In this guide, you’ll uncover the reasons as to why we chose the Bower SLY358C Ultra Wide-Angle 8mm f/3.5 Fisheye Lens as the best wide angle lens on our list. You’ll get details for our second pick, a budget alternative, and a variety of specialized options, as well. We try to avoid just recommending one item, our aim geared towards educating our readers rather than advertising for a company. This is why you get some variety to choose from.
Not only do we provide recommendations, but we also explain how we came to those recommendations, what factors were in play when deciding, and how to find the best wide angle lens for your particular needs, too. We understand that not everyone will find that the Bower SLY358C Ultra Wide-Angle 8mm f/3.5 Fisheye Lens isn’t the best wide angle lens for them. They might find a better one somewhere else on our list, or even find a different wide angle lens altogether. We give you the tools and knowledge to be able to do that.
The knowledge to pick a wide angle lens on your own isn’t all you need to be proficient with it, though. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned professional, there are common mistakes that are made when it comes to using a wide angle lens. While most of these mistakes are just done by beginners, professionals may slip up from time to time and need to be reminded again. That’s why we uncover the common mistakes that are made when using a wide angle lens, as well as how to avoid them before you even start shooting.
Common Mistakes Made Using a Wide Angle Lens – and How to Avoid Them
There are some common mistakes easy to be made when it comes to using a wide angle lens. A wide angle lens is a great companion for any photographer, but some may not do all of their research ahead of time. We’re here to fill in the blanks so you don’t have to go get a degree in photography to learn about simple slip-ups that can often be made.
1. There’s No Clear Subject
Everything looks equally insignificant when everything is equal distance away from the lens. You need to get in tight on one particular thing, whether it’s a person, a leaf, or something different altogether. Not having a subject in your image is like not having a turkey on Thanksgiving – it feels like something is definitely missing.
Think hard about what you want in your image. What are you trying to say? A picture is worth a thousand words, so you’re capable of providing a story in your picture if you capture it right. Using the appropriate composition and lighting, figure out what story you want to tell with your image and what you want your viewer to see in the image before you even put your eye up to the camera. Good planning breeds good pictures.
2. Everything is the Same Distance Away
When everything looks equally insignificant when everything is equal distance away from the lens, you’re defeating the whole point of getting a wide angle lens in the first place. Wide angle lenses are designed to distort or stretch some part of the image to give you a different perspective of what you’re looking at overall. When everything is the same distance apart, there’s nothing to focus on. Something needs to be close to the lens in order for you to use a wide angle lens correctly – and by close, we mean mere inches.
The simple way to fix this issue is just to angle the camera a different way. You can angle it to where something immediately comes to your attention when looking at the picture before anything else. Angle your camera and get far enough away from one individual thing to make it the first thing you notice when you look at a picture. Simply get someone else to look at the picture and recommend what needs to be changed if you just can’t see it yourself – sometimes, getting a second opinion is actually preferred over doing it on your own.
3. People Look Unflattering
Distortion is one of the main factors in play when it comes to utilizing a wide angle camera lens. Because of this, it’s no surprise that people tend to look fairly unflattering. Their jaw appears to be protruding, their nose looks wider and elongated, and overall, their head just looks bigger than it’s supposed to be. Generally speaking, it’s just not a good look for people. While people in wide angle shots are there to tell a story, there’s a solution to taking portrait shots with these particular types of lenses.
In order to take a nice portrait, a slightly long lens is preferred. It doesn’t need to be as long as a telephoto lens, but it needs to be longer than average lenses. This will allow you to get the best focal length for a portrait, which is generally 160 mm or higher, although as low as 60 mm can work. In fact, the most common focal length among professional portrait photographers is actually around 85 mm.
4. Stuffing the Image to the Brim
While having a subject in the picture is absolutely vital, filling the image with too much stuff at one time is an overload for the senses. In fact, having too many things in a picture at one time can take away from the overall subject of the picture, leaving people to think something else is meant to be the subject of the picture or that there’s no particular subject at all.
The way to fix this issue is to get close to one, individual subject, even if you have other subjects in the image, and make sure it’s clearly defined. You may need to shoot a hundred times, but you’re guaranteed to get the shot that you want when you pick an individual subject to stick on.
