Wide Angle Vs. Fisheye Lens

By Fritzi Newton
A wide angle lens provides a broad area of view.

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 lens are often used in landscape photography.

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

An example of a photo shot with a circular fisheye lens

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.

Similarities

Using a wide-angle lens with a small f-stop will result in great depth of field.

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.

Differences

Shooting with a fisheye lens causes extreme image distortion.

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

A general wide angle lens offers more flexibility than a fisheye.

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."

About the Author

Reference librarian Fritzi Newton stokes her passion for words as the editor of and contributing writer for Highly Recommended, a daily blog for a nationally recognized public library system. Her additional experience as a grant proposal writer has resulted in the creation of innovative library initiatives. Newton graduated from the University of Maryland.