Best wide-angle lenses: 8 tested

30th Dec 2011 | 11:00

Best wide-angle lenses: 8 tested

Capture panoramas with excellent wide angled lenses

Best wide-angle DSLR lenses explained

A jaw-dropping vista will often lose more than a little something with the blinkered view of a standard zoom lens. Their shortest focal length is typically 18mm, equivalent to about 28mm on a full-frame camera, giving a field of view far narrower than you see with your eyes. Fit your DSLR with an excellent wide-angle lens and you will literally broaden your camera's horizons.

Most of us use APS-C cameras, so for this group test, we've picked eight wide-angle zoom lenses tailor-made for cameras with these small sensors. It's an important consideration - while there's no problem using telephoto zooms designed for full-frame cameras on DSLRs with APS-C sensors, it just doesn't work at the wide-angle end.

A full-frame 70-300mm lens gives you the bonus of extra reach, equivalent to about 450mm at the long end. But put a wide-angle 16-35mm full-frame lens on an APS-C camera and it will have an effective focal length of around 24-52mm, losing its wide capability.

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

Playing the angles, a typical 18-55mm kit zoom lens gives you a maximum field of view of about 65 degrees in the horizontal plane, or 75 degrees from corner to corner of the frame (lens manufacturers often use the diagonal plane to describe an optic's maximum field of view). Switch to a wide-angle lens that zooms out to 10mm, and those angles increase to around 98 degrees horizontally and 108 degrees diagonally. Put your eye to the viewfinder and the difference is immediately apparent.

Smaller focal lengths naturally give wider angles of view - even a couple of millimetres makes a noticeable difference. But it's not all about the minimum focal length of the lens. The focal length multiplier, or 'crop factor', of the camera also has an impact.

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

Nikon, Pentax and Sony DSLRs with APS-C-sized sensors have a 1.5x crop factor, giving a 10mm lens a focal length equivalent to 15mm. Canon DSLRs typically have a 1.6x crop factor, so the effective focal length of the same lens would be 16mm, not quite as wide-angled.

Olympus DSLRs' Four Thirds sensors are physically smaller, with a crop factor of 2.0x, so the effect is far more dramatic, stretching a 10mm lens to 20mm, resulting in a much narrower field of view.

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

Zoom ranges for wide-angle lenses tend to be around the 2x mark, as with Sigma's 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM lens. Some are smaller, such as Sony's DT 11-18mm f/4.5-5.6 optic, while others such as the Nikon AF-S DX 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G ED and Tamron SP AF 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 Di II have a larger zoom range of 2.4x.

In practice, however, we've found that we nearly always shoot at or near the widest-angle focal length when using a wide-angle lens, so extra zoom range isn't a massive bonus.

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

That said, it's useful if it reaches as far as the widest focal length of your standard zoom lens, because distortion tends to be noticeably less pronounced when using a wide-angle lens at 18mm, compared with the same zoom setting on most inexpensive kit zoom lenses.

As well as seeing a wider view, another advantage of wide-angle lenses is that you'll get a large depth of field. This is exaggerated further when using small apertures. It's great for simultaneously keeping close objects of primary interest and far-off horizons sharp in landscape images.

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

All but the Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm f/4-5.6 in the group feature a focus distance scale, handy for setting the hyperfocal distance in landscape shots. This is the optimum focus distance for keeping as much in focus as possible from the foreground to the background of a scene.

For example, shooting with a Nikon camera at a focal length of 10mm and an aperture of f/11, the hyperfocal distance would be 45cm with everything from 22.5cm to infinity sharp. At f/8, the hyperfocal distance would be 64cm, with everything from 32cm to infinity sharp.

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

At each focal length and aperture combination, the sharpness extends from half the hyperfocal distance to infinity. For a handy depth of field and hyperfocal distance reference, try the DoF Master online calculator.

Wide-angle lenses really come into their own if you want to exaggerate perspective. You can increase the apparent size of foreground objects against dramatically receding backdrops, or make towering skyscrapers appear to lean in towards each other. The flipside is that the convergence of parallel lines makes wide-angle lenses a poor choice for accurate architectural photography.

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

Despite their extremely wide angles of view, all but the Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM lens in the group can be used throughout the entire zoom range with screw-in filters, or square filters with a screw-in adaptor.

