Best lens for going ultra-wide
Which is best for a wide-angle view on the world, prime or zoom?
To supplement a standard 24-70mm standard zoom lens, this prime optic provides an ideal expansion of viewing angle, to 94 degrees (70 degrees on a DX-format Nikon). It’s therefore a very convenient lens for switching to when you need that extra width. The optical path includes two aspherical elements, two ED (Extra-low Dispersion) elements and nano-crystal coatings. The aperture has seven diaphragm blades, minimum focus distance is 0.2m, and there’s a rubber sealing ring on the mounting plate. This prime delivers excellent centre-sharpness, even when shooting wide-open, and great corner-sharpness when stopping down to just f/4. Colour fringing is negligible and barrel distortion is remarkably minimal for such a wide-angle lens. With a widest aperture of f/1.8, this lens is 2.33 stops faster than the zoom, and so is better able to freeze action in low lighting conditions. The shorter minimum focus distance and wider aperture also enable a relatively tight depth of field. Small and lightweight, this lens is easy to squeeze into a spare corner of your gadget bag, and unobtrusive in use. This can be an advantage when taking wide-angle shots of wildlife, and it's also a suitably discreet option for street photography. Many of us only tend to use wide-angle zooms at their shortest focal length, making their zoom potential somewhat superfluous. We nevertheless like the versatility of a zoom, which in this case gives a viewing angle of 63-107 degrees (44-83 degrees on DX). The zoom has four more lens elements than the prime, including one additional aspherical element, but like the prime it has two ED elements and a rubber seal. The minimum focus distance is longer, at 0.29m, but the nine-blade aperture is more rounded. Centre-sharpness matches that of the prime through most of the zoom range, but drops off a bit at the long end. Corner-sharpness is less impressive, and there’s far more barrel distortion at the short end of the zoom range, plus a little more fringing. A tight depth of field isn’t really on offer, even when combining the minimum focus distance with the widest aperture – especially towards the short end of the zoom range. However, handheld shooting in dim light benefits from the effective VR system. As wide-angle zooms go, this lens is fairly modestly sized. It has an identical physical diameter to the prime, but is nevertheless 50 per cent longer and almost twice the weight. Even so, it feels wellbalanced, especially on an FX-format body.
Nikon AF-S 16-35mm f/4G ED VR Elements/groups: 17/12 Vibration Re duction: Yes Diaphragm: 9 blades Focus type: Ultrasonic (ring-type) Min focus distance: 0.29m Filter size: 77mm Accessories included: Hood, pouch SIZE (WxL): 83x125mm Weight: 680g Price: £1030/$995
Nikon AF-S 20mm f/1.8G ED Elements/groups: 13/11 Vibration Re duction: No Diaphragm: 7 blades Focus type: Ultrasonic (ring-type) Min focus distance: 0.2m Filter size: 77mm Accessories included: Hood, pouch size (wxL): 83x81mm Weight: 355g Price: £660/$795