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Focal Length: Wide Angle Lenses

Lesson 5 from: Canon Lenses: The Complete Guide

John Greengo

Focal Length: Wide Angle Lenses

Lesson 5 from: Canon Lenses: The Complete Guide

John Greengo

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Lesson Info

5. Focal Length: Wide Angle Lenses


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Canon Lens Basics


Focal Length: Angle of View


Focal Length: Normal Lenses


Focal Length: Wide Angle Lenses


Focal Length: Telephoto Lens


Focal Length Rule of Thumb


Field of View


Aperture Basics


Aperture: Maximum Aperture


Aperture: Equivalent Focal Length


Aperture: Depth of Field


Aperture: Maximum Sharpness


Aperture: Starburst Effect


Aperture: Flare


Aperture: Hyperfocal Distance


Camera Mount System


Canon Lens Compatibility


Canon Lens Design


Canon Lens Composition


Canon Lens Shape


Canon Lens Coating


Canon Lens Focusing


Lens Autofocus


Canon Lens Image Stabilization


Canon L Lenses


Image Quality


Canon Zoom Lenses: Standard


Canon Super Zooms


Canon Wide Zooms


Canon Telephoto Zooms


Prime Lens: Normal Lenses


Prime Lens: Moderate Wide


Prime Lens: Wide Angle


Prime Lens: Ultra-Wide


Prime Lens: Short Telephoto


Prime Lens: Medium Telephoto


Prime Lens: Super Telephoto


3rd Party Lenses Overview


3rd Party Prime Lenses


3rd Party Zoom Lenses


Lens Accessories: Filters


Lens Accessories: Lens Hoods


Lens Accessories: Tripod Mount


Lens Accessories: Extension Tubes


Lens Accessories: Extenders


Macro Lens: Reproduction Ratio


Macro Lens: Technique and Choices


Fisheye: Technique and Choices


Tilt Shift: Techniques and Choices


Make a Lens System Choice


Choosing A Portrait Lens


Choosing A Sports Lens


Choosing A Landscape Lens


Best Lenses for You


Lens Maintenance


Buying and Selling Lens


What is John Greengo's Favorite Lens?


Lesson Info

Focal Length: Wide Angle Lenses

All right, let's talk about wide angle lenses. Wide angle lenses are a lot of fun. Some people love them. Some people aren't so fond of them. All right, what's Ah, that's dip our toes in here and I'm not gonna talk about every focal links. So, for instance, I'm skipping over 28. I'm trying to choose a variety, but not draw this out too long. And we're gonna jump right down into one of my favorite focal lengths within 24 millimeter lands, which is a nice good middle of the road wide angle and see 74 degrees from side to side. As I said before, once you use different lenses, you'll start developing your own style, your own I and for me, 24 millimeter lands is just kind of that perfect wide angle lands that doesn't have a lot of distortion. And we're gonna explain, and I'm gonna show you distortion the way you have never seen it seen before. Very little distortion in here, but it's a nice wide angle point of view, very useful, very popular with landscape photographers, especially this tec...

