Wide-Angle Lenses For Real Estate Photography: How Wide is Wide?

December 31st, 2007

I’ve talked to several Real Estate Photographers recently in the process of purchasing new DSLRs and noticed that there is a misunderstanding about what lenses are appropriate for real estate photography on the new DSLRs.

First of all there are two types of DSLRs:

  1. Full frame DSLRs that have digital sensors the same, or nearly the same size as a 35mm frame of film. Examples of full frame DSLRs are Canon 1Ds, 1Ds-MkI, MkII or MkIII, Canon 5D and Nikon D3.
  2. APS DSLRs that have sensors smaller than a 35mm film frame. Examples of APS or small sensor DSLRs are- D300, D200, D40, D80, D70, D50, 40D, 400D/Xti, 30D, 20D etc.

What does this have to do with wide-angle lenses? Everything! When you mount a lens, say for example a 18-55mm, on a full frame DSLR, it’s a 18-55mm lens just like you expect. But when you mount the 18-55mm lens on a APS DSLR the lens doesn’t act like a 18-55mm it acts like a 28.8-88mm lens! This is because the smaller sensor size of APS cameras have the effect of multiplying the focal length by a focal length multiplier (1.5 for Nikon and 1.6 for Canon). The term used to refer to the the focal length after the multiplier is 35mm effective focal length.

This focal length multiplier is a big deal for real estate photographers because this means the standard kit lens that comes on most DSLRs (18-55mm) isn’t optimal for real estate work. You may be able to squeak by in big rooms but as soon as things get tight you’re in trouble because you won’t be able get the shot because your back is against the wall.

Real estate photographers find the effective focal lengths between 16mm and 24mm to be the “sweet spot” for shooting interiors. It’s best to have a zoom that covers this whole range between 16 and 24 but at a minimum you need to work at 24mm or below. This is why the Sigma 10-20mm lens (available for both Nikon and Canon) is so popular with real estate photographers, because with a 1.6 multiplier it allows you to work between 16 and 32mm effective focal length and it’s an inexpensive alternative. For full frame DSLRs the Canon 17-40mm, Canon 16-35mm and Nikon 17-35mm lenses are popular choices for interiors.

What are the wide-angle alternatives for APS DSLRs? I’m only going to cover Canon and Nikon because I recommend that you stick with these two manufacturers. It will make your life easier and give you more flexibility and alternatives in the long run because 3rd party vendors provide accessories for these two brands.

Notice that I put the Canon 14mm fixed lens on the Canon list. This lens is legendary for it’s lack of barrel distortion. It is pricey but as high a quality as you’ll find. Zoom lenses all have varying degrees of barrel distortion that can be removed in Photoshop or other photo-editing software.

The bottom line here is that you need to pay careful attention to which lens you choose for real estate work. It maybe the most important equipment decision you make for real estate photography. It’s way more important than which camera body you choose.

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138 Responses to “Wide-Angle Lenses For Real Estate Photography: How Wide is Wide?”

  • @Josh- If it was me and I had to choose one between the PC-E24 and 14-24mm I’d go with the 14-24mm just because it’s a zoom and if you are shooting real estate there will be some situations where you will wish you had 16mm or 20mm. I hear the PCE 24mm is a great lens and for many years I got by with a fixed 24mm and 24mm is where you should shoot most of the time, but those few times you want to go wider a zoom would really be nice. You really need both;)

  • Thanks, Larry! That’s pretty much what I was thinking. My only real concern was whether or not the Perspective Control was worth losing the zoom feature. I know correcting perspective in Lightroom and/or Photoshop is pretty easy, but I thought the PC-E would save time and provide a more realistic visual of the composition in the field. And yes, BOTH would be nice. 😉

  • Hi! It’s my first time on this site…very thankful that I came across it! I’m a realtor in Manitoba Canada – I have a Canon t3i and need a wide angle lens. From the info and comments above – I will buy a canon 10-22mm. I’m not sure though what to do about low lighting in the homes and when the light from the windows makes the pic dark? I don’t understand the language but can you give me some suggestions…pretty please? Is there an external flash for dummies out there? I am not a “photographer” would just like some decent pics of my listings. I don’t know what speedlight is or how to use umbrellas etc. as per some of the comments. I also don’t know where the recommended list for flashes are on this site. Another question, I have seen lenses (.45 x wide angle for 58mm canon) what is that? Is that actually a wide angle lens. They’re on ebay for like $30 the descriptions indicates it’s for wide angle pics? I’ve come a long way from my Canon Snap and Shoot lol…will look into a phography class for realestate when I slow down in winter! I appreciate anything you can tell me 🙂 Regards, Tammy

  • I’m a big fan of the Sigma 10-20mm lens for RE interiors and exteriors. I don’t usually use the low end (10mm) unless I’m in a really tight space, but 12mm seems to be my sweet spot. I’ve found optimal sharpness to be at f/8, but this makes things a little challenging when working with interiors (flash is a must!).

