#12 – Super Wide Angle Fun :)

For several years, I used a Sigma 10-20mm lens on my Nikon D70. As this was a DX (crop format) camera, this gave a focal length of 15-30mm, and for urban exploration and landscape use, it was fantastic. However, I had to sell this when I upgraded to a full frame (FX) camera, as DX lenses can only be used at 5mp, not the full 12mp. My normal lens is either a fast 24mm prime or a 24-70, wide, but not quite wide enough for my tastes.

As I didn’t want a fish-eye, I mulled over the choices (Sigma 12-24mm, Sigma 14mm, Nikon 14-24mm, and errr, that’s about it), and decided that this offered the most bang for the proverbial buck. Only thing was, these are now out of production, so I had to resort to ebay, where they do come on sale every now and again

My first proper outing was to Dinorwig slate mine near Llanberis, on a typically grey North Wales day. Low cloud / mist meant there was a bit of rain in the air, so inevitably the front element got a few raindrops on it. I wiped them off with a lens cloth, as you do, and carried on shooting. Mistake. A slight stain caused by this cleaning then proceeded to cause flare / stain on about 25% of the pictures taken on the day. And this was a dirty great thing, not a little spot that can be cloned out. Thankfully this stain has been removed with lens cleaning solution, but it has made me think carefully about how and when I will use this lens.

Shooting super-wide again caused me a few headaches, especially as this is a prime, not a zoom, and I’ve been forced to think even harder about composition. Specifically, the field of view is so wide, it’s a case of just what do I include in the frame, and how best do I position myself to do this. The beauty of the lens though, and this is what I love about super wide lenses, is that you can get close up to the foreground interest in your picture and give the image a lot of depth. This lens, like a lot of Sigma primes, will also focus quite close, the lowest number on the focus scale is 18cm, and that can be very useful.

However, as I’ve found in the past, you have to use this kind of lens in conjunction with others. On the trip to Dinorwig, I also took a Nikon F100 film camera with my Sigma 24mm lens on, and the narrower depth of field (it’s all relative – 24mm is wide!) complimented the 14mm well, and allowed me to compose images where I didn’t necessarily want the immediate foreground in. The 14mm is very, very specialized and while good at what it does, care does need to be taken with it’s use!

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