The 5 Best Wide Angle Lenses for Canon

The 5 Best Wide Angle Lenses for Canon

Wide angle lenses are important tools for photographers who takes pictures of real estate, landscapes, interiors, and large groups of people. A lens is typically considered “wide angle” when it has a focal length of 35mm or less. Below we suggest 5 of our favorite wide angle lenses but we also also equip you with what to look for when researching wide angles to purchase or rent for your next project.

The smaller the focal length, the wider the lens. Wide angle lenses are perfect for capturing scenery, creating images with dramatic vistas, taking photos of large groups, and shooting in tight spaces. While they can have some downsides (such as vignetting and distortion), they are a lot of fun to shoot with and an indispensable piece of equipment for a lot of photographers.

Choosing the Right Wide Angle Lens

There are some important things to consider when deciding which wide angle lens is best for you. Here are some things to think about:

How wide you want to go – The wider your lens, the more people, scenery, and surroundings you will be able to fit in the frame. A 35mm lens is fairly wide without giving that distorted feel, while a lens with a focal length closer to 11 or 16mm will give you more room to work with and cause a more dramatic effect. It’s important to keep in mind that the wider you go, the more you’ll have to be aware of what is happening in the outer edges of your frame. Wide angle lenses capture a lot of the scene, which means that you have more to think about in terms of composition. For this reason they can be a challenge to shoot with—but they are also a lot of fun.

Distortion – Most wide angle lenses will have some amount of distortion on the outer edges but just how noticeable it is depends largely on both the focal length and the lens itself. Some wide angle zooms show very little distortion through their entire range while in others it will only be noticeable at the shortest end. With some lenses, distortion will be visible throughout. Distortion can often be corrected in post-processing using tools like the Lens Correction tab in Lightroom or the Adaptive Wide Angle Filter in Photoshop. Correcting distortions in post-processing can be effective but it does require some extra work on the part of the photographer and, of course, the more distortion that exists in the frame, the harder it will be to correct.

A note on Fisheyes – Distortion is most obvious when using extremely wide angle lenses, including fisheye lenses. When researching for ultra wide angle lenses, it’s important to know whether it’s a rectilinear lens or a true fisheye lens, also known as curvilinear. Learn more about this in Rectilinear and Fisheye Wide Angle Lenses Explained.

With wide angle lenses, you have to watch out for distortions at the edges of your frame. Sometimes this produces cool effects.

With wide angle lenses, you have to watch out for distortions at the edges of your frame. Sometimes this produces cool effects.

The size of your sensor – Sensor size is an important thing to keep in mind if you are looking for a true wide angle lens. Remember that something that is wide on a full frame camera will have a different effect on one with a crop sensor. For example, a 35mm lens may be wide enough on a full frame camera but it will effectively become a 56mm lens on one with an APS-C sensor. It’s also important to remember that some lenses only work on crop sensor cameras so be sure to choose your lens with your camera body in mind! Learn more about this in What You Must Know About Full Frame vs Crop Frame Sensors Before Choosing a Lens.

A word about filters – Filters, especially polarizers, are very popular in landscape photography (as well as other areas). Unfortunately polarization is not uniform across the sky. The wider your lens, the more variations you will get in polarization.

With all that in mind, here are a few of our favorite wide angle lenses on the market. See all of our wide angle lens options for Canon EF mount to rent here.

The Best Wide Angle Lenses for Canon

1. Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Lens

($73 for a 7 day rental, $1,200 retail*)

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Photo by troy_williams. Taken with a Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 lens. ISO 100, f/8, 1/100th of a second.

tamron-sp-15-30mm

There are a couple third party manufacturers that are doing a very good job at getting it right and Tamron is near the top of the list. The Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 lens was created to compete directly with Nikon’s 14-24mm f/2.8G and it does a really great job of it. This is one of the few ultrawide lenses to offer image stabilization, something that many photographers, especially those who shoot handheld or in low light, appreciate. The Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 is a solid lens that hits the sweet spot between value and quality.

2. Canon 16-35mm f/4L IS

($52 for a 7 day rental, $1,000 retail)

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Photo by The Narratographer. Taken with a Canon 5Ds R and a Canon 16-35mm f/4L IS lens. ISO 50, f/8, 2 second exposure.

