There is a very particular look available to photographers who have a ‘Super-Wide-angle’ lens in their gadget bag, a ‘look’ that puts a whole new perspective on things. To get it you really need something quite extreme. Nikon do it, Canon do it, indeed most of the camera makers do it, but so do some of the independent lens makers. Of these who does it best? And do you get what you pay for?
The main lenses we are looking at here are the Canon and Nikon versions of the Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 2.8/15 lens which was launched in March 2012. To give some perspective we are including the Sigma 14mm f2.8 EX Aspherical HSM Nikon that was launched around the middle of 2008 but is no-longer in production.
The Zeiss optic comprises 15 elements in 12 groups. Optically the two versions of the Zeiss Distagon are the same, but the Canon version is slightly longer and heavier due to differences in the depth of the camera body and the dimensions of the lens mount.
The Sigma lens comprises 14 elements in 10 groups in what, for such a wide lens, is a relatively compact 82mm across and just over 90mm long. Unlike the Zeiss lens, it also has autofocus, this seems a little superfluous in such a wide lens but is nice to have anyway. The Carl Zeiss lens, in either version, Canon or Nikon, is rather bigger: 103mm across and over 130mm long and also rather heavier. Both manufacturers are using aspheric elements and Zeiss also use special glass that they describe as ‘anomalous partial dispersion’, they also both have built in lens shades.