wide angle lens suggestion


Mar 12, 2014
Omaha, NE
I have been dying to get a wide angle lens for my Nikon D40 camera and would love to have a zoom lens like a 10-20mm or 14-24mm, but the cost has kept me from getting one. Does anyone have any experience or preference that would tell me whether I would be happy with just a 10mm fixed lens? Am I going to miss the ability to zoom in or out? Right now I have a 18-55mm lens and a 70-200mm(I believe). Thanks in advance for any suggestions or experiences you could tell me!
I assume you're looking at the Nikkor 10mm for ~$250. That's a "Nikon 1" mount, which isn't compatible with the Nikon "F" mount on your D40.
edit: there are some 10mm fisheyes, but you generally don't want to use a fisheye as the distortion is quite pronounced

A popular wide angle for Nikons in the F mount is the Tokina 11-16. You can buy them new for ~$500. Oddly enough, these lenses used their value very well, and it's not really worth buying a used one just to save $50. One of the few instances I wouldn't recommend buying a used lens from a dealer like KEH. The Sigma 10-20 isn't a bad lens, but for a little more money you can get the Tokina.

Zooms are good for when you want to change your composition on the fly, don't necessarily have the time to change your position, and the situation can be handled with a variety of focal lengths. A prime (fixed focal length) lens will be lighter, usually will focus faster (you can often times just lock it at infinity and forget about focusing), and forces you to "compose with your feet".

For me personally - I'm at the point where my favorite lenses are a 15mm, a 35mm, and a 55mm (on a 1.5 crop ratio body). I rarely use my zooms anymore even though the quality on my remaining zoom is amazing. I found myself using either end of the range on my 17-40/18-55/10-22 and very rarely in between so it made sense for me to switch to primes. I also like working with the constraint of a fixed focal length because I've found it makes me think through my composition more.

So it's a matter of personal preference and how you approach photography, but many storm photographers with killer portfolios like Mike Hollingshead and Brad Goddard have heavily incorporated prime lenses into their rotations. Try renting one from LensRentals.com or something first and see how you like shooting with it for a weekend.
Thanks for the info Rob! So is there a prime or fixed wide angle lens you could recommend for my camera that would save me some money over that tokina lens? I've actually looked at that lens but my budget at least for this season probably won't allow me to get that one. Coincidentally I have also looked at renting a wide angle this season too...
I have a 10-22, and the ability to zoom out is definitely a plus for storm chasing. I use 10mm the most, but in many cases it's nice to have the option to zoom in a little without changing lenses in the heat of battle.

I was able to test drive a Tokina 11-16 before I got my Canon 10-22. There was a lot more softness in the corners on the Tokina than I was willing to accept, but it may have just been a bad copy.
My first lens and camera was the 10-20 sigma which I bought separately from a canon rebel XT body, both used on ebay. I've used it almost exclusively and use the zoom a lot. Probably my most enjoyable investment. My opinion would be if you have anything to sell at all, sell and use the money to get a wide angle zoom.
I should do a blog post about this or something since people always ask.

I usually recommend people buy used lenses from a place like KEH. Why? A lot of lenses/bodies lose value quickly just from opening the box, and aside from things like AF motors, there's not much that can go wrong with a lens. Small amounts of dust or even scratches will not be noticeable on your images. With wide angle lenses, I'd actually suggest buying new because they hold their value so well. In most cases you would only save ~$50 buying used, so it's not really worth it.

