Expand your image-making possibilities with a wide-angle lens
By Maura C. Lanahan
Digital-Specific Lenses Be sure to check whether the lens you’re purchasing is specifically made for small (APS-C) digital SLR sensors or if it’s adaptable to both 35mm film and digital sensors. Small-sensor lenses will vignette when placed on a full-sized 35mm SLR because they’re not designed to cover the entire dimensions of a 35mm sensor.
The Canon EF-S 10-22mm ƒ/3.5-4.5 USM is designed specifically for the Canon EOS 20D and both EOS Rebel camera bodies. With three aspheric lens elements and ultra-low-dispersion (UD) glass, aberrations, ghosting and flare are limited. The lens makes a great travel companion due to its modest weight and compact size—0.8 pounds and 3.3x3.5 inches, respectively. List Price: $799.
The Nikon 12-24mm ƒ/4G ED-IF AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor is designed to operate exclusively with Nikon D-series digital SLR cameras. With a wide angle of view of 18-36mm (35mm equivalent), the lens incorporates ED glass to control chromatic aberrations, while the aspheric optics deliver sharp images and enable more compact dimensions of 3.2x3.5 inches. Weighing just over a pound, this lens is lightweight and easy to shoot. List Price: $1,299.
If you’re street shooting, the wide maximum aperture of the Olympus Zuiko Digital 11-22mm ƒ/2.8-3.5 Wide Zoom allows you to photograph in low-light conditions without a tripod. The lens has a 35mm equivalency of 22-44mm, weighs just over a pound and has a compact design of 3x3.6 inches. Two aspheric glass elements help prevent aberrations and distortions while a multicoating over the first two lenses limits ghosting and flare. List Price: $949.
With ED glass and two aspheric lens elements, the Pentax smc P-DA 12-24mm ƒ/4.0 ED/AL (IF) delivers crisp image quality in a lightweight (less than a pound) and compact (3.3x3.4 inches) design. The lens is used specifically with Pentax digital APS-C-sensor cameras and has a 35mm focal length equivalency of 18.5-37mm. List Price: $900.
Designed for APS-C-sized image sensors, the Sigma 10-20mm ƒ/4-5.6 EX DC HSM offers a super-wide angle of view, with a 35mm sensor equivalency of 15-30mm. Three SLD glass elements and two aspheric elements are incorporated to limit chromatic aberrations and distortion. Weighing only 1.5 pounds and with dimensions of 2.3x3.2 inches, the compact lens is easy to shoot and travel with. List Price: $730.
The Tamron SP AF 11-18mm ƒ/4.5-5.6 Di II LD Aspherical (IF) Zoom is created for small-sensor digital SLRs and allows capture of ultra-wide shots due to the 35mm equivalency range of 17-28mm. LD glass and aspheric elements help to limit lateral and chromatic aberrations, and an internal-focusing mechanism keeps the front of the lens from rotating so filters stay in place. At just under one pound and with dimensions of 3.3x3.1 inches, the lens is lightweight and compact. List Price: $981.
Designed specifically for digital SLRs with an APS-C-sized sensor and a 35mm equivalency of 18-36mm, the Tokina AT-X 124 AF PRO DX 12-24mm ƒ/4 allows you to capture expansive landscapes. With dimensions of 3.3x3.5 inches and a weight of 1.24 pounds, the lens is lightweight and easy to carry, an asset when you’re trekking in the field. The optics design has two aspheric elements to limit aberrations and a non-rotating 77mm filter thread keeps filters in place when focusing. List Price: $899.
Prime Wide-Angles Vs. Wide-Angle Zooms Wide-angle lenses were once only available in a single focal length, called a prime lens. While primes recently have fallen out of favor due to their limited range, there are many upsides to owning one of these lenses.
Aside from great optic quality and the ability to focus at extremely close distances, they have less glass incorporated in the design, so they’re lightweight and ideal for travel. Solely using a prime lens also forces you to use that lens to its ultimate potential, pushing you to create a unique style.
Another upside to primes is that they have become rather affordable due to wide-angle zooms dominating the market, so you can get these high-quality optics for a good price.
In addition, these lenses tend to have large apertures. Some will go past the standard maximum ƒ/2.8 to ƒ/1.4, so if you’re into low-light shooting, these lenses can be a great tool. Prime lenses with ultra-large apertures include: the Canon EF 24mm ƒ/1.4L USM, the Konica Minolta AF 35mm ƒ/1.4G, the Nikon 28mm ƒ/1.4D AF Nikkor, the Pentax smc P-FA 31mm ƒ/1.8 and the Sigma 20mm ƒ/1.8 EX DG Aspherical RF.
Fish-eye lenses allow you to compose a unique, ultra-wide view of a scene. Full-frame fish-eyes capture an image at 180 degrees and can distort your subject when you get very close, which can be an interesting effect. These are fun lenses to shoot with and you can use them to add distinction to your work. They include the Canon EF 15mm ƒ/2.8 Fisheye, the Konica Minolta AF 16mm ƒ/2.8 Fisheye, the Nikon 16mm ƒ/2.8D AF Fisheye Nikkor, the Olympus Zuiko Digital 8mm ƒ/3.5 Fisheye and the Sigma 15mm ƒ/2.8 EX Diagonal Fisheye.