The Best Wide Angle Digital Cameras


There is no better tool for a photographer to capture their immediate environment than a wide-angle camera. Wide-angle pictures capture whole scenes that take place around the camera. Wide shots are very common in photojournalism, but are also growing in the world of amateur photography. Finding the best wide-angle camera will be a different pursuit for each photographer; however, there are several key factors to take into account when shopping for wide-angle cameras.

Focal Lengths

  • There are two categories of wide angle photography: super-wide angle and normal wide angle. The best type of wide-angle lens a photographer uses is ultimately decided by their preference, but it is important for him to know what type of shot he will get from the lens purchase. Lenses with a focal range under 20 millimeters will produce super-wide angle shots. Super-wide angle shots tend to have large amounts of distortion, meaning straight lines will appear to be bent. This will occur in both the foreground and background of the image. Regular wide-angle lenses have focal lengths between 24 and 35 millimeters. A normal wide angle shot will have little to no distortion, creating a less cerebral-looking scene than a super-wide angle

Full-Frame Sensors

  • Digital SLRs with full-frame sensors deliver the highest performance in capturing wide-angle shots. Most SLR cameras have cropped sensors, that cut the outer edges of the picture that comes through a lens. For example, mid-grade and lower-end SLRs from Canon and Nikon have cropped sensors (referred to as CMOS and DX sensors). Whenever a lens is mounted on these cameras, the focal length is immediately magnified by 1.6x. While this may help photographers who want a little extra zoom on their camera, it diminishes a lens's capability to capture super wide-angle shots. Full-frame sensors crop nothing out, enabling the camera to capture the widest possible angle by the lens. Full-frame SLRs are expensive, but many professionals find the benefits of them worthwhile, especially for wide-angle shots.

Fast Lenses

  • Wide-angle tends to be higher in quality when they are made with a fast lens. Fast lenses have wider maximum apertures, allowing photographers to have more control over background blur. While slower wide-angle lenses have maximum apertures of f4 or f4.5, fast wide-angle lenses have apertures ranging from 1.0 to 2.8. The smaller the f-number is, the wider the iris of the lens can dilate, letting in more light in less time. When wider apertures are used, background blur increases. The ability to use heavy background blur in wide-angle shots is important, so that the photographer can separate the subject from a busy background.

Point-and-Shoot Cameras

  • Most point and shoot cameras have the ability to take wide-angle shots in addition to zoom shots. When shopping for point-and shoot cameras with wide-angle capabilities, it is important to take note of the '35 mm equivalent" focal length. Many point-and-shoot cameras will appear to have very wide zoom ranges. For example, the Canon Powershot G12 has a focal length of 6.1 to 30.5 mm. This may seem like a super-wide lens, but this focal length is smaller because it is a smaller camera. The G12's 35-mm equivalent focal length is 28 to 140 mm. The 35 mm equivalent zoom range enables consumers to judge focal lengths in comparison to SLR focal lengths, and helps them find their ideal wide-angle camera.

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