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I own a DSLR for less than a year, currently shooting with my Nikon D90 and 18-70mm DX lens. Since the beginning of it, I am deeply in love with shooting landscapes photography: seascapes, skyscapes, cityscapes.

I am thinking of upgrade to what I believe the next best lens for landscapes photography: 10-24mm DX lens, but I received mixed messages makes me doubting and delaying my decision.

From what I see in web posts/pages and discussion with friends, ultra-wide lens photography is not about "fitting more in" but "putting subject into the picture": "covering more into photo" was what I after and this sounds like maybe this 10-24mm isn't for me.

Here's an example photo of my photography style:

enter image description here

(More can be found in my flickr album: http://www.flickr.com/photos/travaganza/ )

So the question was, is an Ultra-wide lens going to enhance my landscape photography experience as I will be able to "cover more into picture"? Or will I end up with an expensive specialised lens that I will be annoyed by amount of distortion on edges (and post-correction will end up 'zooming' the end product)?

Thanks in advance :)

.

Edit: The question title is way to subjective. I update the question title hopefully it points my question to a better direction :-/ The new question title is: "Does an Ultra-Wide Lens perform in Landscape Photography?", where perform as it: "whether it is designed for". Again, I'm fairly new to photography, don't be too harsh on me :S

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Honestly this is too subjective. The lens you need depends on how you see the world. We can't tell you much that is meaningful to you. The hint you have is the number of times you were composing a shot and wished you could go wider. –  Itai Mar 15 '11 at 13:52
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As @Itai noted, this is really subjective. You might be able to turn this into a more meaningful question by rephrasing it as "what are the usual uses for a super-wide angle lens" but as written there definitely isn't any 'right' answer. –  ahockley Mar 15 '11 at 14:13
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If you want to 'fit more in', use your feet and move back further! Improve your skills, not your kit. –  ElendilTheTall Mar 15 '11 at 14:13
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@Itai, thanks for the comment. I know the question title seems subjective and so as most non-knowledge-oriented photography discussions. However I try to express myself on my expectation and trying to found out whether the designated lens is designed so. An alternative question (and maybe am branching it) will be "is wider coverage the better in landscape photography"? –  rockacola Mar 15 '11 at 14:14
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@ElendilTheTall - It's not always possible to take more distance and when it is possible, it doesn't necessarily give the same effect as using a wider angle lens. I agree that you should improve your skills, but sometimes you need more than skills. –  Kristof Claes Mar 15 '11 at 15:00

7 Answers 7

up vote 15 down vote accepted

Yes and No. That's the only true answer.

A lens has to be adapted to your vision and subject. Landscape is a very broad category and I know fine-art landscape photographers who mainly shoot with wide lenses and others mainly with telephoto lenses (ex: 70-200mm).

The angle-of-view of ultra-wide lenses really emphasizes the foreground. Moving back with a longer lens is not equivalent (as someone suggested) as it changes the relationship between of things at different depths.

In some locations you end up very close to the scenic vistas (beaches, nature trails) and there are interesting foreground details which deserve emphasis (flowers, seashells, moss, etc) in which case a wide-angle be easier to compose with. Other locations, the interesting things are far and without a long lens is becomes difficult to make an interesting shot.

Regardless of what angle-of-view your lens is, you have to be able to fill the frame with interesting things. Jay Maisel says 'Everything in your frame helps you or hurts you'. If I can crop an image without changing the aspect ratio of my frame, I consider that I failed to take the best shot possible.

Take the shots from you gallery for example and imagine if there was more to the sides and above or below. Would the shot be more interesting? Or would people start wondering what its about?

SUBJECTIVE PART NOW :)

Honestly, I consider myself a wide-angle shooter, most of my photos are taken wide but I also know that it is much harder to make a wide shot work. That does not mean, I should just shoot with a longer lens because what I see in a scene is how things combine and contrast, some people see details more and that is simply a different way of seeing.

