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Introduction, Recent History and Explanations
© 2006 KenRockwell.com

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Nikon 12-24mm Tokina 12-24mm Sigma 10-20mm Tamron 11-18mm

Nikon 12 - 24 mm f/4, Tokina 12 - 24 mm f/4, Sigma 10 - 20 mm f/4 - 5.6 and Tamron 11 - 18 mm f/4.5 - 5.6.
Click an image to get it from Adorama. Also try Amazon. It helps me if you get yours at either one.


Introduction to Ultrawide Photography

I love ultrawide photography. I own a couple of exotic wide angle cameras like my Noblex rotating lens panoramic camera and a traditional Horseman 6x12 cm system. I bought my first Tokina 17mm manual focus lens in the 1980s for my first Nikon.

Digital SLRs have sensors smaller than 35 mm film. They need special extra-short focal length lenses, like 12 - 24 mm, to give the same results as an 18 - 35 mm lens on a 35 mm film camera. 18 mm is not very wide on digital.

I use my wide zoom half of the time. I use my 18 - 200mm VR the other half. The interesting part is that 95% of the pictures I love enough to print are made with my wide zoom, or the 18 - 200 at 18 mm. This has been my experience across the decades regardless of format. I love the effect of an ultrawide lens. It draws the viewer inside the image.

Wide lenses are not for "getting it all in." Do this and they make everything look too small. That makes a crummy picture.

The correct use of a wide lens is to exaggerate perspective. You use a wide lens so you can get too close deliberately. This exaggerates the difference between near and far. Objects in the distance get smaller due to the wide angle of the lens, and close objects loom large because you just got so close. It grabs the viewer by the neck and screams "Look at this! You're part of this! You're inside of this!"

Modern History

The world's first ultrawide lens for a digital camera was Nikon's 12 - 24 mm.

I wanted the Nikon 12-24 mm as soon as it was announced in February of 2003. It was priced at just over $1,000 and was hard to get. I was too cheap to buy one and no one had them in stock anyway. I broke down in March of 2004 and bought one, and love it so much I use it most of the time. This and my18 - 200mm VRcover over 99% of my photography today.

Tokina showed a prototype of the first third-party wide zoom in 2004. It started shipping later that year.

Tamron and Sigma both announced their wide zooms in February 2005.

As of January 2006 any of these four lenses are usually in stock at any decent camera store. Each of the off-brands sell for about $500, which is half of the price of my Nikon.

Why This Test?

I'm curious. I've always wondered if I got ripped off paying over $1,000 for my Nikon 2 years ago. Of course I use it all the time and have long since gotten my money's worth out of it. It's just the principle of the whole thing.

Since my new 18 - 200 VR goes to 18 mm I also wanted to see how the Sigma works at 10 mm. if it works well I'd be tempted to swap my Nikon 12 - 24 mm for it.

My only complaints with my Nikon 12 - 24 are its barrel distortion at 12 - 14 mm. This distortion is complex and does not come out completely with PhotoShop CS2's lens distortion correction.

Where Did I Get All This Stuff?

I bought my Nikon 12 - 24 mm in 2004.

I was lucky enough to get a store to loan me the other three lenses. No one sponsors me or gives me any of this. I asked the lens makers and they told me to take a hike. I have to buy all this stuff myself. My only biases are what works for me.

I tested the Canon 10 - 22 mm lens back in 2005.

I do all this as a volunteer and don't pick any of the ads as you can read here.

Next: Angles of View


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