What Is a Wide-Angle Lens?

What Is a Wide-Angle Lens featured photo

If you want to take photos of architecture and landscapes, you know it can be challenging with a normal lens. Having a wide field of view or perspective is essential, so we recommend using a wide-angle lens.

A wide-angle lens has a focal length of 35mm or shorter. It offers a wider field of view than normal lenses and telephoto lenses. Hence, it can capture more of the scene in front of you.

A wide-angle lens suits several types of photography, which we will explore below. This article will also cover the kinds of wide-angle lenses to use. But first, we will teach you the in-depth definition of this lens. 

What Is a Wide-Angle Lens?

A wide-angle lens is any lens that has a 35mm focal length or shorter. It offers a wide field of view or perspective. That means it can capture more in a scene than a normal or telephoto lens.

A wide-angle lens also has a deep depth of field. It makes the foreground and background appear sharp in the frame. Hence, it is ideal for several types of photography, such as architecture and landscape photography.

Wide-angle lenses are available in different focal lengths. Those with focal lengths of 24mm and shorter are considered ultra-wide lenses. Meanwhile, fisheye lenses have a 15mm focal length and below, ultimately distorting objects. 

How Wide Is a Wide-Angle Lens?

It depends on your camera sensor because it can affect how your lens captures the image. 

Small sensors, like the APS-C sensor in most entry-level DSLRs, crop out the center portion of any lens. Hence, they provide a tighter or narrower field of view. For example, a 35mm wide-angle lens function like a standard 50mm lens on a camera with a crop sensor. 

In contrast, full-frame cameras have a sensor size similar to a 35mm film camera. They do not crop the frame and provide the same focal length. So a 24mm wide-angle lens will work like an actual 24mm lens on a full-frame camera.

Besides millimeters, degrees can also describe the field of view that wide-angle lenses can offer. For instance, a 28mm lens has an 84 degrees field of view, while a 35mm offers 63 degrees. 

What Are the Types of Wide-Angle Lenses?

Wide-angle lenses come in different types based on how much distortion they have.

Fisheye Wide-Angle Lens

Fisheye Wide-Angle Lens

A fisheye lens has a 15mm to 16mm focal length. Meanwhile, a typical crop-sensor fisheye lens offers an 8mm to 10mm focal length.

A fisheye lens provides a 180-degree angle of view at its widest point. That means it can capture the entire scene in front of you. It gives you a circular image without any edges, which is ideal for unusual architecture and landscapes.

There is another type of fisheye lens called a full-frame fisheye lens. It has the same 180-degree view angle, but only captures the image in a diagonal direction. It produces panoramic shots.

Since a fisheye lens includes as much information as possible, it does not produce straight lines. It could distort the subject, which could either be an advantage or disadvantage. 

Rectilinear Wide-Angle Lens

A rectilinear wide-angle lens is any lens not marked as a fisheye lens. It offers less than 180 degrees of field of view, but it keeps the lines close to straight in the final image. For instance, the edges of the buildings or walls appear straight instead of curved.

This lens can still produce moderate barrel distortion. However, the effect is easy to correct in image editing software.

Rectilinear wide-angle lenses are versatile. They can help you capture more of the scene in front of you without distorting subjects.

The most common rectilinear lenses have 10mm to 20mm focal lengths. 15mm lenses are popular among full-frame cameras, while 17mm wide-angle lenses suit crop sensor cameras.

Tilt-Shift Wide-Angle Lens

A tilt-shift wide-angle lens allows you to control the focus and depth of field. It introduces unique effects to your images. At the same time, it corrects perspective distortion, unlike other types of wide-angle lenses. 

Perspective distortion causes the subject and its surroundings to warp. Fortunately, a tilt-shift lens can project images larger than a full-frame camera sensor. It lets you move the lens parallel to the sensor both horizontally and vertically. Hence, it can make parallel lines converge and minimize warping.

The term “tilt shift” comes from the fact that you can tilt or shift the lenses in relation to their sensor plane. Tilt means you can hold and prevent lens elements from lining up with the image sensor. Meanwhile, shift refers to moving the glass elements so that they do not create parallel lines. 

When to Use A Wide-Angle Lens?

“What is a wide-angle lens used for?” is probably one of your questions about this lens type. It is commonly used in certain photography genres to capture as much of the scene as possible.

Below, we will cover the instances when to use wide-angle lenses. 

