Tired of your kit lens? Here's great advice on what lens to buy next!
If you continually find yourself stepping backward while shooting, you need wider glass. These four wide-angle lenses, each a proven winner in Pop Photo tests, will open up the most cramped room or capture vast vistas of Big Sky Country. All will do it with remarkably little linear distortion.
Nikon 12-24mm f/4G DX AF-S IF-ED
• WHY IT MATTERS: Nikon's very first DX lens and still one of its most useful, this ultrawide debuted more than 3 years ago at $974 (street) and the price recently dropped by nearly $100. An 18-36mm equivalent, it's one of the few digital-only ultrawides to offer the convenience of a constant aperture.
• HOW IT TESTED: Very strongly. Sharpness and contrast in the Excellent range at all apertures and focal lengths. Well-controlled distortion, especially at 18mm and 24mm.
• STREET PRICE: $895.
Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM AF
• WHY IT MATTERS: Weighing just 13.6 ounces, Canon's widest digital zoom is also one of this category's lightest. Its widest setting of 10mm (16mm equivalent) gives you a significantly broader view than the 12mm maximum typical of the competition.
• HOW IT TESTED: Excellent sharpness and contrast, plus extremely well-controlled distortion, even at 10mm. Its tight 9.4-inch close-focusing distance provides great subject magnification -- 1:6 at 22mm, among the top-performing wides.
• Street price: $710.
Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 7-14mm f/4 AF
• WHY IT MATTERS: This is the widest non-fisheye zoom for DSLRs with less-than-full-frame sensors. A 14-28mm equivalent, it could form the base from which to build a grand, pro-grade Olympus or Panasonic system.
• HOW IT TESTED: Extremely well. Sharpness and contrast were uniformly Excellent; distortion was amazingly well controlled, even by non-ultrawide standards; and at two of three tested focal lengths, it showed no discernible light falloff at the edges.
• STREET PRICE: $1,595.
Sony 11-18mm f/4.5-5.6 DT AF
• WHY IT MATTERS: The widest lens Sony makes for its Alpha-series DSLRs, it's unofficially mated with a 18-200mm for a versatile, broad-ranging optical system.
• HOW IT TESTED: Superbly. Sharpness and contrast, both in
the Excellent range. Barrel distortion at 11mm was surprisingly well controlled -- and at the longer focal lengths, even better. It also provided one of the more powerful maximum magnification ratios in the category, 1:7.13 at 18mm.
• STREET PRICE: $650.
Are you excited by extremely wide-angle, low-light, or close-up photography? Stellar lenses for each have run the gauntlet of Pop Photo's optical bench tests. Here are three to consider:
Pentax SMCP-DA 10-17mm f/3.5-4.5 AF Fisheye
• WHY IT MATTERS: A rare fisheye zoom, it combines the mind-blowing visual excitement of a traditional full-frame (non-circular) fisheye with the convenience of a zoom. Canon and Nikon shooters can get the same effect with Tokina's 10-17mm, essentially the same lens with different mounts.
• HOW IT TESTED: Magnification is nothing short of astonishing -- 1:2.6 at 17mm with a 5.25-inch close-focus distance. Yes, there's distortion, but as with all fisheyes, it's so over the top that you gotta love it!
• STREET PRICE: $430.
Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 Di LD Macro AF
• WHY IT MATTERS: A full-frame macro that's bright, well built, and sharp, it could be a pro's bread and butter. Especially suited to portraiture, close-ups, and event and wedding photography, its true forte is financial: There's no full-frame, constant-aperture f/2.8 in the pro class that's close to its price. Available in Canon and Nikon mounts (Pentax and Sony coming soon).
• HOW IT TESTED: Extremely well on DSLRs with APS-sized sensors. Sharpness was in the Excellent range at all tested focal lengths and apertures. Distortion and corner vignetting were very well controlled, and the 1:2.8 magnification ratio (at 200mm) bodes well for macro maniacs. Not the fastest-focusing or quietest lens, but it's very attractive nonetheless.
• STREET PRICE: $700.
Click here to see our full review
Tokina 100mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro D Macro AF
• WHY IT MATTERS: Irresistible to almost any close-up photographer, this lens magnifies to 1:1, offers a bright and constant aperture, covers the full frame so it can be used with any Canon or Nikon SLR or DSLR, and is among the least expensive lenses with all these gifts. It's also well-suited to portraits and low-light work.
• HOW IT TESTED: A true flat-field macro, it shines with all close-up subjects, such as maps, photos, and paper money. Our tests found Excellent edge sharpness at close focus, even out to f/2.8. With three focusing ranges (close-up, non-close-up, and full) and flare-suppressing multicoatings, this affordable full-framer would be hard to resist, even if you're not into conventional close-ups.
• STREET PRICE: $400.