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A super-wide-angle lens can be a very powerful tool for creating powerful images and shooting awesome videos. There are many great uses for these lenses, including landscapes, architectural photography, travel and interiors. They are essential in any pro’s kit for a number of reasons. But before you decide to get one, there a few things you need to keep in mind.
Don’t go looking for a long zoom range because these lenses aren’t designed for that. Most of the times, they shine at their shortest focal length. Buying one with a longer zoom range will just make it a shorter kit lens, so it’s best to choose one with a shorter focal range.
This is an important specification. Having a lens with an internal focusing system means that its front element will never extend during focusing. This gives it the ability to use petal shaped hoods that reduce lens flare and protect it against a possible impact.
APS-C or full frame
It’s very important to choose the right lens for your camera. If you have a crop sensor, don’t buy a full frame super-wide-angle lens. Why? Because even if you buy a 10mm lens designed for a 35mm camera, the crop factor will make it an actual 15 or 16mm lens, and the difference is noticeable. Look for a proper APS-C format lens. Vice versa, if you own a full frame camera and accidently get a crop lens, you’re in for a nasty surprise. It will either fail to work all together or you will get a specific tunnel vision effect.
While it is preferable to have fast and silent autofocus, it shouldn’t be a deal breaker, especially if you are looking at older lenses that are optically very capable. It does depend on what you want to use it for. If you have an interest in photojournalism and fast action shooting, then yes, a fast auto-focus lens is crucial. But if you’re photographing interiors and time is on your side, you can settle for something less responsive, as long as it’s accurate.
Focus distance scale
It can be a great advantage. Sometimes it’s best to pick the focusing distance manually and exploit the incredible depth of field a lens like this can create.
It’s crucial to determine the importance of filters to your work before buying a super-wide-angle lens. Some of them have a curved front element, thus canceling the possibility to add a normal, screw-on filter. It’s true that some of the best lenses out there have this curved first element, but there are third party filter mounts adapted for them. I haven’t tested one yet so I can’t tell you if they really work or not. If you get a lens with a normal shaped front element and a standard filter attachment, chances are it will be a large diameter one, so filters might cost a little more than usual. However, by no means should you neglect getting at least a protective UV filter.