Choosing the Right Camera Lens

Lesson 5/35 - Wide Angle Lenses


Choosing the Right Camera Lens


Lesson Info

Wide Angle Lenses

Alright, now let's get into wide angle lenses. When we wanna see more from side to side we're gonna choose a wide angle lens. And this is where we're getting into pretty good wide angle lens. Now you could choose a 28, we're gonna go down to which is one of my favorite focal lengths. And this is gonna see 74 degrees from side to side. If you have one of the crop frame cameras, you're gonna need around a 16 millimeter lens and I know, probably the most popular cameras out there like the Nikon D3000 and 5000 series or the Canon Rebel series or the Canon 70D, 80D, the Sony, the A6500, things like that. They all have a crop sensor of around 28 millimeters and their most common lens is usually something around an 18 to 55 lens. And so this is pretty close to that 18. And so it's close enough, don't worry about the difference, you don't need to go out and buy a 16 millimeter lens if you have an 18. It kind of all fits into the same category and if you have Micro Four Thirds, that's gonna be...

something around a 12 millimeter lens. Now this is gonna be great for the landscape photographer. And I tend to do a lot of landscape work and so I love working with the 24. I will not go to a national park here in the United States without a 24 millimeter lens because these are often big, beautiful environments and I wanna be able to show that in one shot in some cases. One of the things about working with a wide angle lens is it allows you to have something in the foreground and something in the background. And so you can have two different parts of your story. You can have some big, exciting thing in the background and then find something smaller, more intimate in the foreground and then you can have a nice little two subjects in your photograph. So any time you are around something big, beautiful and you wanna be able to show it all in one shot, that wide lens is really nice. Now, the 24, in my opinion, is wide but it's not extremely wide. And so we'll talk a little bit about distortion at the end of this wide angle section but we're seeing very little distortion with the wide angle lens. I also like it for doing kind of documentary work, showing people in their environments where you do really want to show them in your environment. In this case, it was a mini little dance studio in Cuba and this was their whole dance studio. It wasn't very big. But I wanted to show who was there and what was going on in this small, little environment. And so there's all sorts of great places where you can pull out a wide angle lens and get some fun shots. And so it's definitely a place where you can get into some very interesting and fun photography. And I think most all photographers need something like a 24 millimeter lens and so that's why a lot of cameras come with those 18 to 55s because that's about that middle range of that wide angle category. Next up, is the ultra wide lenses. Now these are very interesting lenses, they're sometimes a little bit difficult to use and so there's a number of 16 to 35s, there's some lenses that go beyond this. Getting down to around 11 millimeters for the crop frame or eight millimeters for the Four Thirds system. And this is for use in some special situations. I was in Morocco and I was shooting this rug store and I just wanted to shoot everything that was in the atrium and I had to lie down on the back and once you're lying down on your back there is no backing up any further and I wanted to show as much as possible. The ultra wide lens came in. You can also use it with people photography, once again, an environmental type portrait where I'm really trying to show the larger size of the environment that this person is at. It works very well for landscape photography. Once again, subjects in the foreground tend to be very important. You can shoot this vertical and have very small subjects filling up a significant portion of the frame. Architectural photography will need to use these wide angle lenses because it can be really hard to shoot in tight city quarters from just the opposite sidewalk on the street. And as much as they say there are particular focal lengths that you can shoot people, it really depends on how you shoot and what you do. And so in this case I have the person in the middle of the frame where you don't see the distortion. And so that's kinda the next thing I wanna talk about with these lenses is the distortion that you see with a wide angle lens. Because it is there and it something to talk about and there are two different types of distortion that I wanna talk about. So let me show you this example and I'm gonna go back and forth between this photo and the next photo. And this is considered barrel distortion and we'll talk more about this in some of the technology of the lenses but this is the type of distortion that people generally don't like. Now with wide angle lenses, especially ultra wide angle lenses, there is a linear distortion or a stretching effect as you get to those edges of the frame in a wide angle lens. So here we are with the 35 millimeter lens and as we switch to a wider and wider lens, notice the tiles in the ceiling, notice the height of the walls in the foreground versus the background. And so when we get to this ultra wide category, we have this foreshortening effect. It exaggerates the size of things in the foreground versus the background. Just look at the wall, how much bigger it is on the side of the frame than it is towards the center of the