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Wide-Angle Lenses: Taking a Broader Perspective
Taking a good photograph means knowing what lens to use and when. Let Groupon teach you when to pull out the wide-angle lens.
The viewer stands at the bottom of a canyon of skyscrapers rising straight up on all sides. Well, not exactly straight up. In fact, they curve and bend together at odd, imposing angles, as though their clock towers and steeples were leaning in for a kiss. This dramatic photographic effect is produced by a wide-angle lens, and to understand how, a peek at some optic principles is required.
A standard 50 mm lens sees about as much in front of it as the human eye would at the same distance. Wide-angle lenses have shorter focal lengths, usually 35 mm or less—meaning that the point at which they bend rays of light into a focused image is nearer the lens. Imagine two lines branching from either side of the lens and converging at the distance of the focal length. The angle at which they cross is the angle of view, which determines how much of the scene in front of the camera will be visible in the image. Experiment with moving the point at which the lines converge, and you’ll see that increasing the focal length makes for a progressively narrower angle of view.
What this means for the final image is that more of the scene makes it onto the film or digital sensor. But some funny effects may crop up around the photo’s edges in return. In focusing the image within such a short distance, the lens must bend the rays of light more dramatically than a normal lens would, exaggerating differences in apparent distance and size. Objects close to the camera look huge, and faraway objects look unusually tiny and distant. As a result, these lenses are most often used to capture expansive landscapes or to open up confined spaces such as tiny apartments or one-bedroom caves. But they also offer photographers interesting portraiture capabilities, letting them emphasize distinctive facial features or a pair of strong hands.