IT, Photography, Travel

Wide Angle is Cool…

August 31st, 2009 Posted in Photography

… must be what a lot of photographers think. I thought the exact same thing. And I still believe that. But my idea of its purpose has changed. Mind you I am talking about wide angle lenses. Fish eye lenses are not in this group. (Yeah OK, they are wide, but I am talking about undistorted wide angles)

About 6 months ago I bought myself the Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6. As a beginning photographer I wanted to have the whole range covered. from 10mm till 300mm. The Sigma 10-20 is an EF-S lens, so it works only on Canon Crop bodies. If we make the calculations for full frame that would be an 16-32 lens.

Anyway. I bought that lens with the idea that 10mm (16mm on FF) will be great for Panorama Shots. Well, think again. 10mm ain’t great for panorama shots. Don’t get me wrong here. I like this lens. It’s a great lens. And 10mm is great in some occasions. But not at all for a panorama. I could write 1 million words why it ain’t good for panorama shots. But instead I’ll show you some shots which I made with some extra words of explanation.

Panorama Kaunas: 20mmPanorama of Kaunas. Shot with the Sigma 10-20mm @20mm

There you have it. This panorama shot was made on the roof of a church. It is not an artistic shot. I didn’t do any post-processing. But it gives a clear idea of how the view was. In the center of the image you can see the White Dome.

Panorama Kaunas: 12mmPanorama of Kaunas. Shot with the Sigma 10-20mm @12mm

The same panorama shot @ 12mm. Lets be honest. this looks horrible. The part of sky in the image increased, which is not a problem. But you can see a lot more of the buildings which are really up close. That is the problem. A wide angle lens gives you a very wide view horizontally (that is what we want) but also vertically. And we don’t need that. This implies that all buildings seem to be very far away. Can you still spot the White dome in the center? If you can you will see that all detail in the panorama is lost. Yeah, OK, you can see the buildings which are up close quite good. But everything which is a little bit further (and in a panoramic view, that will be the case in pretty much all of the occasions) lost complete detail.

The next example:

Vilnius Panorama 20mmPanorama of Vilnius. Shot with the Sigma 10-20mm @20mm
Vilnius Panorama 10mmPanorama of Vilnius. Shot with the Sigma 10-20mm @10mm

Pretty much the same story. Only here it is a lot worse. Again these shots did not have any post processing. Comparing both shots, the percentage of sky has been doubled. The amount of grass is a little bit less, because i didn’t want that my feet would be visible in the frame. The view over the city has doubled in width. But all detail is lost in the 10mm shot. I see a lot of grass and sky, a few tower buildings and that’s it.

Vilnius Panorama CroppedPanorama of Vilnius. Shot with the Sigma 10-20mm @10mm and cropped

The only way to make this image ‘OK’ is by cropping it. I roughly cropped 70% away! Now it looks OK, but not great because the detail in the image is lost. This is a low-res panoramic shot. My Canon has a 10MP sensor. Cropping 70% away leaves me a 3MP panoramic shot. In my opinion panoramic shots should be with a decent resolution. And there is only 1 way to do that. Make a series of pictures on a tripod, preferably with a lens of about 50mm, and stitch it in Photoshop.

Conclusion: Do not buy a wide-angle lens for panoramic shots. Unless you are satisfied with low-res quick and easy panoramic shots, Use Photoshop and a series of shots to make a nice panorama. Panoramic shots below 17mm look too wide, and lose a lot of detail. Most kit lenses have a range of 18-50mm. 17-18mm works just fine for panoramas. If you want wider. Photoshop is the way to go.

In my next blog post I will talk about the better uses of a wide angle lens.

  1. 2 Responses to “Wide Angle is Cool…”

  2. By admin on Aug 31, 2009

    Let me know what you think of this post. Is is an easy/good read?

  3. By Anil Bayrak on Aug 31, 2009

    Nicely written Stefan! Agree on this one.. wide angle is indeed cool but not necessarily needed for panorama shots. A regular zoom lens together with Photoshop (“merge to HDR”) will do as well :)

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