There are many different focal lengths, prices, and types of wide angle lenses to consider if you’re new to the world of wide angle photography. In this Quick Start Guide we’re giving you a fundamental explanation of wide angle lenses so you can get out, get creative, and take your photography further.
What is a wide angle lens?
It is worth noting that focal lengths vary depending on the size of sensor the camera is using – so while a 35mm lens will be ‘wide angle’ on a full-frame DSLR, it will equate to a 56mm on a Canon APS-C and 52.5mm on a Nikon APS-H DSLR, and even longer on a micro four thirds or smaller sensor.
So when considering what wide-angle lens to buy, it’s important to take the size of your sensor into consideration and purchase a lens that will give a wide field of view for your camera.
Generally speaking, a wide-angle lens will be anything from about 14mm to 35mm (in 35mm equivalent terms), and anything wider than about 14mm is generally considered to approach fish-eye territory.
Wide angle lenses differ from fish eye lenses in the amount of visual distortion apparent at the edges of the frame. Fish eye lenses will be significantly distorted, whereas wide angle lenses should have less distortion.
Straight lights in wide angle photos will also appear to bend in relationship to objects around them, warping around the centre of the image.
While this is often a useful and creative trick for photographers and can be used to create interesting, unique and strange shots, it’s something that you should bear in mind when exploring wide angle photography.
Zoom or Prime?
While this is mostly a personal choice based on your budget, how advanced you are as a photographer, and what you want to use the lens for, there are also some practical considerations to think about.
A wide angle zoom lens gives you greater flexibility and freedom with your shots so it’s perfect if you’re shooting an event, a wedding, or photographing objects that you have little to no control over. A wide angle zoom lens in this case means you can still get the shot you need.
Choosing a prime wide angle lens is great if you can control the scene you’re photographing – for example a landscape photographer is likely to use a wide angle prime lens over a zoom lens as it results in a higher quality image and they can position themselves to capture the same viewpoint.
Not Only for Landscapes
If you’re interested in exploring landscape photography, then a wide-angle lens should be high up on your shopping list.
However, they can be used for a lot more than just landscapes. Wide angle lenses are great for capturing tall buildings, long buildings, and other interesting aspects of architectural photography (though if you’re seriously considering architectural photography, it’s worth investigating tilt/shift lenses).
They can also be used for weddings, events, and creative portraits. Wide angle portraits offer unique and often very amusing perspectives of people’s faces – making a welcome change to the standard 50mm or 85mm portrait lenses.
Wide angle lenses are great for weddings too as they let you capture group shots when you’re in somewhere with limited space, and if you get a high or low angle you can shoot some really interesting party shots.
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Use our helpful Camera Lenses Explained page to locate the best lens to fit your camera and meet your needs.