I have never photographed in 35mm film with a lens wider than 28mm. in digital/Nikon DX format, I use the 17-55 f/2.8 quite a bit. Factoring in the 1 1/2 crop factor of the APS-C sensor, that nets out to about a 25.5mm focal length. Wide, but, like most zooms, there will be quite a bit of barrel distortion at that length. And, there is. As I have claimed before, a zoom is like a Swiss Army Knife. Sure, it can do a lot. But, it can’t open bottle tops as well as a dedicated opener. Nor is its corkscrew as effective as the real thing. Handy in a pinch, but if there is the need to shoot wide, a dedicated wide prime is the best way to shoot. With the least amount of linear distortion.
So, how is, say, a 24mm? Tremendous fun. This Canon FD mount 24mm f/2.8 really shines close up. Here on the AE-1-
Not only can distant landscapes be captured beautifully, but brush and flora along the roadside can be brought into view, as its own micro world.
One technique I really try to work on with wide-angle glass is the counterintuitive instinct to shoot vertical. I find that prefocusing with the split range microprism , using it to focus horizontally, and then putting the orientation into portrait works extremely well.
Because of the virtually distortion free glass of this lens, it is also quite handy for architecture. Gone are the pincushion-like bowing straight lines I remember my 17-55 Nikkor glass showing at the wide end. Also handy is the ability to get very close to the subject, while still being able to achieve proper focus.
As the widest prime in my kit so far, it continues to impress. A great reason too to buy into the Canon FD system. A comparable Nikkor 24mm is indeed much more expensive. The 28mm Nikkor is my widest, but the 35mm optically is my favorite Nikkor prime. This may be my new Canon FD favorite. The results have blown me away so far. Canon FD glass is still very affordable. The trend of hobbyists retro fitting them to mirrorless and Micro 4/3rd digital cameras is a great one, as they are discovering the beauty of these classic manual focus lenses. This has driven some prices back up. But there are indeed lots of them out there.