Add extra visual excitement to your portraits, scenics and more with the extreme perspective of wide-angle lenses
The everyday workhorse lenses with which most photos are taken don't receive the publicity showered on the more extreme optics. That's likely because extremes are always more exciting than the norm. We continue that trend here and introduce you to the most extreme wide-angle lenses and the widest-range zoom lenses available for digital SLRs.
Of special interest to users of digital SLRs with smaller-than-full-frame image sensors, extremely short focal-length lenses make it possible to do true wide-angle photography with these cameras (which today include all D-SLR models, save Canon's full-frame EOS-1Ds Mark II and EOS 5D).
The popular APS-C image sensor used in most of today's D-SLRs is considerably smaller than a full 35mm film frame, so it "sees" less of the image produced by any lens than a full 35mm film frame sees. As a result, any lens used on one of these D-SLRs will produce the angle of view of a lens 1.5x to 1.7x longer on a 35mm SLR. For example, put a 100mm lens on a D-SLR, and it frames like a 150-170mm lens on a 35mm camera.
That's great for telephoto fans, but it makes a 28mm "wide-angle" lens frame view like a 42-45mm lens—no longer wide-angle. Those who want to do wide-angle photography with smaller-sensor D-SLRs have to use very short focal lengths—18mm and shorter—to get a true wide angle of view. Fortunately, the D-SLR and independent lens manufacturers offer a number of such lenses.
Canon's EF-S 10-22mm ƒ/3.5-4.5 USM wide-angle zoom was designed specifically for its small-sensor D-SLRs (Canon's EF-S lenses can't be mounted on its larger-sensor D-SLRs or older EOS 10D, D60 and D30 models), providing the equivalent of a 16-35mm zoom on a 35mm camera. Canon also offers wide-angle fans the EF 14mm ƒ/2.8L USM (equivalent to a 22.4mm lens on a 35mm camera when used on a small-sensor Canon D-SLR) and the EF 15mm ƒ/2.8 Fisheye (equivalent to a 24mm full-frame fish-eye on a 35mm camera), which can be used on all EOS camera models.
Nikon's 12-24mm ƒ/4G ED-IF AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor (equivalent to a 18-36mm zoom on a 35mm camera) and 10.5mm ƒ/2.8G ED AF DX Fisheye-Nikkor (equivalent to a 16mm full-frame fish-eye on a 35mm SLR) were designed specifically for the APS-C sensor used in all Nikon D-SLRs. (Nikon's DX lenses can't be used with film cameras; like Canon's EF-S line, they're designed to cover the smaller image sensor and would vignette on a full-frame camera.) Nikon also offers three short focal-length lenses that can be used on all Nikon SLRs, digital and film: the 14mm ƒ/2.8D ED AF Nikkor, 16mm ƒ/2.8D AF Fisheye-Nikkor and 18mm ƒ/2.8D AF Nikkor (which effectively become 21mm, 24mm and 27mm, respectively, when used on the D-SLRs). Note that Nikon's new D40 and D40x models provide autofocusing capability only with lenses that have AF motors; only the 12-24mm does among the lenses cited here.
Pentax offers the 12-24mm ƒ/4.0 ED/AL (IF) P-DA and 10-17mm ƒ/3.5-4.5 ED (IF) P-DA Fisheye zooms for its D-SLRs, with 35mm camera-equivalent focal lengths of 18-36mm and 15-25.5mm, respectively. There's also the 14mm ƒ/2.8 P-DA, equivalent to a 21mm lens on a 35mm camera. Pentax P-DA lenses can't be used on film cameras, but can be used with all Pentax and Samsung D-SLRs.