A wide-angle lens is a lens with a focal length approximately shorter than the focal length of a normal lens for a given film plane.

This type of lens allows more of the scene to be included in the photograph or film scene, which is useful in architectural, interior, and landscape photography where the photographer may not be able to move farther from the scene to photograph it.

It’s also become a staple of filmmaking, where wide angle lenses are commonly used to capture master shots.

The boundary between wide-angle and normal lenses is not definite, but in general, any lens with an angle of view wider than that of a 50 mm lens on a 35 mm camera is considered wide-angle.

Wide-angle lenses are also often preferred by documentary filmmakers, as they can get closer to subjects without having to move too much during an interview.

What Is a wide angle lens

What Is a wide angle lens?

A wide-angle lens is any lens that has a focal length shorter than the 35mm standard. The wider the lens, the wider your angle of view and the more distorted objects will appear.

A wide-angle lens has an angle of view that is wider than a normal lens. Wide angle lenses have short focal lengths, meaning they are able to capture more in a scene than telephoto lenses.

A wide-angle lens offers greater depth of field, which makes it ideal for landscape photography.

They also give you greater flexibility as you don’t have to be right next to your subject to shoot it, which is great for street and documentary photography.


Understanding Wide Angle Lenses: More Than Just a View

In the world of photography, a wide angle lens is a game-changer, offering a broader view of the world that can’t be captured with standard lenses.

It’s a powerful tool that allows us to squeeze vast landscapes, sprawling cityscapes, and even tight interior spaces into a single frame.

But what exactly sets a wide angle lens apart from the rest, and how can it transform your photography?

We’ll jump into the characteristics that define these lenses and explore the creative possibilities they unlock, ensuring you’ll leave with a clear understanding of how to use them to their fullest potential.


What Is A Wide Angle Lens?

In the realm of filmmaking, a wide angle lens is a powerful tool that allows us to capture more of the scene in a single shot.

With its extensive field of view, it’s a staple for scenes requiring a grand scale or for conveying the magnitude of a setting.

Wide angle lenses let us include both the background and foreground prominently, making it an essential choice for expansive outdoor scenes or compact indoor locations.

The unique properties of these lenses also add a dramatic flair to shots, often exaggerating perspectives and distorting edges for creative effect.

The focal length of these lenses typically ranges from 24mm to 35mm in the world of 35mm film and full-frame digital sensors.

For filmmakers, this means we’re able to produce images that feel immersive without intensive post-production work.

Advantages of using wide angle lenses in film include:

  • Increased depth of field – ensuring everything from the immediate foreground to the distant background is in sharp focus.
  • Enhanced storytelling – by emphasizing spatial relationships within the scene.
  • Greater flexibility – in tight shooting spaces where backing up isn’t an option.

When we select a wide angle lens, we’re choosing to tell our story with a grand visual context.

Whether it’s to showcase a character’s environment in Lawrence of Arabia or the cramped tension of life aboard a submarine in Das Boot, the wide angle lens opens up a myriad of creative possibilities.

Characteristics Of Wide Angle Lenses

When we talk about wide angle lenses, we’re referring to those with a focal length typically shorter than 35mm for full-frame sensors.

They are a staple tool for filmmakers due to their expansive field of view.

Their most defining feature is the ability – to include more of the scene in the frame without moving the camera further away.

This aspect is critical for shooting in tight spaces or for adding context to a scene.


Wide angle lenses offer a unique perspective, often distorting the edges of the frame for creative effect.

This distortion can be used deliberately to create a sense of breadth or disorientation within a story.

They also exhibit a deeper depth of field at a given aperture compared to longer lenses.

This characteristic ensures that both foreground and background elements remain in focus, which is essential in filmmaking for maintaining visual continuity.

Aside from these technical benefits, here are some artistic advantages:

  • Exaggeration of space and depth,
  • Ability to showcase environments in their entirety,
  • A dramatic touch to simple scenes.

Films like The Revenant leverage wide angle lenses to immerse viewers in the environment.

These lenses capture the expanse of landscapes, emphasizing the grandeur or isolation of the setting.

In contrast to longer lenses, wide angle lenses allow for swift camera movement and dynamic framing.

This is invaluable for action sequences where pacing and perspective shifts are key to the tension and excitement.

They are versatile tools that also serve well in narrative storytelling.


By altering the viewer’s perception of space, they contribute to the emotional and psychological impact of a film.

It’s important to choose the right wide angle lens for the project at hand.

Factors to consider include lens speed, focal length, and the desired level of distortion.

Each choice impacts the visual story that unfolds on screen.

Benefits Of Using A Wide Angle Lens

When we jump into the cinematic world, the use of wide angle lenses opens up spaces beyond the normal field of view.

Wide angle lenses offer filmmakers unique visual benefits that enhance the storytelling experience.

One major benefit involves the depth of field.

A deep depth of field keeps more of the scene sharply in focus.

This is indispensable when the narrative demands clarity throughout the frame, from foreground to background.

These lenses also allow for dynamic compositions.

They can make environments loom larger and more imposing or give a sense of openness and scale.

In tight spaces, they alleviate the constraint, capturing the full scope without the need to move further back.

Here are several advantages of using wide angle lenses:

  • Enabling comprehensive scene coverage in a single shot,
  • Providing a sense of inclusivity and immersion for the audience,
  • Capturing expansive landscapes and skyscapes with ease.

Films like The Revenant leverage wide angle lenses to bring audiences into vast natural settings.

Viewers feel the expanse and harshness of the environment alongside the characters.

plus to expansive shots, wide angle lenses provide a unique perspective when filming.

They add a visual quirkiness to scenes, especially when objects are close to the lens, creating an exaggerated sense of space.

