What Is A Wide Angle Lens

By | 12/10/2022

Every bit a photographer, you have a vast selection of lens options to choose from. Those that bear witness a vast portion of the scene are chosen wide angle lenses. But exercise y’all need one? And which wide angle is the all-time lens choice for y’all?

To tackle this question, permit’s await at the dissimilar types of wide angle lenses available, and when to use them.

A Nikon dslr camera and two different wide angle lenses resting on a map
[ExpertPhotography is supported past readers. Product links on ExpertPhotography are referral links. If you use one of these and purchase something we brand a little scrap of money. Need more info?
See how it all works hither.]

What Is a Broad Angle Lens?

First, we must clarify the pregnant of wide angle.

The virtually common description is that a broad angle lens displays a wider field of view than our vision. However, this doesn’t interpret directly to millimetres (mm) and degrees.

And then, what focal lengths (in mm) can be considered wide bending? The pop definition is that a lens below, or equivalent to 35mm is considered a broad angle lens. This is roughly 65 degrees of diagonal field of view.

Does a Broad Angle Lens Zoom?

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

Primes are generally lighter, faster, cheaper and produce better image quality. The
Canon 24mm f/ii.viii STM is a great example of a cheap and pocket-sized prime.

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

Zoom lenses very versatile, allowing to keep your gear to a minimum. Simply, generally, a zoom lens is heavier and more expensive, due to extra mechanisms and glass inside the lens. Kit lenses are exceptions, they are frequently quite small, merely they come with serious compromises.

Zooms’ image quality is ordinarily surpassed by prime lenses in the same price range. They are a jack of all trades, principal of none in particular. The
Catechism EF 16-35mm f/4 lens is an excellent case for a professional wide angle zoom lens.

How Broad Is a Broad Angle Lens?

We have to brand a disclaimer hither. The photographic camera that you apply influences how your lens will ‘expect’. Smaller sensors crop out the middle portion of any 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 translate to your camera, divide them by one.five (APS-C) or 2 (M4/3).

As I mentioned, by popular definition, wide angle means annihilation below 35mm. But there’s notwithstanding a lot of room for further specification.

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

The nearly 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 marketplace are 10mm (rectilinear) and 8mm (fisheye).

What Are the Three Main Types of Broad Angle Lenses?

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

Fisheye Wide Angle Lens

Fish-eye lenses are special ultra-wide angle lenses. Their angle of view is usually
180°, allowing you to see half of a total rotation.

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

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

Rokinon HD8M-C 8mm f/3.v Hd is a peachy example. In that location are too fish-heart zoom lenses (though only a few), such as the Canon EF 8-15mm. There’s an ultra-rare 6mm f/ii.viii fish-center made by Nikon.

Near activity cameras, like the GoPros, also feature congenital-in wide fish-eye lenses.

A street view through a window showing fish-eye distortion
Fish-centre distortion. 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, just they keep lines (shut to) straight.

You might all the same notice moderate butt baloney on some. It is more obvious in architectural images, where the lines bow outward, away from the center. Merely, it’s as well like shooting fish in a barrel to right during post-processing.

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

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

You lot tin can become lenses with shorter focal lengths, simply they are solely for cropped-sensor cameras (like the Sigma viii-16mm).

Proceed in mind that you cannot compare a 16mm fisheye with a 16mm rectilinear wide angle lens. Because of the distortion, the fisheye lens volition give a different, slightly wider image.

TheCanon EF 28mm f/1.eight USM is a skillful case of an all-around, rectilinear wide bending lens for Catechism. If yous take the budget for it, I strongly recommend the Canon 24mm f/1.4L 2 lens. Information technology’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 directly. Photo by the Author

Tilt-Shift Wide Angle Lens

Although tilt-shift lenses don’t have to be wide angle lenses necessarily, nearly are. Neither of the previously mentioned two lens types allows y’all to correct for perspective distortion.

This type of distortion is peculiarly prevalent in wide angle lenses. It happens you’re not viewing two parallel lines directly from the middle. With a standard rectilinear lens, they would converge.

