What Is a Wide-Angle Lens?


Quick Answer

A wide-angle lens is one in which the focal length is less than 35 mm creating an angle view that is greater than 55 degrees. The key concept in a wide-angle lens is that the smaller the focal length, the more effective the lens is in achieving unique effects.

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Full Answer

This lens is used when the photographer wishes to emphasize the difference between the distances of the objects in the background and foreground. Nearby objects appear to be very large, and objects at a moderate distance away seem to be small and far away. This exaggeration of relative size makes objects in the foreground more prominent and striking.

Since this type of lens is capable of capturing more in the frame than a zoom lens, it is used in landscape, interior and architectural photography because it covers large parts of the scene being photographed.

The two types of wide-angle lenses are retrofocus lenses and short-focus lenses. Short-focus lenses are made of glass elements with symmetrical shapes in the front and behind the diaphragm. The distance of the lens from the digital sensor or film plane also decreases as the focal length decreases. Retrofocus lenses have an asymmetrical design that allows its rear element to be away from the plane film more than the presumed effective focal length.

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