5. Point of the Style is Unclear
There are many uses to a wide angle lens. If you’re using it just because, though, then it ruins the overall image. When the reason you used a wide angle lens instead of a normal lens or a different lens is unclear or cloudy, the image that you capture usually pays the price. What’s worse is when a photographer uses a wide angle lens instead of the appropriate type of lens because they think it’ll look “cool” or “different.” Unfortunately, there’s a vast difference between just been different and being different and unique.
Be absolutely intentional with every image you take. Don’t take a shot just because you hope it’ll look good. Plan ahead of time, think clearly on the subject and other elements that are going to be included in the image, and take it from there. It’s always possible to get that quality moment that you want to keep forever – you just have to make sure you’re actually capturing it and not a waste.
How We Picked the Best Wide Angle Lens
There are many reasons that we came to the conclusion that the Bower SLY358C Ultra Wide-Angle 8mm f/3.5 Fisheye Lens is the best wide angle lens, at least for our list. There are many reasons – and we feel that it’s our job to explain why. We had a list of factors in play, comparing every wide angle lens that we looked at to the list of pre-compiled factors, variables, and preferences. Any lens that didn’t hit the mark, we ruled out. Finally, we were able to narrow it down to just one.
First off, we looked at all the wide angle lenses that were compatible with popular name brands. We ruled out any wide angle lenses that only fit one camera model, fit only obscure brands, or simply didn’t have enough models compatible. Versatility is the game we’re playing, and a wide angle lens meant for only one camera model is great – for that specific camera model. We were looking for the best wide angle lens that fits a large group of different camera models.
Second, we don’t need to gouge a scar into our wallets by purchasing a simple wide angle lens. Expensive lenses are great, and most of the time, they’re actually worth the price they’re offered at or close to it. However, the best wide angle lens shouldn’t have to break anyone’s bank. At the same time, though, it can’t be the cheapest lens out there. We looked for the mid-ranged, reasonably priced wide angle lenses, sticking between $100 and $450 for what we thought was the best wide angle lens out there.
Finally, we looked a little more in-depth at the lenses themselves, testing them out through a variety of different cameras. A lens with a wide focal length is required, as well as a decent range for your field of view. The minimum focusing distance should be no more than 12.5 inches away – the closer the distance, the better. The overall materials the lens is made out of play a role in our decision, too, since the material can alter how a picture is captured. Every simple feature and variable that a wide angle lens can have was put into consideration when looking at the nominees for the best wide angle lens.
Our Pick for the Best Wide Angle Lens
Bower SLY358C Ultra Wide-Angle 8mm f/3.5 Fisheye Lens
As you can see, we had a lot of expectations in place when it came to the best wide angle lens on the market. We had our eyes on the price, and we were rewarded for our attempts. The Bower SLY358C Ultra Wide-Angle 8mm f/3.5 Fisheye Lens met all of the factors and requirements that we had in play.
The Bower SLY358C Ultra Wide-Angle 8mm f/3.5 Fisheye Lens is compatible with Canon DSLR cameras. There’s also a variation of the model, the SLY358N, that’s compatible with Nikon DSLR cameras. This wide angle lens is capable of working with two of the most popular and in-demand brands in the photography world. It definitely meets the need we had in place for a camera lens with a long list of compatible models.
It’s no surprise that the Bower SLY358C Ultra Wide-Angle 8mm f/3.5 Fisheye Lens has a high rating, with how many features it has and all of the advantages that it comes with. For example, it has an ultra-wide focal length of 8 mm and a dramatic field of view of a full 180 degrees. This gives you the perfect wide angle shot when you set it up right and give it the right angle. It also has a minimum focusing distance of 12 inches, half a foot under the max focusing distance we were willing to go. Finally, the lens is made out of optical glass that’s multi-coated with low dispersion ratings and a high index, which makes it perfect for reducing flare-ups. The fixed tulip lens hood is a nice addition to the finished product, too.
