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Author Topic: Canon wide angle lenses redux  (Read 4961 times)

feppe

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Canon wide angle lenses redux
« on: November 17, 2009, 07:01:02 am »

I'm looking for the "best" wide angle lens for Canon crop frame at f/5.6 and above, and after my previous post (thanks for all the input!) I've been reading numerous lens reviews, looked at too many MTF charts and weighed my options. I started the search with primes with the assumption that they would offer the best bang for buck.

It finally looks like the best lens for Canons is the Nikon AF-S Zoom Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED. It's of course quite a bit more expensive than the closest Canon equivalent, and comparable in price to some Zeiss primes in that range. But it seems to be by far the best wide zoom available according to the comparison linked, and numerous reviews on FM and elsewhere. It equals or outperforms most primes, and the ones it doesn't (Zeiss) are only marginally better.

Of course using a Nikon lens with Canon requires an adapter, and you'll have to do manual aperture controls, and depending on the adapter you won't get AF confirmation. But neither of those are really an issue for me as I'd use the lens for shooting landscapes and cityscapes.

Anyone have experience using Nikon glass on Canon cameras?

guyharrison

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« Reply #1 on: November 17, 2009, 12:35:57 pm »

I would not recommend the Nikon lens for your needs.  I am not going to criticise the Nikon image quality, which is superb, but that lens has real and severe downsides for a crop-frame landscaper to create images in the first place.  In saying what follows, I am a full-frame shooter (5dII) who seriously considered the Nikon.  I actually got to test one with the adapter and decided very quicky that it was not a good lens for my needs.

As a crop-frame shooter, the Nikon is not an ultra-wide zoom, but more a general wide zoom (22.5-38.5 equiv) with not a broad enough range to be a practical general lens.  It is very bulky, very heavy, and has a very large front element that cannot be protected from the elements.  If you damage the element, every nick will show in the image.  The lens does not accept filters and there has been no third-party solution that is not ridiculous and the attempts so far have been unworkable.  This is a huge downside for landscapers.  No polarizers (they are still essential even with ultra-wides to remove glare from water, saturate colors on overcast or rainy days, accentuate rainbows, and, yes, even to partially darken of skies).  No ND grad filters (these allow you to get, in five seconds, the exposure balance it would take an hour or more on the computer--if you could to it at all).  No ND filters to slow exposures for "foggy" water or blurred cloud movement in skies or, if you shoot video, to control video exposures.  No protective filters for harsh conditions (blowing rain, snow, sand, etc).  The lack of exif (to evaluate and repeat experimental exposures), and stop-down metering are, in fact, significant disadvantages once you actually have to experience them.  If you camera does not have live view, achieving critical focus is almost impossible at working apertures of f8 or f11 (focusing wide open and then stopping down for exposure is risky because the focus point can shift when stopping down).

If you do not intend to shoot full-frame, I would definitely not get the Nikon.  Canon has a by-all-accounts excellent 10-22 EF-S lens for the crop format.  This gives you a true ultra-wide 16-35 equivalent.  The lens is a high-tech design with several aspheric and a UD element, with really solid construction.  It would rate an "L" designation but for the crop format.  It is light, compact, and fully filter compatible.  It is not a constant 2.8, (3.3-4.5 I think?) but you are shooting small apertures and the size and bulk from the constant 2.8 is of only limited benefit to landscapers as you know.  I think this would be a far better choice for your needs as you described them.

If you want for some reason to get a full-frame lens, all of the downsides of the Nikon still apply (except you get back the ultra-wide range).  If you are not satisfied with the Canon 16-35 full frame solution (as I was not), then I would look for a Contax "N" / Carl Zeiss 17-35 2.8 that has been converted to use on a Canon. The converted lens operates exactly like a Canon with full autofocus, autoexposure wide open, and exif.  I have been very pleased with this lens in terms of distortion control, overall sharpness, flare control, and color rendition.  It is a very close second to the Nikon for quality, and is fully filter compatible with no exposed front element.  A far better choice for landscapers for these reasons.  The company that does the conversions is called Conurus.  If you want to find an already converted lens, You will need to look on ebay, fredmiranda.com, photo.net, here, or getdpi to find one.  They are rare but a couple do come up each year.  Or, you can buy the original Contax N version (that is more common) and send it to Conurus for conversion, but you may have to wait many months to get it back.  Their conversions are first rate but they are a small shop and so it takes time.  You will end up spending more than the Nikon, but have a much more useful lens.

