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Best wide-angle lens: ultra-wide lenses for Canon and Nikon DSLRs

Canon DSLRs with APS-C format image sensors start with entry-level models like the EOS Rebel T7 (EOS 2000D) and EOS Rebel T7i (EOS 800D), and go right through to bodies like the EOS 7D Mark II at the high end of the enthusiast market. Just as with standard and telephoto zooms, a bonus of the APS-C format is that ultra-wide lenses tend to be more compact and lightweight than equivalent full-frame optics. Here’s our top seven picks, in descending order.

Best wide-angle lenses for Canon APS-C DSLRs

1. Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 Di II VC HLD

A new kid on the ultra-wide block, here’s Tamron’s latest offering

Type: Zoom | Sensor size: APS-C | Focal length: 10-24mm | Maximum aperture: f/3.5-4.5 | Image stabilization: Yes | Minimum focus distance: 0.24m | Filter size: 77mm | Dimensions: 84 x 85mm | Weight: 440g

Effective autofocus system
Built-in image stabilization
Higher cost over old model
Variable aperture

The original Tamron 10-24mm gave the biggest outright zoom range of any ultra-wide lens for APS-C format Canon cameras. This major revamp boasts upgraded optical elements, a new HLD (High/Low toque-modulated Drive) autofocus system and the addition of VC (Vibration Compensation) stabilization. Overall build quality is better as well, with added attractions of a weather-sealed mounting plate and fluorine coating on the front element. The lens comes complete with a hood and is compatible with Tamron’s optional USB docking station, for applying customization and firmware updates. Autofocus is quicker and quieter than in the original lens, and unerringly accurate. Sharpness and contrast are impressive, right down to the very shortest zoom setting, colour fringing is minimal and distortions are well controlled for an ultra-wide zoom. All in all, it’s a top performer.

2. Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM

Good features and performance at a bargain price

Type: Zoom | Sensor size: APS-C | Focal length: 10-20mm | Maximum aperture: f/3.5 | Image stabilization: No | Minimum focus distance: 0.24m | Filter size: 82mm | Dimensions: 87.3 x 88.2mm | Weight: 520g

Constant maximum aperture
Very good performance
No image stabilization
Not Sigma's widest lens

This lens is newer, bigger and better than Sigma's original 10-20mm. A notable difference is that it has a constant f/3.5 maximum aperture, rather than a variable aperture rating that shrinks at longer zoom settings. It's a high-grade lens with fast and quiet ring-type ultrasonic autofocus and a seven-blade diaphragm. The build is quite chunky, with a comparatively large 82mm filter thread. Sharpness and contrast are excellent, and very consistent throughout the zoom range. Colour fringing is very well controlled, and distortion is only really noticeable towards the shortest end of the zoom range. It’s a superb lens that's great value for money.

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

It’s an ultra-wide lens that pushes the boundaries

Type: Zoom | Sensor size: APS-C | Focal length: 8-16mm | Maximum aperture: f/4.5-5.6 | Image stabilization: No | Minimum focus distance: 0.24m | Filter size: N/A | Dimensions: 75 x 105.7mm | Weight: 555g

Class-leading viewing angle
Ring-type ultrasonic autofocus
Relatively limited zoom range
No filter attachment thread

For really maximizing your ultra-wide viewing angle, look no further than this Sigma 8-16mm. Compared with most competing lenses that shrink to a 10mm focal length, the subtraction of 2mm at the short end of the zoom range makes a huge difference to the angle of view. Physically, the Sigma 8-16mm is quite long because the hood is built into the lens barrel. Build quality is very good, with a smooth-acting zoom ring and ring-type ultrasonic autofocus system. One downside of the ultra-wide angle of view is that barrel distortion at the short end of the zoom range is more noticeable but this lens is unbeatable for squeezing more into the frame, and for really exaggerating perspective.

4. Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM

A lightweight lens that’s ideal for travel photography

Type: Zoom | Sensor size: APS-C | Focal length: 10-18mm | Maximum aperture: f/4.5-5.6 | Image stabilization: 4 stops | Minimum focus distance: 0.22m | Filter size: 67mm | Dimensions: 74.6 x 72mm | Weight: 240g

Compact and lightweight
Image stabilizer
Meagre zoom range
Plastic lens mount

Canon has launched several compact, lightweight zoom lenses that feature STM (stepping motor) autofocus and image stabilization. The lightweight theme stretches to the mounting plate, which is made from plastic rather than metal. The STM system delivers fairly rapid autofocus for stills, along with smooth and virtually silent autofocus transitions when shooting movies, while the 'fly by wire' focus ring is smooth and precise in operation. The 10-18mm zoom range makes sense, as it gives a wide angle of view at the short end, and matches the 18mm starting point of standard kit zooms at the long end. Sharpness is good, beating that of Canon's long-established 10-22mm lens at both ends of the zoom range, and it’s much less expensive to buy.

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

This stalwart Canon EF-S wide zoom is still worth considering

Type: Zoom | Sensor size: APS-C | Focal length: 10-22mm | Maximum aperture: f/3.5-4.5 | Image stabilization: No | Minimum focus distance: 0.24m | Filter size: 77mm | Dimensions: 83.5 x 89.8mm | Weight: 386g

Good build quality
Ring-type ultrasonic autofocus
Sharpness could be better
No image stabilizer

This was the first ‘EF-S’ ultra-wide zoom that Canon launched for its APS-C format DSLRs, and it’s still going strong. Despite the addition of the EF-S 10-18mm IS STM lens to the line-up, the 10-22mm remains the better built and more upmarket option. It feels a quality item, and includes ring-type ultrasonic autofocus, plus a focus-distance scale that’s lacking on the cheaper 10-18mm lens. This can be a big help for setting the hyperfocal distance for maximizing depth of field, and for zone focusing, which is especially popular in street photography. However, the 10-22mm lacks image stabilization and outright sharpness is a little disappointing, especially towards the edges and corners of the image frame.

6. Tokina AT-X 11-20mm f/2.8 Pro DX

Following in the footsteps of a legend, but with extra reach

Type: Zoom | Sensor size: APS-C | Focal length: 11-20mm | Maximum aperture: f/2.8 | Image stabilization: No | Minimum focus distance: 0.28m | Filter size: 82mm | Dimensions: 89 x 92mm | Weight: 560g

Large, constant f/2.8 aperture
Good build quality
Large 82mm filter thread
No image stabilization

Tokina’s 11-16mm ultra-wide zoom lens became something of a classic in the early days of APS-C format DSLRs. It delivered very pleasing image quality and had a robust construction, although its outright zoom range was distinctly limited. This newer lens retains the same 11mm shortest focal length, but boosts the longest zoom setting from 16mm to 20mm. A major attraction is the lens’s fast f/2.8 aperture, which remains available throughout the entire zoom range. As a consequence, however, the filter thread is relatively large, at 82mm in diameter. Image quality is good with impressive sharpness, but autofocus is relatively slow and noisy compared with most current lenses. A typical Tokina design feature is that you can slide the focus ring forwards and backwards to engage auto or manual focus modes.

7. Tokina AT-X Pro 12-28mm f/4 DX

Not the widest-angle lens but it’s well built

Type: Zoom | Sensor size: APS-C | Focal length: 12-28mm | Maximum aperture: f/4 | Image stabilization: No | Minimum focus distance: 0.25m | Filter size: 77mm | Dimensions: 84 x 90.2mm | Weight: 530g

Robust feel with good handling
Smart ‘Silent Drive’ autofocus
Limited maximum viewing angle
Sharpness could be better

For a long time this has been the official Canon super-wide-angle zoom for its APS-C DSLRs, and although it's now been joined by the new EF-S 10-18mm STM lens, the 10-22mm remains the pricier, more upmarket option. Now 10 years old, the lens still feels like a quality item, and includes ring-type ultrasonic autofocus and a focus-distance scale mounted beneath a viewing window. We have, however, experienced poor sharpness from this lens in the past. The sample we tested this time proved better at the frame centre with apertures around f/8, yet sharpness was still disappointing towards the edges and corners, especially at larger apertures, where vignetting was also noticeable.