Want the best wideangle lens to give yourself wider perspective than your standard zoom allows? Mount an ultra-wide-angle zoom on your camera and it can feel like taking the blinkers off. Zoom lenses that go down to really short focal lengths give a huge viewing angle, typically equating to around 110 degrees or more, as measured on the diagonal of the image frame. In practice, that’s a pretty eye-popping view compared with a standard zoom lens.
Naturally, ultra-wide lenses are popular with landscape photographers who want to squeeze more of a scene into the image frame. However, they can be even more useful when shooting architectural interiors, when you’re back’s literally up against the wall and you’re struggling to fit as much as you want to into the picture. The same applies to anywhere indoors or outside where you’re limited for space.
There’s more to ultra-wide lenses than just how much you can squeeze into the frame. The large viewing angles enables you to get in really close to objects, while making the background appear to shrink away. They can therefore change the whole perspective of a shot for creative effect, hugely exaggerating the apparent distance between foreground and background areas.
Zoom lenses are generally preferable to ultra-wide primes. Indeed, for some crop sensor bodies, the choice of ultra-wide primes is extremely limited, with no own-brand lenses being available from some camera manufacturers. Either way, even the difference of a millimetre or two in focal length can have a big impact on viewing angle, so a zoom lens gives far greater versatility in creative shooting.
Many photographers tend to only use ultra-wide zooms at or near their shortest focal length. That’s really missing a trick though, as their image quality at the long end of the zoom range can be better than when using a standard zoom at its shortest setting. For example, on a full-frame camera, a 14-24mm lens might give better corner-sharpness along with less distortion and vignetting than a 24-70mm zoom, when using both lenses at the same focal length of 24mm.
Ultimately, an ultra-wide zoom is a great lens to have and can open a whole new world of creative shooting opportunities. Join us as we pick out the best wide-angle lens buys for a wide range of cameras…
The best wideangle lenses
Best for Canon
The latest incarnation of Tamron’s 10-24mm represents a sizeable step up in build quality and all-round performance, compared with the previous edition. It matches both of Canon’s ultra-wide EF-S 10-18mm and 10-22mm zooms for maximum viewing angle, at 107.5 degrees, while beating them for long-end reach.
Naturally, the longer 24mm gives a lot of overlap with, say, an 18-55mm standard zoom. That might seem a bit superfluous but it can actually be very helpful, reducing the number of times you need to swap between different lenses while shooting. The Tamron has better build quality than both Canon lenses, while adding weather-seals and a fluorine coating on the front element, and it comes complete with a hood.
The new edition features fast and near- silent HLD (High/Low toque-modulated Drive) autofocus and 4-stop VC (Vibration Compensation). It also beats both Canon lenses for image quality, especially in terms of corner-to-corner sharpness.
For the ultimate in wide viewing angles on Canon full-frame cameras, there’s no beating the own-brand EF 11-24mm f/4L USM, which delivers an astonishing 126 degrees on the diagonal. However, it goes similarly large on selling price, putting it beyond the reach of most of us. This Sigma Art lens is well under half the price and, while it has a more modest 114-degree maximum viewing angle, it’s a really fabulous lens as well as being a full f/stop faster than the Canon.
Build quality is excellent with a high-quality feel throughout, a full set of weather-seals and a fluorine coating on the front element. The ring-type ultrasonic autofocus system is fast and whisper-quiet and top-notch glass includes a large, ultra-high-precision moulded glass element at the front, along with three FLD (‘Fluorite’ Low Dispersion) and three SLD (Special Low Dispersion) elements.
Sharpness in amazing right into the corners of the frame and, remarkably for such a wide-angle lens, there’s virtually zero distortion even without using in-camera corrections. If you want to go even wider without spending silly money, look no further than Sigma’s companion 12-24mm f/4 DG HSM Art lens.
Designed for EOS R-series full-frame mirrorless cameras, this is the wide-angle member of the f/2.8 ‘trinity’ zooms. As you’d expect from such an ultra-wide lens with a fast f/2.8 aperture rating, it’s quite big and weighty but is nevertheless smaller and lighter than, for example, the Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 Art lens for Canon SLRs. Unlike the Sigma, the RF lens has a separate hood that enables the easy attachment of filters or filter holders via an 82mm thread. It almost matches the Sigma for maximum viewing angle, at 110 degrees, while adding a 5-stop image stabilizer that’s great for handheld shooting indoors or at twilight. Other highlights include a rapid and virtually silent Nano Ultrasonic autofocus system and stellar image quality. It’s a superb lens but, then again, it really should be at the price.
Best for Nikon
Compared with Nikon’s own-brand 10-20mm and 10-24mm lenses, this Tamron gives the same maximum viewing angle of 109 degrees on the diagonal, while also matching the latter for overall zoom range. It’s much sturdier than Nikon’s cheaper 10-20mm and has better overall build quality than Nikon’s pricier 10-24mm. It’s the only one of the three that comes complete with a full set of weather-seals and a moisture/grease-repellent fluorine coating on the front element. Autofocus is driven by a speedy yet practically silent HLD (High/Low toque-modulated Drive) motor and the aperture is electromagnetically controlled. However, be warned, this makes the lens incompatible with some older SLRs including the D3000 and D5000. Image quality is excellent with impressive sharpness and negligible color fringing, even at the extreme corners of the frame.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with Nikon’s own 12-24mm f/2.8 zoom but this Sigma is every bit as good and generally only costs about two-thirds of the price to buy. It has top-notch build quality, complete with comprehensive weather-seals and a fluorine coating on the front element to repel moisture and grease. High-tech glass includes three aspherical elements, three FLD (‘Fluorite’ Low Dispersion) elements and three SLD (Special Low Dispersion) elements.