Otherwise, I would rent, borrow, or buy (with right of return) the EF-S lens and try it.  Do the same with the Nikon but be careful about buying a Nikon as the adapter mounting process might modify the lens and void your warranty or right of return.

There is a clear difference in a lens' image quality versus its ability to allow the photographer to capture image variety, and my choice was for the latter.  Slightly higher quality shots of a much more limited palette of subjects just did not appeal to me.    

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Ken Bennett

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Canon wide angle lenses redux
« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2009, 01:13:28 pm »

Somebody here posted a few months back that if you are going to buy a Nikon 14-24 for wide angle work, you might as well purchase a D700 to go with it. It'll be a lot easier to use, and full frame to boot (so you get the full benefit of that huge piece of glass.) While it was probably offered tongue-in-cheek, that's really not bad advice. In the Film Era, photographers often had specialty cameras that worked with only one lens, and we often switched formats and brands on any given assignment (35mm, medium format, 4x5, all different brands that coexisted equally in my kit.) I shot a fair amount with a Fuji 6x9 rangefinder with a superb 65mm lens.

On the Canon side, I have the Canon 10-22 lens. It's quite good, has a 77mm filter thread, and of course works in all modes with the Canon APS-C cameras. I bought it used in in excellent condition for under $500. Yes, it is slower at f/3.5-4.5. That's generally not a big deal when shooting landscapes.

I also have the Sigma 12-24 lens. It's full frame. On my 1.3x Canon bodies it's the equivalent of a 16-35. On a Canon APS-C camera, it'll be about a 20-40 equivalent. I bought it for architecture. It's sharp, and very well corrected, and shows very little or no purple fringing or CA no matter how hard I push it.

I'd second the recommendation to rent or borrow the 10-22 or the 12-24 and see if one meets your requirements.
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Luis Argerich

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Canon wide angle lenses redux
« Reply #3 on: November 17, 2009, 01:16:46 pm »

Canon crop body + tokina 11-16 2.8 = Happy landscapes
The Nikon is wonderful but it only makes sense in a FF body.

feppe

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Canon wide angle lenses redux
« Reply #4 on: November 17, 2009, 05:05:05 pm »

Thanks for the input, guys. I used to have the Sigma 10-20mm, but sold it in disgust as it was too soft for my tastes and had pretty bad distortion. From what I've heard Canon 10-22mm is only marginally better.

That's why I started looking at primes, but the Nikon did pique my interest due to its claimed stellar IQ. The focal length is fine, I'm not into ultra-wide. I used to shoot film (still do MF), so I'd be fine with losing EXIF information. I've never used grad filters, but I would miss a polarizer. Still, it's clear that using the Nikon on a Canon body would be a hack.

Have to check out the Zeiss conversion, thanks for the tip!

guyharrison

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Canon wide angle lenses redux
« Reply #5 on: November 17, 2009, 05:35:20 pm »

Quote from: feppe
Thanks for the input, guys. I used to have the Sigma 10-20mm, but sold it in disgust as it was too soft for my tastes and had pretty bad distortion. From what I've heard Canon 10-22mm is only marginally better.

That's why I started looking at primes, but the Nikon did pique my interest due to its claimed stellar IQ. The focal length is fine, I'm not into ultra-wide. I used to shoot film (still do MF), so I'd be fine with losing EXIF information. I've never used grad filters, but I would miss a polarizer. Still, it's clear that using the Nikon on a Canon body would be a hack.

Have to check out the Zeiss conversion, thanks for the tip!


You can get the basic information about the conversion at www.conurus.com including prices.  Finding the lens is another matter.  I was lucky to score one in immaculate condition off of ebay and already converted earlier this year.

