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What is Wide Angle Lens? Best Guide for Beginners

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What is Wide Angle Lens?

The market is full of a wide variety of lenses and as a photographer; it can get quite overwhelming to choose the best option for you. Wide angle lenses are the ones that provide a vast preview of the scene. You will find a great number of options in this category as well. Therefore one should be clear about what is wide angle lens and which wide angle is the best choice for you.

The two most commonly used types of lenses are wide-angle lenses and telephoto lenses. They both are very different and come with unique features. The results of using a wide-angle lens in cameras can be clearly seen in some of the best cinematic pieces by Roman Polanski and Steven Spielberg. These lenses are capable of producing excellent visual effects. Without any further due, let’s understand what a wide-angle lens is.

Wide Angle Lens

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A wide-angle lens features a focal length that is shorter than a normal lens. This means that objects that are close to the camera will appear larger as compared to the subjects that are far away. It provides a wide field of view. The wider the field of view, the more scenes will be captured in the frame. Most professional photographers make sure to have at least one wide-angle lens in their kit.

A shorter focal length allows the photographers to expand the horizontal scope. The wide-angle lens keeps everything in the scene in focus unless the object is extremely close to the lens. They offer a greater depth of field that makes them ideal for landscape photography.

Wide-Angle Lenses are also quite flexible as you don’t have to be very close to your subject to get the ideal click. This makes them a good choice for street photography.

They can also be used for indoor photography as they allow capturing larger interiors in a single shot with very little distortion.

Focal Length

A wide-angle lens has a focal length of less than 35mm. An ultra-wide angle lens has a focal length of almost 24mm; such lenses are more commonly known as fish eye lenses. The common focal lengths of wide-angle lenses are 14mm, 17mm, 21mm, 24mm, 28mm, and 35mm. you can also find some lenses have a focal length of as low as 6mm.

Different types of photographers use different lenses with different focal lengths. For instance, street photographers use lenses having focal lengths of 35mms. A lens with this focal length produces images that are really close to the ones we see from our naked eye. On the contrary, portrait photographers use lenses with higher focal lengths to avoid distortions that come with wide-angle lenses. We can divide the wide-angle length lenses into three; based on their focal lengths.

  • Standard Wide-Angle Lens

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The standard wide-angle lens has a focal length of 24mm to 35mm. These types of lenses are used to capture wide scenes such as those of city skylines or mountain ranges.

  • Wide Angle Lens

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This lens range from 16mm to 24mm and fall into the fish-eye territory. They are capable of extreme stretching of the frame. These are the most commonly used lens by photographers for capturing landscape shots.

  • Ultra-wide Angle Lens

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Ultra-wide angle lenses have a focal length of less than 16mm. These are the most sophisticated of all types of wide-angle lenses. Fish-eye lenses come under this category. They produce 180 degrees field of view with a distinct and circular look. They aren’t seen around normally and are used for specific cases such as astrophotography.

The perspective of Wide Angle

The perspective of a wide-angle lens is one of the best ones as it makes you feel like you are in the middle of the scene. Such types of lenses are mostly used for shooting action scenes, allowing the audience to feel physically closer to the film’s characters.

The ability of a wide-angle lens to shoot large areas highly affects your image perspective. They capture more area and thus more details as compared to normal lenses.

One of the most prominent differences in the images produced by wide-angle lenses is distortion. There is a prominent difference between the size of the near and the far objects. This means that the subjects appear elongated giving an abstract feel to the images, which isn’t always desirable.

Using a wide-angle lens requires you to be very close to your subject, making it appear very large as compared to distant objects. Similarly, it also exaggerates the distance between the two.

Image quality

There is so much to talk about the quality of images produced by the wide-angle lens. One of the simplest things is that the more you invest in a wide-angle lens; the better will be the quality of the images.

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Let’s begin with the aperture. Wide-angle lenses generally produce images that are sharp throughout, which, however, can be reduced if shot at very wide apertures. Shooting at extremely narrow apertures can cause edges to be slightly fuzzy due to light diffraction. Therefore, it is recommended to use an aperture in the middle of the lens range by using a tripod.

Wide angle lens are capable of producing lens flare. It is recommended to keep the sun out of your frame or to avoid direct interaction with it to avoid flare.

Another prominent factor in the quality of images produced by the wide-angle lens is a vignette. A vignette is the darkening of images on the corners and edges. This is a common factor in all different types of lenses; however, it is lower in the expensive lens.

Image quality also depends on the type of scene you wish to capture. For instance, if you wish to capture landscapes, factors like aperture aren’t really important, and thus wide angle lenses are the best choice. They produce excellent image quality with wide coverage and in-depth details of the background.

Three main types of Wide Angle Lenses

When talking about wide-angle lenses, we come across three different types. They are classified mainly considering their view angle.

Fisheye Wide Angle Lens

Fisheye lenses are ultra-wide angle lenses with an angle of view of 180 degrees. This means such lenses are capable of showing you half of a full rotation covering the entire area in front as well as behind you. The such lens provides circular images, making them perfect for taking stills, and videos.