Autofocus is rapid and whisper-quiet in operation, and image quality is fabulous. Sharpness remains excellent even in the extreme corners of the frame and, unlike the Nikon lens, the Sigma is virtually distortion-free, even at its shortest zoom setting. If you want something even wider and don’t mind a slower aperture rating, Sigma’s sibling 12-24mm f/4 DG HSM Art zoom is the one to go for.
Like most of Nikon’s Z-mount prime and zoom lenses, the 14-30mm has a fairly modest aperture rating. This enables a relatively compact and lightweight build, perfect matching the design ethic of Z 6 and Z 7 full-frame mirrorless cameras. It’s certainly no lightweight in terms of features and performance, however, packing four aspherical elements, four ED (Extra-low Dispersion) elements, and a super-fast yet virtually silent autofocus system. Build quality is excellent with the inclusion of wide-ranging weather-seals, Nano Crystal Coat and a fluorine coating on the front element.
As with all other Nikon Z-mount S-line lenses that we’ve seen, image quality is gorgeous and particularly impressive in terms of sharpness. Another bonus is that the removable hood enables the easy fitment of filters or filter holders, via an 82mm attachment thread.
Best for Fujifilm
The Fujifilm XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS is an excellent lens for landscape photography, coming complete with image stabilization and a filter attachment thread. This 8-16mm, however, has neither and is about twice the weight and twice the price. Nevertheless, its reduction of 2mm in minimum focal length enables a stunning upsized viewing angle of 121 degrees. Remarkably for such a super-wide zoom, it also has a fast and constant f/2.8 aperture.
As one of Fujifilm’s ‘Red Badge’ lenses, it has premium build quality and handling, with comprehensive weather-seals and multiple control rings. Up-market glass includes four aspherical elements, six ED (Extra-low Dispersion) elements and three Super ED elements, along with Nano-GI Coating. Superb corner-to-corner sharpness benefits from a correction element in the optical path to reduce field curvature.
Best for Olympus/Panasonic
A millimetre might not sound a lot but every little helps when you’re trying to maximize wide-angle coverage with a Micro Four Thirds camera. As such, this Olympus lens goes 1mm shorter than the Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 8-18mm f/2.8-4 Asph, which we favor the best lens for landscapes for Olympus and Panasonic MFT users. The Olympus doesn’t have the Panasonic lens’s filter attachment thread, due to its integral hood, but the maximum viewing angle is boosted from 107 degrees to 114 degrees, which makes a very noticeable difference in real-world shooting. The Olympus also has the advantage of a fast and constant f/2.8 aperture rating, whereas the Panasonic lens drops to f/4 towards the long end of the zoom range.
Optical finery includes two aspherical elements, one dual spherical element, one ED (Extra-low Dispersion) element, three Super ED elements, and two HR (High Refractive index) elements. Everything’s wrapped up in a dust, splash and freezeproof casing that features a lens function button and manual focus clutch. Image quality is fabulous in all respects, from great sharpness to a complete absence of distortion.
Best for Sony
Sony’s APS-C format Alpha mirrorless cameras are particularly slim and lightweight, making them great for everyday shooting. This ultra-wide-angle zoom follows suit, with dinky dimensions and a weight of just 225g. Even for an APS-C format lens, that’s pretty light considering that the f/4 aperture rating remains constant throughout the entire zoom range. Equivalent to a 15-27mm zoom in full-frame terms, the lens gives a generous maximum viewing angle of 109 degrees, so you can squeeze a lot into the picture.
The autofocus system is quick and virtually silent, while Optical SteadyShot is worth about three stops. That’s not particularly impressive by the latest standards, but still very much worth having, especially for shooting indoors or at twilight. The optical path features a Super ED (Extra-low Dispersion) element but, for optimum sharpness, it’s best to stop the aperture down to at least f/5.6.
Not to be confused with Sigma’s excellent 14-24mm DG HSM Art lens for Canon and Nikon DSLRs, this ‘DN’ version for full-frame mirrorless cameras has a completely different design. The revised optical path includes three aspherical elements, one FLD (‘Fluorite’ Low Dispersion) element and no less than five SLD (Special Low Dispersion) elements. New NPC (Nano Porous Coating) is also added, along with Sigma’s more conventional Multi-Layer Coating, to minimize ghosting and flare.
The Sony-fit lens also gains a gel filter holder in the mounting plate, which can come in handy as there’s no filter attachment thread at the front. The maximum viewing angle of 114 degrees is noticeably larger than the 107 degrees of Sony’s Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS lens, and the Sigma is also a full f/stop faster. It lacks the Sony lens’s optical stabilization (as does Sony's FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM), but that’s no real issue if you’re using a recent Sony camera that features sensor-shift stabilization. Image quality is highly impressive although vignetting and short-zoom barrel distortion can be noticeable. Even so, automatic in-camera corrections are available.