If you go to the fredmiranda.com forums, there is a converted one for sale now.  The listing is a few weeks old, so sign in (or register if you have not), go to the buy and sell forum, and search for Contax 17-35 and you should find the listing.  Lens looks like new and includes two expensive filters including a polarizer.  No, I am not the seller or related to the seller in any way.  Just thought you would want to know.

I believe you will be happier with this than the adapted Nikon.  While the Nikon excels in sharpness, the Zeiss is actually better in terms of flare control (flare is virtually non-existent) and distortion control, and I personally prefer the Zeiss bokeh (at 2.8 bokeh does come into play especially in the 28-35 range), color rendition and contrast, although these are subjective qualities and YMMV.  It is wonderful for cityscapes especially at night with bright point sources of light--might even be better overall for this type of shot than the Nikon.  Sharpness goes to the Nikon, but they are close at the f8-11 working apertures you will probably be using.  Zeiss can take all filters.  I also prefer the Zeiss focal range but that is because I shoot full frame and 14mm, while fun, is a niche focal length used for a small % of shots.

Good luck with your choice!
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kers

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Canon wide angle lenses redux
« Reply #6 on: November 17, 2009, 07:35:20 pm »

Quote from: feppe
Thanks for the input, guys. I used to have the Sigma 10-20mm, but sold it in disgust as it was too soft for my tastes and had pretty bad distortion. From what I've heard Canon 10-22mm is only marginally better.


One reason for me to go to full frame was that there were no good wide angles to buy for the APS sensor..

But that is 2 years ago.

I now have a Nikon D3x and have some Zeiss lenses and the Nikkor 14-24mm lens- I can say the 14-24 is the best buy-
Indeed big, but optically the best and relatively not expensive.

It is sharp on the whole range and from corner to corner- ( d5,6-11) ; wide open it is already very good except for the corners.

Another good reason to go to fullframe is you have a larger prisma so at last you can see again what exactly is sharp. Like in the old days

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JeffKohn

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« Reply #7 on: November 17, 2009, 11:25:51 pm »

I bought the 14-24 originally to use on a cropped-sensor camera. I'd been using a Tokina 12-24 which was quite good, but all the rave reviews of the 14-24 got to me. What I discovered after a while is that if I had to choose between putting the Nikon 14-24 or the Tokina 12-24 in my backpack, more often than not I chose the Tokina. Part of it was the size/weight, which is a factor when hiking. But the bigger issue was filter support, since I find that polarizers are still useful in this focal range - especially on a cropped sensor. The only time I would take the 14-24 is if I had room for both lenses in my bag or I was sure I wouldn't need a polarizer.

Not much has changed now that I'm shooting full-frame, except that I don't have a filter-supporting substitute for the 14-24. But it's still the first lens to get left behind when I need to lighten my load, mostly because it's a less useful range for me on full-frame and usually my 24mm PC-E is wide enough. I'm thinking in the future I'll probably get one of the Zeiss wide primes and sell off the 14-24. For me, that lens is solution in search of a problem.

For cropped sensor I would take a look at the Tokina lenses, both the 11-16 and 12-24 are quite good (the 11-16 being a bit sharper, but with an arguably less useful range depending on what other lenses you have).
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Paulo Bizarro

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Canon wide angle lenses redux
« Reply #8 on: November 18, 2009, 03:29:10 am »

It seems to me that if you are going to use the lens at f/5.6 and above, you will not see many of the benefits of using the expensive glass (lens performance wide open). Therefore, perhaps a medium category lens would be feasible as well? Why not something like the Canon 17-40L?

Chris Pollock

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« Reply #9 on: November 18, 2009, 05:33:31 am »

Quote from: pbizarro
It seems to me that if you are going to use the lens at f/5.6 and above, you will not see many of the benefits of using the expensive glass (lens performance wide open). Therefore, perhaps a medium category lens would be feasible as well? Why not something like the Canon 17-40L?
I've shot with APS-C cameras (D60 and 20D) from late 2002 to the end of 2005, and full frame (5D and 5D II) since then. In my experience with both formats, wide-angle lenses are often soft in the corners even at F8. I used a 10-22 on the 20D, which showed its limitations even with 8 megapixels. On a modern high-resolution camera I expect it would be quite unsatisfactory, unless my copy was below average. I've used a 17-40 on the 5D and 5D II, but have never been happy with it. The centre is sharp, but the corners remain soft no matter how far you stop it down. It might be OK on an APS-C (I've never tried it), but its 17mm is only equivalent to 27mm on a full frame camera.

