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What is an ultra wide angle lens?

You may have heard that a camera lens is called ultra wide angle, but what does that mean when it comes to still photography? This article explains what you need to know.

When you pick up a new phone, one of the camera system’s lenses may very well be labeled as ultra-wide, while others may include a wide-angle, telephoto, or macro depth sensor. So what does ultra-wide really mean?

An ultra-wide lens is one that appears wider than a standard wide-angle lens, an effect that results from a shorter focal length (i.e., the point at which the lens collects light). The shorter this focal length, the longer the field of view through your lens, which means the amount of the world you can see at any given time. Field of view is measured in degrees, and ultra-wide cameras on smartphones often provide a field of view of around 120 degrees, which is close to the human eye (roughly 135 degrees horizontally).

For example, take a look at the two pictures below. Both are taken from the same location and from the same Xiaomi 12 Pro phone, but the first was taken with the main wide-angle camera and the second with the ultra wide-angle lens.

Xiaomi 12 Pro: wide-angle camera
Xiaomi 12 Pro: ultra-wide camera

What are the benefits of an ultra wide angle lens?

The advantage of such a lens is that you can fit more into your frame; so, for example, if you want to show a great perspective or even capture the entire large object that is near you, then this lens is better for this task than a standard wide-angle lens.

If an ultra-wide lens has a fisheye effect, where so much is squeezed into the frame that it distorts as it moves away from the center, then you can appreciate the unusual look of such photos, which can give a fresh or even unnerving angle.

What are the disadvantages of an ultra wide angle lens?

On the other hand, you might be annoyed by the potential distortion of an ultra wide-angle lens if it doesn’t accurately capture the proportions of objects you can see with your own eyes.

What’s more, the ultra-wide lens is often lower quality than the main wide-angle lens on a smartphone and sometimes has a different color palette than other lenses, meaning your shots won’t look uniform even if they’re taken with the same lens. point and under the same conditions.

How can I use the ultra wide angle lens?

First of all, not all smartphones have an ultra wide angle lens, but if your phone’s camera module has multiple lenses, then one of them may be an ultra wide angle one. If an ultra wide lens is a priority for you, be sure to read our reviews to make sure the phone has a good quality ultra wide camera before you buy. Our best camera phone details some of the highest performing ultra wide-angle phones we’ve tested recently.

When you’re taking photos with your phone, you’ll likely see a set of lenses to choose from when the camera app is open. For example, you can see a line of dots at the bottom of the screen, or a graphic of trees to indicate a possible field of view, and from here you can choose which lens to use if there is more than one.

The image above shows the camera app on Realme 9. It currently uses the main wide-angle lens, but if you tap the icon on the left side of the display, next to the shutter button, which has a group of three trees, then it will switch to the ultra-wide lens for wider field of view.

Which smartphones have the best ultra-wide angle lenses?

Many cameras use an ultra-wide lens as a secondary lens to the main sensor, and some of the best camera phones offer truly amazing image quality with this type of lens. We’d especially note the iPhone 13 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra as very good performers in this regard, but our overall pick for the very best ultra-wide-angle camera has to be the Oppo Find X5 Pro.

On the other hand, some flagship phones that excel in other areas of photography actually let it down a little when it came to the ultra-wide camera; the Pixel 6 Pro, for example, didn’t impress in that regard.

Below you can take a look at ultra-wide shots taken by various devices to compare and contrast for yourself.

Oppo Find X5 Pro ultrawide
Oppo Find X5 Pro
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra Ultra Wide Camera in Daylight
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra
One Plus 10 Pro

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