The Best DSLR extreme wide angle lenses
Extreme wide angle lenses immediately arise visions of an extreme circular fisheye perspective. But that extreme vision is not always what is signified by extreme wide angle lenses. True fish-eye lenses give 180 ° field of vision. Those lenses have very limited application in serious photography. You can take one out for spin if you want to, just for kicks that is; but you have to have a very specific request from your client to shoot commercially with it. Lenses coming under this category would be the Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM and the AF DX Fisheye-Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8G ED.
The lenses which I am referring to, however, are the ones which gives you an angle of view just short of what a fish-eye lens would. These lenses, which are also known as ultra-wide angle, are routinely used by street, architecture and landscape photographers. The large angle of view gives ample coverage for the photographer to fit in a large part of a scenic landscape, a gigantic architectural specimen or capture wide angle perspectives of a street scene at a distant land in a single frame. There are many advantages and disadvantages associated with an extreme wide angle lens. In this article we shall be discussing some of them while also listing some of the best extreme wide angle lenses that money can buy.
1. Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM Lens
The Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM is an EF lens, meaning, it can be used with both 35mm film cameras as well as full-frame and crop Canon DSLRs. This lens has everything you expect from an ultra-wide angle lens and more. Let’s discuss a couple of the defining features of this lens. One of the major problems associated with wide angle lenses is chromatic aberrations, especially when shooting in contrasting scenes. Let’s say you are shooting a fall landscape scene against a bright blue sky. Expect some color fringing (color bleeding) at the points of highest contrast. Special coatings are applied in higher end lenses to ensure that this does not happen or is suppressed to a major extent. Stopping down also helps correcting some of the problem. The Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM lens has one Super UD (ultra-low dispersion) element and one UD element to counter this problem.
Another problem that landscape photographers routinely face is the lack of contrast in their images. Now, this can happen due to a number of reasons, and much of it is actually attributed to atmospheric haze and can be corrected in Lightroom using the new Dehaze feature or alternatively using a circular polarizer. But there are other situations too when this can happen, such as when you are shooting in strong backlit situations. The Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM has both Subwavelength Coating (SWC) and Air Sphere Coating (ASC) which suppresses flaring and ghosting that can happen in such backlit situations. This technology comes in handy to eliminate lack of contrast in backlit situations such as these.
The other features of the lens includes a constant aperture of f/4, ring-type USM (Ultra-sonic Motor based auto-focusing, internal focusing, full-time manual focusing override and most importantly a dust-free moisture free design that every landscape and natural light photographer will love.
2. Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED Lens
This is a champion lens when it comes to landscape and other wide angle photography genres. This Nikon full-frame lens works with Nikon’s 35mm film cameras, full-frame as well as APS-C cameras with crop sensors. To counter chromatic aberrations prevalent in wide angle lenses, the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED comes with two ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass elements and three aspherical elements. Apart from these, Nano Crystal coating and Super Integrated Lens coating ensures that flares and ghosting, which create an issue in ultra-wide angle lenses are suppressed.
Lenses designed for landscape and architectural work should by all means must have at least reasonable weather sealing. Out in the field there is no telling when Mother Nature opens up. This is certainly one area where the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED is well equipped. It is a magnesium alloy design that comes with both dust and moisture sealing ensuring that the lens remains free from the effects of Mother Nature’s vagaries. The other features of the lens includes Nikon’s Silent Wave Motor (SWM) technology powered auto-focusing, internal focusing and manual focusing override for faster switchover from auto to manual focusing.
3. Nikon AF-S DX Zoom-NIKKOR 12-24mm f/4G IF-ED
This discussion of the best extreme wide angle lenses for your DSLR will not limit itself to only lenses that are designed for full-frame cameras. The crop DSLR is a popular choice for the simple reason it is a camera that is less bulky and still gives the same creative shooting options as a full-frame DSLR. It would be sheer arrogance on anyone’s part to ignore that format and concentrate only on the larger cameras. Thus, the next lens in this discussion is one that is designed for Nikon’s smaller APS-C cameras – the Nikon AF-S DX Zoom-NIKKOR 12-24mm f/4G IF-ED.
This extreme wide angle lens gives the same equivalent focal length as an 18-36mm lens does on a full-frame camera. At its widest focal length the lens has a maximum aperture of f/4. It is highly doubtful that you would be using it at its widest aperture though. Extreme wide angle lenses are not designed for background blur. Two ED Extra-low Dispersion (ED) elements and three Aspherical elements have been provided for suppressing spherical aberrations, especially in backlit situations and for handling contrasting scenarios. It also has Nikon’s Super Integrated Coating (SIC). The other features of the lens includes Nikon's Silent Wave Motor (SWM) technology which produces quiet and super-fast auto-focusing, M/A mode for quick changeover from auto to manual focusing and back with no discernible delay and Internal Focusing (IF) for an unchanged barrel length while its focusing.
4. Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6 DG HSM II
Sigma makes one of the best third party lenses for Canon, Nikon and Sony systems. This lens – the Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6 DG HSM II (version two) is available for all those systems as well as for proprietary Sigma cameras. This is a DG lens meaning it is designed for digital camera systems only and has Sigma’s proprietary HSM (Hyper-sonic Motor) technology for faster and quieter auto-focusing.
The lens has a single low dispersion element and four low dispersion FLD elements. FLD stands for “F” Low Dispersion. This technology is directly related to reduction of chromatic aberrations. Most lenses employ technology which are LD (Low Dispersion) or ULD (Ultra-low Dispersion). FLD uses glass elements which have very close to the same low dispersion properties which is possible with Fluorite elements. Fluorite elements are very expensive and used only in the most expensive and best extreme wide angle lenses. FLD bridges this gap using specially made glass elements which are cheaper and comparable in quality to Fluorite elements. To reduce lens flares which are common on ultra-wide angle lenses this glass also has Multi-layer coating. Ultra-wide angle lenses are used predominantly in outdoor environments (barring when it is used in photographing interiors in tight positions). Thus, weather sealing is a welcome feature to have. The Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6 DG HSM II is a weather sealed design.
5. Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G ED Lens
There is no point in always insisting on buying the widest focal length and widest aperture possible. You will hardly ever shoot at the widest aperture when shooting landscapes architecture etc. Thus there are a wide number of other options available which are cheaper compared to the more expensive choices that we have read thus far. These lenses are perfect for beginners as well as serious enthusiasts and give great images when stopped down to f/5.6 or f/8. The only problem is lens diffraction which affect cheaper lenses a bit sooner than better made expensive lenses. You need to work out the ‘sweet spot’ of a lens. This the spot which gives the best bargain between maximum Depth of Field and least amount of image softness.
The Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G ED lens is designed for the smaller image circle of Nikon’s APS-C cameras and has a maximum wide aperture of f/3.5 at 10mm. It gives the same angle of view as a 15-36mm lens does on a full-frame camera and thus is good enough for landscape and other genres of photography. Three aspherical elements and two Extra-low Dispersion (ED) elements are provided to suppress aberrations. It also has Nikon's Super Integrated Coating (SIC). Super Integrated Coating (SIC) coating suppresses lens flares and ghosting which is handy when shooting landscapes, especially when the sun is lower towards the horizon. AF performance is powered by Nikkor’s Silent Wave Motor (SWM) technology. The lens focuses internally, meaning, the barrel length remains unchanged when it focuses. It also has full-time manual focusing override.
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Wanderlust at heart and a shutterbug who loves to document his travels via his lenses; his two passions compliment each other perfectly.
He has been writing for over 6 years now, which unsurprisingly, revolve mostly around his two favorite pursuits.
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