What Does A Wide Angle Lens Do For A Camera

There are so many “types” of lenses on the market.  I’m glad you’ve stumbled across my article.  Because we’re going to answer the age old question, what does a wide angle lens do for a camera?

By the end of this article, you'll not only know what a wide angle does, but what they are best taking photo/video of.  Be sure to stick around till the end, I’m including some of the best wide angle shots I’ve ever taken!

Who knows, a wide angle lens might be the perfect lens for you!

Let’s get to it!

What Does A Wide Angle Lens Do For A Camera

What does “wide angle” even mean?

This term is pretty simple when you think about it.  

“Angle” refers to the field of view that your camera sees (or takes images of).  That angle can be anything you want it to be. This assumes you have the correct lens that supports it.

“Wide” angle refers to the field of view being wide.

This allows you to capture more of an area than if you had a narrow lens.  Keep reading to learn more about what focal length (mm of lens) is considered wide angle.

What Does A Wide Angle Lens Do For A Camera

What focal length (mm) is considered wide angle?

What Does A Wide Angle Lens Do For A Camera

Photo taken with a 16mm lens

This is pretty straight forward, so I thought I would bullet point them for you below.  These are common focal ranges of most lenses, regardless of manufacturer.  

Ultra-Wide Angle

  • 9mm
  • 10mm
  • 12mm
  • 15mm
What Does A Wide Angle Lens Do For A Camera

Taken with a 16mm lens

Wide Angle

  • 16mm
  • 20mm
  • 24mm

“Ultra-wide” angle lenses are just that - ultra wide.  They step outside of the norm (16mm) and stretch the envelope just that much more.  You will find that most ultra-wide lenses are primes (do not zoom).

What Does A Wide Angle Lens Do For A Camera

Taken at 24mm

Remember: The lower the number (in mm), the wider your image will be

You can find a few of these focal lengths on the market in a zoom lens.  So you’re able to hit multiple focal lengths with the same lens.  

Examples would be the Sony 16-35mm GM or Tamron 10-24.  Both are used extensively as a wide angle lens.

Let’s do a little comparison!

Wide angle lens vs a “normal” (50mm) lens

To give you a visual understanding, I thought it would be fitting to give you a comparison.  This section will show you the difference in appearance a wide angle lens will give your photos.

What Does A Wide Angle Lens Do For A Camera

24mm

What Does A Wide Angle Lens Do For A Camera

50mm

What Does A Wide Angle Lens Do For A Camera

24mm (and slightly "back")

50mm (and slightly forward)

As you can tell, the lens is allowing you to capture much more of the scene than you would have with a “normal” focal length lens.

The one thing you’ll want to watch for is distortion.  This is pretty apparent on most wide angle lenses. The edges are affected the most.  There are lenses on the market that do a great job of getting you “distortion less” photos.  A company and lens that does a great job of this is the Laowa 12mm Zero-D.

Taken at 15mm (notice the "slant" distortion?). It's not straight up and down. Tokina 11-16mm

Taken at 12mm.  Notice no distortion?  This is the Laowa 12mm Zero-D.  Much better lens.

Types of photography for wide angle lenses

There are a few “types” of photography that work great with wide angle lenses.  I am not saying these are the only types of photographs you should take with a wide angle lens.  What I’m saying, these types typically work the best - but be as creative as you want to be!

Landscape

Typically, landscape photography is taken with a wide angle lens.  It makes sense though, doesn’t it. You’re taking photographs of your surroundings.  You want to capture as much information of your surroundings as possible.

There's no better type of lens to do this with, really.  What’s even better is if you can get really good at taking panoramic photos with a wide angle lens. There’s nothing better.

Aside from those who use telephoto lenses to “single-out” parts of a landscape (which I’ve done with a 70-200mm zoom lens) - you typically want to use a wide (or ultra-wide) lens. 

Vertical landscape of the trees and park (12mm)

Real Estate

This may have been an area you hadn’t thought of.  But, much like landscape, you want to capture as much information as you can within a room.  You’re able to achieve this with a wide angle lens.  

Wide angle lenses also make a room look a bit larger than they really are (depending on the focal length).  16mm is regarded as the “best” real estate focal length.

If you do find yourself getting into something like real estate photography - get a high quality wide-angle lens (a good tripod too).  You do not want distortion around the edges of your photos (which is what you would get with an inexpensive lens without a tripod).

Establishing shots

This is more for videographers and editorial photographers.  These are shots that capture as much as they can while telling a story.  You would get an establishing shot of the entire area, then get more interesting detailed shots to fill in afterwards.

Obviously a wide angle is great for this. There isn’t any other type of lens better for the job.

Distorted style shots

This is a style of shooting and has been used over the years from album covers to fashion photography.  Take a look at the image below to get a better understanding of what I’m talking about.

Now, all of those photos were taken with a wide angle lens.  The wider the angle, the more “dramatic” the effect becomes. I’ve shot a few of these photos in the past. 

They aren’t my favorite, but I’ve found the best focal length for these distorted style shoots is 24mm. Anything lower than that and faces become really janked.

Anything below 24mm and you should just take fish-eye photos, in my opinion.

Some wide-angle photos

Here are some of my best wide-angle shots I’ve taken over the years.  I typically shoot portraits, or photos of people with narrower focal lengths, but I have taken quite a few wides over the years.  I hope you enjoy them!

Please leave me a comment below letting me know what you think of them.  I really appreciate it!

That’s it for now!

I hope I answered your question, what does a wide angle lens do for a camera.  You should have a much better understanding of what it is and what types of photography benefit from it the most!

If you’d like to check out more of our work, my wife and I run a photo and video service business here in San Diego.  Check us out on JnRPhotoVideo. If you’re in the area, please reach out!  

You may want to consider checking out our Best Sony Landscape Lens and Best Nikon Landscape lens articles!

As always, thank you so much for reading!  Keep shooting and creating!

Jeff 

I have been taking photos and film since I was a child. Now that I'm in my mid 30's, I want to share with the world what I have learned over the years. I attempt to live every day to the fullest and share that with you through my blog. I am an electrician by trade and photo and video lie within the "hobby" aspect of my life at the moment. It's what I'm truly passionate about.
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