When most photographers start out with their first DSLR camera, they often work on the stock lens that comes with their camera body. With more experience, they find that they’re ready to upgrade their kit to something that offers better quality images — a wide angle lens is often a popular next choice. Sound familiar?
Maybe you’re considering a wide angle lens because someone told you it’s a good piece of glass to have in your camera kit or maybe you’re looking to give yourself a wider perspective than your regular zoom lens allows. Whatever the case may be, understanding how a wide angle lens works, common pitfalls, what they’re best for and some of the top options on the market will help you guide your decision when choosing a wide angle lens.
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What is a Wide Angle Lens?
Like the name suggests, a wide angle lens is any lens with a short focal length and wide field of view — typically around 110 degrees as measured on the diagonal of the frame. In layman’s terms, using a wide angle lens is much like taking the blinders off your camera, as these types of lenses offer a larger field of view than what the human eye would naturally see.
Any lens that’s wider than a 50mm focal length on a full frame camera, or 35mm on a crop sensor, is considered wide angle.
Note that the wider the angle, the lower the focal length number is on a lens. For example, a 15mm focal length will offer an ultra-wide field of view.
What Does a Wide Angle Lens Do?
Because wide angle lenses have such a large field of view, they distort things. This means that objects in the foreground of your frame will appear larger and more exaggerated than those in the background.
But distortion isn’t always a bad thing; it can also enhance perspective. When and how you use a wide angle lens is important for composing good photos.
What About Fisheye Lenses?
Fisheye lenses are a type of wide angle lens, only they go well beyond the 10–15mm wide angle focal length. The primary difference with fish angle lenses is the significant barrel distortion, or what appears to be a circular image. This is intentional and due to the fact that the field of view extends to 180 degrees.
What Are Wide Angle Lenses Good For?
If you’re in the market for a wide angle lens, this is what you really want to know. The truth is that wide angle lenses have a variety of uses. Below we cover some of those most common considerations when composing photos with a wide lens.
Fitting More Into Your Frame
One of the main perks is the ability to squeeze more into your frame. Since wide lenses allow you to capture more in a scene, they’re naturally popular with landscape photographers.
This also makes them a favorite among real estate and architectural photographers as they can be incredibly useful when shooting interiors — in other words, when your movement is restricted by the walls of a home or building. This is especially the case if you’re working with limited physical space indoors or want to showcase more of a room in one single shot to create the illusion of a larger space.
Because a wide angle lens allows you to fit more into your frame, you can also use this as a powerful storytelling technique by introducing more elements in a single photo. With the focus on your subject, but still enough room to capture the background, you can tell a more comprehensive story through your shot.
On the other hand, space for too many elements in your photos can also work to your disadvantage since there is no clear subject and a lot of negative space. Always consider what you want the viewer to see in your image and where you want their eyes to land. In some cases, this may mean getting physically closer to your subject or changing the subject entirely.
Exaggerating Your Subject
Fitting more into the frame isn’t the only usage of a wide angle lens. If your goal is to exaggerate or emphasize the difference in size between foreground and background objects, then a wide angle lens is an excellent choice.
While this kind of subject exaggeration also comes with an element of distortion, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Distortion can also be a way to creatively add impact to an image — especially helpful if you’re trying to convey humor with your subjects.
Whether you’re looking to fit more in your frame or exaggerating your subject is more your style, you’ll need the right tools to get the job done. Below we highlight some of the best wide angle lenses on the market for 2021.
Best Canon Wide Angle Lens
Here are some of the best Canon wide angle lenses for both DSLRs and mirrorless cameras available on the market today.
Canon EF 16-35 f/2.8 III USM
- Best for Canon full-frame DSLRs
- Mount: EF
- Dimensions: 5.02”
- Weight: 1.74 lbs
- Angle of view: 108°10′-63°
Canon’s EF 16-35mm f2.8 III lens is a revamped design that improves upon its predecessor, the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II, allowing for better corner sharpness with minimal distortion. Autofocus speed and accuracy is also improved, along with a reduction in chromatic aberrations, flare and ghosting.
