There are a bewildering number of wide angle lenses available for modern cameras today so it can be difficult to make a decision about which one is right for you. Fortunately, I’m here to help you make an informed choice. The aim of this article is to help you make an informed decision when choosing the best wide angle lens for Canon cameras.
What Is a Wide Angle Lens?
The definition of a wide angle lens has gradually changed over the years.
In the early days of photography, lenses with a wide field of view were expensive to make. That means that anything from 24 to 35mm was considered wide angle. As technology has improved it has become easier to make ever wider lenses. As a result, you can now buy lenses as wide as 11mm, although the extreme nature of these lenses (fisheye effect) means they can be challenging to use effectively.
When to Use a Wide Angle Lens?
Fundamentally wide angle lenses are useful for any genre of photography where you need to capture a wide area. The most common genres are landscape and architectural photography.
Don’t overlook other creative uses though. Wide angle lenses usually offer a very close minimum focus distance so you can utilize this to get really close to almost any subject. If you’re shooting people this may not create a very flattering portrait – but it could certainly be used for comedic or dramatic purposes!
Are All Wide Angle Lenses Basically the Same?
At a basic level, yes – they can all capture a wide angle of view. However, there are some niche models, designed to do more specific things. For instance, a fisheye lens will capture a wide vista, but any straight lines in the image, especially towards the edges of the frame, will be bowed rather than straight. Such lenses can be fun to use, but you probably won’t want to shoot everything with it! Sigma makes a great 15mm fisheye for Canon cameras, which is much more reasonably priced than the Canon equivalent.
For those who shoot architecture and need to keep their lines straight, a tilt-shift lens could be the way to go. With these lenses, you can adjust the angle of the lens to avoid buildings appearing as though they’re about to topple over. At $1899, the latest Canon 24mm TS-E lens is not for the fainthearted though. If you think this might be something you’d want to try, it’s worth hiring a tilt-shift lens first, or perhaps seek out a second-hand copy of the mark 1 version for a more reasonable price.
Having looked at some unusual options, let’s consider some of the best general wide angle lenses for the two main Canon camera formats…
Best Wide Angle Lens for Canon APS-C (Crop Sensor) Camera
A crop sensor camera can be a fantastic tool if you regularly shoot with telephoto lenses. The smaller sensor gives your lenses a longer effective focal length. This is great if you regularly photograph wildlife and need to get closer to nervous animals.
While lenses designed for full frame cameras can be used on APS-C models, the magnification of the focal length means that wide angle lenses become rather less wide angle. Fortunately, Canon and the third-party manufacturers have released a good range of bespoke APS-C wide angle lenses in the last decade, so there are plenty of choices. Even better, none of them are outrageously expensive. Here are three best wide angle lenses for Canon Crop Sensor cameras that I would recommend.
Canon makes two super-wide angle lenses for its APS-C cameras, this and a 10-22mm lens. Although this lens has slightly less zoom range, it’s a more modern design, with a quieter focusing motor and no less than four stops of image stabilization too. The minimum focusing distance of this lens is just 22cm. This means you can get really close to your subject to create an exaggerated sense of perspective – a handy tool in any form of wide angle photography.
The older version of this lens was my go-to wide angle lens for many years. It’s about 200g heavier than the Canon lens, but for that, you get a slightly longer focal range and a bigger maximum aperture. This could be crucial for light gathering if you’re shooting handheld architecture and interiors.
Samyang 14mm F2.8 AF $599
If you prefer to shoot with prime lenses, this wide angle lens is for you (see how prime lenses can improve your skills). There are very few wide angle primes specifically designed for APS-C sensor cameras, but the full frame versions will work just as well. This little beauty by Samyang is a great choice. At 14mm it still gives a wide field of view, and is fairly lightweight too, at 500g. Samyang also makes a manual focus version of this lens, but I would recommend the more expensive AF version if possible for ease of use. These Samyang lenses are sometimes branded as Rokinon, depending on the country you live in, but the lenses are identical.
Best Wide Angle Lens for Canon Full-frame cameras
There are many options when it comes to wide angle lenses for full frame Canon cameras. Let’s look at two of the absolute best lenses. I have some more affordable options too if your bank balance can’t stretch to the top of the range!
Canon EF 11-24mm f4L USM $2699
A fairly recent addition to the Canon lens lineup, this is the ultimate super-wide angle lens for Canon full frame cameras. The wow factor at 11mm is immense, and the quality of the lens is second to none. Sharp throughout the focal and aperture range, you can be confident of making no compromises on quality with this lens. Landscape photographer Erez Marom has written a great review of this lens, from a practical, non-geeky point of view. Do take a look if you’d like to see some sensational photos from this lens. The downside? The price! The extreme nature of this lens won’t be for everyone either so it may be worth hiring a copy to try before you buy if you’re not sure.
If you like the idea of a really wide angle lens, but can’t afford the Canon, it’s worth considering the Sigma 12-24mm f4 Art DG HSM instead. At $1319 it’s significantly cheaper and the Sigma Art series of lenses pack a huge level of image quality at more modest prices.
If you don’t need to go as wide as 11mm, you really can’t go wrong with Canon’s most recent 16-35mm lens. This focal range has long been popular with landscape and architectural photographers and takes you from genuinely wide angle to something more natural looking at the 35mm end. This latest incarnation is half the price and weight of Canon’s f2.8 version, with Canon’s latest image stabilization built in too. Like the 11-24mm, it’s one of Canon’s professional quality L lenses so you can be sure of superb sharpness and good control of distortion and color fringing.
Another option to consider is the Canon EF 17-40mm f4 L USM, which is cheaper than the 16-35. It’s quite an old design now, but still, a great lens and you can pick one up secondhand for less than $500. I shot with this lens for many years and loved its quality and lightness – in fact, I only sold it because I changed my camera system!
If you fancy something a little smaller and lighter, which will make you zoom with your feet I can wholeheartedly recommend this little gem. One of Canon’s more recent designs, it features image stabilization and a bright f2.8 aperture. It may not be as extreme as some of the wide angle zooms I’ve suggested, but 24mm is still plenty wide enough for most situations. at just 280g you’ll barely notice it in your camera bag and it’s reasonably priced too.
How to Pick the Right Canon Wide Angle Lens for You
When it comes to which wide angle lens to buy, it’s not just a question of the cost you need to consider. There are great quality options at all price points so hopefully, there will be something suitable for everyone here. A more important consideration is what you want to shoot. If capturing really wide vistas is your thing, you might want to go for as wide a focal length as possible. However, if you regularly shoot interiors, a lens with a faster aperture and/or image stabilization might suit you better.
If you buy a lens as a result of reading this article (or perhaps you already have one of the models I’ve suggested) why not tell us about your experiences by leaving a comment below. Alternatively, you could join us on Photoblog.com and share some of your images with us – we’d love to see them!
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