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Canon’s 16-35mm f/4L lens made waves when it was released in 2014 due to its extreme sharpness and the beautiful images it renders. This lens, which is part of Canon’s legendary “L” line, is an impressive mix of quality and value. The 16-35mm focal range makes this lens incredibly versatile–it’s wide enough at 16mm for true wide angle shots but long enough at 35mm to be a good option for portraits and more narrow shooting styles. Despite being made of plastic rather than the usual metal of Canon L series lenses, the 16-35mm feels solid in your hands. This lens has fast and accurate autofocus, produces beautiful images with sharp, vibrant colors and is a lot of fun to shoot with.

3. Canon 17-40 f/4L

($41 for a 7 day rental, $750 retail)

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Photo by Benjamin Balázs. Taken with a Canon 17-40mm f/4L lens. ISO 100, f/22, 6 second exposure.

canon_17_40mm_zoom_lens

The combination of a versatile and accessible focal length, high quality optics, and an excellent value have made the 17-40mm f/4L one of the most popular lenses in Canon’s lineup. This lens works well on both full frame and APS-C cameras making it a good option for photographers who bounce back and forth between full frame and APS-C bodies or those who are hoping to upgrade to a full frame camera in the future. Canon shooters who want a wider lens and image stabilization would be best served by the 16-35mm f/4L IS but those who want something a bit smaller, lighter, and less expensive will be very happy with this fantastic piece of glass.

4. Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens for Canon

($54 for a 7 day rental, $850 retail)

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Photo by halfrain. Taken with a Sigma 24mm f/1.4 Art lens. ISO 100, f/9, 30 second exposure.

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Sigma is another example of a more “outsider” company that is making excellent professional-level lenses at an amazing price. Sigma’s “Art” series lenses are some of the sharpest on the market and the 24mm f/1.4 is no exception. This prime lens is capable of shooting at wide apertures—all the way down to f/1.4—making it an extremely capable piece of equipment for low light shooting and capturing very narrow fields of view. Want to take a wide angle shot with a sliver of a focal plane? This is your lens.

5. Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens for Canon

($53 for 7 day rental, $900 retail)

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Photo by Wolfgang Staudt. Taken with a Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art lens. ISO 200, f/11, 4 second exposure.

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The Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art is the super popular big brother to the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 Art described above and it’s worthy of a spot in any photographer’s bag. The 35mm focal length is an excellent option for photographers who want a good prime lens that can do it all. It’s wide enough for landscapes but long enough for portraits. Photographers who do environmental portraiture adore this lens for the super sharp and incredibly stunning images it creates. This lens may be significantly cheaper than the similar offerings from Canon but, make no mistake, this is a professional-quality lens. The focus rings glide smoothly when twisted and the smooth metal barrel feels sturdy in your hands. This is an excellent wide angle lens at an incredible price.

Conclusion

Wide angle lenses are very useful tools for photographers due to their ability to capture a lot in one frame and the stunning perspectives they can give to ordinary scenes. There are a lot of really good options on the market at all price points. If you are having a hard time choosing between all the different options available, you can always rent a lens to take for a spin before making your big purchase.

If you’re interested in portraiture, you may want to visit one of our other comparison lens guides for information on the best Canon portrait lens on the market.  With the right lens on the front of your camera, wide angle photography can be a whole lot of fun! You can also assure you’re using the best camera by taking a peek at our guide for the best Canon DSLR for video and more.

*As of this writing. Pricing subject to change.

Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD CC Image courtesy of troy_williams on Flickr
Canon 16-35mm f/4L IS CC Image courtesy of The Narratographer on Flickr
Sigma 24mm f/1.4 Art CC Image courtesy of halfrain on Flickr
Sigma 35 f/1.4 Art CC Image courtesy of Wolfgang Staudt on Flickr

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3 Comments

  1. This seems a little bit equivocal, a lot of qualifiers like “Tamron is near the top of the list,” “a good prime lens” and then the good old ranking by price—which is not always a good a predictor of performance. Could you maybe create a supplement that lists the no-excuses, sharp as f, exquisitely rendering, delicious wide angles for Canon?

    Reply
    • I know you’re not like those LensRentals hillbillies down in Tennessee with all their boasting about their expensive testing equipment (which is a point in your favor IMHO) so it would be a real public service if you could give us the West Coast thinking about the 5 greatest Canon-mount wide angles

      Reply
  2. You’ve not mentioned 11-16 tokina 2.8 The first lens I bought ( canon + kit lens ) I paid 900 $ Canadian. Second hand $500 u.s. am sure I saw it for 390 U$ somewhere…..

    Reply

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