Gadget Bag: Take It In Wide

Expand your image-making possibilities with a wide-angle lens
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Take It In WideWide-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 (3.3×4.1 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 3.2×3.4 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 3.2×4.2 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 2.8×2.7 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 3.3×3.4 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 3.3×3.4 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 3.2×3 inches and a weight of less than a pound, the lens is a light addition to your pack. List Price: $390.


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 3.3×3.5 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 3.2×3.5 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 3×3.6 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 (3.3×3.4 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 2.3×3.2 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 3.3×3.1 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 3.3×3.5 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.

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