In the days when DX was the only format you could buy a Nikon in we suffered from a deficit of short lenses. There were a few repurposed film era wide angles but they all seemed to have their share of problems. For a while the widest rectilinear lens was the 14mm Nikon lens which was something like $1600 and could get you to the equivalent of a 21mm on a full frame camera. Wide enough for most stuff but not for the things that really mattered.
I was hired to document the interior of the old Palmer Auditorium Building which was re-birthed, after $80 million of construction, as the Long Center. There were a lot of enormous spaces and stages as well as some tiny spaces like historic dressing rooms. I knew I wanted a lens that would communicate the scale of the interior spaces and would work well with the Nikon D2x, my camera of the moment. While very few people like the effect of a fish eye lens with its distorted lines the people at Nikon had designed into the Capture Raw software a component that "de-fished" that particular lens. You could enable the correction and, voila, you had a very wide image and all the lines were as straight as could be ( providing you were careful to level the camera while shooting ).
The lens worked fine for the assignment with the caveat that the expanded corners lacked the detail one would find in the center of the frame. They were "stretched out" to make the file geometrically rectilinear and that meant there were proportionally fewer pixels in the corners.
I subsequently used the lens on a number of jobs that required a wide view, including the job for Lithoprint (above). I am certain that we used a normal looking file for the final brochure but for some reason I came to really enjoy the look of curved fluorescent lights and so I kept a copy like this.
Wide is really no longer an issue in most camera company's lens catalogs. My current favorite is certainly the already rectilinear, and wonderfully sharp, Panasonic 7-14mm ultra wide angle zoom. There are also ultra wide angle zooms available for the APS-C systems that are very good.
If we've made any progress in the digital age it's been in the area of making lenses that are better matches for the size and technical nuances of digital imaging sensors. Good glass always seems to triumph over the nerdier technologies.
Just a blast from the recent past as I clean up an older computer and its attached hard drives.
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