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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Must-Have Wide-Angle Zoom

Perfect for grand landscapes and intimate nature portraits, see what the pros say about these indispensable lenses

Click Images To EnlargeThis Article Features Photo Zoom
Kerrick James
Pentax DA 12-24mm
Kerrick James
As a much-published travel photographer, Kerrick James owns and often carries a full bag of lenses, giving him from 10mm to 600mm of coverage, not including teleconverters. “I have a plethora of wide-angle zooms,” says James, “but one of my favorites is Pentax’s 12-24mm ƒ/4 DA lens. This is their widest rectilinear zoom, equivalent to 18mm for us old-style film shooters.”
James says it’s the lens he reaches for when he needs a very wide field of view, minimal spatial distortion, lots of depth of field or all of the above at once. “With an ED (IF) design, it is superb for accentuating the near-to-far relationship in landscapes, for straight architectural images; and its wide zoom range means you have a lot of visual versatility in a very portable lens,” says James. “An ƒ/2.8 would be nice, but Pentax’s in-body Shake Reduction on the K20D and the K10D makes this lens usable in low light as well.”

Lewis Kemper
Canon EF 16-35mm
Lewis Kemper
As a professional photographer for more than 21 years now, Lewis Kemper uses wide-angle zooms for two primary purposes: to exaggerate and emphasize a strong foreground element, or to capture the immense scale of a scene.
“If I see an interesting pattern, reflection or graphic subject,” says Kemper, “I like to get right up close, just inches away and down low to really make the foreground element the subject of the photo. Even when using the wide-angle zoom to capture the immensity of a scene, I find it beneficial to get close to some foreground element to give your eye a place to enter the image. Sweeping scenes of distant objects can get boring, but if you give the viewer something to focus on when they enter the image, you will have a more successful picture.”

Kemper says the best part of a zoom is that it allows you to bracket your compositions without having to move your camera position too much. With just a slight shift of the zoom, you can have a totally different feel to your picture. “I personally don’t like to carry too much gear,” adds Kemper, “and Canon’s EF 16-35mm ƒ/2.8, along with a nice midrange zoom, is all I need to carry in most locations.”

Don Gale
Tamron 11-18mm
Don Gale
Award-winning nature photographer, Don Gale says that for his wide-angle shooting, he primarily uses the Tamron 11-18mm on his Fujifilm S5 Pro. A lens factor of 1.5x gives him a focal range of 16.5-27mm, “which is still nice and wide,” says Gale. “Plus it’s tack-sharp andg rectilinear without any barrel distortion around the edges of the frame.
“And when I have it set at 11mm (16.5mm-equivalent), the foreground becomes so dominant, which is what I want sometimes. From there, if I want to radically change a composition, all I have to do is move the camera a little bit one way or the other. Or I can simply adjust the zoom.”

Gale also likes the fact that Tamron’s lenses tend to be physically smaller and easier to carry around. He used to think if a lens was small—and there’s a lot of stuff moving around in there—it wouldn’t be as good as a bigger lens. “But recently,” says Gale, “whatever Tamron is doing with its designs is allowing it to make lenses with focal lengths equivalent to those from other companies, and yet Tamron lenses are smaller. And I haven’t seen that the sharpness or optical quality has been compromised in any way.”

TokinaTokina AT-X 12-24mm ƒ/4 PRO DX
This is Tokina’s first lens designed for use exclusively on Canon and Nikon digital SLR cameras having an APS-C-sized sensor. With an equivalent focal range of 18-36mm (35mm or full-frame format), it provides a wide perspective with moderate zoom capability for variable framing options. Super-low-dispersion glass elements ensure optimum color reproduction and sharpness, while two aspherical elements correct for aspherical aberration, a problem associated with ultra-wide-angle lenses in the past.
TamronSony DT 11-18mm ƒ/4.5-5.6
For Sony or Minolta shooters, the DT 11-18mm is an excellent lens for wide-angle work. Its DT design makes it ideally suited for all their APS-sized sensors, giving you a super-wide 16.5mm angle of view up to your standard 27mm wide-angle view. Aspherical elements correct frame distortion at the short end, while ED glass elements minimize flare and greatly reduce chromatic aberration for sharper images with more accurate color separation.

>> To see more work from Lewis Kemper, visit www.johnisaac.com

>> To see more work from David Middleton, visit www.davidmiddletonphoto.com

>> To see more work from Rod Planck, visit www.rodplanck.com

>> To see more work from Jay Dickman, visit www.jaydickman.net

>> To see more work from Gary Mercer, visit www.garymercer.us

>> To see more work from Kerrick James, visit www.kerrickjames.com

>> To see more work from Don Gale, visit www.photographybydon.com


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