The ability to distort perspectives has creative value too.

It’s pivotal in genres like horror where the visual manipulation can heighten a sense of unease or disorientation.

The Shining makes notable use of this to unsettle viewers.

also, these lenses offer greater flexibility in camera placement and movement.

Swift pans and tracking shots gain a new dramatic edge with a wide angle lens, adding to the visual storytelling toolkit.

eventually, wide angle lenses are a game-changer for us.

They’re not just about fitting more into a frame but reshaping how the story is presented and experienced.

How To Choose The Right Wide Angle Lens

Selecting the right wide angle lens involves understanding focal length and its impact on our filmmaking projects.

Focal length determines the lens’s angle of view – shorter focal lengths provide a wider angle and a more extensive scene coverage.

Lens speed is crucial as it influences exposure and the ability to shoot in low light.

A wide angle lens with a wide aperture, like f/2.

8, allows for faster shutter speeds, which is beneficial for capturing clear, sharp images in dim settings.

Consider the type of projects we’re working on.

For narrative films, a prime wide angle lens might be ideal for its sharpness and speed, whereas for documentaries a zoom wide angle lens can offer more flexibility.

Optical quality can’t be overlooked.

High-quality glass and coatings reduce lens flare and chromatic aberration, ensuring the footage looks its best.

The size and weight of the lens also matter, especially for handheld shooting or when we’re using gimbals and stabilizers.

Lighter lenses make the filmmaker’s life easier during long shooting days.

Compatibility with our camera body – lens mount and type – is essential to make sure they work seamlessly together.

Here’s a breakdown of features to consider:

  • Focal Length: 14mm, 20mm, 24mm…
  • Aperture: f/2.8, f/4…
  • Prime vs Zoom,
  • Optical Quality: Coating and glass type,
  • Weight and Size,
  • Camera Compatibility.

Beyond specs, budget plays a significant role in our decision.

It’s important to invest wisely, balancing cost with the features we need the most for our work.

eventually, test-driving a few options might be the best way to find what fits our style.

Renting different wide angle lenses gives us a hands-on experience and helps in making an well-informed choice.

Creative Possibilities With Wide Angle Lenses

Wide angle lenses open up a world of creative possibilities that may not be immediately evident.

Known for their ability to include more of the scene in a single frame, they also enable filmmakers to play with space and distortion in innovative ways.

Imagine a scene from The Revenant, where the sprawling landscapes are just as vital as the characters moving within them.

We capture these epic canvases with wide angle lenses, drawing audiences into the vastness of the setting.

But it’s not just about vast landscapes.

We use wide angle lenses to emphasize the proximity and intimacy of a character within their environment.

A claustrophobic room becomes more oppressive, a character’s isolation more pronounced.

Now consider the visual impact created by manipulating perspective:

  • Using a wide angle lens close to the subject – the foreground becomes more prominent and appears to loom over the viewer.
  • Positioning the lens to capture converging lines – leads the audience’s eye and creates a sense of depth.

When it comes to capturing action sequences, wide angle lenses are second to none.

They allow us to engage viewers with dynamic, fast-paced shots where every punch, leap, and explosion comes to life right before their eyes.

There’s also a subtle psychological effect – the slight distortion at the lens edges can be used to signify a character’s mental state or to cue a narrative shift without a word of dialogue.

The beauty lies in the subliminal, where visual cues nudge the audience’s perception.

In essence, wide angle lenses aren’t just tools for capturing more of the scene.

They’re instruments that, when wielded skillfully, can tell a story in the most visually compelling way.

And we’re all about exploring every avenue to tell a story that sticks with the viewer long after the credits roll.

What Is A Wide Angle Lens – Wrap Up

We’ve delved into the expansive world of wide angle lenses and their transformative effect on photography and filmmaking.

By embracing these lenses, we unlock a world where every shot is rich with context and every scene tells a deeper story.

Our journey doesn’t end with understanding the benefits; it’s about finding the lens that resonates with our creative vision.

Let’s take the leap, experiment with different wide angle lenses, and watch as our visual narratives unfold in more compelling and immersive ways than ever before.

Remember, the right wide angle lens is more than just a tool—it’s a gateway to storytelling that knows no bounds.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are The Benefits Of Using A Wide Angle Lens?

Wide angle lenses allow photographers and filmmakers to capture more of a scene in a single frame, which is especially useful for expansive landscapes or tight indoor spaces.

They also add a dramatic effect by exaggerating perspectives and distorting the edges, which can enhance storytelling and visual interest.

How Do Wide Angle Lenses Affect Depth Of Field?

Wide angle lenses generally contribute to a greater depth of field in an image.

This allows more of the scene, from the foreground to the background, to remain in focus, making them ideal for capturing detailed landscapes and ensuring clarity throughout a scene.

What Should I Consider When Choosing A Wide Angle Lens For Filmmaking?

When selecting a wide angle lens for filmmaking, consider the lens’s focal length, aperture (or lens speed), the type of projects you’re working on, optical quality, size and weight, compatibility with your camera, and your budget.

It’s also recommended to test various lenses to find one that matches your creative style and needs.

Can Wide Angle Lenses Be Used To Tell A Story In Film?

Yes, wide angle lenses can be powerful storytelling tools in film.

They can capture vast landscapes, highlight the relationship between characters and their environment, manipulate perspective to add tension or drama, and even provide insight into a character’s psychological state or signify shifts in the narrative.

Are Wide Angle Lenses Suitable For Action Sequences In Film?

Wide angle lenses are excellent for filming action sequences as they can create a dynamic and immersive experience.

By capturing more of the environment and emphasizing movement within the frame, they allow the audience to feel like they are part of the action.