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Canon Telephoto Lenses

Canon Zoom Lenses

Canon Lens Glossary

Canon Wide Angle Lens

canon 14mm f/2.8 ultra wide angle lens
canon 16-35mm wide angle zoom lens

A Canon wide angle lens should be a compulsory component in the arsenal of any photographer using Canon SLR gear because the wide angle is arguably the most indispensable of all lenses.

If you don't possess a telephoto, you can move closer to the subject or crop the image to fill the frame with your subject. However, there is no comparable substitute for a wide angle lens. If you want your landscape to include a sweeping, panoramic vista, you'll have to move back a very long way to fit in the whole scene with a standard 50mm lens.

Similarly, when photographing interiors, there's usually no space to move further back to include more of the scene. And you certainly can't post-process the image to "squeeze" more into the picture!

Fortunately, many single lens reflex cameras nowadays are sold with a mid-range zoom rather than the standard 50mm lens that traditionally came with SLR camera bodies. These "standard" zooms will often cover focal lengths from moderate wide-angle to short telephoto (e.g. 28 to 105mm), so in such cases the need for a wide angle is satisfied.

What is a Wide Angle Lens?

Wide angles can be broadly defined as lenses with a focal length shorter than 50mm. They take in an angle of view that's wider than the 46° covered by standard lenses and include more of the subject on either side, and above and below. The shorter the focal length, the wider the angle covered.

The problem with prime (or fixed focal length) wide angle lenses is that one is never enough. A lens that is ideal for people pictures just doesn't create the dramatic, soaring sense of space that you get with a shorter focal length.

However, such ultra wide-angles alter perspective to such a degree that they are quite unsuitable for images that must look natural -- as people pictures should.

This means that photographers who prefer prime lenses will need more than one Canon wide angle lens to cover a range of subjects that might include reportage-style pictures of people, architectural interiors and exteriors, and dramatic landscapes or cityscapes.

Here's a selection of popular and highly-rated prime Canon wide angle lenses that are worthy of consideration:

  • Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM -- this ultra wide angle lens is highly rated for sharpness, resolution and distortion control; suitable for architecture, landscapes, and eye-grabbing, creative perspectives. L-series, so is expensive.
  • Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 -- inexpensive, sharp and compact, very good value for a non-L series lens; suitable for landscapes, interiors, architecture.
  • Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM -- reasonably priced, fast f/1.8 max aperture, USM focusing, sharp, lightweight; great for low light interiors, landscapes, people pictures, social functions.
  • Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM -- very highly rated for overall sharpness, color and contrast; ideal for low-light photography; weddings and group shots, walkaround, candid street scenes, travel. L-series, with high price a big drawback.
Of course, instead of buying two or more fixed focal length wide angles, there's always the alternative of a Canon wide angle zoom lens that offers a range of short focal lengths within a single lens. Broadly speaking, wide angle zooms fall into two focal length categories on their short side -- moderate and ultra wide.

Some of the more popular Canon wide-angle zoom lenses include:

  • Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM -- ultra wide zoom offering constant f/2.8 aperture; designed for professionals shooting in low light conditions; suitable for architectural exteriors and interiors, dramatic landscapces, group shots, creative perspectives; L-series so expensive.
  • Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM -- ultra wide at the short end; lightweight with good zoom range and constant f4 aperture; sharp images, good contrast and color; widely used for landscapes, real estate work, exterior and interior architecture; reasonable price for L-series.
  • Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM -- moderate wide angle at short end with good zoom range; sharp, big max aperture for low light; good for portraits, group shots, weddings, reportage; also architecture/real estate, landscapes. L-series, fast, so heavy and expensive.
  • Canon EF 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 USM -- moderate wide angle to short tele; compact and light; suitable for buildings, street photography, groups, portraits, landscapes. Good allrounder for the price.
  • Canon EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS USM -- for use on Canon digital SLRs with APS-C sensor (Digital Rebels, 20D, 40D, 50D); full-frame equivalent is 28-88mm; advantages are constant f/2.8 aperture, IS, USM; sharp throughout zoom range; suitable for group shots, portraits, weddings, travel, landscapes; pricey for non-L series but is the best available for digital SLRs with APS-C sensors.

Shooting with a Canon wide angle lens

When you're choosing a wide-angle lens, remember that the shorter the focal length of the lens you use, the more your pictures will deviate from what the eye sees. Armed with this knowledge, you can select the best type of lens for the subject you're photographing.

Choose the widest lens available when you want to exaggerate the sense of depth in a picture, or cram in as much of the scene as possible. If you just want to fit more of a scene into the picture, without distortion or emphasizing wide-angle effects such as exaggerated proportions, then opt for more moderate focal lengths in the 28 to 35mm range.

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