When to Use a Wide Angle Lens?
…& the Best Wide Angle Lenses to Buy
A wide angle lens is sometimes considered as the lens for a photojournalist.
The wide angle of view, the ultra-sharp image quality and at times a matching build quality to go with, makes a wide angle lens the choice of most photographers around the world, not just photojournalists alone.
If you are reading this article, probably someone told you about the wholesome goodness of a yummy wide angle lens. It is probable that you might have already made up your mind and just wanted to bounce your thoughts to find out what others think.
If you have already made up your mind, great decision! The following paragraphs probably would be what you were looking to glance upon.
However, the purpose of this article is not to sway decisions, neither reaffirm ones that have already been made. That’s not my objective. My objective is to merely highlight some of the features of a wide angle lens and the reasons why these are such popular with most photographers.
Larger angle of view
The first and the obvious reason for choosing a wide angle lens is the larger angle of view that you get to see and capture. A wide angle lens is an automatic choice when it comes to shooting photos of landscapes, architecture, interiors and of course real estate.
Having said that you can take a wide angle lens and shoot unique perspectives of almost anything under the sun. That is if you know what you are doing. I have seen wedding photographers shooting with a 35mm prime and still getting away with excellent photos.
The larger angle of view obviously allow you to capture a lot more in the frame, which is a good thing in a sense. Say you are standing in front of the magnificent Taj Mahal and you have a wide angle lens with you. With
With it you should be able to get a tight composition of the entire mausoleum even when you are standing inside the compound. With a tele lens you would have to cross the nearby river and go to the other bank in order to capture the entire structure in a single frame.
A problem with using tele lenses is that it sucks in more of the background when ideally you don’t want that to happen. Use a zoom lens to compose an image when the subject is some distance away. As you
As you zoom in you will find that the background is becoming larger and larger. Till at one point, your lens permitting, it assumes a disproportionately large size in comparison to the subject in the foreground. This is known as lens compression. Wide angle lenses don’t suffer from this problem.
But that’s not all, a wide-angle lens captures more of a landscape than a tele can. Wide angle lenses would give you a closer feel of the actual scene and not bits and pieces of a big picture. With a tele, you would be forced to shoot slices or portions of a much wider spectacle of the lord you are standing in front of.
Ultra-wide angle lenses offer you a vast depth of field. Combine an ultra-wide (or for that matter even a wide-angle) lens with a big f-number and you will notice the sharp details even at the corners of the frame. You don’t have to employ tricks like focusing 1/3rds into the frame or making difficult calculations to determine the hyperfocal distance of the lens.
Street photographers shoot a majority of their images with a wide angle lens. This is because a wide angle lens is ultra-sharp. The same reason why these lenses are preferred by landscape photographers as well.
There is, however, a few reasons of their own for such a choice. An ultra-wide angle lens tends to stretch things and make them appear a bit, well, stretchy (!).
Why would you want to stretch things? Because it’s a good deal of fun and moreover I don’t mind making unique images of everyday stuff around me.
The thing that I would definitely mind, however, is making close-up portraits with a wide angle or an ultra-wide angle lens. It is never a good idea to stretch facial features.
Forces you to change the perspective by getting close
One reason a pro would ask you to use a wide angle lens is because you may have developed the inevitable beginner syndrome of shooting from a distance and making use of the optical zoom of your lens.
This disease is more frequently seen among photographers who migrate from a Point & Shoot to a DSLR. Point & Shoot cameras and their tiny lenses often come with mind-boggling zooms. 15x, 25x, 30x.
It seems it is not far when we will have lenses with 500x zoom capacity. None of these make me drool though. As none of these are actually optical zooms. As a matter of fact, optical zoom taps out at much lower magnification.
After that, it’s just software enhanced digital zoom which appears in the final image as if you accidentally shot something obscene and had to pixelate it in post-production. Anyways the only way to recuperate from this disease is to buy a prime; and what better prime than a wide angle?
The only way you can ever zoom is if you move with your feet. You will be forced to if you are ever going to fill the frame and therein is the beauty of the wide angle lens. It makes you do things and get out of your comfort zone.
While speaking about wide angle and ultra-wide angle lenses we cannot snub one particular lens – I am referring to the fisheye lens. These lenses are difficult to manage and shoot with.
Fish-eye lenses are designed to give you an ultra-wide and ultra-distorted perspective of the scene in front of you. This is a fun lens to use if you like everything to roll up, curl and get distorted.
Serious real world photography pursuits are, however, limited with a fisheye lens. You can use a fisheye lens in a way so that it does not bring in the massive distortions and capture really wide perspectives of scenes which are otherwise impossible to be captured. These could include the Milky Way, panoramic shots of architectures,
These could include the Milky Way, panoramic shots of architectures, a really large wedding group or even a shot of a room where you don’t have too much of a working space.
The Best Wide Angle Lenses to Buy
Update for 2017
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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 7 years now, which unsurprisingly, revolve mostly around his two favorite pursuits.