I bought a Nikon 14-24 and a 16:9 adaptor in the hopes of finally getting some really sharp wide angle shots, but the results were a lot worse than I expected, so I sent the lens back to Nikon for servicing. I've yet to get it back (apparently a necessary part had to be ordered in) but I'm hopeful that after repairs it will give good results.

What others have said about the impracticality of the 14-24 on a Canon camera are true enough. The lack of EXIF data is a serious annoyance, and manual focusing is a pain, even with live view. On the other hand, metering seems to work fine if you set the camera to manual mode, and you can always resort to taking a few test shots to be sure it's correct. The lack of filters isn't a big issue for me, because I seldom use them anyway. It could be smaller and lighter, but I'll be happy to carry it around if the image quality lives up to its reputation. I wouldn't recommend it for an APS-C camera though - with the crop factor the lens would be wasted.
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feppe

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« Reply #10 on: November 18, 2009, 07:15:46 am »

Quote from: Chris Pollock
I've shot with APS-C cameras (D60 and 20D) from late 2002 to the end of 2005, and full frame (5D and 5D II) since then. In my experience with both formats, wide-angle lenses are often soft in the corners even at F8. I used a 10-22 on the 20D, which showed its limitations even with 8 megapixels. On a modern high-resolution camera I expect it would be quite unsatisfactory, unless my copy was below average. I've used a 17-40 on the 5D and 5D II, but have never been happy with it. The centre is sharp, but the corners remain soft no matter how far you stop it down. It might be OK on an APS-C (I've never tried it), but its 17mm is only equivalent to 27mm on a full frame camera.

I bought a Nikon 14-24 and a 16:9 adaptor in the hopes of finally getting some really sharp wide angle shots, but the results were a lot worse than I expected, so I sent the lens back to Nikon for servicing. I've yet to get it back (apparently a necessary part had to be ordered in) but I'm hopeful that after repairs it will give good results.

What others have said about the impracticality of the 14-24 on a Canon camera are true enough. The lack of EXIF data is a serious annoyance, and manual focusing is a pain, even with live view. On the other hand, metering seems to work fine if you set the camera to manual mode, and you can always resort to taking a few test shots to be sure it's correct. The lack of filters isn't a big issue for me, because I seldom use them anyway. It could be smaller and lighter, but I'll be happy to carry it around if the image quality lives up to its reputation. I wouldn't recommend it for an APS-C camera though - with the crop factor the lens would be wasted.

Thanks, Chris! I've been considering going to FF for a while now - I paid for a 5DII in January which is still being refunded due to the seller failing to deliver (long story). Now I'm considering upgrading to 7D if in-depth reviews confirm the AA filter is not as strong as some claim, and 5DIII whenever it arrives. Might still go for 7D, even if it has a strong AA filter, because it has a very nice feature set, 14-bit processing and better DR than my current camera - been shooting 30D and now 450D.

This is a bit discouraging. I'll need to check out the prime option again.

I would really appreciate if you could give a quick report when you get the Nikon lens back.

feppe

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« Reply #11 on: December 21, 2009, 02:57:58 pm »

An update: I bought a good used Sigma 14mm f/2.8 on eBay. It's soft at f/2.8, center is sharp at f/3.5, and the entire frame tack sharp at 5.6 until 11 - diffraction seems to take over around 16. From reports it sounds like performance really deteriorates with full frame - but this was such a bargain, and produces stunning results almost rivaling my Canon 85mm f/1.8.

Below a sample shot from my recent trip to Ireland. Howth harbor, three vertically stitched bracketed shots, handheld. The boats were so bright I ended up burning them a bit as otherwise this looked a bit too unearthly, especially the orange one which looked almost fluorescent!

Thanks again for all the input!
« Last Edit: December 21, 2009, 03:03:15 pm by feppe »
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