These include landscape favourites such as ND filters, ND grads and circular polarisers. But due to the very wide field of view captured by these lenses, the amount of polarisation is likely to vary considerably across the frame.

Wide-angle DSLR lens key features

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

When choosing a wide-angle lens for your DSLR, look out for the following key features.

Front element

The extreme convex curvature of the front element makes it vulnerable to knocks, especially as objects can appear further away through the viewfinder than they are. A petal-shaped lens hood adds protection.

Materials

Unlike some kit zooms, all the lenses in this group have metal mounting plates, which are more durable than plastic. Plastics are still used in the lens barrels to reduce weight and manufacturing costs.

Zoom range

Bigger zoom ranges are convenient, and make lenses more versatile. With wide-angle optics, however, you'll probably use their shortest focal lengths most of the time, so a large zoom range is less useful.

Filter attachment

A low-profile UV filter protects the front element and lessens the risk of vignetting. The filter thread of most wide-angle lenses is 77mm, but the Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM takes 82mm filters and the Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm f/4-5.6 takes 72mm.

Distance scale

Apart from the Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm f/4-5.6, all the lenses tested feature a focus distance scale - really useful on wide-angle lenses in landscape photography because it enables you to set hyperfocal distance accurately.

Autofocus

The Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM, Nikon AF-S DX 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G ED, Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM and Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM lenses use advanced, ring-type ultrasonic autofocus. This is fast and barely audible in operation, and gives full-time manual override.

The Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm f/4-5.6 also enables this in AF mode.

Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM - £660

Canon's 10-22mm lens has a lot going for it. It's reasonably compact and lightweight, yet build quality feels solid and robust. The overall lens length stays fixed throughout the entire zoom range - a trick matched only by the Tokina 12-24mm f/4 AT-X 124 AF PRO DX II in this group. Zoom range is generous, equivalent to 16-35mm on Canon's APS-C bodies.

Luxuries include top-spec, ring-type ultrasonic autofocus, which comes with full-time manual override. Canon's Super Spectre coatings are used to reduce ghosting and flare, but uniquely in the group, the lens is supplied without a lens hood. The petal-shaped EW-83E hood has to be bought separately, and will set you back a further £30.

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

The USM autofocus proved practically silent, extremely fast and highly accurate in our tests, with nice smoothness in the focus and zoom rings. Sharpness was pretty good around the centre of the zoom range, but disappointing at each end. We needed to stop down to f/8 to get good results, but even then, sharpness at the widest 10mm focal length was poorest in the group. At f/16 it's still the lowest in the group, but it is more consistent across the focal range.

At the widest aperture, vignetting was also noticeable throughout the zoom range. At least peripheral illumination correction is available in-camera with most of Canon's current DSLRs. On the plus side, distortions are well-contained and chromatic aberrations are minimal.

Resolution sharpness test

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

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Sharpness is consistent through the focal range, but lower overall than on other lenses. Peak performance is at the mid-focal length of 17mm.

Fringing test

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

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At the centre point at all focal lengths fringing is minimal, but at 17mm and 22mm there are signs of blue fringing towards the edge.

Distortion test

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

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The Canon lens has the least barrel distortion on test at the widest focal length. At 17mm and 22mm this changes to mild pinch distortion.

Image test verdict

While not an outstanding performer, the Canon lens does well. It produces good, consistent results across all our tests.

Score: 4/5

Readour full Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM review

Nikon AF-S DX 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G ED

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

Nikon AF-S DX 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G ED - £670

There are many similarities between the Nikon and Canon lens tested, despite the Nikon's slightly bigger zoom range. Nikon's ring-type Silent Wave autofocus is fast, quiet and accurate, just like the Canon 10-22mm optic's USM system, and the layout of the focus distance scale, slim focus ring and big zoom ring is almost identical.

Weight-wise the Nikon lens falls in the middle of the group, but build quality is high. The zoom ring moves smoothly, with enough friction to feel positive without being stiff. The major difference is that the zoom rings work in opposite directions. With the Nikon, you twist the ring clockwise (viewed from the rear of the lens) to increase focal length. This is more common, being used by all the lenses tested apart from the Canon and Olympus.

