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Smartphone photography basics: What is an ultra-wide angle lens and when to use one

Smartphones like the iPhone 11, Galaxy S10 and OnePlus 7 Pro all feature an ultra-wide-angle lens. Here's a quick guide on how to use an ultra-wide-angle lens and when to use it to take excellent landscape or group shots.

Written by Anuj Bhatia |
Updated: September 16, 2019 8:46:53 am
ultra-wide angle lens, ultra-wide angle lens camera, ultra-wide angle lens smartphone, ultra-wide angle lens uses, iPhone 11 ultra-wide angle lens An ultra-wide-angle lens is any lens with an angle of view greater than 90 degrees.

Apple is making a big deal about its ultra-wide-angle lens on the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max, the trio of new smartphones it launched earlier this week in Cupertino, California. For the first time on the iPhone, Apple is adding an ultra-wide-angle lens that has a 13nm equivalent focal length and an f/2.4 aperture, providing a 120-degree field of view.

Although the iPhone 11 is now getting an ultra-wide-angle lens, most high-end Android smartphones (Samsung Galaxy S10, Huawei P30 Pro and OnePlus 7 Pro, among others) already come with the ultra-wide camera. In fact, a lot of mid-range smartphones these days also offer an ultra-wide-angle lens. The Realme XT, the phone with a 64MP camera, also has an ultra-wide-angle lens. Motorola One Action, too, offers an ultra-wide-angle lens.

With the iPhone 11 getting a new ultra-wide-angle lens, don’t be surprised to see if the ultra-wide camera become mainstream, appearing in dozens of smartphones (both low and premium end) in 2019. Now that the ultrawide camera is on the cusp of becoming popular among smartphone users, we try to explain why it is important to use the ultra-wide camera and when to use it to take excellent landscape or group shots.

What is an ultra-wide-angle lens?

An ultra-wide-angle lens offers an angle of view greater than 90 degrees. Simply put, you can capture more of your surroundings with the ultra-wide-angle camera than you would with the regular camera available on most smartphones. A lens with a focal length of less than 24mm is considered to be an ultra-wide-angle lens. The iPhone 11’s 12MP ultra-wide lens has a focal length of 13mm and an f/2.4 aperture. Because of its large field of view (the iPhone 11’s ultra-wide camera has a 120-degree of view), an ultra-wide-angle lens captures a large part of the scene that you otherwise miss when you take the same shot with a smartphone with any ordinary lens.

What does an ultra-wide-angle lens do?

Professional photographers love to take photographs using an ultra-wide-angle lens and there is a reason behind it. An ultra-wide-angle lens is used to exaggerate perspective in photography and make objects closer to the lens look larger than they are. The fundamental is straightforward: the farther away from the subject, the smaller it looks. The nearer an object, the larger it looks.

Take a look at the following sample shot taken using an ultra-wide-angle lens.

iPhone 11 utra wide lens A sample shot taken using an ultra-wide-angle lens

An ultra-wide angle lens is often considered when taking a shot of a tall building. This lens allows you to fit a skyscraper into the frame without sacrificing perspective

iphone 11 ultra wide camera Here’s a shot of a tall building captured with an ultra-wide-angle lens from an upcoming smartphone.

An ultra-wide-angle lens takes in more view than normal, and this image of an outdoor mall proves why. That’s exactly what an ultra-wide-angle camera do.

iphone 11 ultra wide An ultra-wide-angle lens takes in more view than normal

Now, look at the image of the metro platform. There is no clear subject in the image below – still it stands out.

ipHone 11 ultra wide camera A sample shot taken using an ultra-wide-angle lens

One more example:

The shot was taken with an ultra-wide-angle lens. This shot was taken with the standard lens. 

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