hnique of putting something in the foreground and then having something going on in the background, so that draws your I from the foreground into the background. Keeps your eye moving around the frame. Hey, there's our shot for the fundamentals of photography class 24 millimeter lands Perfect to have that as the leadoff image for that class. And so if I'm traveling, I definitely want to have a 24 millimeter lens because it really shows me the large environment that I'm in and so I can have subjects in there and it really places them in. Their environment can also be very good for Astro photography. Anyone wants to shoot star shots night shots. 24 millimeter lens, especially one of their faster lenses, is gonna be great for doing this sort of thing. Sometimes it's nice to get right up in their face with a wide angle lens because you can see them and you can see their environment around them. Quick little side note. This is from one of the tours that I led in Cuba, and the dogs are required to have I d tags with their photos on them, and so it looks like a Microsoft badge here in Seattle or an Amazon badge. But the dogs have to have their own I D badge, and he looks exactly like his photo. He hasn't aged at all. Normally you would shoot sports with a telephoto lens. But if you have close access like we did in Cuba here you can get right up to the edge of the ring and shoe sports with a wide angle lens. All right, let's move down to an ultra wide land. 16 Cannon does not make a 16 millimeter lens, but but they do make a number of 16 to something. Zoom 16 to 35 97 degrees from side to side. This is as wide as most people would ever need. Landscape photographers, architectural photographers will find this handy. A cistern in Morocco was not that big, but I wanted to show as much of it as possible in there and in here. They didn't allow tripods, and it was really nice. Having this image stabilization system will talk more about later right on there so I could get handheld shots under very low light conditions in Morocco on this tour, we went to this beautiful rug shop and I look straight up and it was just amazing All these rugs hanging from the wall and I laid down well, it was on a really plush, beautiful rug right in the middle of this rug star and pointed the camera straight up. And this is where really white angles. Nice, because when you're laying down on the ground, there is no place to back up. All right, you are as back as far as you can get and having that wide angle lenses really, really helpful there, as I say, very important to the landscape photographer. And one of the things here is it's really going to emphasize the foreground. Subjects in the foreground are gonna appear very large if you get close to them. And so including a foreground with something in the background very common technique used over and over again, very often in verticals, because we can have a little bit more that we can stretch from our foreground to our background. Can you shoot people shots with ultra wide lens? Absolutely. I'd be careful about how you frame him up, but this camel owner in Cairo, I wanted to show him and the camels together needed it with white angle. There was a fairly tight environment there, and I needed that. When you want to show that big scene, you wanna have some open space, good place to have it. Environmental Portrait Showing a person in their environment and artist in Cuba student This was his work station. All his works hanging on the walls. Okay, let's spinal tap turn it up to 11. All right, so this is a new lens from Canon, and this is really a crazy wide angle lands that just It's got a lot of people kind of befuddled into What is it and what we have ultra wide. So I would like to name this ridiculously wide because it is just ridiculous and how wide it ISS and it's actually a very, very challenging leads to use. And I believe it's called Double Arch in Arches. You can now get both arches in the same shot. This was pretty much impossible from this point of view with previous lenses, because the lens was just not widen up. I took it down to southern Arizona, which is a great place to take a lens of southern Utah and Arizona. New Mexico. This is Horseshoe Bend, and you're able to Seymour this bend than you were ever been able to see before. You could take it into the slot canyons and have some real fun playing around. This is an extremely small area, but it makes it look much larger. It can make certain environments look otherworldly because of the way it stretches things so much in the corners as I say it's. It's really hard to find good environments to work with it because you need everything in front of you to be looking pretty good and so 11 millimeters in False Kiva in Canyonlands. And so as we talk about the wide lens, we really need to talk about distortion and understand what is distortion because it sounds like it's a pretty bad thing. So how much do we need to be concerned about this and distortion? What is it? Well, it's just changing the shape of something and and photography. We generally don't like to change the shape of something if we're trying to faithfully document it. If we're trying to be creative with it, well, then those rules are out the window. So let's look at what distortion is now. There are a couple of types of distortion, and they're all just called distortion and we don't have the right words. And so there he is. For instance, let me go back and forth from this image. Let's go to the next one and I'm just gonna jump back and forth here if I can. There we go. And so this is barrel distortion. This is bad. We don't like this in our photographs. We don't want the horizon to be curved like that. And so that is something that is pretty clearly we don't like that, but there's another type of distortion. A four shortening effect that happens when you use wide angle lenses. And so we're gonna be looking at a lot of Siris of photos here, and this one goes between 17 millimeters and 35 millimeters. And so, as we go back from 35 to what's happening in this room? What's changing? Camera hasn't moved, but we're just using our wider angle lands. And so we're having a four shortening effect. This isn't exaggerating the size of the foreground. Anything in the foreground is going to seem relatively large to the background. Compare the walls. Look at how big. The walls are on the edge and in the distance there, much, much smaller. Look at the tiles in the ceiling. Are they squares? Well, they're truly squares. But from this point of view with this wide angle lens, they're not equal. And this is a four shortening effect that you get when you use wide angle lenses. And you can use this to your advantage if you know how to use it in lenses properly. So this distortion effect. Okay, we have a very exciting photograph here of a soccer ball, okay? Or a football, depending on where you live. Now, is this ball round? Do you think this ball is round? Yes, it is around. We're gonna put an orange circle around the inside of the ball and a red one around the outside. Now let's move that ball off to the side with 100 millimeter short telephoto lens. Is that ball still around? Yes, it is because ah, 100 millimeter lens does not have really any distortion. It's a very, very straight lens. All right, let's go down to our 50 millimeter. Technically, a very short. But our normal lenses the ball around. Yes, it is. Let's move it off to the side. Is it still round? Well, yes, it still looks very around. So this is where we're gonna start getting into the distortion effect. 