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

There was only minor vignetting in our tests, even at the widest available apertures, which rise from f/3.5 to f/4.5 as you go through the zoom range. More remarkably, at f/3.5, f/8 and f/16, sharpness is the best in the group at the shortest focal length, although it's poor at longer focal lengths.

Distortions are more noticeable than with some lenses throughout the zoom range, but there's little colour fringing. All Nikon's current APS-C cameras feature automatic distortion and chromatic aberration correction. All in all, the Nikon is a star performer, especially at the extreme wide-angle end of the zoom range.

Resolution sharpness test

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

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At f/16 centre sharpness is good throughout the focal range. Towards the edges, at all focal lengths, sharpness drops.

Fringing test

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

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Signs of fringing at all focal lengths are minimal across the focal range. At 24mm there is a slight visible sign of red fringing towards the edge.

Distortion test

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

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The Nikon produces the worst barrel distortion in the test, visible at 10mm. At other focal lengths there is mild pinch distortion.

Image test verdict

At the crucial widest focal length the Nikon centre sharpness is excellent, but the lens does suffer from heavy barrel distortion.

Score: 4/5

Readour full Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G ED review

Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm f/4-5.6

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm f/4-5.6 - £490

Very compact and lightweight, the Olympus 9-18mm lens is only half the weight of the Sigma 8-16mm lens and is a whole inch shorter. The main reason for this is that it's scaled down for the Four Thirds system, which has a rather smaller sensor than APS-C cameras.

Although it saves on size and weight, the 2.0x crop factor works against you for wide-angle shooting. This 9-18mm lens only has an effective zoom range of 18-36mm on Olympus DSLRs, so the field of view is narrower than with, for example, a Nikon DSLR and a 10-24mm lens.

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

Autofocus is fairly quiet if not particularly fast, and it tended to hunt a bit in some of our tests. The manual focus ring has an electronic rather than mechanical coupling, with manual override available through camera menu options. The only real drawback of the focusing system is that a focus distance scale isn't available.

Unlike previous review samples of this lens we've seen, sharpness impressed throughout the zoom range, at least at f/8 and narrower apertures. In fact, it rules the roost at f/16, but is more consistent across its focal length range at f/8, where it comes second for sharpness. But it was a different story shooting at the widest apertures, with a distinct lack of detail, especially at the widest end of the zoom range. Performance was good in terms of distortion, chromatic aberration and vignetting. Based on this sample, the 9-18mm optic is a good buy.

Resolution sharpness test

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

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At all focal lengths centre sharpness is excellent. Although it drops off towards the edges at all focal lengths, the lens resolves detail well.

Fringing test

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

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At 9mm there are slight signs of green and red fringing towards the edge. At 14mm and 18mm the fringing increases.

Distortion test

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

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At 9mm and 14mm there are signs of barrel distortion, but both values are low. At 18mm distortion is almost zero.

Image test verdict

Sharpness and fringing at all focal lengths and across the frame is good, although there is some drop off in quality towards the edges.

Score: 3/5

Readour full Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm f/4-5.6 review

Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM - £550

The newest lens tested, Sigma's 8-16mm lens is the widest zoom lens on the market for APS-C cameras. The zoom range is equivalent to 12-24mm in Nikon, Pentax and Sony fit, and 13-26mm in Canon fit.

Like Sigma's 4.5mm circular fisheye lens (also for APS-C cameras), the new 8-16mm has a slip-over tube onto which the lens cap fits, or on which you can attach filters with a 72mm thread. The tube causes extreme vignetting at anything other than the longest 16mm zoom setting, so it needs to be removed in nearly all shooting scenarios. A petal-shaped hood is built into the lens, which helps to protect the front element from knocks and scrapes.

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

A trade-off of the extremely wide angle of view is that the lens isn't the sharpest tool in the box. However, sharpness is respectable right into the edges and corners of the frame, and this is retained very well even when shooting at the largest available apertures. The HSM (HyperSonic Motor) autofocus is quick, quiet and accurate, and comes with full-time manual override, though the focus ring is a little stiff.

Vignetting is noticeable when combining the shortest focal length of 8mm with the widest aperture of f/4.5, but drops considerably at f/5.6 and isn't an issue at f/8 or narrower. Again, considering its extreme wide-angle potential, distortion and colour fringing were moderate, and the Sigma performed well in our field tests.