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You can find built-in fisheye wide-angle lenses in most action cameras. Another feature of these lenses, which makes them unique, is that they come with the least focal length.

Rectilinear Wide Angle Lens

There are two main types of lens, one is the normal lens which is used for general photography and has a focal length approximately equal to the human eyes and the other is the wide angle lens. These lenses distort images and make the straight lines appear as curved.

Rectilinear wide angle lens commonly has a focal length from about 10mm to 20mm. The most popular focal length of these lenses is the 15mm lens for full frame cameras and 17mm for crop sensor cameras.

They don’t give a 180 degrees field of view but are pretty close to it. When compared with fisheye wide angle lens, it is noticed that they provide a slightly wider image.

Tilt-Shift Wide Angle Lens

The Tilt-Shift wide angle lens is the most sophisticated and expensive type of wide angle lens. They are the most popular types of lenses used by professional and fine-art photographers. They are the widest angle lenses with high perspective distortion and capture much larger images as compared to full-frame sensors.

They allow controlling the parts of the image that are required to be focused or blurred out. Such types of lenses have a greater depth of field than other wide angle lenses. However, these lenses are quite heavy, and large and are pricey compared to other wide-angle lenses.

Tilt-Shift wide angle lenses have a narrow depth of field and are designed specifically for underwater photography, and astrophotography, and videography.

Construction of Wide Angle Lens

Don’t worry we have covered you with the construction type of the wide-angle lens as well. Most of the wide-angle lenses are constructed to produce “rectilinear images” while others produce “curvilinear images”.

Before diving into these two types of images, let’s understand why we need to look at this factor in the first place. The images produced by the wide angle lens, due to the wide field of view have bent lines and are distorted.

The rectilinear lenses are created to keep the straight lines somewhat straight rather than bending or distorting them. This, however, results in an unnatural stretch in the objects close to the end of the frame. In the case of a super wide lens, such as the fisheye lenses, this stretching becomes very prominent and therefore manufacturers opt for curvilinear construction. They use an effect known as “barrel distortion” to curve the straight lines.

Does a Wide Angle Lens Zoom?

The simplest answer to this is “yes”. All lenses come in both prime or zoom versions.

The prime lenses come with fixed focal lengths, and the field of view can be changed by moving closer or farther from the subject. They are lighter, cheaper, and produce better results.

A zoom lens comes with a variable focal length meaning that it has a zoom range. Some of these lenses are capable of covering wide, standard and telephoto focal lengths. They are heavier and more expensive than prime lenses.

When we talk about the difference in the quality of images produced by these lenses, we observe that the image quality of zoom lenses surpasses that of prime lenses.

How to choose the Best Quality Lens?

A perfect lens is expected to have a maximum aperture, image stabilization, and autofocus. The best wide angle lenses have a maximum aperture of f/2.8 or wider and are mostly made using an aspherical lens element. This results in sharper images with decreased distortion. The build quality of these lenses is quite impressive but this surely comes with a heavy price tag.

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Prime lenses produce better results than wide-angle zoom lenses. However, the difference isn’t really high. If you opt for zoom lenses, you will sacrifice the quality of the image. Standard zoom lenses can cover a good range of focal lengths normally from 16mm to 35mm or 12 to 24mm which results in a more versatile performance.

How wide is a wide angle lens?

An important factor to keep in mind while deciding the best photography kit is to know that the performance of the lens highly depends on the type of camera you use. And when we dive further in, it also depends on the sensor type of the camera. If the sensor of the camera is small, it will crop out the center portion of any type of lens and thus result in a denser field of view. Wide-angle lens have a focal length of less than 35mm and as discussed earlier, they are further divided into different types depending on the range of focal lengths, such as the standard wide angle lens, wide angle lens, and lastly, ultra-wide angle lens.

The most common type of wide angle lenses has a range of 16 to 335mm. you can find up to 8mm and 10mm lenses in the market.

How does a wide angle lens work?

Wide angle lenses capture a large field of view than our vision and are the perfect choice for landscape, architecture, and real estate photography. They have a focal length of less than 35mm. They are capable of doing this by making the closer objects appear larger than the ones in the background. Less focal length allows them to capture the details of the background. The other factors that affect the working of the wide angle lens are aperture, lighting, lens flare, and vignette.

How to use a wide angle lens?

Wide angle lens provide very appealing landscape images, however, they can also result in very unflattering images if not used properly. In order to get the best out of your wide angle lens, it is important to keep the following things in mind.

