Ultra wide angle lens

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Leitz Elmarit R19/2.8 ultra wide angle lens for Leica R cameras Leitz Elmarit R 19.jpg
Leitz Elmarit R19/2.8 ultra wide angle lens for Leica R cameras
Ihagee Exa camera with Carl Zeiss Jena Flektogon 1:4 20 mm super wide angle lens Flextogon 20mm.jpg
Ihagee Exa camera with Carl Zeiss Jena Flektogon 1:4 20 mm super wide angle lens

An ultra wide-angle lens is a lens whose focal length is shorter than that of an average wide-angle lens, providing an even wider view. The term denotes a different range of lenses, relative to the size of the sensor in the camera in question. [1]



'Fisheye' and rectilinear lenses

Curvilinear (above) and rectilinear (below) image. Notice the barrel distortion typical for fisheye lenses in the curvilinear image. While this example has been rectilinear-corrected by software, high-quality wide-angle lenses are built with optical rectilinear correction. Panotools5618.jpg
Curvilinear (above) and rectilinear (below) image. Notice the barrel distortion typical for fisheye lenses in the curvilinear image. While this example has been rectilinear-corrected by software, high-quality wide-angle lenses are built with optical rectilinear correction.
Bearing 8/3.5 fisheye. A capture of an entire scene, including the sun is shown (180-degree circular fisheye). The underside of the seagull is illuminated by flash Foto-wiki-Peleng-Sky-Sun-1.jpg
Bearing 8/3.5 fisheye. A capture of an entire scene, including the sun is shown (180-degree circular fisheye). The underside of the seagull is illuminated by flash

Ultra-wide angle lenses come in two varieties: Fisheye lenses with curvilinear barrel distortion, and rectilinear lenses which are designed so that straight lines in the scene will render straight (uncurved) in the photographic image and thus lack the extreme distortion that is characteristic of a fisheye lens. Neither denotes a particular range of focal lengths, the difference is only whether distortion is present or not. However, the shorter the focal length, the more difficult it is to implement rectilinear correction.

In fisheye lenses, the visual angle is close to or more than 180 degrees in at least one direction. For example, a "diagonal fish eye" would have a viewing angle of at least 180 degrees within the diagonals of the frame. A "circular fisheye" would represent the image in the form of a circle.

Rectilinear ultra-wide angle lenses are used in photography and cinematography sometimes to achieve three-dimensional perspective distortion instead of simply two-dimensional barrel distortion. A notable, signature employment for this purpose is frequently seen in the films of Terry Gilliam, for instance.

Larger depth of field (DOF)

The DOF afforded by an ultra wide-angle lens is very great. Therefore, the photographer has the ability to keep much or almost all of the scene in focus, with respect to the hyperfocal distance of the lens.

Better aperture setting

Thanks to the small focal length, these lenses can shoot longer exposures without fear of camera shake in the image. (In longer lenses camera shake is multiplied by the zoom factor, but in shorter lenses it is much less apparent). This means that the photographer can afford to use a much smaller aperture if they choose, and still retain a balanced image.

Undesirable objects

With such a large visual angle, it can be very difficult at times to keep undesired objects such as light sources out of the image. However this does not always pose a problem, as even the sun in a photograph takes up such a small amount of space that its presence can often have little negative impact on the overall composition.

Use of filters

When using an ultra wide-angle lens, the sky often constitutes a very large portion of the frame, and may need to be darkened for the image to appear balanced. This is often achieved through the use of a gradient filter. Note that a polarizing filter, which also darkens the sky, will often give uneven results when used on an ultra-wide angle lens.


The oldest "lenses", pinholes, used in pinhole cameras, keep perspective accurately. In images made using this technique, there is little or no distortion due to the rectilinear propagation of light. For a long time it was thought that only symmetrical optical diagrams could ensure the geometrically precise transfer of light without distortion becoming apparent near the edge of images (as the viewing angle increases). However, with modern technology and understanding of optics, ultra wide-angle lenses can these days eliminate distortion almost completely.


How focal length affects perspective: 18 mm (ultra wide-angle), 34 mm (wide-angle), and 55 mm (normal lens) at identical field size achieved by different camera-subject distances. Notice that the shorter the focal length and the wider the angle of view, perspective distortion and size differences change. Focal length.jpg
How focal length affects perspective: 18 mm (ultra wide-angle), 34 mm (wide-angle), and 55 mm (normal lens) at identical field size achieved by different camera-subject distances. Notice that the shorter the focal length and the wider the angle of view, perspective distortion and size differences change.