Best Wide Angle Lens Step-up Pick
Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM Wide Angle Lens
The Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM Wide Angle Lens is designed for SLR Canon Cameras. It has a 28 mm wide angle lens and a maximum aperture of f/1.8. The high-precision aspherical lens helps to minimize any aberrations and distortion. It’s designed to increase the overall depth of field, which brings in more area for focus. It also broadens the angle of view at the same time.
You can get up close and personal with its minimum focusing distance of 1 foot, just like the first place contender. It’s also light enough in weight that it can be used as a standard wide angle lens, too.
With all of the features this particular lens comes with and the glowing feedback it received on Amazon, it’s easy to question why we didn’t peg this lens for our number one.
As we said, many lenses are worth the price that they’re offered at depending on the lens itself. For those that have the extra dollar to spend, the Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM Wide Angle Lens is certainly worth the price tag.
Best Budget Wide Angle Lens
NEEWER Digital 55mm Macro Wide Angle Lens
There are some frugal testers on our team that were able to try out all of the more affordable camera lenses and give us honest feedback. The high-speed auto-focus and .45x wide angle capabilities are what sold us on this particular wide angle lens. It’s compatible with around 10 different Sony DSLR camera models, so we were able to justify adding it onto the list, though that is part of the reason that it’s so affordable. The price is low for a wide angle camera lens, a lens bag, and a cap that comes included with the purchase.
Best Wide Angle Lens for iPhones
Super Digital Camera Lens 0.45x Wide Angle Lens
The iPhone 5S and on have exemplary cameras that deserve some love. They may not be professional cameras, but they do have lenses for sale all the same. The Super Digital Camera Lens 0.45x Wide Angle Lens is the best one for the iPhone 5S, 6, 6S, and 6 Plus.
Best Wide Angle Lens for Close-Ups
SSE .43x Wide Angle Lens
As we said, most wide angle camera lenses aren’t good for portrait photography because of the distortion in play. However, the SSE .43x Wide Angle Lens comes with a specific adapter designed for close-up photography, so it makes the quality of the image much better.
Best Wide Angle Lens for High Definition
Opteka .35x HD Super Wide Angle Panoramic Macro Fisheye Lens
The Opteka .35x HD Super Wide Angle Panoramic Macro Fisheye Lens produces photos that are literally two times the resolution of a standard HD lens. This means you get true high definition.
Best Wide Angle Lens for No Reflection
Vivitar Series 1 HD3 Optics 0.43x High Definition Wide Angle Lens
If glare is a big problem for you, the Vivitar Series 1 HD3 Optics 0.43x High Definition Wide Angle Lens has anti-reflective multi-coated optical glass that takes the issue right out of your hands. It also includes a five-year warranty and a pouch to carry the lens in.
Best Wide Angle Lens for Android
Apexel Samsung Galaxy S4 Camera Phone Lens Kit
We found the best wide angle lens for iPhones, so we took a look at the best one for Androids, too. The Apexel Samsung Galaxy S4 Camera Phone Lens Kit is designed for the Samsung Galaxy S4, and it actually comes with 4 different lenses to work with: a telephoto, fisheye, wide angle, and macro. It also comes with a mini tripod, so you can look like one of the pros even with a cell phone.
Best Wide Angle Lens for Olympus Cameras
.42x HD Super Wide Angle Panoramic Macro Fisheye Lens
Olympus, while not one of the top two leading brands, is still a popular brand for cameras. The .42x HD Super Wide Angle Panoramic Macro Fisheye Lens is compatible with a variety of different Olympus camera models.
Best Wide Angle Lens for Easy Cleaning
52MM 0.43x Altura Photo Professional HD Wide Angle Lens
The 52MM 0.43x Altura Photo Professional HD Wide Angle Lens is easy to clean and even comes with a MagicFiber microfiber cleaning cloth for the lens. This particular wide angle lens shoots in HD and is compatible with a variety of different Nikon camera models, including the D5100 – D5300 model series.
Commonly Asked Questions About Wide Angle Lenses
If you don’t have time to read the full guide, we created a section perfect for you. You can just get to the nitty gritty of the most commonly asked questions when it comes to wide angle lenses. This will allow you to answer the questions you have before being on your way, and it will better help you find the best wide angle lens for your particular needs and preferences.