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this is very comprehensive, thanks for further elaborate on your perspective! –  rockacola Mar 15 '11 at 15:42
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I really like your answer. With my own shooting I ran into an issue where a 12mm lens created images with so much chromatic aberration that they were unusable. With the technologies available today I am sure lenses are much better than they were 10 years ago, but I believe physics will still get in the way of ultra-wide angle lenses producing images that are as edge-to-edge sharp as a wide angle lens. –  Dave Nelson Mar 15 '11 at 17:39

If you want to fit more in, and assuming you don't have Ken Duncan's budget for a Linhof panoramic camera, you may do well with photo stitching software. Canon ships software for this with its DSLRs. I believe PhotoShop will also help you do it.

An ultra wide like the Tokina 11 - 16 I use will lead you to a whole different approach as your foreground becomes more pronounced.

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Until very recently my shortest lens was a 20mm. While I've always wanted something shorter, I never had the means to buy quality below that and still buy whatever else I needed more urgently.

That out of the way, anything can work for landscapes. One of my best (IMO) landscapes was shot using a 500mm tele, another one I really like was shot using a 28mm wide angle lens (both on slide film btw). I've used just about anything in between as well.

Grand Tetons at dawn, Velvia 50, 28mm

Skyline at dusk, across the Ijsselmeer, Provia 100, 500mm

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Thanks for the comment. Before this question I always thought landscape photography meaning wide or ultra-wide angle pictures, but now I don't I should not falsely believe wider is better landscape. Also, can I assume the first photo of yours is with 500mm while 2nd one is 20mm? –  rockacola Mar 16 '11 at 13:15
    
@rockacola - it looks like it's the other way around -- the sun(set?), with the sun appearing so large against the distant scrub, is a telephoto; the creek, with the tall foreground grass, is a moderate wide angle. –  user2719 Mar 17 '11 at 3:59
    
yah, the sunset photo was taken at 500mm. For some reason the comments I placed with them didn't show up. –  jwenting Mar 18 '11 at 7:19

Landscape photography can be a very broad field, and can make use of focal lengths anywhere from 10mm up through 400mm. Not every focal length will work for every landscape photographer, and what you define as your own personal style will ultimately dictate the kind of landscape photography you do. Ultra-wide angle, wide angle, normal focal lengths, and telephoto lengths can all work for landscape photography. Generally speaking, you use ultrawide/wide to get close to your foreground, while still capturing expansive depth in your scene. The more you zoom, the more you can focus on a specific element of a landscape scene, subtracting the unnecessary and zeroing in on the elements that matter.

As a landscape photographer myself, I've tried not to limit myself. I have shots taken with 400mm telephoto, and shots taken with 16mm wide angle (its not quite ultra-wide on my camera, as I have an APS-C sensor currently.) I like many shots taken at 16mm/FF or 10mm/APS-C, as when done right, they can capture amazing close-up detail (such as pebbles under the water near a lake shore) while still bringing in the beauty of the surrounding landscape. I would say my favorite focal lengths are probably ultrawide (16/10mm FF/APS-C), 24/16mm FF/APS-C, 70/85mm FF, and 200mm FF. I think a lot of the best landscape photography rolls in around the 24mm (effective) focal length range, with the second most common being the 16mm (effective) focal length range. Those few very talented landscape photographers come up with amazing compositions at 180-200mm, however there are fewer such shots.

You might want to look at my answer to the following question: EF-S 18-55mm kit vs 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 for nature photography I have linked several great landscape photographs shot with ultra-wide angle lenses to demonstrate the value of wide-angle lenses.

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Looking at the picture you included here and the pictures I saw on your flickr page, I'd say that you'll really enjoy the ultra-wide lens. What I think you'll find is that you'll have to get closer to your subject but you'll still get more into the frame at the edges. So to get something similar to your example picture above, you'll walk right up to the edge of the water, hold the camera just a couple inches above the water (which will challenge you to keep it level (something that is much more important with the ultra-wide lens) (you might also want to get one of those little hotshoe bubble levels)), and you'll still get more of those banks to either side.

You can handhold the wider focal lengths a little longer than you can longer focal lengths, which is really nice for those water-blurring pictures I see you like. Not that you can really hand-hold a one-second picture, but you can make do holding the camera on top of a semi-stable rock.

You will see some loss of detail in subjects that are farther away. So that sign and... kayakers?... would likely be a little blurrier.

My Canon 10-22 has some CA in the corners wide open, but I don't spend any time thinking about that when I take the pictures, and it very rarely shows up. It has a lot less CA than my 40-year-old manual focus telephoto lens or my consumer-zoom 55-250mm.

