lenses tin can also pose challenges. Applying composition and
skills to wide bending shots can be harder than expected.

It’s important that yous feel comfortable using your wide angle glass, without overthinking it. Going with your menstruum nearly always yields corking results. This way, your shots will exist genuinely cracking and unique.

If you’re in the market for a bully wide angle, read my guides on choosing the best Nikon or Canon wide angle lens.