Let’s first be clear about something: Most zoom lenses, particularly full frame wide-angle zoom lenses, are prohibitively expensive. The term wide-angle refers to lenses somewhere in the 12mm to 35mm ballpark—with 12mm nearing the ultra-wide angle designation. You know the type—short and fat, big chunk of glass: the lenses that make everything appear a little larger than life.
For many professionals, zoom lenses are on our cameras more often than not. They are versatile, sharp and cover the most common shooting areas that we come across. Wide-angles are like the Swiss army knife of camera lenses, which will usually find their way into every photographer’s bag at some point.
Though they are not the best for traditional portraits (most wedding photographers prefer longer focal length prime lenses or long zoom lenses to get as much background blur as possible), wide angle lenses are good at capturing a perspective that reveals much of our natural field of vision. This is why they can make for stunning landscape photos, intricate close-up macro shots or architecturally perfect interior and exterior shots.
For real estate and architectural photographers, wide-angle zooms are indispensible to our craft and well worth the $1,500 plus price tag. But when starting out, or for those of us who are extremely rough on our gear, these budget alternatives can be a great way to get into that sublime focal length without breaking the bank.