  • I use a Nikon D3x with the 14-24mm lens. I bring a tripod with me and never find the need for flash.

  • @John- I’d tend you to believe you more if I saw a bunch of knockout interior shots in your portfolio but there are none so I’m skeptical.

  • i dabbled in Real Estate shooting with a Canon 40D and the Sigma 10-20. I recently moved over to an MFT kit with an OMD-EM5 and a Panny 7-14mm (14-28 equivalent on full frame)

    i find the shots quite good, and with the better sensor and built in IBIS of the OMD body, the shots are much cleaner and sharper than with the 40D kit. on my website the first page of photos is show with the OMD, the rest are with the Canon.

  • I’m just starting in Real Estate photography. Has anyone used the Tokina 16-28? I have a Nikon D600 and am looking at the Nikkor 17-35 f2.8, 16-35 f4, or the Tokina 16-28 f2.8. The Nikkor 14-24 is out of reach at the moment. The Tokina sweet spot is 20mm. Any opinions on these three lenses?

    Thanks

  • Hi guys,

    I recently replaced my Canon 17-40 with a new 16-35 II, and im not impressed at all, im actually disappointed!
    I shoot mostly on apperture 8.0 and i often find the edges very smudgy compared to the 17-40, is it just me, or does anybody else experience the same?

    Best, Chris

  • Sigma 12-24mm F4.5-5.6 EX DG Mk II

    Hi, Does anyone used the new Sigma 12-24mm F4.5-5.6 EX DG Mk II for Canon as as I understand it will fit both the FF and the crop cameras.
    Only down side as far as I can see is the F4.5-5.5 but on a tripod not to much of a drawback I would assume.
    Thanks
    Russ

  • Chris

    I shoot with the 16-35 II as a full time real estate tog and honestly its clarity is outstanding. You dont say if you purchased new maybe it could do with some calibration

    Mike

  • canon 10-22mm all the way with a canon 60D, cant be beaten and better equipment not needed in my opinion for R.E.

  • What would you recommend for a good exterior shot lens for canon cropped sensor ?
    Thanks!

  • @ Chris D.

    I also use the 16-35 on my 7d and find the sweet spot outside is f11.
    for interiors, i’m good at f6.3-8.0, f11 on a tripod.
    iso 400 – mostly ambient light with one off camera speedlight.

    http://www.motorsportspassion.com/RealEstate

    all of these homes were shot as mentioned with the exception of “Babylon” – here i used a tokina 11-16 II for the first time keeping same iso and f-stop.. While i like the extra width of the lens, I ‘m not overly impressed with image quality.

    i will get my hands on a full frame body to use with my 16-35 on the next interiors shoot. I absolutely love that lens and find i use it for almost everything standing still that is non-portrait.

    I am still learning. 🙂 My next challenge is getting comfortable with using two lights.

  • @ Joe

    16-35 on the 7d is my favorite.

  • I shoot with a tamron 14mm on a mk2 almost exclusively. I find that I can shoot in the tightest rooms. I will be upgrading soon to the canon 14mm

  • Still using Canon 50D and made the mistake of buying the 18-135mm per Ken Rockwell’s recommendation… (grin) the CA is horrendous…
    Until I can budget a full-frame, what wide-angle lens(es) are recommended for the smaller sensor? From what I’ve read, the Canon 10-22 & 14mm are best but can I get away w/ Sigma, Tokina or Tamron and still capture good quality images w/o the annoying CA? Thanks in advance for the help/suggestions!

  • @Robin- You’re right, the Canon 10-22mm is the best, the Sigma 10-20mm is probably the second choice. For a full and specific summary see my lens table (http://photographyforrealestate.net/lenses/).

  • Thank you, Larry, appreciate the link!

