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by Bart Arondson

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I use an NEX, with two prime lenses — a 19mm and a 35mm. I seem to prefer the 19mm one, which set me thinking if I should explore ultra-wide-angle lenses. Unfortunately, $700 or so is too expensive for me given that I don't know if I will like ultra-wide-angle photos.

Is there an affordable lens, like $200-400? It needn't have the absolute best optical quality. I'm okay with a slower lens, like f/3.5 or f/4. Ideally it would be a zoom, but even a prime would do.

I'm a little surprised that even with these rather relaxed requirements (slow, either zoom or prime, needn't have the absolute best quality), I'm unable to find an ultra-wide-angle lens. Is there one?

UPDATE: I don't want a fisheye lens, but a rectilinear one. A little distortion and chromatic aberration are fine, as long as it can be corrected in-camera (when I choose to shoot JPEG) and in Lightroom (when I choose RAW).

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Have you looked at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Sony_E-mount_lenses or store.sony.com/… or the E-Mount Wide Angle Conversion Lens? –  dpollitt Dec 12 '13 at 18:58
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To some extent, this is the inverse question of Why are 50mm Lenses Cheaper?. Wide-angle lenses are expensive because they don't have the advantages that apply to lenses around 50mm; it's worth noting that no other systems have wide-angle lenses significantly cheaper than that available for the E-mount. –  Philip Kendall Dec 12 '13 at 20:13
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Is there anywhere near you which will let your hire lenses so you can find out if ultra-wide photography is what interests you? –  Philip Kendall Dec 12 '13 at 20:15
    
Philip, sure, but I'm willing to compromise on other aspects, like speed (f/4), and a bit on the sharpness. I'm also open to both prime and zoom lenses. I'm just surprised, as I said in the original question, that I can't find a cheap ultra-wide lens even with these relaxed requirements. –  Kartick Vaddadi Dec 13 '13 at 4:28
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Ultra-wide lenses are expensive. Sorry about it, but that's the way it is. Stan's answer to the question I linked above gives one reason as to why ultra-wides are expensive (big piece of glass at the front), and there's also issue of keeping distortion down for a rectilinear lens; there's only so much correction you can do in software. –  Philip Kendall Dec 13 '13 at 8:26

4 Answers 4

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Sticking with your requirements of around 12mm or so focal length, rectilinear, autofocus and less than around $400, the simple answer to this is "no, you can't have that" even if you're prepared to compromise on other things like speed, optical quality and (lack of) zoom. If you're prepared to give up on autofocus (which generally isn't too much of a problem for ultra-wide lenses because the hyperfocal distance is only a couple of metres), there are a couple of options from Samyang/Rokinon:

  • Their 8mm fisheye mentioned in Lars's answer.
  • Their 14mm f/2.8 rectilinear lens. As I write this (December 2013), this is nominally available, but I'm not aware of any reviews yet. The "SLR" version of the lens retails for around $400, so I'd expect the price of the E-mount version to settle around about there. Note that this lens is the same design as the "SLR" version, just with an adapter tube permanently attached so isn't as small as a native design for E-mount could be.

The same applies to other lens mounts as well, so this isn't a case of there being a hole in the E-mount line-up: it's just that wide-angle lenses are expensive.

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There's rectilinear 14mm f/2,8 Samyang fully manual lens that goes just below $400, but it is not available with E-mount. (Sample photo from aps-c camera.) –  Esa Paulasto Dec 13 '13 at 22:02
    
Wasn't aware of that, and according to this press release, it will be available in E-mount in 2 months from 2013-10-13 so in three days time :-) That said, it does seem to be "just" the SLR version of the lens with an adapter permanently attached. –  Philip Kendall Dec 13 '13 at 22:18
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Anyone reading this in a few months when the Samyang 14mm is actually available: please edit the answer to bring it up to date! –  Philip Kendall Dec 13 '13 at 22:29
    
I edited the question to remove the autofocus requirement, and clarified that I don't want fisheyes. The press release you linked to seems to say that aperture control is manual. I guess that rules it out for me :( Thanks for your help, though. –  Kartick Vaddadi Dec 14 '13 at 5:11
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If you're not yet at the level of aperture control, I'd double down on my advice of "learn, don't spend money". That will make a much bigger difference to your photos. –  Philip Kendall Dec 26 '13 at 20:27

As I see it, you have pretty much only one choice with native E-mount lenses: the Samyang/Bower/Rokinon 14mm prime. Alternatively, you could get an official Sony A-mount to E-mount adapter and an ultrawide zoom such as the Sigma 10-20 f/4-5.6. Both solutions should work for you, but the combination of the A-mount adapter and the Sigma lens is probably above your budget.

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Would the fact that it's just a lens made for a different mount with an E-mount adapter fixed permanently make it bigger than a lens designed for the E-mount? –  Kartick Vaddadi Dec 27 '13 at 3:48
    
Yes, it does; see my answer above. –  Philip Kendall Dec 27 '13 at 10:21

For really wide angle, there's the Samyang/Rokinon 8mm f/2.8 fisheye. It will distort quite heavily and is a completely manual lens, but both optics and mechanics are superb (I own it). You can pick it up at Amazon for $269.

This is certainly the widest-angle lens you can get for a NEX.

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While this is a good option, I don't think it fits the users criteria which seems to include autofocus. –  dpollitt Dec 12 '13 at 20:53
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Good point, I missed that bit. I do find that I rarely have to focus with this lens -- at f/5.6 and beyond basically everything is in focus all the time. –  Lars Kotthoff Dec 12 '13 at 21:45
    
I agree completely, for typical uses of an UWA lens, autofocus is rarely necessary. But that is a different topic I guess. –  dpollitt Dec 12 '13 at 21:47
    
If autofocus is unnecessary at this focus length, I can relax that requirement. What else will I lose by going with a lens not natively designed for the E-mount? Do you suggest buying such a lens? BTW, I was looking more at an ultra-wide angle rectilinear lens rather than a fisheye one. Perhaps 12mm. Distortion or chromatic aberration are fine, as long as it can be corrected in-camera (when I decide to shoot JPEG) and in Lightroom (when I decide to shoot RAW). –  Kartick Vaddadi Dec 13 '13 at 4:21
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This is a native E-mount lens -- no adapter needed. You'll have to decide whether a fisheye is suitable for you (there're plenty of reviews/pictures), but if so, I highly recommend this lens. –  Lars Kotthoff Dec 13 '13 at 9:22

It's odd to see no one has mentioned Sony's 16mm f2.8 pancake prime lens with 12mm ultra wide adapter yet. At $300 that seems to be precisely what you're looking for. There is just one catch: sharpness of this lens is dysmal below f/5.6. Just remember the 5.6 magic number and you should be fine, though. Of course that limits its use to daytime conditions if you mind the otherwise heavily compromised border and corner sharpness.

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