What is a Wide Angle Lens?
In short, a wide angle lens is simply any lens that has a short focal length. This basically means that the shorter the focal length is in millimeters, the wider your image is through a wide angle lens. If you have 200 mm, you’re going to get an image with a wider field of view than a picture taken with a focal length of 20 mm. The difference is incredibly noticeable, but you can use that to your advantage. Usually, this is one of the main reasons a photographer wants to invest in a wide angle lens to begin with.
What is the Recommended Focal Length for a Wide Angle Lens?
As we said, a wide angle lens needs a short focal length before it’s considered a wide angle lens. The average focal length is 35 mm, because that’s the length of our field of vision. Anything higher than that is sufficient for wide angles. There is no set recommendation for a number, though. You could get 50 mm, you could get 200 mm – it boils down to whatever your individual preference is.
What is the Recommended Maximum Aperture for a Wide Angle Lens?
Wide angle lenses are used for a number of things, so the recommended aperture of the lens is dependent on the particular situation. However, generally speaking, a faster aperture is always recommended. You could get an f/1.4 lens that is leagues faster than an f/2.8, but it comes down to your preference. It is important to note that a slower aperture is also good for some scenarios, so love should be given to the f/22 lenses all the same.
Would a Telephoto Lens Work Better?
While most people love a good zoom, having excellent zoom in a lens isn’t the only standard to uphold. On the contrary, while a telephoto lens is great for capturing your son’s game from the top of the bleachers, a wide angle lens works better with other situations. We recommend that you get at least one of each throughout your photography life, as they’re both tools that make the overall image quality better.
How Do You Get Rid of or Minimize Distortion in Photos Captured with a Wide Angle Lens?
With a wide angle lens, depending on the angle in which you aim your camera, you have the ability to make a building look like it’s falling over, make a photo look like it’s captured an entire stadium, and much more. You have a lot of power in your hands thanks to the distortion that a photo gets because of a wide angle lens.
The important thing to remember is that the lines in your pictures are not going to be straight when you have a wide angle lens. To account for that, you need to ensure the camera angle and overall image benefits from the distortion the lens creates, rather than has to sacrifice quality. While it is possible to minimize distortion, most prefer to simply use it to their advantage to experience distortion that benefits the overall creative results of the picture.
Wrapping It Up
While we did choose the Bower SLY358C Ultra Wide-Angle 8mm f/3.5 Fisheye Lens as the best wide angle lens for our guide, we also wanted to stress how many other lenses are out there. That’s why we have a second place option, a budget alternative, a variety of specialized picks, and tips for how to find your own. This isn’t a guide to built around recommending certain products. On the contrary, this guide was designed to give you the knowledge you need in order to find the best wide angle lens for your particular preferences.
Not only do we provide all the information you need to find the best wide angle lens, but we also uncovered common mistakes that are made, especially from beginners, when it comes to using a wide angle lens. Correcting these mistakes early on or even knowing about them ahead of time before you even get the lens is the best way to avoid any snags in your photoshoot, professional or not. It does get easier to spot the mistakes right after you make them, as time goes on, but staying ahead of the game and understanding what the mistakes you could make are makes things much easier.
Every individual photographer has their own requirements that a lens needs before they can use it comfortably. That may be any number of factors, from the maximum aperture to the focal length and range. Understanding the different factors that come into play when choosing any camera lens is the best way to finding one that fits the specific need you had in mind for it. You can find the best wide angle lens for what you need, whether it’s to capture an entire football field in one shot, get a glimpse at what the sun does when it touches the horizon, or something else altogether. You can capture all the moments that matter when you find the right one.
Jen Miller is a former electrical engineer and product specialist with more than 20 years of product design and testing experience. She has designed more than 200 products for Fortune 500 companies, in fields ranging from home appliances to sports gear and outdoor equipment. She founded Jen Reviews to share her knowledge and critical eye for what makes consumers tick, and adopts a strict no-BS approach to help the reader filter through the maze of products and marketing hype out there. She writes regularly and has been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, The Huffington Post, Tiny Buddha and MindBodyGreen.