Haystack Rock is hardly the most original subject, but I think this shows a little of what the ultrawide will do: at 10mm, this picture is a little crooked because I was already backing away from the incoming waves and the camera was just below knee level, and I was so close that I still couldn't get away fast enough and my shoes got soaked. If you can figure out how to download the original full-sized image from flickr, you can also see some of the worst CA I've seen with this lens, along the edges of other rocks. If you tried to frame this with a longer lens you wouldn't have to risk getting wet (so not nearly as much fun to use ;)), but the waves wouldn't be as prominent compared to Haystack Rock, and it might be difficult to avoid getting more empty beach in the foreground.

Haystack Rock

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Very nice picture. Try to perfect it by leveling the horizon. –  ysap Mar 16 '11 at 7:59

I'd just add one thing: if you like the wide look, then you are probably going to want to pony up to a full frame sensor. Crop sensors like on the D90 are less wide then full frames for a given lens size. So you are going to be limited to about a 24mm full frame equiv on any crop sensor camera.

With a full frame camera, you can get rectilinear lenses down to about 16mm that are high quality. You might want to take that into account as you shop for lenses & only buy full frame capable lenses.

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The 10-24mm lens on a Nikon D90 gives a full-frame-equivalent field-of-view of 15mm. –  drewbenn Mar 15 '11 at 20:55
    
I used to think such way but found out that's not true as since 2003 Nikon has offered 12-24mm, a DX specialised ultra-wide equivalent to 18-36mm in Full Frame. Now with better optics 10-24mm DX (equivalent to 15-36mm) makes DX possible to shoot ultra-wide. –  rockacola Mar 15 '11 at 22:44
    
no need, Kevin. how wide is wide? The "wide look" isn't changed by sensor size. After all, the telephoto compression remains the same, all that changes is that the image produced by a DX/APS size sensor is cropped in relation to its 35mm equivalent (which itself is cropped in relation to its MF and LF equivalents). –  jwenting Mar 16 '11 at 7:40
    
<cntd>There is no "focal length multiplier", the very name is a marketing tool and a technical lie. It's a crop factor. Take an image with a lens on a DX size sensor, shoot the same position with the same lens at the same focal length with a 35mm size sensor and you can overlay the one on the other exactly. –  jwenting Mar 16 '11 at 7:41

What this question boils down to, no matter how you phrase the title, is "will buying a wider angle lens help me take the pictures I want to take?"

All of that discussion about "putting subject into the picture" is a bit of a red herring -- it really is about fitting more in. It's about getting all of what's "out there", but also getting what's "right here" at your feet. The contrast of scale makes that vast space out there much more impressive.

There are couple of cheap and easy ways to tell whether you'd be buying a tool or a decoration. The more direct of the two is to rent the lens for a weekend (assuming you have a decent camera shop available -- here in Toronto, we're blessed with a couple of good retailers, Vistek and Henry's, that will gladly rent you such a lens because they know you're much more likely to buy it after using it than while it's just an abstract notion).

The second is much cheaper -- all you need is a short ruler and a piece of cardboard with a 2-units by 3-units hole in the middle (4x6 inches or 10x15cm is a comfortable size to work with). Frame the scene through the hole so it looks the same as what you're seeing through the 18mm end of your lens and measure the distance between your face and the card. Carry the card and ruler (your viewfinder) with you for the next couple-three-four shooting expeditions. If moving the cardboard closer to your eye than the 18mm-equivalent distance makes a better picture often enough, your decision is made. (That technique, by the way, is how I used to decide which lenses/boards to bring with me when shooting 4x5 -- at something like five pounds apiece, mounted, you don't want to sacrifice film, at about a pound for every four exposures, to carry lenses you don't need when hiking.)

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It's about getting all of what's "out there", but also getting what's "right here" at your feet. This really put me into perspective. Thank you. I use this site to help me seeing what others seeing through particular lens (ganref.jp/items/lens/nikon/1173/photo). Looking at landscape photos without a subject: I don't feel there. Does that mean I'm simply craving for extra coverage on sides and not really 'taking better pictures'? –  rockacola Mar 15 '11 at 23:04

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