Resolution sharpness test

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

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Sharpness at all focal lengths is average compared with the other Canon fit lenses. Best performance is gained at the 12mm centre point.

Fringing test

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

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At 8mm and 12mm mild green fringing occurs at the mid frames, and blue at the edge. Centre fringing is minimal at all focal lengths.

Distortion test

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

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Pronounced barrel distortion reflects the 8mm focal length, yet it is still less than on the Nikon. Pinch distortion is just visible at 16mm.

Image test verdict

As expected from the 8mm focal length barrel distortion is heavy, but sharpness and fringing is comparable to other Canon fit lenses.

Score: 4/5

Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM - £500

The newest version of Sigma's 10-20mm lens boasts a constant aperture, so a relatively fast f/3.5 is available throughout the zoom range. Other headline features include ring-type HSM autofocus with fast, near-silent performance and full-time manual focus override. Build quality feels rugged, and the lens is available in a wide variety of mount options.

Indeed, in our last group test of wide-angle lenses we picked this lens as the top choice for Pentax users, especially as the Pentax 12-24mm lens (not featured this time around) costs nearly double. The Sigma lens is stylishly finished and comes complete with a hood and soft pouch.

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

Lab results weren't fabulous for the Sigma, but coupled with a Canon EOS 550D in real-world shooting tests, it was sharp even shooting at the widest aperture. Only at the 20mm end of the zoom range did we have to reduce the aperture to f/8 to get sharp images, but the quality drops again at f/16. Sigma's Super Multi-Layer Coatings do a good job of combating ghosting and flare, while maintaining image contrast.

The Sigma 10-20mm optic also resisted vignetting throughout the zoom range, making its large, constant f/3.5 maximum aperture all the more useful. Colour fringing at the 10mm end of the zoom range was also impressively low. Overall, this Sigma lens is an attractive option, especially as it's about £160 cheaper than equivalent Canon and Nikon lenses.

Resolution sharpness test

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

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Centre sharpness is good at 10mm and 20mm, but drops towards the edges. At 16mm sharpness is lower than all the other lenses on test.

Fringing test

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

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Fringing at all focal lengths is minimal at the centre, but towards the edges there are signs of mild blue fringing.

Distortion test

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

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Distortion, while visible at 10mm, is acceptable and can be easily corrected. At 16mm and 20mm distortion is minimal

Image test verdict

Centre sharpness at 10mm and 20mm is good, and fringing and distortion levels are average compared with other lenses on test.

Score: 4/5

Read our full Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM review

Sony DT 11-18mm f/4.5-5.6

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

Sony DT 11-18mm f/4.5-5.6 - £530

Compared with most other lenses in the group, the Sony looks a low-frills affair. Its fairly meagre zoom range is 11-18mm, the shortest focal length equating to 16.5mm on Sony's APS-C bodies.

The autofocus system is quite slow, noisy and lacks full-time manual override, and the distance scale is merely printed around the outside edge of the focus ring. On most other lenses, the scale is neatly positioned behind a viewing window. The maximum aperture of f/4.5 at the shortest focal length is also a little disappointing, making the Sony joint slowest in the group along with the Sigma 8-16mm lens.

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

At f/8, the Sony is one of the sharper lenses in the group at its shortest 11mm focal length, but drops off progressively through the zoom range. A mid-table performer at f/16, sharpness drops more alarmingly at wider apertures. Distortion is higher than average around the middle of the zoom range, with cyan/magenta colour fringing noticeable around high-contrast edges in scenes.

But it's not all bad news - vignetting was minimal even when shooting at the largest available apertures. Given this is a camera manufacturer's own-brand lens, rather than independent competition, the price is reasonable, but we'd still expect better features and performance for the money. It looks a little outclassed and outdated by the cheaper Sigma 10-20mm lens, and the Sony-fit Tamron lens offers greater zoom range for £170 less.

Resolution sharpness test

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

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Centre sharpness at all focal lengths is average for this test. While sharp at the centre it drops off dramatically at the edges.

Fringing test

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

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Fringing is visibly apparent towards the edges at all focal lengths, with green at 11mm and 15mm and red/blue at 18mm.

Distortion test

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

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The Sony shows signs of barrel distortion at all focal lengths. At the widest focal length distortion is acceptable and easily corrected.

