Expand your image-making possibilities with a wide-angle lens
By Maura C. Lanahan
Wide-open spaces. One of the best ways to capture this feeling is by using a wide-angle lens. The first time I used a wide-angle, I couldn't put it down. I suddenly was offered a unique way of photographing a scene beyond what a standard focal-length lens could provide. Its versatility allowed me to shoot images in tight spaces as well as compose expansive landscapes.
Since that first introduction, wide-angle lens technology has come a long way. Back then, just having a wide focal length with quality glass was great; with the advent of digital, however, new features have evolved that are a benefit when shooting with a film camera as well.
Digital shooting has prompted optical innovations that affect both film and digital photographers. Lens technologies like low-dispersion glass that limits aberrations and flare, and aspheric lens elements that help to deliver sharper images and prevent distortion have become a must in recent designs. Additionally, internal-focusing mechanisms prevent the front of the lens from rotating so filters stay in place.
When you're in the field, convenience is essential, and for this reason, wide-angle zooms have become popular. These lenses provide a range of focal lengths so you don't have to move from your shooting position, and with digital cameras, they assist in guarding against dust reaching your sensor during frequent lens changes.
When you set out to purchase a wide-angle zoom, one feature to consider is maximum aperture. An aperture of ƒ/2.8, commonly called a faster or wider lens, is ideal for shooting in low-light situations, as it allows you to handhold your camera. This may be essential if you're photographing people at night, but unnecessary if you intend only to capture landscapes, where a higher ƒ-stop is needed. Also, lenses with larger apertures are bigger in size, heavier and typically cost much more.
Lenses For Film Or Digital Cameras Whether you're shooting a film or digital Canon SLR, the Canon EF 16-35mm ƒ/2.8L USM is an ultra-wide-angle lens that offers a broad view of your scene and a fast aperture of ƒ/2.8 for low-light or indoor shooting. The lens is relatively compact (3.3x4.1 inches) and easy to carry (1.3 pounds) while combining three aspheric elements in the optical design to limit aberrations and distortion. List Price: $1,599.
The Konica Minolta AF Zoom 17-35mm ƒ/2.8-4 (D) has been designed with the Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D in mind, but also works on film cameras. A maximum aperture of ƒ/2.8 allows for handheld, low-light shooting. Aberrations are kept to a minimum with three aspheric elements. The lens has compact dimensions of 3.2x3.4 inches and weighs less than a pound. List Price: $826.
Mount the Nikon 17-35mm ƒ/2.8D ED-IF AF-S Zoom-Nikkor on a film or digital SLR. With compact and lightweight dimensions of 3.2x4.2 inches and 1.6 pounds, the lens is ideal for travel. Extra-low-dispersion (ED) glass elements reduce chromatic aberrations and flare. List Price: $2,119.
The Pentax smc P-FA J 18-35mm ƒ/4.0-5.6 AL features aspheric elements and a multi-layer coating to limit aberrations, ghosting and flare. With dimensions of 2.8x2.7 inches and weighing only a half-pound, the lens is ultralight and easy to handle and carry. List Price: $250.
With its large aperture, the Sigma 17-35mm ƒ/2.8-4 EX DG Aspherical HSM allows you to shoot in low-light conditions with a film or digital camera. The optics incorporate aspheric lens elements and special low-dispersion (SLD) glass to limit aberrations and flare. With dimensions of 3.3x3.4 inches, the lens weighs 1.2 pounds. List Price: $700.
The Tamron SP AF 17-35mm ƒ/2.8-4 Di LD Aspherical (IF) is a versatile tool that can mount on a variety of film or digital SLRs. Weighing just over a half-pound, the lens is light and simple to operate. Its compact size of 3.3x3.4 inches makes it easy to fit in your pack. List Price: $818.
The Tokina AF193 19-35mm ƒ/3.5-4.5 Zoom fits any Canon EOS, Minolta AF, Nikon D or Pentax AF film or digital SLR. The lens incorporates high-refraction, low-dispersion (LD) glass and multicoated lens elements created by Hoya to limit aberrations, ghosting and flare. With dimensions of 3.2x3 inches and a weight of less than a pound, the lens is a light addition to your pack. List Price: $390.