I have now discovered that wide angle photography is possible with a point and shoot camera, providing the point and shoot camera will accept filters or at least an adaptor with a filter thread and this is possible with many modern top end point and shoot cameras.
I don’t normally use a point and shoot camera and my camera of choice is my dslr but whilst researching what photography kit to take on an impeding trip to Italy the advice was to leave the dslr camera at home and use a cheaper point and shoot camera. Italy is notorious for pickpockets, snatch and grab thieves and muggers in the large cities (Rome, Venice, Verona and Naples – all the places I was visiting) and many travellers all advised to take cheaper and less conspicuous “in yer face” cameras to capture photos.
Needless to say I was a bit disappointed since I never go anywhere without my dslr however with kit worth a few thousand bucks (even my lightweight travel photography kit) there was no way I was prepared to risk it so I heeded to the advice and ended up buying a top end point and shoot, the Canon G1X.
I am a fan of street photography and landscape photography and the main reason for the trip to Italy was to experience (and photograph) the Dolomite mountains, Lake Garda and the narrow streets of Italy’s historical cities, all of which require a wide angle lens to get as much in the frame as possible. Even though the Canon G1X has a 35mm equivalent 28mm lens at the wide end I didn’t think it would be wide enough for Italy’s narrow streets, although it would be useful for the Lakes and the mountains. Ideally I would like to go wider for the lakes and mountains, but 28mm is better than nothing.
Since the Canon G1X doesn’t have an interchangeable lens the only way to increase the focal range, hence allowing for true wide angle photography is to add a lens converter. The Canon G1X, like most top end point and shoot cameras, has an adaptor (available at an extra charge of course) to provides a thread to allow the use of filters, and you can use this to attach a wide angle converter too.
The wide angle converter is a “mini lens” with a wider angle of view you screw in to the end of the fixed lens. Since the wide angle lens converter is another piece of glass for the light to travel through there is a reduction in light you have to compensate for. In addition to this the wide angle lens converter does reduce the image quality and the edges of the photos are a little soft. Whilst the edges turn soft the centre of the frame remains unaffected to the human eye at least. Upload the photo to a computer and you will see the centre is adversely affected, but you have to go pixel peeping to see this.
Okay, the wide angle converter does reduce the image quality but you can mitigate the effects by shooting wider than you want to and then cropping the image to get rid of the softer edges, use decent photo editing software to increase hue and saturation (both of which suffer from using the wide angle converter), sharpen the image and also correct all the distortions that occur from using wide angle lenses (i.e. converging lines and the like). Getting the most out of a wide angle converter involves quite a bit of editing, so it is not a wide angle photography accessory for the purist photographer.
How wide do wide angle converters go?
There are several different wide angle converters available from 0.7x down to 0.16X, so there are converters that will shoot wide, converters that will produce the full fisheye (i.e. circular) effect and converters between the two.
Many people seem to be confused over converters and what effective focal lengths they will produce, however it really isn’t that difficult. For example, let’s say you are going to use a lens with a focal length of 28mm (like my Canon G1X at its widest setting). Using a 0.7x wide angle converter it is like using a lens with a focal length of 20mm (28 x 0.7), and using a 0.16x wide angle converter it is like using a lens with a focal length of 5mm (28 x 0.16).
If you want to know what effect a wide angle converter will have simply multiply the focal length of the lens you will use it on buy the number etched on the wide angle converter (which is always less than 1).
The full fish eye effect generally kicks in when using lenses with focal lengths of 8mm – 10mm (35mm equivalent) so if you want the full fisheye effect you need to make sure the lens and wide angle combo gets the focal lengths to at least these figures.
Buying wide angle converters for wide angle photography
Take a look at Amazon and you will find loads of wide angle converters and the price vary from a few bucks to over a hundred, so there is quite a difference. Basically, a wide angle converter is going to reduce the image quality, there is no getting over that, so this is something you have to deal with.
Secondly, there really is no need to spend a fortune on a wide angle converter and the expensive ones are a total waste of money. Buying a wide angle converter is not like buying a lens in that the more you spend the better the build quality, optics, glass etc. When you buy a wide angle converter there is no need to spend more than thirty to forty bucks.
Whilst looking for a wide angle converter on Amazon I found the cheaper ones received higher ratings than the more expensive ones. I wonder if this is because the expectations when spending over a hundred bucks on a product are so much higher than when spending around thirty bucks? The other thing to remember is that a wide angle converter is simply a piece of glass and the lens on which you attach the wide angle converter is more important than the actual wide angle converter you use.
The wide angle converter I ended up buying is Newer branded and cost around twenty bucks. I have to say that I am more than happy with it since it allows me to achieve the types of image I want to whilst retaining good image quality. That said, the lens on the Canon G1X is superb as is the entire camera and I doubt that if I use my wide angle converter on a cheaper type of point and shoot camera I would get the same results.
At the end of the day it is the camera that dictates the overall image quality and not the wide angle converter so don’t be duped in to thinking that because you buy the most expensive wide angle converter you will get the best image quality. Trust me, there really is no need to spend a fortune on a wide angle converter when the cheaper ones give the same results for a fraction of the cost.
Is a wide angle converter worth buying?
If you want to do some wide angle photography with your point and shoot camera you have no option other than to use a wide angle converter. Okay there is a reduction in image quality, but you can mitigate this using a decent photo editing software package and you will get a usable photo at the end.
Based on my experience with a wide angle converter on my trip to Italy I would recommend a wide angle lens converter. The effective 28mm wide end on my Canon G1X wouldn’t have been wide enough to get the type of shots I wanted to get and I would have been very disappointed if I didn’t have one with me.
Sure, I would have preferred to have taken my dslr, 16-35 f4L lens and fisheye lens but I would have been a target for the thieving scum that loiter around in the touristy parts of the Italian cities, and I would have been gutted if I had lost all my expensive gear.
The Canon G1X and wide angle converter served me well, and whilst I have had to spend a fair amount of time on the computer editing the photos I have managed to get quite a few commercial and stock shots I plan to upload to the various sites I use to try and generate some income from them.
Other compact camera articles you may find interesting
If you found the above useful/interesting below are some links to other related articles you may want to take a look at.
“WHY YOU NEED A PROFESSIONAL POINT AND SHOOT CAMERA” My camera of choice is my dslr however I also get great photos using my top end point and shoot camera, therefore I am of the opinion a top end is a camera all photographers should have in their kit bag. If you can’t see where I am coming from this article may shed some light on it.
“LONG EXPOSURE PHOTOGRAPHY USING A COMPACT CAMERA” Long exposure photography results in some interesting and stunning photos, and it is something you can do with a compact camera. If you want to know how check out this article.
“USING A POINT AND SHOOT CAMERA FOR MACRO PHOTOGRAPHY” If you want to know how to capture stunning macro photos with your point and shoot camera this article is something you may wish to take a look at.
“CAN YOU USE A TOP END POINT AND SHOOT CAMERA FOR FAST ACTION PHOTOGRAPHY?” So you want a camera for some fast action images and want to know if a top end point and shoot is going to suit your needs. This article should be of use.
“USING A POINT AND SHOOT CAMERA FOR FISHEYE PHOTOGRAPHY” As well as wide angle photography you can also use a point and shoot camera for ultra-wide angle, i.e. fisheye photography, and all you need is an inexpensive converter as detailed in this article.
“LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY WITH A PROFESSIONAL COMPACT CAMERA” If you want some tips on how to capture stunning landscape shots with your professional compact camera this article may be of interest.
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.