The 10 Best Wide Angle Lenses For Canon Cameras
This wiki has been updated 17 times since it was first published in March of 2018. Whether you're looking to capture the entirety of an indoor scene for real estate photos or a family reunion, or you want to shoot impressive landscapes that include everything your eye can see, you'll need a good wide-angle lens. These options, designed specifically for Canon cameras, are some of the finest on the market, and are made to work with a truly professional system. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
December 17, 2020:
When we last visited this ranking, Canon had yet to release the wide angle member of its holy trinity for their mirrorless RF mount, and the RF 15-35mm f/2.8 L IS USM is it. It easily made its way to the top of our list with its optical performance and build quality, as well as the fact that it affords up to five stops of image stabilization. This remains the only viable wide angle option from within the company for their EOS R system, but other manufacturers are picking up the slack.
One of those manufacturers filling in where Canon has been slow is Rokinon. The Rokinon AF 14mm f/2.8, for example, delivers a lot to like for a really low price. A lot of Rokinons of old managed this by being manual focus-only lenses, but this model and several of its ilk offer autofocus. It's not the fastest or quietest AF on the market, but it gets the job done for anyone who doesn't need those two factors. It does have a heavy vignetting to it, but that's easy enough to fix in post.
April 30, 2019:
In the lead up to the release of their new mirrorless line, Canon doesn't seem to have come out with anything new on the wide angle end of the spectrum in the past few years. Most releases in the last two years have been telephoto, mid-range, and zoom lenses that barely clip the wider focal lengths. There is a promised 15-35mm 2.8L lens that's intended to be the wide member of the holy trinity being developed for that mirrorless system, but as of this writing it doesn't even have a release date.
Among the models left to discuss, the 24mm hopped up to the top of our list thanks in large part to the consistency with which it renders such sharp images. We're not just talking about autofocus accuracy, here, though that is quite admirable; we're talking about ultimate sharpness, whether dialed in manually or achieved automatically. Sigma's 12-24mm Art model moved up to number two for similar reasons, but it also offers a different look at skin tones than you might be used to if you've stuck with Canon your whole career, and many find this creaminess in the flesh of their subjects to be rather nice.
Why Go Wide?
For full-frame shooters, this could be anything 40mm or wider, though technically the point at which lenses start to be considered wide angle is typically below 35mm.
One of the most alluring things about photography is the ability to see beyond the scope of your natural vision. This experience is better pronounced by a telephoto lens than anything else, which is why many shooters skimp on investments in the wider focal lengths. This is foolhardy to say the least. The best photographers know that it’s vital to own a variety of top-tier lenses, capable of giving you pristine results no matter the subject you’re shooting or its context.
Wide angle lenses also offer something that telephoto lenses do not, and it’s still technically a way to expand upon your natural vision. That’s because human vision has a central point of focus roughly equivalent to a 70mm lens, as well as peripheral light intake that pushes out towards a 50mm equivalent, with a little room for genetic differences.
A wide angle lens has the ability to bring all that peripheral information into focus, and to even give you a wider perspective on a given scene than your eyes could ever muster. This is why classic Hollywood productions often relied upon the 40mm lens (or its equivalent, depending on the film stock). It has the ability to make an image that’s just a little bigger, a little more cinematic, than our daily view.
So, any photographer looking to create a larger-than-life image is going to want to shoot wide. For full-frame shooters, this could be anything 40mm or wider, though technically the point at which lenses start to be considered wide angle is typically below 35mm. For shooters using APS-C sized sensors, you’re going to need to go very wide to get that kind of perspective. That’s due to what’s known as the crop factor, but we’ll get into how to use that crop factor to select the perfect lens for your kit below.
What To Look For In A Wide Angle Lens
Knowing what focal length you want access to is paramount in choosing a wide angle lens. To keep things simple, let’s talk about primes, meaning lenses that only shoot one focal length, without the option to zoom in or out. A length of 28mm is still tight enough to shoot a decent portrait if you bring the camera in close to your subject, but anything wider will likely distort their facial features too much. Lenses coming in at 24mm are ideal for astrophotography, especially those with an aperture rating of f/1.4.
In these cases, it’s smarter to go a little wider than a little tighter, so a shooter looking for something akin to 28mm should grab a 16mm rather than a 20mm lens.
At 20mm, you’ll probably start to notice some curvature at the edges of the frame. This is an effect often referred to as barrel distortion, and it only gets worse as you get wider, eventually resulting in the fisheye effect that some shooters actually employ intentionally. If you want to go very wide and not suffer from the fisheye effect, you’re going to want to look out for the term “rectilinear,” which basically implies the elimination of barrel distortion through the use of extra glass elements throughout the lens. Of course, more glass increases the price of a given lens, so this effect doesn’t come cheap.
Of course, much of this depends on the body to which you plan on attaching your new lens, and more specifically, the sensor inside that body. Full frame shooters can simply look at the focal length rating of a given lens and know what they’re getting. If you have an APS-C sized sensor, things get a little more complicated thanks to the crop factor we mentioned above.
Rather than wasting your time with a mathematical explanation about the positioning of the focal plane with respect to the sensor plane, we’ll simply say that the crop factor for a Canon APS-C camera is 1.6x. That means that any lens designed for a full-frame sensor (and 99 percent of top-tier glass on the market is built for full-frame) will actually capture images at a focal length 1.6 times what the lens says it will when mounted on an APS-C body.
So, a 28mm lens on an APS-C sensor will result in a focal length of 44.8mm. Not exactly wide angle anymore, is it? When shopping for a lens to sit on an APS-C body, you’ll want to go a lot wider than your perceived needs. If you want to shoot at 28mm, you’re going to need to buy something as close to 17.5mm as you can find. In these cases, it’s smarter to go a little wider than a little tighter, so a shooter looking for something akin to 28mm should grab a 16mm rather than a 20mm lens. You can always crop in afterwards.
And if you’re wondering whether this crop factor effectively cuts out the barrel distortion you’d see on a very wide angle lens, you’d be right. That cropping cuts away at the exterior edges of the frame, where barrel distortion first rears its ugly head. So, you can use that 16mm lens to shoot at roughly 28mm and not have to worry much about curvature around the edges.
Battle Of The Brands
The camera industry inspires a lot of loyalty. When a shooter invests in a system, they rarely step outside it for anything. That behavior was justified for a long time, as third-party lens manufacturing was mainly targeted at the poorest segment of photographers. Pros scoffed at these lenses when asked about their quality.
When a shooter invests in a system, they rarely step outside it for anything.
In the past decade or so, however, companies like Sigma and Tamron have reinvigorated their brands with extremely capable pieces of glass, some of which have features and performance that can rival those offered by the likes of Canon and Nikon.
If you want or need to save a little money on a new wide angle lens, you don’t necessarily have to settle for inferior glass made by Canon. Take a look at what these other companies are offering, and see if the features lauded by critics around the industry happen to align with your particular artistic needs. If they do, you can put that extra cash towards a second lens investment, or, as the saying goes, just blow it all on hats.