WIDE-AN­GLE WON­DERS

Nikon-fit lenses that are fit for full-frame

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Fol­low­ing on from last month’s roundup of DX-for­mat wide-an­gle lenses, we’re now turn­ing our at­ten­tion to FX-for­mat ones. Again, we’re not cov­er­ing fisheyes – stick­ing to wide-an­gle lenses with rec­ti­lin­ear op­tics which, as far as pos­si­ble, aim to keep dis­tor­tions to a min­i­mum.

Mov­ing from DX to FX ter­ri­tory, one no­tice­able dif­fer­ence is that you’re no longer limited to zoom lenses when go­ing wide. There are plenty of 24mm, 28mm and 35mm prime lenses avail­able, all of which are classed as wide-an­gle lenses. How­ever, these fo­cal lengths are all cov­ered by stan­dard zoom lenses. For this test, we’re there­fore con­cen­trat­ing on lenses that deliver shorter fo­cal lengths and an even wider an­gle of view. Even so, it’s in­ter­est­ing to see how a topqual­ity 24mm prime lens com­pares with stan­dard zoom lenses at their short­est fo­cal length, so we’re also in­clud­ing the Nikon 24mm f/1.4.

View­ing an­gles can be mea­sured on the hor­i­zon­tal, ver­ti­cal and di­ag­o­nal. Man­u­fac­tur­ers most com­monly state the di­ag­o­nal an­gle, as it’s the big­gest. The max­i­mum view­ing an­gle of the Nikon 24-85mm stan­dard zoom lens is 84 de­grees. Com­pared with this, the Nikon 14-24mm, 16-35mm and 18-35mm give max­i­mum view­ing an­gles of 114, 107 and 100 de­grees re­spec­tively. In each case, a dif­fer­ence of just two mil­lime­tres in the fo­cal length of wide lenses has a no­tice­able ef­fect on an­gles of view.

Warp fac­tor none…

As well as squeez­ing more into the frame, wide-an­gle lenses have the ef­fect of greatly ex­ag­ger­at­ing per­spec­tive. With this in mind, many pho­tog­ra­phers tend to use wide-an­gle zoom lenses at or near their short­est fo­cal lengths to max­imise their po­ten­tial. How­ever, do­ing so is miss­ing a trick. At their mid-range or longer zoom set­tings, wide-an­gle lenses typ­i­cally give much less dis­tor­tion than when us­ing a stan­dard zoom at the same fo­cal length. For ex­am­ple, the Nikon 24-85mm gives pro­nounced bar­rel dis­tor­tion at its short­est fo­cal length, equiv­a­lent to a score of -4.07 in our lab tests. By com­par­i­son, at the same 24mm fo­cal length, the Nikon 14-24mm gives much less dis­tor­tion, equat­ing to a score of -0.63, and the Nikon 16-35mm gives barely any at all, scor­ing just -0.04.

This gives wide-an­gle zoom lenses a dis­tinct ad­van­tage over stan­dard zooms at a 24mm fo­cal length for ar­chi­tec­tural pho­tog­ra­phy and other sce­nar­ios in which un­wanted dis­tor­tions can be no­tice­able. The same can’t be said for most wide-an­gle prime lenses but, again, bar­rel dis­tor­tion is quite re­strained in the Sigma 20mm and Nikon 24mm lenses on test. It’s helped by the fact that they both have a longer fo­cal length than is avail­able at the short end of all the zoom lenses in the group. The gen­er­ous view­ing an­gle of the Samyang 14mm prime lens re­sults in a sim­i­lar amount of bar­rel dis­tor­tion to most zoom lenses at the short end of their zoom ranges.

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