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.
The smaller the focal length, the wider the lens. Wide angle lenses are perfect for capturing scenery, creating images with dramatic backgrounds, 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.
The 5 Best Wide Angle Lenses for Canon
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.
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 some of the best wide angle lenses on the market:
The Best Wide Angle Lenses for Canon
($73 for a 7 day rental, $1,200 retail)
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.
($52 for a 7 day rental, $1,000 retail)
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.
($41 for a 7 day rental, $750 retail)
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.
($56 for a 7 day rental, $850 retail)
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.
($53 for 7 day rental, $900 retail)
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.
Best Wide Angle Lenses for Canon Under $900
|Lens||Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X 116 Pro DX-II||Tokina ATX AF 16-28mm f/2.8 Pro FX for Canon||Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM||Canon 17-40mm f/4L||Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art|
|Minimum Focus Distance||12″||11″||10″||11″||10″|
|Distortion||some barrel distortion at 11mm on APS-C and all the way to 16mm on full frame||moderate at 16mm, none at 28mm||moderate at 10mm||moderate distortion typical of a wide angle lens||very minimal|
|Weight||1.9 lbs||3.0 lbs||14 oz.||1.85 lbs||1.5 lbs|
Best Wide Angle Lenses for Canon Under $1,500
|Lens||Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art||Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6 HSM II||Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS||Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Lens||Canon 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye|
|Minimum Focus Distance||12″||11″||11″||11″||6″|
|Distortion||very minimal||barrel distortion 12 mm, pincushion distortion at 24||very minimal distortion at 35mm, moderate barrel distortion at 16mm||very minimal||Heavy distortion of a fisheye lens|
|Weight||1.5 lbs||1.4 lbs||2.1 lbs||3.4 lbs||1.2 lbs|
Best Wide Angle Lenses for Canon Over $1,500
|Lens||Canon 24mm f/1.4L II||Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Milvus ZE||Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II||Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L Tilt-Shift||Canon 11-24mm f/4L|
|Minimum Focus Distance||10″||9″||8″||10″||11″|
|Distortion||minimal||minimal||very minor barrel distortion||minimal barrel distortion||very minimal (invisible from 14-24, moderate at 11)|
|Weight||1.4 lbs||1.6 lbs||1.4 lbs||1.8 lbs||2.6 lbs|
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. You may also want to reference some of our other top lens picks with our guide to the best lens for Sony a6000 and more!
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.
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