Image test verdict

In tests the Sony optic shows good centre sharpness. However, fringing towards the edge of the frame is visible at all focal lengths.

Score: 2/5

Readour full Sony DT 11-18mm f/4.5-5.6 review

Tamron SP AF 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 Di II

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

Tamron SP AF 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 Di II - £360

When launched, the Tamron 10-24mm lens had the biggest zoom range of any wide-angle lens on the market, though this has since been matched by Nikon. Available in a wide range of mounts, it's one of Tamron's SP or 'Super Performance' class of lenses, claimed to have high optical and mechanical quality. Even so, the build feels a bit cheap and plasticky compared with some of the competition - but it's little more than half the price of equivalent Canon and Nikon lenses.

There's no hypersonic autofocus motor, as is fitted to Tamron's newer 70-300mm USD and 18-270mm PZD lenses. Autofocus is still pretty quiet though, with its only real letdown being slowness on tricky targets or in dull lighting.

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

Combining the shortest 10mm focal length with the widest aperture, centre sharpness is decent, though corners lack detail. Reducing the aperture to f/5.6 offers a marked improvement, but sharpness is good rather than excellent, and at f/16 it ranks about fifth in this group. It's just a little sharper than the Canon 10-22mm though. At least the Tamron delivers very consistent levels of sharpness and reasonably low distortion throughout its entire zoom range.

Vignetting is minimal and colour fringing only slightly apparent at the shortest focal length. Both drop off almost completely around 15-18mm, and fringing only returns slightly towards 24mm. The cheapest lens in the group, the Tamron performs well at a budget price.

Resolution sharpness test

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

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Centre sharpness is consistent at all focal lengths, with top performance at 18mm. Sharpness drops towards the edges at all focal lengths.

Fringing test

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

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Signs of red fringing are apparent at 10mm towards the edge, but at the mid and centre frame at all focal lengths fringing is minimal.

Distortion test

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

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At all focal lengths there are visible signs of barrel distortion, which is still apparent at the lens's narrowest focal length.

Image test verdict

Sharpness results are consistent at all focal lengths with a drop towards the edges. Distortion and fringing are minimal on the Tamron.

Score: 4/5

Tokina 12-24mm f/4 AT-X 124 AF PRO DX II

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

Tokina 12-24mm f/4 AT-X 124 AF PRO DX II - £500

Tokina's 12-24mm Mark II lens is almost identical to the original, at least for Canon users. The only optical change is the new multi-coatings, reducing ghosting and flare. In the Nikon-fit version, the lens now has a built-in autofocus motor. It's quicker and slightly quieter than the old one, and means the lens will autofocus on Nikon bodies without built-in AF drives, such as the D3100 and D5100.

The shortest focal length of 12mm lags slightly behind most of the competition, but build quality is up to Tokina's typically high standards. Like the Sigma 10-20mm lens, the Tokina features a constant aperture throughout the zoom range, this time f/4 rather than f/3.5.

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

There's no full-time manual focus override, but the lens features a push-pull focus ring that slides forwards or backwards to engage auto or manual focus respectively. Our review sample proved very sharp at f/8 throughout the zoom range, though images were soft in the corners at f/4. At f/16 it's below average at 12mm, but very good at the middle and longest focal lengths.

Colour fringing proved less problematic with the Mark II lens than with the original model tested previously. Fringing was still clearly noticeable at the shortest focal length, but less so at longer focal lengths. Distortion is a little high at 12mm, but it diminishes towards the longer end of the zoom range, becoming negligible at 24mm.

Resolution sharpness test

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

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Centre sharpness is consistently high at all focal lengths, especially the longest. As with other lenses sharpness drops towards the edge.

Fringing test

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

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The Tokina lens consistently shows little sign of visible fringing at any focal length or at any point across the frame.

Distortion test

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

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Barrel distortion is visible at 12mm. At 18mm there's slight barrelling and at 24mm slight pinch distortion, but these aren't visible.

Image test verdict

At all focal lengths the Tokina shows consistently negligible signs of fringing. The optic's centre sharpness was also strong and consistent.

Score: 3/5

Readour full Tokina 12-24mm f/4 AT-X 124 AF PRO DX II review

Best wide-angle DSLR lenses: benchmarks

best wide angle lens sharpness

The lab tests reveal varied image quality characteristics in these wide-angle lenses. Lenses tested on the Canon EOS 7D (the Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM, Tamron SP AF 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 Di II, Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM and Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM) resolved less sharp detail from JPEG images.

