Prime lenses usually outperform wide-angle zoom lenses, as they have fewer moving parts and can accommodate a wider maximum aperture. But for most situations and applications, the difference is marginal, and what you may sacrifice in image quality you gain with the convenience of a zoom range. Standard zoom lenses often cover a range of focal lengths, such as a wide zoom 16–35mm, or ultrawide zoom 12–24mm, which makes them more versatile than being locked into one focal length.
The best wide-angle lenses usually have features such as a maximum aperture of f/2.8 or wider, for a shallow depth of field, image stabilization, or autofocus. They might be made with an aspherical lens element, which produces sharper images and reduces distortion. Their overall build quality is superior, but if you go looking for these features on a lens, a large price tag will follow. The good news is that you can find used versions of most lenses for much less than their retail price. And while they might be old, the quality of the glass doesn’t degrade. A premium wide-angle lens from popular DSLR camera brands such as Canon, Nikon, Sigma, or Sony will fetch decent resale values, even as newer models are released.
No matter what type of camera lens you’re in the market for, go for the best quality you can. “Invest in high-quality glass,” photographer Crosby Dove advises. “Sometimes the lens can cost more than the camera itself. It’s a big investment, but lenses hold their value better than cameras.”