6 minute read
Which Wide-Angle Lens for Landscapes?
Improve your view with a dedicated wide-angle lens and watch the world of landscape photography open up
From the glorious drama of the mountains and coasts, to the great openness of the plains and deserts, and even the tangle of woodland and man-made canyons of the city, landscapes are one of the most enduring photographic subjects around. But while you can tackle landscapes using any sort of lens, wide-angle models have become the staple of scenic photography – and with very good reason.
Why is that? It’s down to several things, but one of the most important is how a wide-angle lens gives you a much broader view than a normal lens and lets you take in bigger views without moving your feet. There are more reasons for using specialist wide-angle lenses for landscapes, which we’ll look at below, as well as showcasing the best dedicated wide-angle and ultra wide-angle lenses for FUJIFILM X Series cameras.
So, if you’re thinking of getting into landscape photography and want to push things a little further than your standard zoom allows, read on…
What Is a Wide-Angle Lens?
Technically, wide-angle lenses are those with focal lengths shorter than a ‘normal’ lens. But what’s ‘normal’? That’s based on a diagonal measurement of the individual camera’s sensor size. On an X Series camera, normal lenses are around 28mm, so anything under 28mm is wide angle. And that includes models with focal lengths like 16mm, 18mm, 23mm, and so on.
Because of variations between camera types and sensor sizes, what’s considered wide angle varies, too. So, actually, the easiest way to work out if a lens is a wide angle is to simply look at the angle of view it gives. This will be ‘true’ no matter what the sensor size and can be found in the lens’s specifications. It tells you, in degrees, how much of the scene you’ll be able to record. The higher the number, the wider the view. Lenses with an angle of view of about 60° and greater are wide angle.
What About Ultra Wide-Angle Lenses?
Ultra wide-angle lenses are those with a view that’s even wider than a regular wide-angle model. On X Series bodies, you can assume these are around 14mm or below. In terms of angle of view, look for lenses with an angle of view of about 90° or more.
What Makes Wide-Angles Great for Landscapes?
First, there’s the large angle of view. This lets you fit very big subjects into a frame without needing to move backwards, which is why wide angles are also useful for interiors. So rather than needing to pick out a broad mountainside or valley in multiple shots, you can do it all in one go.
It’s also easier to put the viewer ‘in your position’ with a wide-angle lens, because although the perspective of these lenses is different to the human eye, the angle of view is more similar to human vision. A picture made at a focal length of 50mm will always feel slightly at arm’s length in comparison.
A wide-angle lens’s shorter focal length means it’s also easier to create a very large depth-of-field, and that’s a perfect fit for landscapes. A large depth-of-field means you’ll get a picture that looks sharp from front to back, so everything from the blades of grass in the foreground to the snow-capped mountains on the horizon is full of glorious detail.
Wide-angle lenses can also help to add more depth to a scene. Again, this is due to the different perspective they create compared to your eye. The wider the lens you use, the further off the horizon will seem, while close-up objects will look larger in comparison. This means you get more separation between them, stopping pictures from looking cluttered.
You’ll also find a wide-angle lens will focus relatively close to the camera, so you can pick out lots of detail in the foregrounds of your landscape, like the texture of rocks and sand, the leaves of plants, or the patterns in ice, while still enjoying a big and beautiful view.
Which Wide Angle Is Right for You?
Like all lenses, wide-angle and ultra wide-angle models come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and have various features for different situations. So, the one to pick depends on what sort of landscapes you’re going to be photographing, and how.
Wide-angle zooms, like the FUJINON XF8-16mmF2.8 R LM WR and XF10-24mmF4 R OIS, will give you a broad choice of focal lengths, so you can frame subjects of different sizes without needing to swap to a different optic.
Wide-angle prime lenses have a fixed focal length, so they’re not as versatile, but this means they can be relatively small and light compared to zooms, and are potentially easier to pack and move around with. Prime lenses will also most likely have wider available apertures than zooms. The latter is especially useful if you’re planning to frame low-light landscapes.
As well as the maximum aperture, which will open up low-light photography, it’s worth considering the minimum aperture setting and the number of aperture blades used in the lens. The former tells you how much you can stop down the lens to get longer exposures and reveal moving water and clouds in your landscapes, while the number of aperture blades can have a pronounced effect on the shape of ‘sunstars’ – the star shape you get around the sun or other points of light in the frame when using small apertures. For instance, an even number of aperture blades gives the same number of points to the star, while with an uneven number of blades you’ll get double the number – so a seven-bladed aperture will give 14 points.
One other factor to consider is weather-resistance, designated as WR on X Series lenses. If your lens has this, you’ll be able to make images in more wet and dusty conditions.
Check out the wide-angle options for your X Series camera below.