A wide-angle lens is one that has a focal length that is less than normal. For a full-frame camera such as the Canon 5D Mark II or Nikon D300 that would be less than 35mm, and for an APS-C, or crop sensor camera, like a Canon 60D or Nikon D5100 it would be a lens with a focal length less than 27mm. When it comes to wide angle lenses, the full-frame models really are better for taking full advantage of the possibilities of creativity with wide angle lenses.
Many photographers actually prefer the results of wide-angle lenses over any other focal length. This is due to the drama that these lenses create. However, even though they are quite popular, they are also the most difficult to master. More about this a little later.
Characteristics of the Wide-Angle Lens
The angle of view of a wide-angle lens is greater than that of the human eye, meaning the lens can see more than your eye when looking straight on. Because of the wide angle view, lenses with a very short focal length are considered ideal for landscapes. They are even used to stitch photos together to create a panorama of a scene. This is done either in the camera with integrated software, or it is done with post processing software such as Adobe Photoshop.
There is a greater depth of field in these types of lenses than in any other type of lens. It is almost impossible to get a blurry background when shooting a wide-angle shot. Such a lens is also much more susceptible to lens flare. It is quite difficult to protect the lens from the sun, so the photographer will need to be aware of where the sun is when composing his shot. A lens hood, even if one is available, is not much help because can not be large enough to block out the sun without blocking the angle of view as well.
Lenses in the wide angle focal range can produce distorted images and vignetting. This is true especially of less expensive models. While this is true, it is sometimes the desire of the photographer to have these supposed flaws help with the creativity of the photo.
Wide Angle Lens Usage
Of course, these special lenses are especially good at landscapes. However, the reason so many photographers are in love with them is because of the drama they produce when used correctly. The best way to use your wide-angle lens is to get close to the subject. When you think you are close enough, move even closer.
People photography can be somewhat predictable with normal lenses and even with telephoto lenses. However, when you use a wide-angle lens and get up close to a subject, the perspective changes dramatically. The foreground subject suddenly becomes the star of the picture, demanding the viewers’ attention. Objects in the background are also interesting, but they are interesting for reasons that are not normal when normal lenses are used.
They may appear smaller than life compared to the star of the photo. Landscapes also become more dramatic when a close-up subject is the attention getter. Focus on a wildflower a few inches away with a mountain range in the background and the flower looks bigger than life.
Which Wide-angle Lens?
Choice of lens really depends on the type of camera and your intended application. As mentioned above, full-frame cameras have a huge advantage over smaller sensor cameras. If you have a crop-sensor camera such as a Canon Rebel or a Nikon D3100, go for the widest lens possible. There are now ultra-wide zoom lenses that can give you the same dramatic results as the full-frame camera shooter enjoy.
Canon offers a very popular lens for crop-sensor cameras. It is the Canon EF-S 10-22mm lens. A similar lens with a zoom range of 10-24mm is available by Nikon. However, this is one place you can save a bundle by purchasing a third party lens by Sigma.
It is the Sigma 10-20mm lens for both Canon and Nikon, as well as other major brands.Shooting wide-angle is not for the faint-of-heart. It takes knowledge and practice to get it right. However, once you master the techniques, you will be producing some eye-popping photos that will amaze your family and friends.