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Is Wide Angle Different than Simply Moving Backwards?
Hi, I'm looking to purchase a new point and shoot camera. My current camera has a 35mm wide angle. I see that there are actually some compact point and shoot models on the market now that go to 28mm..

I see people mention that if you want a wider angle, just take a step back. But, technically, isn't stepping back different than what a wider angle lens will capture? For example, let's say I am taking a picture of my friends whom are standing in front of a monument that is 10 feet behind them and the monument is 25 feet tall. With a very wide angle lens, won't I be able to get a shot close up of my friends and still have the whole monument in the picture?.

On the other hand, if we use that same example with a 35mm lens and lets say I decide that I want to get the entire monument in the frame with my friends. I would have to start walking backwards. Isn't what will happen is that to get the entire monument in the frame I'd have to walk backwards far enough that my friends would now appear less significant and farther away?..

Comments (18)

You are correct. What going with a wider lens does is change the perspective and relationship between the elements in the image. Using your example, you can make a much better environmental portrait of your friend by coming in closer with a wider lens and still retain the monument in the background..

Personally, I never purchase a point and shoot camera that doesn't go to at least 28mm and I still like using the CoolPix 8400 which had a 24mm lens..

Larry Bermanhttp://BermanGraphics.com..

Comment #1

Sometimes you can't move back.If you think that makes sense, then you must have read someone else's post!..

Comment #2

It's also about angle of view. A lens of a given focal length has a fixed angle of view. It doesn't change based on distance to subject. Thus, with a 28mm lens, you will always have a wider perspective than with a 35mm lens, no matter where you are positioned...

Comment #3

If you stand in one place and take a series of shots with lenses of widening (decreasing) focal length, the angle of view increases (you get more in), but the perspective doesn't change. That's the effect you see in a movie when the camera does a simple zoom in or out - and here are two examples of that, made by drawing round the edges of superimposed shots taken at 3 focal lengths with a Ricoh GX100:.

A landscape:.

Image control:Zoom outZoom 100%Zoom inExpand AllOpen in new window.

Looking through a church doorway:.

Image control:Zoom outZoom 100%Zoom inExpand AllOpen in new window.

With the first shot (in theory at least), I could have stayed at 35mm and increased my distance from the hillside until I got an image very similar to the 24mm frame - because I was positioned more or less centrally in front of a relatively flat hillside with the result that the perspective wouldn't have changed much as I moved..

In the case of the second shot however, widening the view by stepping back (not that I could have done so without falling down the church steps) would have made a much bigger change in the relative sizes of the people against the background and completely changed the picture (it would also introduced have a lot more of the doorway, to the point when it would have obstructed most of the view!)..

So there are some instances when stepping back to get more in will work perfectly well (flat subjects like walls, paintings or even building facades - and may even help, by reducing the necessity to tilt the camera backwards to get 'more' in) - but it isn't really a solution when there's any significant depth in the subject, as objects at different distances from the camera either conceal or reveal one another as the photographer moves back and forth. To keep foreground subjects (your friends in this case!) at a decent size, you'll have to get them to move as you move!.

Hope that helped?Peter.

Peter - on the green island of Ischiahttp://www.pbase.com/isolaverde..

Comment #4

In general, it is better if you (can) step back. Most obvious reason: the wider the lens, the more perspective distorsion image will have (vertical lines become tilted). This is especially noticeable when taking photos of buldings and similar..

Of course, you can't allways step back (wall behind you, for example) or you simply wish to capture "wide view" (landscape view). Being somewhere on top of the hill, you can't step back much -and even stepping back a bit, you won't influence "panorama view" much..

The thing is, sometimes you simply can't do it without a bit wider lens and I think, ~28mm (~17mm on APS-C) is a good startpoint: very handy for indoor and landscape shots..

BogdanMy pictures are my memorieshttp://freeweb.siol.net/hrastni3/..

Comment #5

They are different. First, you get a different perspective taking wide angle up close rather than narrower from further back. IT tends to make details and features more dramatic. Good for some stuff, maybe not for portraits..

Second, and more important, sometimes you can't take a step back, or if you do, it lets other stuff in. For example I took this at our local sculpture garden (please excuse the blown highlights, I was experimenting with hdr, and the half empty pond, not my fault...).

Image control:Zoom outZoom 100%Zoom inExpand AllOpen in new window.

Anyway, the point of this is that you can shoot it with a variety of different focal lenghts, there is room to back up. However, it works best with an ultra wide. this version was a tokina 12-24 at either 12 or 14 MM, so 18-21 in 35mm terms. Why do this over another length? In this case, the sculpture is lit with semicircle of lights in the ground. Take a step back and you get basically the same view, but now you have a mess of light sources in it, which uglifies things..

Another example.

