Best super wide angle prime lens?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by cham_saranasuriya, Jul 22, 2007.

  1. Interested to know the opinions for the best super wide angle prime lens among
    14/2.8, 15/3.5, 15/5.6, 18/3.5, 18/4 for landscape photography by FSLR or DSLR.
  2. For DSLRS, IMHO, the best super wide lens is the 12-24mm f/4.0 DX Nikkor. I had a 14mm f/2.8 ED Nikkor I was using on my D100s. Comparing the 14mm with a 12-24mm f/1.4 DX Nikkor I bought, I found the 12-24mm at 14mm to be at least as good at all apertures as the 14mm.

    Given convenience factors- the greater focal length range of the zoom and that the zoom took standard, front-mounted 77mm filters- I sold the 14mm f/2.8 ED Nikkor. (As an aside, I'd also note that the 12-24mm DX Nikkor is lighter and about the same size as the 14mm f/2.8 ED Nikkor.)

    For 35mm film cameras, I regard the 14mm f/2.8 ED Nikkor as the best of Nikon's super wides. I suspect its the ED glass that gives the 14mm a little more optical oomph than earlier super wides, particularly at f/2.8-4.0.
  3. Of the options you've given, the 14mm is the best.
  4. Thanks for the quick opinions.

    Is the 14/2.8 better than the 15/3.5 with regards to distortion & colour as well?
  5. None of these produce acceptable images on a DSLR. For film, they are all decent, but for a DSLR get the 12-24 DX.
  6. Take a look at the Tamron 14mm f/2.8 SP. I shot the Nikon 14 and the Tamron 14. I liked the image quality of the Tamron better then the Nikon..

    I think it works very well on my DSLR.
  7. Ilkka offers the opinion that none of these lenses produce"acceptable"images on DSLR's. I am hoping he will elaborate on this opinion with some facts.
  8. Dan, all of these Nikkor lenses mentioned by the OP are super expensive. The 12-24 DX produces better image quality and is not prohibitatively expensive.

    The CA on wide angle lenses on a 10-12 MP DX body is just unacceptable. I had the 14mm and still have the 20mm and the former was certainly the most expensive mistake I ever made in photography equipment purchases. I got a couple of decent images out of it using a D70. On a D200 it was a total disaster. I subsequently have been playing with the 12-24 a bit (I don't yet own it unfortunately) and own the 17-55 and these are far better than those primes. Or my samples at least. My 20mm prime produces images with unattractive soft edges.

    For digital capture you need a wide angle which is designed with digital in mind, such as the 10.5mm, 12-24, 17-55 or 17-35. For FL = 35mm and up any good lens will do well.
  9. As far as the other primes mentioned (the 15mm and 18mm), check for detailed reviews on their performance with digital sensors.

    I keep my 20mm because I get great pics on 35mm film using it.
  10. >>...14/2.8, 15/3.5, 15/5.6, 18/3.5, 18/4

    >None of these produce acceptable images on a DSLR.

    Why is that?
  11. Ilkka:
    I certainly won't question your personal experience, but so far mine has been different. I use a D200 and a 6 mp Kodak DCS760 (digital F5). I have a 16mm f3.5 fisheye, a 15mm f5.6 rectilinear, both manual focus and have had stunning results from each on these two digital bodies as well as film bodies. No chromatic aberration at all. I will admit that they seem to flare (not CA)when I am not careful, and in fact have used this intentionally quite a few times. I understand how chromatic aberration occurs, but I am not sure why it would exist with an image recorded on a digital chip when the same lens does not produce CA on film. Any insight would be appreciated, at least as far as why you believe it has developed in your use. Also, please elaborate on how the optics (lenses and coatings) of lenses produced for digital cameras is specifically made for digital versus film. Is it your opinion that other than what focal lengths produce equivalent coverage when compared to film that the glass and coatings are different in how they represent the recorded image? Thanks.
  12. Dan,

    It is a perfect question, I also have trouble understanding why a superb lens on FSLRs could be an average lens on a particular DSLR and yet again even could be better when used with another completely different DSLR. I have noted this In Bjorn Rorslett's reviews, 2 gradings for D1X & D2X for example.
  13. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Moderator

    Cham, the reason is very simple. Back in the film days, with the exception of some special-purpose monochrome film, the weakest link in the chain was mainly the resolution of film such that a lot of lens flaws were hidden. That continued to be the case in the D1 era with 3 to 6MP DSLRs. Today, the 10, 12, and 16MP (16MP from Canon) DSLRs are a lot more demanding on the lenses.