Tilt-shift lenses take rectilinear a stride further.

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

You likewise have the option to independently control (tilt) the aeroplane of focus.

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

My favourite is the Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L. It’s a very versatile lens. Yous can even attach a teleconverter to brand 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 Use A Wide Bending Lens (with Recommendations!)

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

A fish-heart lens captures fifty-fifty more of the scene but is mainly used for
artistic and creative purposes. They are wide plenty to nicely capture the 2-worlds scene that I am sure we have all seen and admired.

Be enlightened that you have to exist very witting of your limerick to work well with a broad angle lens. Information technology is easy to fall into the trap of showing besides much.

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

Street Photography

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

Equally Robert Capa taught united states of america, “If your images aren’t good enough, y’all’re non close enough”. This can be a hurting with wide angle lenses, every bit y’all demand to get in actually 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, peculiarly 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, you don’t commonly want to bring a lot of lenses. Lighter gear means more room to pack other stuff or more convenient travel. So, almost photographers opt to cull a standard zoom lens, perhaps an actress telephoto lens.

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

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

My two favourite lenses for travel are the 24mm f/1.4 and the 85mm f/1.8. Sometimes I throw in the 40mm f/2.eight pancake lens because of its tiny size.

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

Compages and Real Estate Photography

For these specific purposes, you’ll need to have a wide lens. An ultra-wide lens is recommended for interiors.

Discontinuity and build quality are not actually of consideration hither. 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 distortion-free results – for a high price.

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

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

Mural Photography

For landscapes, you inevitably demand a wide angle lens. As you’ll probably do it from a tripod, the discontinuity is not a very important cistron. Instead, size, weight, image quality and weather sealing are.

The lens we dear for landscapes is the Catechism EF xvi-35mm f/4. Learn the ins and outs of mural photography in our But Stunning Landscapes course.

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

Event Photography and Photojournalism

These fields (among other gear) crave fast and broad lenses. Yous have to exist ready for numerous possible lighting and action situations.

Apply broad angle lenses when you need to capture the all-encompassing shot. Or, use it to get actually close-upwards for dramatic angles – remember Capa’s words.

You lot take several options.

Yous can choose a wide zoom lens. On the Canon and Sony sides, at that place are several sixteen-35mm f/ii.8 lenses, which are very popular. Nikon makes a fourteen-24mm f/two.8, along 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/2.8. To capture moving subjects in low lite, you still have to raise the ISO quite a bit – resulting in more noise.

The way I prefer is going with broad discontinuity primes. Equally mentioned, I’m a large fan of the 24mm f/1.4 lens but there are other options. Almost brands brand 35mm f/1.4 lenses. Tamron recently brought out their own, which I similar a lot.

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

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

Nighttime Sky Photography

If y’all want to photograph the nighttime sky (maybe the Milky way), fast prime lens are the way to go, too, specially the aforementioned 14mm f/1.eight lens.

Follow our guide in the Galaxy 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 past Josh Dunlop

Why Not Use Your Normal Lens?

You could utilize a multitude of lenses to endeavour to replicate the view from wide bending lenses.

If you were to use a standard 50mm lens, for example, you would accept to shoot a few dozen images and sew them together for a 16mm view. Vi to eight images may exist enough to cover 28mm.

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

There’s also a dissimilar consideration to stitching. You can use information technology to replicate the shallow depth-of-field look of large formats. There’southward nix to finish you from doing it with portraits or product shots.

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

Of course, other photographers also borrow his fox. It takes time to perfect (peculiarly with portraits), merely 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 wide angle lenses. Simply they are powerful tools of expression, providing options that no other lens blazon is capable of.

Broad bending lenses can also pose challenges. Applying composition and exposure skills to wide angle shots can exist harder than expected.

It’s important that you lot feel comfortable using your wide angle glass, without overthinking it. Going with your flow almost always yields great results. This style, your shots will be genuinely great and unique.

If y’all’re in the market for a great broad angle, read my guides on choosing the best Nikon or Canon wide bending lens.

Source: https://expertphotography.com/wide-angle-lens/