This lens is also perfect for landscape photographers as it sports a weather sealing that allows for use in just about any conditions. It is a versatile lens that can be paired with both full frame and crop sensor cameras, such as the Canon 7D Mark II.
Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG HSM
- Best for: Canon full-frame DSLRs
- Mount: EF (Also Available in Nikon F Mount)
- Dimensions: 5.32”
- Weight: 3.53 lbs
- Angle of view: 114.2-84.1°
Canon’s own wide angle lenses are hard to beat, but they go similarly large on the selling price, putting it beyond reach for many photographers. This Sigma art lens is well under half the price and it also boasts a better maximum viewing angle than the Canon EF 16-35 f/2.8 III, at 114 degrees.
The Sigma 14-24mm art lens has a high quality feel and comes with a full set of weather seals for photographers who need to brave various weather conditions. It offers remarkably sharp images well into the corners of the frame and little to no distortion even without using in-camera corrections, making it perfect for architecture photographers.
Canon RF 15-35mm f/2.8L IS USM
- Canon RF 15-35mm f/2.8L IS USM
- Best for: Canon EOS R & RP
- Mount: RF
- Dimensions: 4.99″
- Weight: 1.85 lbs
- Angle of view: 110°30′-63°
With the mirrorless revolution taking over the camera world, having a compatible wide angle lens has never been more important. In fact, the Canon RF 15-35mm f/2.8L USM lens is one of Canon’s most important releases since the EOS system began about 30 years ago.
This lens sports a new mount type to support the optical technologies of the new EOS R line and doesn’t obstruct the sleek mirrorless design. As you’d expect from a wide angle lens with a fast (f/2.8) aperture, it’s quite big and weighty but is nevertheless smaller and lighter than the Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 Art Lens for Canon SLRs we discussed above.
It’s just shy of the Sigma’s maximum viewing angle, at 110 degrees, but it’s also more ideal for shooting in low light settings with the addition of its five-stop image stabilizer. Of course, being a Canon lens, it comes with a large price tag but it’s well worth it if you plan to dive into the realm of mirrorless cameras.
Best Nikon Wide Angle Lens
Canon and Nikon have been in the throes of rivalry for decades, so it should come as no surprise that they would go toe-to-toe when it comes to wide angle lenses. Below we highlight some of the best Nikon and Nikon-compatible wide angle lenses
Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G AF-S ED
- Best for: Nikon full frame cameras
- Mount: F
- Dimensions: 5.2″
- Weight: 1.98 lbs
- Angle of view: 114-84°
The Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G AF-S ED lens is a sharp and fast ultra-wide zoom that’s comparable to Canon’s EF 16-35 f/2.8 lens. It similarly has a constant f/2.8 maximum aperture that is good for low light conditions. Additionally, low aberrations make it a good choice for night sky and star photography. It also sports Super Integrated and Exclusive Nano Crystal Coatings to reduce ghosting and flare.
The Nikon 14-24mm is compatible with both full frame and crop sensor cameras and from a build standpoint, it has a rugged construction and professional-grade dust and moisture resistance suitable for landscape photography — again, a lens that’s perfect for almost all weather conditions.
Tokina AT-X Pro 11-16mm f/2.8 DX II for Nikon
- Best for: Nikon ASP-C sensor cameras
- Mount: F
- Dimensions: 3.51″
- Weight: 1.21 lbs
- Angle of view: 104°-84°
At first glance, the 1.45x zoom range of the Tokina ATX Pro 11-16mm wide angle lens is rather unimpressive. True, this doesn’t give you a wide range to work with, but the spec that sets this lens apart from the rest is its f/2.8 widest aperture, which remains constant throughout the zoom range and offers a field of view of up to 104 degrees. Not to mention it’s also one of the fastest and sharpest super-wide angle lenses on the market.
One particularly interesting feature with this lens is the One-Touch Focus Clutch mechanism. This allows you to switch from autofocus to manual focus with the push of the focus ring, which some photographers find to be more intuitive than the tiny barrel switch that’s typical on most lenses.
It’s important to note that this DX format lens is compatible with APS-C sensor cameras only, so it’s not recommended for full frame sensor cameras unless they have a crop mode.
Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S
- Best for: Nikon Z6 & Z7 mirrorless cameras
- Mount: F
- Dimensions: 3.35″
- Weight: 1.1 lbs
- Angle of view: 114°-72°
The Nikon Z 14-30mm is the wide angle, mirrorless equivalent to Canon’s RF 15-35mm f/2.8 lens, geared towards Nikon’s Z6 and Z7 cameras. Although it has a more modest aperture than the Canon competitor, it’s significantly lighter, which allows you to keep the compact and lightweight setup that is so desirable with mirrorless cameras.
Because the Z lens’ mount and the surface of the Z sensor has been reduced from 46.5mm in the F system to 16mm, this means fewer aberrations, better image performance, improved sharpness and speed, and better volume communication between the lens and camera.
Best Sony Wide Angle Lens
With Sony dominating sales in the full frame camera market, we take a look at some of the leading wide angle lenses both from Sony and those compatible with the brand.
Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 G Master
- Best for: Sony full-frame cameras
- Mount: FE
- Dimensions: 4.79″
- Weight: 1.50 lbs
- Angle of view: 107°-63°
First out of the gates is Sony’s FE 12-24mm f/2.8 G Master. This lens follows its predecessor, the Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G, which was launched three years ago. This new G Master edition delivers the same ultra-wide viewing angles but goes an f/stop wider in aperture, which makes it optimal for low light settings.
For those who aren’t familiar with Sony’s G Master series, these lenses are designed for high contrast at the highest possible spatial frequency to achieve outstanding corner-to-corner optical resolution and clarity at all zoom and focus settings. It offers an incredibly quick, quiet autofocus along with a more responsive control for manual focus — perfect for videographers.
One downside is that large design of the front optical elements, which can look and feel somewhat cumbersome for some photographers. And as part of the G Master lens, it also comes with a high asking price. That being said, if you’re not keen on the price, you might want to check out the cheaper, older f/4 version.
Sony E 10-18mm f/4 OSS
- Best for: Sony A6000-series mirrorless cameras
- Mount: E
- Dimensions: 2.50″
- Weight: 7.94 oz
- Angle of view: 109°-76°
With Sony dominating the market in mirrorless camera sales, you might be wondering about compatible lenses. The Sony E 10-18mm f/4 OSS is an ultrawide angle zoom designed for APS-C sensor cameras. Because these cameras are particularly slim and lightweight, this lens is the perfect complement if you’re looking to lug around a heavy lens — weighing in at only 255 grams.
This lens makes it significantly easier to achieve crisp, blur-free images and video with its built in Optical SteadyShot image stabilization system, which provides a 4-stop shutter speed advantage. Direct Drive SSM AF groups provide quick and quiet performance and also lends to more responsive control for manual focus operation — a bonus for videographers.
Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG HSM Art Lens
- Best for: Full-frame Sony A7 & A9 mirrorless cameras
- Mount: E
- Dimensions: 5.16″
- Weight: 2.4 lbs
- Angle of view: 114.2-84.1°
Appearing twice on this list is Sigma’s 14-24mm Art Lens, only this version is geared towards Sony mirrorless cameras, particularly the A7 and A9 cameras. Additionally it’s compatible with Sony’s E mount ASP-C sensor cameras. Like the Art Lens for Canon, this lens also offers ultrawide zoom and maintains a large f/2.8 aperture across its entire range.
With technology designed to suppress distortion, it’s an ideal piece of glass to have in your kit for architectural and landscape photography. The Hyper Sonic Motor provides quick and quiet autofocusing, making this lens suitable for videography as well. It also offers an impressive maximum 114 degree angle of view on the diagonal.
The only real downside to this lens is that it lacks Sony’s in-lens stabilization, but if you’re pairing it with a model from the A7 or A9 series, it’s almost a non-issue since these cameras come with in-body stabilization anyways.
Now that you’ve read through this crash course on wide angle lenses, it’s time to get out there and actually shoot with one. If you’re not in the market to buy yet, or you’d like to test out a few wide angle lenses before committing to a purchase, BorrowLenses has you covered for all your camera body and lens rental needs — not to mention a great selection of wide angle lens rentals beyond what we covered in this guide.