35 millimeter. Does a 35 millimeter lens have distortion? Well, technically, it's a wide angle lens. Our ball is round. Let's move it off to the side. Does it continue to be round? Well, if you get really picking, you could maybe pick out a couple of little bits that are off there, but it's still looking pretty good. And so if you would still want to avoid distortion, you can do so. At 35. Let's go down to 24. We have our roundball. Let's move it off to the side. Now, Is this ball still around? Uh huh. Not anymore. All right, so now that ball is becoming a little bit oblong because we've put it off into the corner with a 24 millimeter lens and so different people are going to draw their line in the sand at 28 some at 24 some at 20 and everyone's kind of got their own standard is to where they want to do this now. Where this might be important is if this is somebody's had and their head starts becoming Ah, conehead. All right, let's go down to in the middle. We're going to keep our ball nice and round. Let's move it off to the corner. Look what happens to our ball now. Very ob long, all right? And trust me, I didn't deflate the ball between photos. Okay? Not deploying. That starts again. Now it's actually very hard to shoot this with the 11 millimeter lens because I'm actually Onley about, ah, foot and 1/2 away from the front of all on this case. But it's perfectly round right in the middle because we don't have a distortion in the middle, but we move it off to the side and, boy, look at how much that 11 distorts now. It's not that there's a problem with the 11 millimeter lens. This cannot be corrected, for this is the nature of a wide angle lens, especially and ultra wide 11 millimeter lens. And just because I really like to hammer the point home, let's look at this in video. And so, as I go to the corners with 100 millimeter lens. That ball, the ball shape stays the same. And so if you want a document ah, product and you really wanted to stay true in shape, you should probably use a normal or short telephoto lens. Let's do this with the video with the 50 in the video. Does the ball change shape as we move it into the corner? Very hard to detect, I would say generally, no. Alright, let's try this with the 35 this is where you're probably going to start to notice A little bit of stretch. As that ball gets to the corner, it kind of reaches for the corner ever so slightly. That's our camera pans around and puts it in the corner a little bit of stretch up there. I could see that very, very subtle. All right, let's go down to 24th. So this is where you're definitely going to be able to see it. See it reaching for the corners there. And so when you were working with these wide angle lenses, you do need to be careful about what type of objects you have in those corners. If it's an object that everyone knows It's specific shape. It's round, it's square. That's gonna be a potential problem. If it's a natural area of dirt and grass, you're not gonna notice the stretchy, but a specific thing like a soccer ball. Yeah, you can really see that stretching into the corner, and that's normal wide angle distortion. I don't think of it as bad. I don't think of it is good. It just is. And it's the world that we live in and understanding how it works. Watch this. You see, actually, the tripod, because the 11 is so wide, we'll see the background, and that ball really stretches office. We get it into the corner there. It actually does start to look like a football American football. And so I think that it's just a really simple but easy way to see what distortion is. And you can use this in your photograph. You know, the swimming pool. This little curve section is much smaller than the section and back, but I wanted to emphasize it, so I used a wide angle lens and I got up to it. So what do you think is larger? The train car or these three railroad ties all right, so getting really close to this with a wide angle lens. The big mistake that most people make with a very wide angle lens is they don't have anything close. Everything is Grand Canyon far away, and everything is small in the frame. It's nice to have something larger in the frame for framing purposes, and so if you use a wide angle lens, you should often be close to thanks. And so landscape photographers are often looking for bits and pieces and rocks and flowers to have in the foreground. That or something, maybe 234 feet away. So there's something big enough that our eyes can catch in the frame. And so there is a technique Teoh using the wide angles that is more effective. So you're wide angle lenses, a few little tips and thoughts on working with these lenses in the 11 to 24 millimeter range. So you're gonna use these. Obviously, if you can't back up any further, you're in a tight room and you need to go as wide as possible. Yeah, that's a great time to be using the wide angle lens. Good time for Environmental Portrait's Somebody has a workshop and you want to show a photograph of them and their environment that they're working in a wide angle lens is gonna be a perfect type lens for that type of shot, our foreshortening effect. This is where we're gonna place our camera very close to some near ground subjects so that they could be a part of the story that we're telling in the frame. These lenses tend to have a lot of depth of field. We'll talk more about that in the aperture section, but we're getting lots of things and focus. It's very hard to get shallow depth of field in these type of wide angle shots. And so, if you said I want to shoot something 50 feet away and just have that in focus, that's near impossible. And we'll talk more about that as we talk about depth of field in the aperture section. And finally, you do need to be cautious with people around 24 millimeters and below. So if you're doing group shots and I actually have a very interesting example of a group shot shot with everything from a 50 millimeter down to an 11 millimeter lands and so we'll have a whole a special little tiny section on doing group shots of people. What lens is best for that. But any time you get below 24 you got to be cautious. I'm not saying Don't do it because I do it myself. I break these quote unquote rules all the time. Just be cautious with it. I don't have a quick question on these wide angle lenses, specifically, that had several boats from here. I who says How much would it help to use the lens correction feature in light room? Would it remove all the distortion and make it more faithful to view? So can you talk a little bit about correcting these things in post processing? Right. So Light Room and other programs have ways of correcting for certain types of distortion, and what they're correcting for in most all these cases, is barrel distortion. So you remember the horizon that went from straight to curved, straight to curb. That's what it fixes. Fix. It does not fix the soccer ball in the corner. Okay, that is a natural aspect of the wide angle lens and light room, and the other programs don't do anything on that. And so I had. I tried it for a while, and it didn't work out for me. I tried when I imported all my images in the light room to have automatically distortion fixed. The problem was, is that I occasionally shoot with the fish islands and it corrects for all my fisheye shots, which I want distorted. And so if I shoot with a fish highlands, I can't use that. And so I just go in later and I select him, and all lenses have some distortion. I don't know of a lens that has zero distortion at all, theoretically possible, but it's next to impossible to engineer. And so all lenses are gonna have a little bit. And we'll talk more as we get into some of the zoom lenses cause there are some that are pretty bad, and everything kind of bulges out. So people who shoot a lot of straight lines architectural photographers, real estate type photographers would want to be really conscious about Is there lens distorting things? And can they fix it? And one of the things you know it's new lens comes out and somebody doesn't test on it, and they say it has 2.1% barrel distortion. Does that mean you shouldn't buy the lens? Well, you can correct for it. And so it's one of these problems that you can easily correct. For now, that means you do have to go through the process of correcting it, which is as hard is going click, and it's fixed. But it also means sometimes that you lose a little bit of the wide angle cause it has to kind of push those pixels around a little bit. And so if you have a 24 millimeter lance and it's got a lot of barrel distortion, maybe now instead of 24 it's a 26 millimeter lens, and so you lose a little bit on that wide angle. So it's always preferable not to have distortion, but it's a fact of life.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

