Wide angle vs. fisheye lens

Written by fritzi newton | 13/05/2017
Wide angle vs. fisheye lens
A wide angle lens provides a broad area of view. (metro image by Mermozine from Fotolia.com)

A wide-angle lens captures a wide or broad area of view. A fisheye lens, one example of an ultra-wide angle lens, captures close to a 360-degree horizon.

Wide-angle lens

Wide angle vs. fisheye lens
Wide-angle lens are often used in landscape photography. (copper mountain,colorado,rocky mountains,mountain, image by Earl Robbins from Fotolia.com)

A wide-angle lens has a focal length of less than 50mm. According to Heather Powell, writing for ePHOTOzine, "Landscape photography is where wide-angles tend to be most commonly used." A wide-angle lens may also be selected to shoot close-up pictures, often resulting in compositions with a distorted perspective.

Fisheye lens

Wide angle vs. fisheye lens
An example of a photo shot with a circular fisheye lens (huskisson charter image by Christopher Meder from Fotolia.com)

A fisheye lens may be either circular or full-frame. A photo shot with a circular fisheye lens--having a focal length between 8mm and 10mm--results in a complete picture circle surrounded by black on all sides. A photo shot with a full-frame fisheye--having a focal length between 15mm and 16mm--has a more conventional, rectangular appearance.


Wide angle vs. fisheye lens
Using a wide-angle lens with a small f-stop will result in great depth of field. (clear mountain stream image by Jorge Moro from Fotolia.com)

Both general wide-angle and fisheye lenses have a short focal length. Shooting with a small f-stop (f22, for example) will result in incredible depth of field. This means that everything in the image, from foreground to background, will be in sharp focus.


Wide angle vs. fisheye lens
Shooting with a fisheye lens causes extreme image distortion. (Torino - Fisheye image by Stefano Gruppo from Fotolia.com)

The wider a lens' angle is, the greater the image distortion. Because a fisheye is an ultra-wide angle lens, the distortion is extreme.

Wide angle vs. fisheye

Wide angle vs. fisheye lens
A general wide angle lens offers more flexibility than a fisheye. (sand ripples image by Kwest from Fotolia.com)

If you are looking for greater flexibility and more traditional images, then a general wide-angle is your best choice. According to photographer and author Scott Kelby, a fisheye is a "special-effects lens that you will want to use sparingly, because the fisheye look can get old fast if you use it too much."

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