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Choosing the Best Lens for Panorama Photography




Although a wide angle lens means fewer shots are needed to complete the panorama, it is best not to think in these terms. Eight good shots with the right lens are better than three shots with an inappropriate lens.


A 14mm lens would typically encompass a field of view of 114 degrees; a 24mm would cover approximately 67 degrees. Panorama photography can allow up to a 360 degree field of view, although more typically a panoramic composite will aim for a field of view of somewhere between 80 and 180 degrees over the horizontal field of view. The aspect ratio, (for it to be considered a true panorama,) would be 2:1 right up to 10:1 or more.


This is where some experimentation helps. There are no real hard and fast rules but some lenses will produce significantly better results than others. Nobody, however, wants to produce a run-of-the-mill panorama and perhaps it's worth seeing what interesting visual effects can be had from unusual lenses. Using an M42 adapter, you could try out panoramas with some old Zeiss, Holga or Pentax glass to achieve some variety, especially if you want the final image to have an unusual quality or patina

As a personal preference, when taking a panorama, I tend not to use a telephoto lens or, conversely, a wide angle lens.


I must stress this is my own preference and has more to do with not trusting myself to be a little clumsy on occasion. With a telephoto there is always the possibility that I could nudge the lens to a different focal length without noticing. Some people prefer telephoto lenses, as you can put together a high resolution many-image panorama.

With a wide angle, particularly a fish-eye, the curvature can create problems in the software later: stitching two squares together is far more efficient than two circles.


You could use a rectilinear, wide angle lens but I prefer to use a prime 50mm or 35mm. For landscapes where you are pressed up close to the scene such as a forest, I have used a 20mm f2.8, which was fine but the curvature of the lens will become more apparent on close architectural shots.


Further to this, once you move beyond a 180 degree horizontal field of view you are out of simple panorama territory: where the eye is capable of taking in the scene as a single unified image. The images often become fussy, containing too much information and might be better viewed by being animated or scrolled through. For print purposes I would suggest a 170 degree field of view as a maximum across both the horizontal and vertical plane.

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