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Which Wide-Angle Lens is Best?

Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon T* for Nikon or Canon
(Nikon version)

I’ve had several readers ask me recently which wide angle lens is best— Nikon 24/1.4, Canon 24/1.4L II, Zeiss 25/2, Zeiss 21/2.8 or something else.

Setting aside all the vague meaning of what “best” means, and the fact that 21mm is not 24mm or 25mm, I’ll answer it simply: in the wide angle realm for a DSLR, you won’t find a higher performing lens or one with a more satisfying drawing style than the Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon.

The Zeiss 21/2.8 Distagon is the only wide angle I’d hold up as an equal to the Leica 21mm f/3.4 Super-Elmar-M ASPH, which of course cannot be used on Canon or Nikon. Both are what I deem “world class” lenses for those looking for the very best. And the Zeiss 21/2.8 is about half a stop faster (brighter), no small feat.

The ZF.2 21/2.8 Distagon for Nikon and the ZE 21/2.8 Distagon for Canon are both about $1843. You’ll get the best wide angle you can buy, built of metal and glass, built to last, a gorgeous thing that happens to make superlative images in every sense of the world. Truly it is the one wide angle lens every serious Nikon and Canon shooter should own.

There are only a few caveats that I’ll mention—

  • It is manual focus.
  • It is heavier and bulkier than one might wish.
  • It will spoil you.

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