Samyang 14mm ~$300 frequently on sale. Sharp, cheap, and fast f2.8. Quality control isn't stellar, so you might need to return a lens if it's not a good copy.
Tokina 11-16 ~$500. Sharp and fast f2.8. A favorite.
Canon 10-22 ~$600. Great lens, should have been branded L based on its optics. A little slow (f3.5) compared to the others.
Nikon 12-24/10-24 I don't know much about these lenses. I'd probably go with the Tokina over them though.
Nikon 14-24 ~$1000 used $2000 new. Great lens, but Nikon is really gouging on the price. Still, if you have a full frame Nikon, you want this.
Canon 16-35 ~$1500 new. I personally haven't used it, but some have struggled with it, and you shouldn't have to struggle with a $1500 lens. Check out Mike Hollingshead's site for a rundown on this lens, the Samyang 14mm, and a few others.
Canon 14 ~$2200 new. Don't know anyone that owns this, and not sure why you'd spend that much.
Sigma 10-22 ~$400 used/new. Knew a few people with this, no real complaints, but no real stellar reviews.

1. If you want to go dirt cheap: Samyang 14mm
2. If you want to spend a little more, and have zoom capability: Tokina 11-16, or Canon 10-22 if you're shooting Canon.
3. If you want a sweet lens for your Nikon system: Nikon 14-24
4. Ignore my advice, and everyone else's, try out some different lenses, and pick your own favorite ;)

Now if you're mirrorless, things get a little more interesting. You can adapt any of these lenses to your mirrorless body. And more! One of my favorite lenses ever made is the Leica M mount Voigtlander 15mm:


Super sharp, barely any distortion, super tiny. Not too expensive at ~$500. Fuji also makes an amazing 14mm if you like quirky systems.

One of the great things about prime wides is that you don't really need (or want) to focus. Set your camera to manual focus, turn it to infinity, put a rubber band on it, and forget about focusing. Also, don't worry about the speed of the lens. Everyone wants f2.8 and IS, but f4 is only a stop slower. At 10mm you can pretty much shoot 1/10th second exposures without worrying about shake. Use a tripod, bump your ISO a little, and don't be afraid of shooting at f4 or narrower. You'll get sharper corners as well.

The number one most important rule of photography: gear doesn't make the picture, so be happy with the gear you have and take lots of pictures. If you're always wishing for something better your photography will suffer. Hollingshead has an amazing portfolio and some of my favorite shots of his are with the 18-55 kit and the 17-40L - both lenses that aren't known for being amazing.

edit: Case in point, Joshua's post above mine. He has the Sigma 10-20 and loves it. I knew a guy that had a 10-20 and wasn't very happy with it, so he didn't use it very much. Pixel peeping and MTF charts are interesting ways to pass the time, but the best lens for anyone is a lens that they love using.
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If you really want 10mm but also want cheap, the Sigma 10-20mm is probably your closest match. I'm not aware of any 10mm primes. Samyang/Rokinon make an 8mm fisheye for APS-C bodies, if that's something that interests you.

When I shot Canon APS-C, I owned the Canon 10-22mm and loved it. I used it for almost all of my good chasing images for half a decade. The Sigma 10-20mm is a slightly cheaper alternative, but if you can squeeze it into your budget, I'd recommend the Canon.

One note regarding the Samyang 14mm f/2.8: just my opinion, but I wouldn't purchase it with the intention of using it on an APS-C body long-term. It's an incredible bargain for full-frame, but that's mainly because its sharpness is so uniform across the frame -- it doesn't drop off horribly in the corners, like so many other full-frame wide lenses do. Its sharpness at the center of the image circle, where an APS-C camera uses it, is only fair to middling, and microcontrast is really not very good until it's stopped down a bit. These flaws are less problematic on full-frame, but the "zoom" effect of APS-C starts to expose them more. I've actually tested five copies of this lens between Canon and Nikon (long story), and consistently found it to be underwhelming on crop bodies.
Thanks again for all the info guys- I think I might start first with a rental of a few different lenses and decide which works best for me and then purchase one.
You might also consider getting a second camera of decent quality and keeping another lens on it. I prefer to have one camera with a 70-200 and one with a 24-105 or 24-70. I really can't recommend using primes in chase mode. They have their place but you may end up frustrated often with a prime. I'm not really up on Nikon so I can't be of much help otherwise.