Here is a brief overview of my experiences with various wide angle lenses that I have either owned or used. One important factor to remember is that I have found sample variability in all lenses I have tried from the cheapest to the most expensive, although I find much less variability in the more expensive products. I state this as a "grain of salt" in this or any other lens reviews. What one person finds in their testing may or may not reflect what someone else finds depending on how good or bad their samples are. I also utilize both formal and field experience to form my opinions. I am very picky about lens quality and have sent many lenses back for either exchange or adjustment that did not meet my expectations. The opinions below are based on the best examples of each that I have used. Please contact me if you would like to know more about any of the lenses in detail for specific uses.

Wide FX Zooms - Listed from favorite down

Nikon 17-35mm: My favorite wide angle lens overall for either FX or DX. Very sharp stopped down, as good as the 14-24mm at most focal lengths. This lens is better than all the primes I have tried in it’s range other than wide open. Quite an accomplishment!! It is a reasonable size to carry and takes filters. It is not very sharp wide open, though for nature photography that I primarily use this lens for, it doesn't matter. I highly recommend this lens for landscape work.

Nikon14-24mm:  Probably the sharpest wide angle that I have ever used. The lens is very sharp at all focal lengths and is even quite sharp, although not stunning, wide open. The lens has low distortion in my use as well. The drawbacks - bulky and awkward size, vulnerable front element, fairly easy to flair, and pretty difficult to utilize filters. Still top shelf and hard to challenge optically!!! It’s drawbacks keep it out of my bag usually and used for special purposes where you need really wide.

Nikon 18-35mm: Very light compared to the above, however not quite the equal optically. I found this lens to be very good at the long end and only OK at the wide end, particularly wide open. The build is also solid for a consumer grade lens but not up to the above pro grade lenses. This is still a good option for a lighter hiking lens where you want to be able to zoom and only carrying one lens over the better optical quality of a light weight prime.

Wide DX Zooms - Listed from favorite down

Sigma 10-20mm: A great little DX lens. This is probably my preference of the three major DX wide zooms. It has pretty solid optics, however not the best, a wider angle of view, good build, built in focus motor, and solid value put it in this position. The lens has fairly low CA and reasonable distortion for the FL. My best copy was best at the wide end stopped down two stops.

Tokina 12-24mm: I place the Tokina above the Nikon solely to it’s value at new price for both. The optics are very good, better than the Sigma, slightly worse than the Nikon. It also has by far the best build of the three. Every copy I used had pretty bad CA. It also does not have a focus motor on the Nikon version. My best copy was sharpest at the 24mm end of the range. Still a very solid overall choose and I will still recommend

Nikon 12-24mm: Best optics of the three DX, although it is pretty close between the three. Very good build, CA, and distortion, however not the best in any of them. The biggest drawback to this lens is the new price compared to the Sigma and Tokina. The other two almost match or exceed it in different categories yet are hundreds less.

Wide FX Primes - Listed from favorite down

Nikon 24mm f2.8 AIS: Great overall lens. Very sharp in the center wide open and full convincing down two stops across the focal plane. It is as sharp as the 17-35mm and a bit sharper than the 24-70mm at landscape apertures. Mine vignettes badly on FX digital wide open – maybe the worst that I have seen. Very small and outstanding construction – they don’t build them like this anymore!! It also has a fair amount of CA on digital, about the same as the Tokina 12-24mm in my use. This is still a great option for a wide angle hiking solution and quite an achievement for a 40 year old design!

Nikon 35mm f2: Very nice lens. A full stop faster than the pro zooms in this range. Excellent optics, especially stopped down one stop. The lens is very sharp in the center wide open. A bit of CA. This lens has broadly been subjugated to the shelf other than specialty work because of the quality in the better modern zooms.

Sigma 15mm f2.8 Fisheye: Nice sharpness in the center at all apertures. It needs to be stopped down two stops to get the corners sharp. There is really not much to complain about for a fisheye and the compromises that they all bring. I use this as a special assignment lens or creative lens and therefore do not pack it very often.

Nikon 20mm f2 AF: Good overall lens. I found the 24mm to be generally sharper and the 17-35mm killed it at 20mm other than wide open. It’s still fairly compact with a 62mm thread size. I prefer the 24mm over this one.