These are the five biggest challenges of ultra-wide-angle lenses
You’ll find ultra-wide-angle lenses in many landscape photographers’ gear bags. While they can be amazing for landscapes and cityscapes, they come with some challenges you’ll notice when shooting with them. Mark Denney gives you five of them, along with some tips on overcoming them.
When Mark used a full-frame Sony camera, he would often shoot with a 12-24mm lens. But when he switched from a Sony full-frame system to Fuji APS-C, he started using Fujifilm 8-16mm. He was accustomed to using 12-24mm, and this lens gave him a 12-24mm equivalent focal length on a crop body.
Mark finds ultra-wide-angle lenses among the most challenging ones to shoot with. There are a couple of problems you may encounter with them, so if you’re planning on buying one, these are some things to consider before you make the decision.
Ultra wide-angle lenses are, as Mark describes them, “weather-dependent.” In other words, due to their extremely wide field of view, they include a lot of sky in your photos. So, if the sky is not “cooperating,” it can ruin your images.
To overcome this obstacle, you can use a longer lens and capture less or none of the sky. If circumstances allow it, you can also come back another day when the weather is better. Alternatively, you can go to the woods. There likely won’ be any sky in the frame, so this lens will be a great choice whatever the weather’s like.
2. Scene stretching
Ultra wide-angle lenses exaggerate the depth of field, compared to 50mm or longer lenses that compress a background. In other words, everything in the background will appear much smaller than it seemed to you when you were on location. It’s not a problem per se, but it just doesn’t work for some photos and it’s something to keep in mind.
Most ultra-wide-angle lenses have a bulb front element. This means that you can’t add screw-on filters to them, but you’ll have to get specialized filters just for that specific lens.
That wouldn’t be a big problem if it wasn’t so expensive. For example, Mark uses NiSi S6 150mm filter holder kit which costs over $500 alone. You can attach other filters to the NiSi filter holder, but if you use a lot of them, the cost will add up significantly.
4. Crowded compositions
This is an issue with wide-angle lenses, but with ultra-wide, it’s even more prominent. Since your field of view is so much wider, there will be a lot of elements included in your scene. With ultra-wide-angle lenses, it’s challenging to organize everything in your composition and make a pleasing, balanced image without distractions.
5. Smear effect
Most lenses are the sharpest in the center and their sharpness falls off a bit towards the corners. Pair that with the distortion of ultra-wide-angle lenses, and you’ll get a “smear effect” in your images. The areas in the corners look can end up looking stretched and smeared, and it’s impossible to resolve in post. Of course, this depends on the lens, but some distortion is inevitable (hi, Khloé Kardashian).
Personally, I mainly shoot somewhere between 50mm and 75mm equivalent focal length. I rarely even shoot with the widest angle of my 18-35mm or 18-55mm, mainly because of crowded scenes and distortions, so I’m sure an ultra-wide-angle lens wouldn’t be my cup of tea. What about you? Do you shoot with wide-angle or ultra-wide-angle lenses? And do you also find these five things challenging?
[ULTRA WIDE Problems to AVOID in Landscape PHOTOGRAPHY! | Mark Denney]
Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.