Behind the Lens: The added value of wide-angle lenses

This file shot from last summer's Parks and Recreation Playground Program, demonstrates the benefits of a wide-angle lens. A 24 mm lens enabled me to stay near this group of kids, yet maintain an angle of view that captured all 11 subjects within the horizontal and vertical frame. In comparison, a 50 mm lens in the same location would have reduced my view to possible four children.

This file shot from last summer's Parks and Recreation Playground Program, demonstrates the benefits of a wide-angle lens. A 24 mm lens enabled me to stay near this group of kids, yet maintain an angle of view that captured all 11 subjects within the horizontal and vertical frame. In comparison, a 50 mm lens in the same location would have reduced my view to possible four children.

photo

This file shot from last summer's Parks and Recreation Playground Program, demonstrates the benefits of a wide-angle lens. A 24 mm lens enabled me to stay near this group of kids, yet maintain an angle of view that captured all 11 subjects within the horizontal and vertical frame. In comparison, a 50 mm lens in the same location would have reduced my view to possible four children.

A reader commented on last week’s column and said he wished there were more consumer point-and-shoot cameras with wide-angle lenses. I agree. If I had to photograph with only one lens for the rest of my life, I would settle on a wide-angle lens.

Fortunately, camera manufacturers are building more models with emphasis on the wide end of a camera’s perspective. If you’ve never paid much attention to lens perspective and angle of view, you may not know what you’re missing. In the days of film cameras and interchangeable lenses, a person’s first purchase was probably a 35 mm film camera body with a 50 mm lens. The 50 mm lens is often called a normal lens because its perspective relates to the way we see things and it presents a natural and unforced perspective. If you extend your arms straight out in front of you as if you are about to give your mother a hug, the view between your hands is approximately that of a 50 mm lens in the 35 mm film format. Most photojournalists actually consider the 35 mm or 28 mm wide-angle lens their normal lens because we like to work close to subjects. Now pretend you are going to hug your mother and your mother-in-law at the same time — hey, it could happen — and widen each arm out another foot. This will be close to the angle of view of a 28 mm lens.

When considering cameras, don’t get so caught up in the length of its telephoto lens. Instead spend more time reviewing its wide-angle capabilities. I’m betting that the majority of subjects you photograph will be those closest to you.

Good reasons for using wide-angle lenses:

  • Allows photographers to work closer to their subjects while still maintaining some of the environment around the subject.
  • Provides greater depth-of-field (zone of focus), at all apertures when compared with longer lenses.
  • Easier to hand-hold at slower shutter speeds than telephoto lenses. The slightest movement is magnified with longer lenses.

Here are a few cameras with wide-angle lenses and fast apertures that allow you to take better photographs in lower light.

  • Panasonic LX-5 has a 24mm-90mm with a f2.0
  • Samsung TL500 has a 24mm-72mm with a f1.8
  • The Nikon Coolpix P500 will give you the best of everything with a 22.5 mm wide-angle to 810 mm zoom telephoto. But it’s much larger than most point-and-shoots and its aperture at the wide-angle is only f3.8.

For a comparison of lenses and their angle of view go to this handy Canon chart at www.sweeting.org/mark/lenses/canon.php.

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.