    Since the photosites are actually like little wells, the light rays that hit the sensor should be as perpendicular to the sensor plane as possible. That is a new requirement that didn't exist for film, and that is particularly a challenge for wide-angle lenses.
  14. Shun, Thanks for the insight.

    This does not explain everything though. One would expect the telephotos should be forgiving but it is not the case. Looks like when the sensor quality increases the optical defects become more apparent as well. The highly regarded 400/3.5 Bjorn rate it as follows:-

    F5 - 4.5

    D1X - 4

    D2X/ D200 - 3.5-4
  15. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Moderator

    Cham, 35mm film being least demanding on the optics, early DSLRs are more demanding and 10+MP DSLRs are so far most demanding. That is exactly what is expected.

    If there were a lens that performed really well on the D2X (and especially on a full-35mm-frame DSLR) but not so great on a film body, that would have been very difficult to explain.
  16. I find the Nikon 14/2.8 to be superb on my Canon 10D, even though I don't get to enjoy the full view that I get with it on film. I recently discovered, but not yet tried to duplicate, that it appears to be far sharper than my 28/2 AIS which surprised me considerably...and that was at the same shooting distance! Colour rendering is exceptional and flare control is good. I believe that CA gets confused with sensor bloom and I tend to blame the sensor more than the lens. Either way, I see very little colour distortion with the 14 but much more with the 200/2 AI and 400/2.8 AIS.

    The only major drawback to the 14 is moustache distortion and apparently the 15's and definitely the 18's should be better. If you are using it for landscapes you won't see the moustache distortion and as long as you do two point architectural perspectives, rather than one point, you also won't notice the distortion. Simply stated if you take a photo of the face of a building with the sensor/film parallel to it (one point perspective) you will see serious moustache distortion in the lines of bricks or steel/glass. It is called moustache distortion since that is the wave pattern you will see in repeated sets of lines.

    I used a 17mm lens for 15 years, with no such distortion, before switching to the Nikon 14 and will never give up the additional realm of creativity that the 14 provides. Of course if I hadn't got it at such an exceptionally low used price I may not have been so happy with it!
  17. Dan, I have not used the 15mm lenses. I am glad you found one that you get good results with. My 14mm was an extreme disappointment. The main problem in general with the film-designed wide angles is that they project the light on the sensor in such a way that the different wavelengths are recorded by different (but close-by) pixels - or so it looks when you take a look at the image. It could be due to CA in the lens or an effect where the microlenses, sensor resolution & lens characteristics mix in a bad way. This shows as color artifacts and blur in the image. When I shot with it, I got astonishingly clear and beautiful images with my brother's 12-24 mm DX. I haven't gotten anything close to those with my primes on my D200. I have held back buying the 12-24 myself because I am hoping for a prime or two (lighter, smaller, potentially faster, maybe even better quality). It cost me a lot of money to play with the existing primes on digital ... I learned my lesson, I have to wait.

    By the way while the 17-55 DX shows frequent flare, the 12-24 DX is excellent in this respect. Beautiful.
  18. Shun,

    I didn't realize the original comment was based on a film vs. sensor comparison. Otherwise I wouldn't have asked why those lenses perform less satisfactorily on DSLRs. Regarding your comments, many 35mm print and slide films, past and present, easily surpass a 10 Mp sensor for resolution. In addition, the "vertical light well" phenomenon has been disputed by a number of experts. I'm not doubting that digital sensor systems exhibit certain incompatibilities with WA lenses, but I think the cause lies elsewhere.
  19. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Moderator

    the "vertical light well" phenomenon has been disputed by a number of experts
    Sorry, exactly who are those experts? The problem is very simple, as described on this Olympus web site. Several of Nikon's DX lenses are telecentric to work around this problem, such as the 12-24 and 17-55, and that is why they work well on DSLRs.
    Additionally, I have stopped shooting medium-format film in favor of higher-end Nikon DSLRs.
  20. >The problem is very simple, as described on this Olympus web site.

    That piece is clearly a marketing piece developed with the intention of selling DSLRs. It contains considerable misinformation. Sorry, I can't imediately reference the articles I've read on this matter (I didn't bookmark them). I can only tell you they were written by people I determined to have no (known) conflict of interest at the time, and whose scientific/academic credentials were sufficient to warrant consideration. If I get time over the next few days, I'll search for the sites.
  21. Nikkor 13mm f/5.6 AIS. Period. On a D2X it has the angle of view of a 19.5mm lens. It is sharp simply left on infinity. The 14mm AF-Nikkor is quite poor by comparison. The 17-35mm lens (for a zoom) is quite outstanding.

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