About wide angles:

I often get asked “what wide angle lens should I get?”. Of course that is a difficult question to answer: there is no “should” about it. But in general, unless of course you are shooting an African lion safari, wide angle lenses are the most flexible.

Here’s my son Jason driving the car the other day:

Why do I use a wide angle lens for this?

  • Wide angle lenses allow the introduction of perspective, as I explained in a post a couple of days ago.
  • You can use them close to a subject and still get enough in.
  • You can get the environment to “wrap around” the subject, as in the picture above.
  • It is easy to focus them, with very wide depth of field even at large apertures.
  • It is easy to stop them from shaking (the longer the lens, the more susceptible to blur).

So is it “the wider the better”? Yes, pretty much, but watch out for a few things:

  • In close-up portraits, wide is not the best, unless you want large noses.
  • Lenses can distort perspective in the corners, so avoid people in the corner unless you want conehead-shaped distortion in them.
  • They can be imperfect in the far corners.
  • They can distort angles even when you would rather that they did not.
  • Your flash may not cast light as wide as your lens.

So not a panacea for all cases. But in general, wide is great and at least one of your lenses ought to be very wide – in the range of 10-20mm on a crop camera, and 16-35 on a full-frame camera.

0 thoughts on “About wide angles:

  1. Now Michael,
    I am now shopping for Wide Angle Lens so thanks for posting this today.you timing is great. one of the draw backs with wide angle you say is “the noise” Can this be correct in Lightroom? because you always say shoot in raw when you can. Do you get more noise with a wide angle then say a 55-200mm.

  2. Angles – when they go very wide, things get larger. It’s not really distortion – it is “unnatural perspective”. NOT a reason not to buy a wide angle lens.. 10-20 is a great range. Go for it!

  3. Did you mention “noise” or “nose”? I think Ray was confused about that.

    Just to clarify though as I am in the same boat. Do wide angles introduce noise?

    Also: what would be your recommendation for a wide angle for the Canon XSi? I think they manufacture an EF-S 10-22mm type but not sure about Sigma, Tamron, etc.

  4. No noise – just large noses if you are very close (look up “close-far” on this blog).

    Any lens in the 10-20-ish range is good. Canon, Tokina, Sigma, etc. Whatever you like – hold it, try it, watch for QA issues, and once happy, never look back!

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