Longer lenses magnify the subject more, apparently compressing distance and (when focused on the foreground) blurring the background because of their shallower depth of field. Wider lenses tend to magnify distance between objects while allowing greater depth of field.

Another result of using a wide-angle lens is a greater apparent perspective distortion when the camera is not aligned perpendicularly to the subject: parallel lines converge at the same rate as with a normal lens, but converge more due to the wider total field. For example, buildings appear to be falling backwards much more severely when the camera is pointed upward from ground level than they would if photographed with a normal lens at the same distance from the subject, because more of the subject building is visible in the wide-angle shot.

Because different lenses generally require a different camera–subject distance to preserve the size of a subject, changing the angle of view can indirectly distort perspective, changing the apparent relative size of the subject and foreground.

Related Research Articles

Pinhole camera Type of camera

A pinhole camera is a simple camera without a lens but with a tiny aperture —effectively a light-proof box with a small hole in one side. Light from a scene passes through the aperture and projects an inverted image on the opposite side of the box, which is known as the camera obscura effect.

View camera

In A World History of Photography, Naomi Rosenblum states that a view camera is: "A large-format camera in which the lens forms an inverted image on a ground glass screen directly at the plane of the film. The image viewed is exactly the same as the image on the film, which replaces the viewing screen during exposure." However, Rosenblum didn't give size limits for "large format"; and the book includes view camera formats smaller than 4×5, which are commonly seen as the smallest of the large format cameras.

The focal length of an optical system is a measure of how strongly the system converges or diverges light; it is the inverse of the system's optical power. A positive focal length indicates that a system converges light, while a negative focal length indicates that the system diverges light. A system with a shorter focal length bends the rays more sharply, bringing them to a focus in a shorter distance or diverging them more quickly. For the special case of a thin lens in air, a positive focal length is the distance over which initially collimated (parallel) rays are brought to a focus, or alternatively a negative focal length indicates how far in front of the lens a point source must be located to form a collimated beam. For more general optical systems, the focal length has no intuitive meaning; it is simply the inverse of the system's optical power.

Angle of view Angular extent of given scene imaged by camera

The angle of view is the decisive variable for the visual perception of the size or projection of the size of an object.

In photography and cinematography, a normal lens is a lens that reproduces a field of view that appears "natural" to a human observer. In contrast, depth compression and expansion with shorter or longer focal lengths introduces noticeable, and sometimes disturbing, distortion.

Camera lens

A camera lens is an optical lens or assembly of lenses used in conjunction with a camera body and mechanism to make images of objects either on photographic film or on other media capable of storing an image chemically or electronically.

Wide-angle lens

In photography and cinematography, a wide-angle lens refers to a lens whose focal length is substantially smaller than the focal length of a normal lens for a given film plane. This type of lens allows more of the scene to be included in the photograph, which is useful in architectural, interior and landscape photography where the photographer may not be able to move farther from the scene to photograph it.

Panoramic photography is a technique of photography, using specialized equipment or software, that captures images with horizontally elongated fields of view. It is sometimes known as wide format photography. The term has also been applied to a photograph that is cropped to a relatively wide aspect ratio, like the familiar letterbox format in wide-screen video.

Perspective distortion (photography)

In photography and cinematography, perspective distortion is a warping or transformation of an object and its surrounding area that differs significantly from what the object would look like with a normal focal length, due to the relative scale of nearby and distant features. Perspective distortion is determined by the relative distances at which the image is captured and viewed, and is due to the angle of view of the image being either wider or narrower than the angle of view at which the image is viewed, hence the apparent relative distances differing from what is expected. Related to this concept is axial magnification -- the perceived depth of objects at a given magnification.

Fisheye lens

A fisheye lens is an ultra wide-angle lens that produces strong visual distortion intended to create a wide panoramic or hemispherical image. Fisheye lenses achieve extremely wide angles of view. Instead of producing images with straight lines of perspective, fisheye lenses use a special mapping, which gives images a characteristic convex non-rectilinear appearance.