frame. There's a huge difference there and it's from our perspective and our angle of view. If you were to look at the tiles in the ceiling, the tiles on the side nearest us are much larger than the sides that are on the other side of us. It's this stretching effect, if you wanna get it all in, you're gonna have to stretch it out a little bit. And this is a normal instance of a wide angle lens and so there really isn't a way to get around this. This is just the way wide angle lenses work and so you wanna be aware of this when you are shooting and the types of subjects that you are shooting. You don't want to put size critical things on the edge of an ultra wide lens. Now here's another way to show you how it's stretching things out. And we're gonna go all the way down to an 11 millimeter lens here but we're gonna start off with a 100 millimeter lens. Which if you wanted to document an artifact or a thing, whatever that may wanna be, and you want it to be as really truthful and accurate as possible, probably the 100 millimeter lens might be the best lens for that. So, our soccer ball is nice and round and if we move it off to the edge of the frame, you know what? It is still gonna be nice and round because this is a very truthful, faithful lens that has virtually no distortion at all. Now the normal lens, once again, is the 50 and that's also a very good documentary lens, very truthful. And when you put your soccer ball off to the side, yes, it's also going to be round. But things are going to start changing in here as we get to the wide angle world. And so with the 35 millimeter lens, that is really close to the normal lens and you're probably not gonna see any sort of distortion with a 35 millimeter lens. The first place that you're probably gonna see it is with a 24 millimeter lens. Round in the middle, move it off to the side and if you have a really careful eye, you'll notice that it's starting to seem a little bit on the oblong shape. Now when we get to a 16 millimeter lens, things are perfectly fine when they're in the center of the frame but we move them off to the frame, we get that stretching effect. And this is that ultra wide effect that you get. It starts being noticeable around 24, becomes fairly apparent around and very clearly available at 16. Now look what happens when we use an 11 millimeter lens. No distortion in the middle of the frame and then we get this stretching effect over into the corners of the frame where it really throws the curves of the soccer ball off. Now it will render straight lines as straight and so it's gonna be very good for architectural photography in that sense but it does kind of distort those corners a little bit. And so a good place to use this is a place where there aren't any straight lines. So we can distort, we can have this end of the pool appear much larger than it really is in real life. And so subjects that you get very close to become very dominant in the frame and so when you have a wide angle or an ultra wide angle lens, you really need to be thinking a lot about the foreground because it's often gonna play a big part in any photograph. Landscape photographers use this to their advantage. They find things in the foreground that are interesting that they do want in the frame and they can have that as well as something in the background. So, when it comes to the wide angle lens, we're talking about 16, 24, anything in that general range. Obviously you're gonna use this when you just can't back up any further. It's great for those environmental portraits when you wanna really look at some foreground as well as background subjects. And something we'll talk more about later on as we go through this class is you're gonna get great depth of field with these lenses. And if you are shooting a lot of people shots, you do have to be careful. I'm not saying don't do it, you just need to be careful when you're shooting at around 24 millimeters and below because of that distortion and stretching effect that you can get with it.

Class Description

Once you’ve chosen the camera of your dreams, how do you know which lens will maximize your camera’s capabilities? Join camera expert John Greengo as he explains what the best lenses are to add to your camera bag. He’ll explain:

  • Which lens is best for specific areas of photography
  • The technology behind lenses
  • How to use specialty lenses including macro and fisheye
  • Tips on operating and maintaining your lenses

John will also talk about lens accessories including hoods, mounts, filters, and teleconverters. By the end of this class, you’ll understand exactly what lens you’ll need to take your best photos!


Boris Dimitrov

Excellent class packed with incredibly useful knowledge. John is an amazing lecturer. He has also developed really great materials to help explain all the concepts and technologies that are explored in the class. Looking forward to my next class with him!

a Creativelive Student

Great class. So informative. John Greengo is such a fantastic tutor and explains everything in such and easy-to-understand way. I would highly recommend this class. Prior to doing this class, I was so confused about which lenses are best for various photography. Now I understand lenses completely. Thanks John!

Lettie Turner

Another great JG class, my 4th. He gives a lot of individual attention to several popular lens brands. I really think after seeing this video series you could pick out three lenses that would fit your needs and your pocketbook. The class handout is spot on for what is covered in the video. Great job!! Thank you