  1. The distance of all the objects in the image is equal from the lens. This is a mistake. The subject closest to the lens will appear the largest and thus will be focused on. Therefore you should place the lens properly such as to focus on your desired object only. This can be noticed in the images below. Let’s compare them to understand this properly.What-is-Wide-Angle-Lens (2) We wish to focus on the bike using the wide angle lens camera. In the first image, it is unclear, however, the lens was placed closer to the bike in the second image and thus it enlarged the size of the bike.
  2. This one is very closely related to the previous one. When you get close to a subject, it will stand out. However, if all the objects in the field are at a distance then there will be no clear subject in the image. It’s all about what you want the viewers to see in your image. For instance, in the previously shown images, the first one didn’t convey the message of the photographer clearly, whereas in the second image it was clear that the photographer is showing the bicycle.
  3. Another important thing to keep in mind while using the wide angle lens; is to not fit too much in the image. This is one of the common mistakes, where the photographers try to cramp a lot of things into the image. The key to getting the perfect image from your wide angle lens is to keep it simple.
  4. Wide angle lens aren’t designed to capture images of people as the results can get quite unflattering. This is because these lenses distort the things in the images. However, if you wish to add a humorous touch or wish to tell a story from your image, you can opt for such types of lenses.

What is Wide Angle Conversion Lens?

Wide angle conversion lens is a cheap alternative to the wide angle lens. Its working is opposite to that of a magnifying glass. It shrinks the objects in the scene and thus provides a wider angle. It is screwed into the filter thread of the existing lens. It is cheaper than a wide angle lens and thus the quality of images is poor. It also lacks in other aspects such as lens flare, manual focus, and lack of filters. Due to these drawbacks, it isn’t recommended to use this alternative for serious photography.

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Normal Lens Vs Wide Angle Lens

The most notable difference between the two is the variation in the focal length. Normal lenses aren’t capable of capturing the entire view. For instance, if you use a 50mm lens to capture a scene, you will need a number of images, and sticking them together will result in the entire view covering a 16mm view.

Wide angle lenses have a wider angle of view than normal lenses and allow you to capture as much as possible.

When to use wide angle lens

Wide angle lenses can be used in a number of situations. Due to their ability to capture a wide field of view, they are the best choice for landscapes, cityscapes, and architecture.

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They are used for street photography as they can provide a more dramatic perspective. A 24mm or 35mm prime lens is the ideal choice for street photography. It is also a very good choice for travel photography as they are capable of shooting landscapes excellently. These lenses are also considered as the ideal choice for night sky photography.

Drawbacks of Wide Angle Lens

Some of the things one should watch for when they decide to use wide angle lenses are distortion, cropped sensor conversion, and composition.

Distortion is the most prominent of the issues when using the wide angle lens. Distortion makes the straight lines to appear bend outwards and this distortion increases when you go wider.

The crop factor is another drawback of wide angle lens. The sensor size of the camera decided how much can be fit in the frame. For instance, 24mm lens translated to about 84 degrees of view in a full frame camera.

What is Wide Angle Lens-FAQs

What is a wide-angle lens used for?

An excellent tool for architectural photography is a wide-angle lens. With a wide-angle lens, you can photograph an entire structure without having to stand too far away. This gives you the freedom to choose an intriguing focal point to frame your picture instead of letting the building itself carry the entire composition.

How do I know if I have a wide-angle lens?

Any lens with a focal length of 35mm or less would be considered a wide angle lens for full-frame sensors. A wide angle camera lens is one that is between 35mm and 24mm in focal length. An extensive angle lens is any lens with a focal length of between 24 and 18mm.

Is the 18mm lens wide angle?

Yes, but it also depends on the size of the sensor.

What is a 50mm lens good for?

A 50mm lens is good for portraits, car photography, nighttime shots, and landscape photography.

What is the difference between a wide-angle lens and a normal lens?

A wide-angle lens has a larger field of view than a regular lens. Because wide angle lenses have shorter focal lengths than telephoto lenses, they can capture more of a scene.

What is a 10mm lens good for?

A 10mm lenses are the ideal choice for capturing dramatic shots and gives an essence of being up close with the subject.

Why are wide angle lenses so expensive?

The lens is often larger and heavier than a conventional lens because it can store more glass. The cost of the lens increases as a result.

What mm lens is best for portraits?

The best mm for portraits as recommended by the professionals is 85mm.

Do wide angle lenses make things look bigger?

The lens is often larger and heavier than a conventional lens because it can store more glass. The cost of the lens increases as a result.

What is a 16 35mm lens used for?

For portraits when you want to show the setting your subject is in, the 16-35 lens works well. It’s a great option for full-length poses and ideal for taking pictures of sizable crowds of people.

What lens is the human eye?

The biconvex lens is present in the human eye. The eye’s lens bends light so that it is focused on the retina. The biconvex lens of the eye can alter form, unlike a conventional lens.

What is Wide Angle Lens-Conclusion

It is very important to know what is wide angle lens before actually purchasing and using one. They are a very impressive way to express the thought in your images giving the audience a sense of presence. These lenses are not as simple to use as normal lenses and thus come with their own challenges.

Whether you are a beginner or a professional photographer, you will most likely benefit from the wide-angle lens. The more you shoot from these lenses, the more you will understand them and thus capture excellent quality stills and videos. Wide angle lenses just like any other accessory or tool will provide the best results when used properly. One should be well aware of their working and types to use them properly.

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