Any lens with a focal length of less than 30mm is considered wide and any lens with a focal length of 30mm – 35mm is borderline and some photographers would consider this focal range as wide (it is wider than the “standard” 40mm – 85mm range) whereas others wouldn’t. At the end of the day what constitutes as wide comes down to personal preference.
If you want a “proper” wide angle prime lens for your crop sensor camera you have to look at lenses with focal lengths of 16mm – 18mm. Sure, there are prime lenses that are wider than this but these are typically fisheye lenses, which may or may not be suitable for your requirements.
There is one wide angle lens in particular that is head and shoulders above the rest, and that is the Canon 14mm f2.8L lens. Like all L series lenses this lens is built like a tank and very robust, and the image quality is absolutely amazing. Sounds good doesn’t it? There is one catch and that is the eye watering price tag. Yep, this lens is mega expensive and out of the reach for most people. If money were no object this is the only wide angle prime lens you need to get, but if (like most people) you have a budget you may find this lens a bit out of reach.
There are third party prime lenses in the 14mm – 16mm focal length range, such as the Samyang 14mm f2.8 and the Rokinon 14mm f2.8 lenses. These third party lenses are budget and feel it. The build quality of these lenses is pretty poor, they are manual focus only and the image quality using them wide open isn’t that great either. I have read reviews from people raving about these lenses and I have to say I don’t understand why. There reviews hark on about “great build quality” and “great image quality” and the only conclusion I can reach is the people reviewing these lenses have never seen/used an L series lens or even a mid-priced Canon branded lens. I have used the Samyang and Roknion 14mm lenses, and whilst the focal length is spot on everything else about them is less than impressive, and I would never recommend either of them.
If you shoot a Canon with a crop sensor and want a decent wide angle prime lens, i.e. one that is well built, has excellent image quality and is also affordable the best option is a 20mm prime lens, which is an effective 32mm focal length.
CANON EF 20mm f2.8
Focal Length – Full frame/APS-C:- 20mm/32mm/ Aperture:- 2.8 - 22 /Min focus:- 9.8" /Dimensions:- 3.07" x 2.80" / Weight:- 14.3oz/Image stabilization:- No/Price (approx.) $USD/£GBP:- $540.00/£450.00
The Canon 20mm f2.8 is the second widest EF prime lens, and the only prime lens wider is the (stupidly expensive) 14mm f2.8L. With a focal length of 20mm (effective 32mm on an APS-C camera) this lens is wide enough to get a lot in the frame, which makes it ideal for landscapes, seascapes, interiors and architecture.
The 20mm focal length is a bit too wide for single person portraits because it tends to distort the face and throw all the features out of proportion, which isn’t a flattering look. That said, it is a great lens for group shots and the f2.8 aperture is useful for throwing the background out of focus although you do need to take care when using such wide apertures to make sure everything that should be sharp remains sharp.
The image quality of this lens is exceptionally good, and whilst the sharpness is acceptable wide open you need to stop it down a little to get sharpness from the centre to the edges, i.e. across the entire frame. At the other extreme, i.e. at very narrow apertures, diffraction rears its head around f16 (although it is manageable) and gets worse at narrower apertures. This lens has a sweet spot at f8 – f11, and photos taken at these apertures are sharp, crisp, bright and colourful but not over saturated.
This lens isn’t made from the same grade materials as the L series lenses, and neither is it weather sealed but it is still very well built. The lens does feel a little plastic but don’t let this put you off because it is very well constructed and built to last. Compared to other 20mm lenses this lens is small and light, so if size is important to you this lens may well be right up your street.
This is a mid-priced lens which means you are going to have to be prepared to dig deep to buy it, but you won’t need to re-mortgage your property like you do with some other lenses. All around this is a great value for money lens.
Buy the Canon EF 20mm f2.8 lens from Amazon.com or buy from Amazon.co.uk.
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.