Prime lens

In film and photography, a prime lens is a fixed focal length photographic lens, typically with a maximum aperture from f2.8 to f1.2. The term can also mean the primary lens in a combination lens system. Confusion between these two meanings can occur if context doesn't make the interpretation clear. People sometimes use alternate terms—primary focal length, fixed focal length, or FFL to avoid ambiguity.

Distortion (optics) Deviation from rectilinear projection (optics)

In geometric optics, distortion is a deviation from rectilinear projection; a projection in which straight lines in a scene remain straight in an image. It is a form of optical aberration.

Crop factor

In digital photography, the crop factor, format factor, or focal length multiplier of an image sensor format is the ratio of the dimensions of a camera's imaging area compared to a reference format; most often, this term is applied to digital cameras, relative to 35 mm film format as a reference. In the case of digital cameras, the imaging device would be a digital sensor. The most commonly used definition of crop factor is the ratio of a 35 mm frame's diagonal (43.3 mm) to the diagonal of the image sensor in question; that is, CF=diag35mm / diagsensor. Given the same 3:2 aspect ratio as 35mm's 36 mm × 24 mm area, this is equivalent to the ratio of heights or ratio of widths; the ratio of sensor areas is the square of the crop factor.

Perspective control

Perspective control is a procedure for composing or editing photographs to better conform with the commonly accepted distortions in constructed perspective. The control would:

Rectilinear lens

In photography, a rectilinear lens is a photographic lens that yields images where straight features, such as the walls of buildings, appear with straight lines, as opposed to being curved. In other words, it is a lens with little or no barrel or pincushion distortion. At particularly wide angles, however, the rectilinear perspective will cause objects to appear increasingly stretched and enlarged as they near the edge of the frame. These types of lenses are often used to create forced perspective effects.

Micro Four Thirds system

The Micro Four Thirds system is a standard released by Olympus and Panasonic in 2008, for the design and development of mirrorless interchangeable lens digital cameras, camcorders and lenses. Camera bodies are available from Blackmagic, DJI, JVC, Kodak, Olympus, Panasonic, Sharp, and Xiaomi. MFT lenses are produced by Cosina Voigtländer, DJI, Kowa, Kodak, Mitakon, Olympus, Panasonic, Samyang, Sharp, Sigma, SLR Magic, Tamron, Tokina, TTArtisan, Veydra, Xiaomi, and 7artisans amongst others.

Nikkor 13mm f/5.6

The Nikkor 13mm f/5.6 is an ultra-wide angle rectilinear lens which was manufactured by Nikon for use on Nikon 135 film format SLR cameras until 1998, at which time it was discontinued. It has been dubbed 'The Holy Grail', for its low-distortion ultra-wide capabilities. The lens was produced by Nikon only upon receipt of an order, thus making it one of the Nikon lenses with the least number manufactured.

In photography, a long-focus lens is a camera lens which has a focal length that is longer than the diagonal measure of the film or sensor that receives its image. It is used to make distant objects appear magnified with magnification increasing as longer focal length lenses are used. A long-focus lens is one of three basic photographic lens types classified by relative focal length, the other two being a normal lens and a wide-angle lens. As with other types of camera lenses, the focal length is usually expressed in a millimeter value written on the lens, for example: a 500 mm lens. The most common type of long-focus lens is the telephoto lens, which incorporate a special lens group known as a telephoto group to make the physical length of the lens shorter than the focal length.

Fujifilm X-mount

The Fujifilm X-mount is a type of interchangeable lens mount designed by Fujifilm for use in those cameras in their X-series line that have interchangeable-lenses. These lenses are designed for 23.6mm x 15.6mm APS-C sensors.

Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM lens

The Sigma 8–16mm lens is an enthusiast-level, ultra wide-angle rectilinear zoom lens made by Sigma Corporation specifically for use with APS-C small format digital SLRs. It is the first ultrawide rectilinear zoom lens with a minimum focal length of 8 mm, designed specifically for APS-C size image sensors. The lens was introduced at the February 2010 Photo Marketing Association International Convention and Trade Show. At its release it was the widest viewing angle focal length available commercially for APS-C cameras. It is part of Sigma's DC line of lenses, meaning it was designed to have an image circle tailored to work with APS-C format cameras. The lens has a constant length regardless of optical zoom and focus with inner lens tube elements responding to these parameters. The lens has hypersonic zoom autofocus.


  1. "What is an Ultra-Wide Angle Lens and How to Use It". Photography Life. 17 August 2019.