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Amazing Lenses to Make You Want Another System

Introduction

Lenses control what we see. No other photographic gear has such a high impact on our photography. Camera manufacturers each offer a different line-up of lenses for their own system. Even third-party manufacturers, who make lenses for multiple systems, offer different line-up depending on the lens-mount. This makes it practically impossible to access every potential type of lens with a single camera.

Here we present the most amazing and unique lenses available today. These outstanding lenses allow skilled photographers produce breath-taking images not possible with most systems. For some, these are enough to justify buying into yet another system. For most, they make us envious while we wonder if our budget can afford them.

Ultra-Wide Zoom

The king of ultra-wide angle lens is the Nikkor AF-S 14-24mm F/2.8G IF-ED
Nikkor AF-S 14-24mm F/2.8G IF-ED
. This full-frame DSLR lens offers the widest rectilinear field-of-view of any constant-aperture zoom on the market. It does so with a bright F/2.8 maximum aperture and ultra-sharp image-quality rarely seen in any wide-angle lens.

Nikon D3 with Nikkor AF-S 14-24mm F/2.8G IF-ED

The AF-S 14-24mm F/2.8G is tack-sharp from corner-to-corner and has minimal softening at its maximum aperture. Unlike the vast majority of ultra-wide angle lenses, vignetting is mild wide-open and completely tolerable from F/5.6 down at all focal-lengths. Perspective is obviously exaggerated but not distorted.

Nikkor AF-S 14-24mm F/2.8G IF-ED

This Nikon F-mount lens delivers such an excellent performance that it has been used on Canon professional DSLRs by many photographers like Steve Mackay. This requires an adapter which is possible because the F-mount has a longer flange-distance than Canon's EF-mount.

While there is no equivalent for this field-of-view on APS-C cameras, Four-Thirds and Micro Four-Thirds each have access to an excellent ultra-wide rectilinear zoom with the same maximum field-of-view. The Panasonic Lumix G Vario 7-14mm F/4 ASPH
Panasonic Lumix G Vario 7-14mm F/4 ASPH
is very sharp, even wide-open, although it doesn't reach the same maximum aperture. It does manage a very respectable F/4 constant-aperture, just like the Olympus Zuiko 7-14mm F/4 ED
Olympus Zuiko 7-14mm F/4 ED
.

Panasonic Lumix G Vario 7-14mm F/4

Ultra-wide lenses such as these ones produce immersive images and are perfect for architecture and indoor photography. The output quality of these particular lenses is sufficient to capture the maximum resolution of cameras they are attached too. Combined with a 36 megapixels Nikon D800E
Nikon D800E
DSLR, the 14-24mm F/2.8G makes huge poster-size prints.

Perspective Control

Tilt-Shift lenses, also called Perspective-Control lenses due to the Shift movement they are capable of, are the most complex lenses to operate. With an a total of 5-degrees of freedom and an unrivaled ultra-wide angle-of-view, the Canon TS-E 17mm F/4L
Canon TS-E 17mm F/4L
is unique for its rendition of architecture.

Canon 5D Mark III with TS-E 17mm F/4L

There is no way make large buildings and interior spaces look as natural as with this Canon TS-E 17mm F/4L. It offers ±12mm of shift movement and ±6.5° of tilt which can be set independently. This lens rotates at the base and between the tilt and shift axis to provide an incredible amount of creative freedom. Setting the TS-E 17mm is rather complex and focus must be set manually while automatic exposure is hit-or-miss, so this is one lens to practice a lot with.

Canon TS-E 17mm F/4L

Among camera manufacturers, only Canon and Nikon produce Tilt-Shift lenses. Samyang also makes some which are available for a few more mounts. This makes such lenses limited to select popular cameras. After Canon's 17mm one, the next tilt-shift lenses are available at 24, 45 and 85mm. For architecture, 24mm is the most common focal-length while longer ones are typically used for product photography.

Fisheye View

Fisheye lenses produce images with the widest field-of-view of any type of lens. This can even be more than 180° for specialty lenses. To accommodate such extreme field-of-view, straight lines are rendered as curves, unless they pass through the center of the frame as shown in this sample from the Canon EF 15mm F/2.8 Fisheye
Canon EF 15mm F/2.8 Fisheye
.

Canon EF 15mm F/2.8

Photography with a fisheye lens is very difficult. The extreme field-of-view makes it rather difficult to compose and meter since most scenes have a huge dynamic-range across such a great angle. There are two unique fisheye lenses on the market and those are the Pentax DA 10-17mm F3.5-4.5 ED (IF) Fish-Eye
Pentax DA 10-17mm F3.5-4.5 ED (IF) Fish-Eye
and the Canon EF 8-15mm F/4L Fisheye USM
Canon EF 8-15mm F/4L Fisheye USM
. These lenses are both zooms but they behave quite differently.

The Pentax DA 10-17mm zooms from 180° to 100° while almost maintaining a rectangular image. This makes it easier to frame and avoid including part of the photographer in the shot! While the Canon EF 8-15mm works similarly on an APS-C sensor, it is unique in its full-frame coverage which goes from producing a circular to a rectangular image with 180° field-of-view.

Tokina makes its version of the 10-17mm. It is available only for Canon and Nikon mounts at this time, leaving less popular brands with only prime fisheye lens of which Sigma produces the bulk, from 4.5 to 15mm which covers circular fisheye lenses on APS-C. This type of lens is popular for its ability to produce a fully spherical panorama in only 3 shots.

Extreme Wide-Angle

There is no free lunch. This saying applies very well to optics. In pursuit of extreme angle-of-views, Sigma produces both the 8-16mm F/4.5-5.6 for APS-C cameras and the 12-24mm F/4.5-5.6 for full-frame DSLRs.

These offer exactly the same field-of-view on their respective formats. This tremendous 114° angle-of-view comes at the price of variable maximum aperture and, most importantly, significantly lower image-quality. Still, this is less critical for small prints which may be suitable for some users.

Sigma 12-24mm F/4.5-5.6 EX DG HSM II

The 12-24mm F/4.5-5.6 EX DG HSM II is extremely soft in corners which does not sharpen much until F/11, just before hitting the diffraction limit. It also suffers from astronomical vignetting down to F/16 which adds softness from diffraction, so there is not escape from dark edges with this lens.

Sigma 8-16mm F/4.5-5.6

The 8-16mm F/4.5-5.6 DC HSM fairs better which good center sharpness and light softening towards corners. It constantly shows moderate vignetting which sadly does not improve with stopping down. Distortion is heavily pronounced bellow 13mm but improves at longer focal-lengths.

While these are not ideal for professional photographers, these lenses are available in all DSLR mounts. They are obviously adaptable to mirrorless systems, although there would be no point on Micro Four-Thirds or smaller sensors.

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