Those tested on the Nikon, Olympus or Sony cameras (the Nikon AF-S DX 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G ED, Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm f/4-5.6, Sony DT 11-18mm f/4.5-5.6 and Tokina 12-24mm f/4 AT-X 124 AF PRO DX II) resolved more. Also, the results are more uniform across the focal range than the other makes.

best wide angle lens distortion

The Tamron and Canon lenses also delivered consistent results. At their widest focal lengths all lenses had typical wide-angled characteristics, with sharpness falling towards the edges of the frame. The Nikon optic showed most barrel distortion at its widest focal length, followed by the Sigma 8-16mm.

Most lenses showed pinch distortion at the narrowest focal length, but the Sony and Tamron optics retained mild barrel distortion throughout.

best wide angle lens fringing

Fringing for all lenses at the centre of the frame was minimal, but the Sony lens displayed visible signs towards the edge.

Overall, the Nikon lens just takes the lead for consistency.

Verdict: Best wide-angle DSLR lenses

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

Canon's EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM lens is relatively disappointing in terms of sharpness, and given that using a lens hood is often essential for outdoor shooting with a wide-angle lens, it's a source of frustration that Canon doesn't supply one.

Choice of wide-angle lenses for Four Thirds cameras remains limited. With its 2.0x crop factor, the shortest effective focal length of the Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm f/4-5.6 lens clocks in at a disappointing 18mm. But this lens is still decent value, especially considering Olympus's wider 7-14mm lens will set you back a colossal £1,500.

The Tamron SP AF 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 Di II is a very attractive budget lens for Canon, Nikon, Pentax and Sony users, but both the Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM and Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM lenses are noticeably more refined, with HSM autofocus. The 8-16mm lens is unbeatable for wide-angle coverage, while the 10-20mm has the advantage that you can fit filters to it at any focal length, as well as having a fast f/3.5 maximum aperture that remains constant throughout the zoom range.

The Sony DT 11-18mm f/4.5-5.6 lens has a relatively limited zoom range, and while image quality is pretty good, it doesn't quite offer enough to justify its price tag, especially when compared with the Sigma and Tamron lenses.

The Tokina 12-24mm f/4 AT-X 124 AF PRO DX II lens also lacks width at the all-important wide end of the zoom range, but it's a good performer with impressively solid build quality.

The Nikon AF-S DX 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G ED lens ticks all the right boxes for build quality and advanced features, such as its Silent Wave autofocus. Best of all, it's sharp right where you want it to be - at the shortest focal length - even at its widest aperture. This makes it our favourite wide-angle DSLR lens.

Best for Canon APS-C format users:

Sigma 8-16MM f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

What's good: High-quality build and optics.
What's bad: inability to mount filters apart from when shooting at 16mm.

Our verdict: Seriously wide, even with Canon's higher 1.6x crop factor.

Best for Pentax users:

Sigma 10-20MM f/3.5 EX DC HSM

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

What's good: advanced features and all-round quality at a sensible price.
What's bad: Sharpness at mid-zoom.

Our verdict: gives a wider-angle view than the Pentax lens and is a lot less expensive.

Best for Nikon DX users:

Nikon AF-S DX 10-24MM f/3.5-4.5G ED

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

What's good: Sharp at wide-angle settings.
What's bad: Sharpness drops considerably in the middle of the zoom range.

Our verdict: expensive, but well worth the money for Nikon landscape shooters.

Best for Olympus Four Thirds users:

Olympus 9-18mm f/4-5.6

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

What's good: all-round optical performance.
What's bad: widest angle of view is a bit limiting, due to the 2.0x crop factor.

Our verdict: despite some shortcomings, it's the obvious choice for four thirds cameras.

Best for Sony APS-C format users:

Tamron SP AF 10-24MM f/3.5-4.5 Di ii

Best wide-angle dslr lenses: 8 tested

What's good: optical performance is impressive considering the price.
What's bad: plasticky, with sluggish autofocus.

Our verdict: wider angle of view than Sony's own lens, and much cheaper.

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Liked this? Then check out Best DSLR: top cameras by price and brand

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