Did you know that you could dramatically widen your
photographic horizons by using wide-angle lenses? Wide-angle lenses are
truly exciting to use and are my favorite of all I lenses.
A wide-angle lens will alter depth-of-field and perspective and give you
a picture quite unlike what a normal or telephoto lens will produce. In
short, it's a lens that "sees" more, taking in a wider expanse
than other lenses.
There are several advantages to the wide-angle lens. First is the increase
in depth-of-field ---the zone of sharpness realized in the final picture.
A 28 mm lens [moderate wide-angle] at an aperture of f/Q will produce
a depth-of-field from five feet to infinity. In contrast, a normal 50
mm lens, properly focused, will give you a depth-of-field of about 20
feet to infinity. This means that with the wide-angle lens more of what
you see in the viewfinder will be sharp and in focus.
Going even wider, a l7mm lens (super wide-angle] at f/16 will produce
an astounding depth-of-field of l0 inches to infinity. This means that
if light conditions enable you to shoot at f/16, you never have to focus
the camera as long as you are at least l0 inches from the subject!
Second, you can get by with much slower shutter speeds with a wide-angle
lens, a nice advantage when light is limited. The "rule" is
that a lens can be handheld at the shutter speed closest to its focal
length. Therefore a 28mm lens can be safely hand-held at l/30 second and
a 17mm lens can be held at 1/15 second. With slow speed film, low-level
light, and a desire to maximize depth-of-field, this can be quite an advantage.
Try shooting a normal or telephoto lens at these shutter speeds and see
your shaky results!
Many photographers ask about distortion, the bending of light rays characteristic
of wide-angle lenses. Buildings will curve upwards and some subjects may
begin to look unreal. It happens, and there may be situations when distortion
But the inherent distortion of wide-angle lenses can be turned into one
of your biggest advantages. Selective distortion can be a plus. Strength,
drama, and excitement can be added to your photographs through proper
use of distortion.
Creatively used, distortion can emphasize certain parts of a picture and
can give a photograph an artistic quality no other lens can produce. Sweeping
foregrounds and bold subject framing are easily attainable. And you can
deliberately exploit the wide-angle lens' tendency to exaggerate the size
of close objects at the expense of distant ones.
Wide-angle lenses will produce photographs for you that are truly unique.