My first experience with an urgent need for a wide angle lens was when I discovered the Tomb of the Jade Jaguar under an ancient Maya pyramid at Tikal. The burial crypt was only about 9 feet wide and perhaps 12 feet long. I was 20 years old at the time and had only a 35mm lens on a Leica M1. The resulting photo (which still exists after over 30 years) is on another section of our web sites.

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Ultra-Wide Angle Nikon Lenses for 35mm Format can now be utilized to create Virtual Reality panorama photographs.

When I began to photograph Maya architecture full time, a 28mm lens became my standard lens. A 35mm lens or even was not wide enough to record Maya temples and palaces. I experimented with perspective correcting lenses; perspective correcting lenses are definitely better than straight lenses. They helped, but inside small chambers in the ancient temples I needed a wider angle coverage.

Then architect Hasso Hohmann of Graz, Austria told me about the 15mm lens of Nikon. He said it did not distort the images. At that time I had only Leica cameras. The price of a Leica 15mm lens was more than the price of an entire new Nikon F3 camera plus the 15mm lens. So I asked several benefactors of the FLAAR archaeology research program for help, and they chipped in to enable us to obtain this ultra-wide angle Nikon system.

This was the most useful lens I ever got for a 35mm camera system. I have been able to record views inside Maya buildings that no other archaeologist had the capability to capture. On several occasions I have loaned this 15mm lens to other photographers that I ran into out in the field. FLAAR has also used this wonderful lens to take pictures for several archaeological projects that we have visited.

I do not know why I went through so many years and never heard about the properties of this 15mm lens. As long as you hold it at an appropriate angle there is minimal distortion, and no noticeable circular distortion. This is a wonder lens.The angle of view is 110 degrees.

If you want 118 degrees of coverage, try the 13mm f5.6 Nikkor AIS lens. More fascinating than the wide coverage is the fact that you can focus to 12 inches. Just as soon as we can get this 13mm lens to test we will reveal results on these FLAAR Web pages.

In recent years Nikon has added a 14mm version, the AF Nikkor 14mm f/2.8D ED.

Every architectural historian should have at least one of these three lenses, every archaeologist needs one. Obviously if there are strong lights, or the sun, overhead, a wide angle lens will produce flare. But I have gotten more than enough great shots with the 15mm Nikkor f/3.5 lens over the years.

We do not know wich, if any, of these lenses will fit onto the Nikon D100 or D70. If they do, they are well worthwhile. Lack of auto-focus is not an issue since with wide angle lenses almost everything is in focus anyway.

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Updated July 14, 1999; links organized April 20, 2000;
Most recently updated March 11, 2004, r
edesigned January 2004

Note: All further updates during Spring and Summer 2004 are being added to the textbook on photography by Nicholas Hellmuth. This textbook is not sold other than given to students and participants in the FLAAR courses on photography. You can get all the cameras-scanners-flaar.org web site, plus essentially the entire www.digital-photography.org website, organized as an easy course, if you sign up for the FLAAR program. The FLAAR course on photography is available worldwide, in the comfort of your home or office, via the Internet. Next course starts August-September 2004.

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