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Old 08-12-2007, 09:50 PM
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ShaolinTiger ShaolinTiger is offline
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Super Wide Angle Lenses for dSLR - Sigma 10-20mm, Tamron 11-18mm, Sigma/Tokina/Nikkor 12-24mm, Canon 10-22mm

Why Wide?

Most people have trouble decided which lenses to buy, especially when it comes to focal range and aperture.

You might at some point start feeling your kit lens or walk-around lenses just isn't wide enough some times. Most kit lenses are 18mm at the wide end (14mm for the 4/3rds system) and most replacement f/2.8 models are 16mm (16-35mm f/2.8 L) or 17mm (Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8, Canon 17-55 f/2.8 IS, Nikkor 17-55mm or 17-35mm f/2.8).

16 or 17mm is fairly wide for a full frame or 35mm film camera, but on a cropped 1.5x or 1.6 sensor it's just not that wide.

That's where this new generation of super wide angle lenses come in 10-12mm at the widest aimed at digital SLR cameras with cropped sensor (APS-C sensors).

For landscape or cityscape junkies a super-wide lens is a must, you just cant back up far enough to get the right perspective.

The only thing you have to be careful with is perspective distortion, but even with that - you can learn to use it to your advantage.

You need a superwide if:
  • You always feel like you need to back up to get more in
  • You often find yourself in tight situations with a wall behind you and you need more focal width
  • You love landscapes
  • You are bored of all the 'normal' perspectives and want something different

The last one can also be satiated with a fish-eye lens, but that's a specialist lens and not as useful as a good superwide.

Which Wide?

Ok now you know you NEED a super-wide lens, which one do you buy?

The main choices are:
  • Sigma 10-20mm F/4-5.6 EX DC HSM
  • Sigma AF 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6 HSM EX DG
  • Tokina AT-X 124 AF Pro DX 12-24mm f/4
  • Tamron SP AF11-18mm F/4.5-5.6 Di-II LD ASPHERICAL
  • Nikon AFS 12-24 mm f/4 G ED IF DX Nikkor
  • Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM
I'll rate these in order according to my experience with these lenses, online reviews and a lot of research.

A couple of exemptions before I start, if you are using a 5D or other full-frame camera the best bet is probably the Sigma 12-24mm as it's the only REALLY wide full-frame lens. 16mm might be wide enough for you on a FF though.

If you are a Canon user the 10-22mm is probably the best bet, it's sharp, focuses fast and has nice colour/contrast. Between that and the Sigma it's a close call - I suggest you try them both.

The rest is mostly for Nikon users as our Nikkor lens (The 12-24mm) isn't great, so we really need to look at the 3rd party offerings.

The difference between 10mm and 12mm is considerable, go wide!


I have tested all of these lenses.

In 3rd place - Nikon AFS 12-24 mm f/4 G ED IF DX Nikkor

The main thing this lens has going for build quality and it's made by Nikon!

Plus it's contast f/4 - but seriously who's gonna be shooting landscapes without a tripod wide open? If you are spending 2k on a landscape lens I doubt that's a consideration.

The Tokina build quality is just as good as this lens, plus it has better sharpness edge to edge.

Not that sharpness is a huge consideration for super-wide lenses, none of them are super sharp.

I think is probably the most over-priced Nikon lens - not to say it's completely crap...but it's certainly not the best choice. I'm a great fan of Nikon lenses, but I think the 12-24mm is a waste of space. I'd much prefer the 10.5mm Fisheye if I was gonna spend that kind of cash.

Plus it's 12mm, if you wanna go wide - go all the way!

Price around RM3300.

In 2nd place - Tokina AT-X 124 AF Pro DX 12-24mm f/4

If you are bothered by distortion (likely to shoot architecture), get the Tokina 12-24mm, it's second best in my books, sharper than the Nikkor, build quality can easily equal it and it's much cheaper.

This is a super lens, if you don't want the extra 2mm get this lens, build quality is superb, sharp, contrasty, nice colours and virtually no distortion

Price around RM1800.

In 1st place Sigma 10-20mm F/4-5.6 EX DC HSM

I bought the Sigma 10-20mm, the HSM is fast and smooth and silent, it's sharp, the distortion is just fine.

I actually like it, it makes for more interesting pictures, I find pictures from the Tokina and the Canon 10-22mm which both handle distortion extremely well rather 'flat'.

The 10mm makes a BIG difference too, each mm towards the wide end works out as a lot of degrees. If I want wide, I want really wide!

If not I'd just stick to the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 as that is razor sharp.

The build quality is fine and the quality control issue is mostly end-user error - there are very few actually bad lenses. It has HSM so the focusing is fast and silent and it works on the New Nikon D40 and D40x.

The non-constant aperture isn't an issue as I mentioned above, usually on a tripod at f/8-11 anyway.

Owning the 10-20mm the only complaints I would have are:
  • Stupid coating which is liable to peel off
  • Stupid side-pinch lens cap which can't be used with the lenscap on (I changed mine for center-pinch Nikon cap - which is good)
  • Non constant f/4 aperture - but as I explained above in reality I don't find this a limitation
Price around RM2000.

The Others

Worst of the lot was Tamron 11-18mm, ugly distortion, bad build quality, slow focus, lacking contrast and muted colours, just what you don't want for a mainly landscape lens.

The Sigma 12-24mm is a HUGE lens, it lacks filter support and it's heavy. It's not particularly sharp but distortion is extremely well controlled. I'll suggest this one only for full frame users.

Pictures from the Sigma 10-20mm F/4-5.6 EX DC HSM

Go get a super-wide - it'll add an extra dimension to your pictures.
Old 08-12-2007, 10:13 PM
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limgt limgt is offline
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Cool article! I'm expected to get my Sigma 10-20mm by year end, hopefully in time for HK trip! Previously was pondering between Nikkor 18-200VR and the Sigma, but I figure I love landscapes too much to miss the 10mm - furthermore, it's cheaper! :p
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Old 08-12-2007, 10:44 PM
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An ultra wide really adds a new dimension to your photographs. Some shots from the Canon EF-S 10-22

Last edited by siew; 08-12-2007 at 10:47 PM..
Old 08-12-2007, 11:10 PM
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limgt limgt is offline
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I guess I'll just have to live with stitching pano before getting my hands on ultra wide

9 become 1 @ 18mm

Tugu Negara/National Monument
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Old 08-13-2007, 12:03 AM
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bcteh bcteh is offline
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Yeah ...10mm is the ideal focal length for landscape.
Old 08-13-2007, 07:13 PM
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Very good article ST.

Guys, superb wide angle shots!
Old 08-13-2007, 07:28 PM
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ST, you are just too bad. You make me want to spend more. You make an additional item to my wist list.

Anyway, thx for you effort to put up the review!!
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Old 08-13-2007, 07:30 PM
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noruazumi noruazumi is offline
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great write-up ST.
this would be a great help for those who want to get super-wide lenses.
Old 08-13-2007, 09:00 PM
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Originally Posted by noruazumi View Post
great write-up ST.
this would be a great help for those who want to get super-wide lenses.
Not great help, but great poison... :p
"Stay hungry, stay foolish" - Steve Jobs

Old 08-16-2007, 08:21 AM
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ckchowov ckchowov is offline
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Wah...makes me wanna find a superwide converter lense for my FZ50.
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