Image control:Zoom outZoom 100%Zoom inExpand AllOpen in new window.

Was shot at 18mm (so 27 mm equivalent). There is room to back up and take this with probably up to 150 mm, BUT you end up with a traffic signpost in the shot.With the 18mm, you are standing inside the signpost..

These are a couple situations where you could step back, but it degrades your shot. In other cases, it is physcially impossible to step back enough to get in what you want. Personally, I think a good wide angle is much more useful for most folks than more telephoto range...

Comment #6

Larry Berman wrote:.

What going with a wider lens does is change theperspective and relationship between the elements in the image..

How on Earth did you determine that a wider lens changes perspective? A wider lens only widens the field of view..

The only way to change perspective is to move the camera (or the subject)...

Comment #7

Iggier wrote:..

Thus, with a 28mm lens, you will always have a wider perspective thanwith a 35mm lens, no matter where you are positioned..

Better to say a "wider view". "Perspective" is a completely different issue that has nothing to do with the lens...

Comment #8

Hbx2004 wrote:.

In general, it is better if you (can) step back..

Completely wrong..

Sometimes it's better to step forward. Sometimes it's better to step back. Other times you're in exactly the right spot...

Comment #9

DonAvebury wrote:.

Larry Berman wrote:.

What going with a wider lens does is change theperspective and relationship between the elements in the image..

How on Earth did you determine that a wider lens changes perspective?A wider lens only widens the field of view..

The only way to change perspective is to move the camera (or thesubject)..

What you say is true. Only changing camera position, relative to subject, changes perspective..

But using wider lenses encourages people to move forward, in order to "fill the frame" and longer (narrower) lenses tend to make people move back "to get it all in"..

So does a lens f-length alter perspective?No, not by itself.But it does make people use their legs... which has the same effect.Regards,Baz..

Comment #10

DonAvebury wrote:.

Hbx2004 wrote:.

In general, it is better if you (can) step back..

Completely wrong..

...now I'm curious....

Sometimes it's better to step forward. Sometimes it's better to stepback. Other times you're in exactly the right spot..

C'mon... we are talking about wide shots (in general), don't we? -where these couple of steps (forward) can be compensated using zoom. Have a prime? Jump off the cliff .

BogdanMy pictures are my memorieshttp://freeweb.siol.net/hrastni3/..

Comment #11

In many situations where the subject is not moving, you can take several shots and stitch them together in the computer. It's actually very easy and you can get much wider angles than with 28mm equiv..

Also there are wide angle converters that you can attach to the front of your lens...

Comment #12

Are those two scenes really, er, real? Both look like 3D CGI from early in the 2000s, or even late 1990s. If those are real photographs, then either you or I live in a virtual world. And I'm pretty sure it isn't me!.

Oh and in answer to Josh, Moving back and changing the focal length (zooming) are two very different things, although they both affect the total amount of scene that can be seen by the sensor behind the lens. Zooming affects only the angle of view, while moving affects the perspective of the camera with regards to the individual subjects within a scene. The two can be combined to cancel out the change in the amount of scene captured, but you can never cancel out the change in perspective, as that's intrinsic to the position of the camera..

This animation from Wikipedia's article on Dolly Zoom explains the concept nicely:.

Image control:Zoom outZoom 100%Zoom inExpand AllOpen in new window.

Amy..

Comment #13

What's missing from this thread is telling the op that purchasing a camera with a wider lens offers alternative compositions and more creative options, but pictures can still be taken at 35mm if desired..

Back in the days where we actually learned photography and how to maximize our equipment, one purchased a lens and explored it's potential for a few days or weeks. Then when you went into an important shooting situation, you knew exactly how each focal length lens would react. Sure there were surprises from experimenting, but they were mostly good ones..

Barrie Davis wrote:.

Only changing camera position, relative tosubject, changes perspective.But using wider lenses encourages people to move forward, in order to"fill the frame" and longer (narrower) lenses tend to make peoplemove back "to get it all in".So does a lens f-length alter perspective?No, not by itself.But it does make people use their legs... which has the same effect..

Larry Bermanhttp://BermanGraphics.com..

Comment #14

That didn't work, but this one does:.

Image control:Zoom outZoom 100%Zoom inExpand AllOpen in new window..

Comment #15

Totally real, and about 2 blocks from each other in Minneapolis. The cherry looks pretty fake because it is a klutzy attempt at HDR. The Walker art museum pretty much looks like that...

Comment #16

Consider a photo of the horizon of a far away mountain range. Small movements towards or away from it have little effect on the width seen compared to width change caused by focal length...

Comment #17

Further, sometimes it's better to step to the side, or to shoot a vertical instead of a horizontal...

Comment #18

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This question was taken from a support group/message board and re-posted here so others can learn from it.

 

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