What's in the Frame? HD
What's in the Frame? LOW
Field of View HD
Field of View LOW
Lens Keynote Parts 1-4
Lens Keynote Parts 5-8
Canon® Lens Data

Ratings and Reviews


I so appreciate what a good teacher John is. I wish I would have known this much about lenses when I first started out buying my lenses. It was hard finding information about lenses. I didn't want to spend money on a lens I wouldn't use. The better understanding we have about our gear the better photographers we will be. I have never seen a class like this. Invaluable...yes I bought the class! I am really impressed with the high quality photography classes available on Creative Live!


This was a great class not just about the lenses that Canon offers but also how each lens works. As usual, John's slides are alway informative and entertaining. There is a phrase: John has a slide for that! I am not even a Canon user and found this class to have great information for the use of each specific lens. Great work John! Thank you Creative Live for another great class!

Tami Miller

Have loved the other John Greengo classes I've watched & purchased - and this is another winner! Having been a high school/college science teacher, it is refreshing to take a course with someone who not only is extremely experienced, seems to be a computer having stored so much knowledge, but is equally concerned about making the information truly understandable to different levels. And he shares the information using every tool he can: slides, video, interactive presentations, and great quizzes. I learned so much about my Canon lenses - and lenses in general with their many components. I am excited about testing each of mine to see what macro ratio they handle, and especially appreciated the tutorial on testing each for their specific quirk that affects super sharpness. This class is great whether you own Canon lenses or not. Thanks John Greengo!

Student Work