Architecture and Real Estate Photography

Architecture photographers use wide-angle lenses to take pictures of the entire building structure. These lenses provide a wide perspective that lets you fit the whole exterior in the frame.

Real estate photographers also choose a wide-angle lens to photograph home interiors. It showcases the available space within a room. It also gives the illusion of a wider area, which entices prospective homeowners to buy the property.

Street Photography

A wide-angle lens is also suitable for street photography. The most common focal lengths are 35mm and 24mm. Both wide-angle lenses can capture stunning photos of buildings and skyscrapers from street level.

These lenses also give you flexibility. They can photograph human subjects at a considerable distance to show their surroundings. Doing so ultimately gives your subjects more personalities and the scene more context. 

Travel Photography

A wide-angle lens is a popular lens choice by travelers. It is a versatile lens that can immediately switch between street photography and landscape shots. This flexibility is hard to beat, especially when you are traveling to places with several landmarks or vast landscapes.

The most popular wide-angle lenses for traveling are 18mm and 24mm. However, wide-angle zooms are also great options for those who do not want to bring several lenses on their trip.

Landscape Photography

Use a wide-angle lens if you want to take pictures of vast landscapes. This lens can offer a broad field of view or perspective. It lets you capture most of the beautiful scene in front of you.

Some types of wide-angle lenses, such as fisheye lenses, can even give you 180 degrees of view. They can take stunning panoramic shots. 

Event Photography and Photojournalism

Anything can happen in event photography and photojournalism. Fortunately, having a wide-angle lens can help you capture numerous situations.

This lens is suitable for group photos at events. It also gives you an all-encompassing shot that lets you see everything in the frame, even if you missed it in real life.

Night Sky Photography

A wide-angle lens can capture the vast night sky. It has a deep depth of field that makes all the stars appear sharp.

This type of lens, especially a prime wide-angle lens, also offers a large maximum aperture. It can produce great image quality, even at night and in low-light situations.

When Should You NOT Use a Wide-Angle Lens?

While a wide-angle lens has many uses, it is not suitable for all kinds of photography. Here are the instances when you should avoid using this type of lens.

Portrait Photography

Portraits involve shots of human subjects. Using a wide-angle lens to photograph people is not the best idea. That is because this lens can distort facial features, making the subject appear slimmer or larger than they actually are.

Consider getting a standard lens for the most natural field of view. It can capture the features of a person as accurately as possible.

Wildlife Photography

You must also avoid using a wide-angle lens for wildlife photography. This lens could not get you closer to the subject without getting near them, compared to a telephoto lens. So it could be dangerous if you try to take photos of wild animals. It also does not capture enough details of the subject.

Action and Sports Photography

A wide-angle lens is not usually the first lens option for action and sports photography. It captures so much of the scene, making it easier to lose focus on the subject.

It is also unsuitable for most live sports applications because you would be sitting on the bleachers far away from the action. Many photographers prefer carrying a telephoto lens to sports events because it eliminates distractions and focuses on the subject.

Does a Wide-Angle Lens Zoom?

Does a Wide-Angle Lens Zoom

Wide-angle lenses are available in either prime or zoom versions. So, to answer your question: yes, a wide-angle lens can zoom. It allows you to change the field of view from ultra-wide to standard-wide.

Wide-angle zoom lenses are versatile. They can act as two or three lenses in one, which lets you keep photography gear to a minimum. They are also convenient if you have limited space and cannot move physically to adjust the focal length. 

However, a wide-angle zoom lens tends to be more expensive than a prime lens due to extra glass and mechanisms. It can also be heavy and tiring to carry while traveling. 

How Much Does a Wide-Angle Lens Cost?

A wide-angle lens comes in a range of price tags. In general, the more features the lens offers, the more expensive it is.

For example, ultra-wide-angle lenses with a large maximum aperture can set you back several hundred dollars. They are even more expensive if they are zoom or tilt-shift lenses. 

That said, wide-angle lenses are also available in budget-friendly versions. For instance, standard wide-angle primes suit beginners who want to enjoy the benefits of a broad perspective.


Taking photos of architecture, landscapes, and groups is difficult with a standard lens. Consider a wide-angle lens for these types of photography.

A wide-angle lens is any lens with a 35mm focal length or shorter. It offers a wide field of view and a deep depth of field. It helps you capture more of the scene in front of you.

Do you have other questions about what is considered a wide-angle lens? Visit our contact page to send your queries!