  • Larry, you may have already made this distinction, if not I think it’s worth pointing out, when talking about the difference between crop sensor and full frame focal length it’s not the focal length that is important. The important fact is “Field of view” or “angle of view”, Nikons 14-24mm lens on a crop body has the same effective field of view as roughly 20-35mm on a full frame body. Thus for a crop body camera, the Sigma 10-20 has an full frame effective field of view as roughly 15-30mm (the magical sweet spot in full frame).

  • Great discussion. Our MLS resquires photos be in a 4 x 3 ratio and they say photos should be 640 x 480. Does this mean a wide angle like the Canon 10-22 will be useless?

  • Wow. This thread has been going for quite some time, but I can see why. Great post. I’m newer to real estate photography, and have been struggling with what to use when doing interiors. Some of the most useful info I’ve found thus far. Going to take a look at a few 14-24 lenses.

  • I have canon d7 with standard lens 28-128 I think anyways I want to do interior wide range shots of houses since I sell real estate what do you recommend to shoot wide range?

  • @Alma, What do you mean D7? No such thing! D70, D7000, D700? a 28-128 is not a wide-angle lens for any of these. It’s close if you have a D700 but if you want to shoot interiors with a D70, D7000, D7100 you need a Sigma 10-20mm, if you have there are more choices… like Tokina 16-28.
    For complete choices see my lens table here.

  • Larry,

    Would be awesome if you could update the sony lens section. I know there are way more than that.

  • Thanks for the info. I am looking for a wide angle specifically for real estate. I have a Nikon D3200(are you familiar with that one?) also…will the sigma10-20mm F4-5.6 EX DC HSM be compatible with my body?

  • @Heather – Yes, the Sigma 10-20 f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM is a good choice for real estate. There is a Sigma made for Nikon that will fit on your D3200… just make sure you get the Nikon version.

  • If you get all four walls in the frame, it’s too wide. Does the 10’x10′ bedroom look like it’s the size of a racquet ball court? You’re too wide. The more time I spend deconstructing the images I like the best, the less often I am tempted to go wide when photographing a home. There’s just a point where everyday items look weird no matter what lens correction one does to the image. I saw a fridge the other day that looked 6′ wide in one frame and normally proportioned a few images along. (The agent didn’t sequence the images very well either)

  • I am a Toronto realtor with a Canon Rebel T3i and very little photography skills. Virtual tours are expensive so I am thinking about doing my own real estate photography . Any suggestions for external flash, wide angle lens etc. Recommendations are gratefully appreciated.

  • @Elizabeth,
    Wide angle lens for the Canon Rebel T3i:
    I recommend the Canon 10-18mm or the Canon 10-22mm both are very good.

    Manual flash for real estate photography:
    I recommend the YN-560-II see my post on this flash here:
    http://photographyforrealestate.net/2014/03/30/yongnuo-yn-560-iii-the-only-flash-youll-ever-need-for-real-estate/

  • I have Sigma 10mm f/2.8 Fisheye lens. Are you recommend for real estate photos. I want hotel room photograph. My camera Canon 70D.
    Thank you. Best Regards
    Murat.

  • @Murat – No way! the Sigma 10mm is a Fisheye lens… not at all appropriate for interiors work. You don’t want all you shot to have curved lines or have to spend time taking out the curved lines. A better choice is the Sigma 10-20mm that is linked to in the article above.

  • I have a canon 5d mark 11 and a sigma 10-20mm dc hsm lens why am I getting vinetting? Or do I need a differentest lens?

  • Is there a way to get rid of vinetting

  • @Leslie- The Sigma 10-20mm lenses are NOT made for full frame DSLRs so yes if you put it on a Canon 5DMkII the image circle of the lens does not cover the whole sensor and what you get is bad vignetting. You need a different wide angle lens for the 5DMKii. See my lens table for all the options available for the 5DMKII:

    http://photographyforrealestate.net/lenses/

    Look down in the section marked “For Canon full frame DSLRs”

  • I have a Nikon D90 what lens would you recommend? Thank you!!

    Any special flash you would suggest for interior shoot?

  • @Melinda – The very best wide-angle lens for the least money for interiors when shooting with a D90 is:

    The Sigma 10-120 f/4-5.6 (there is a link in the post above).

    For flash recommendations see:

    This post (http://photographyforrealestate.net/2013/06/05/the-yongnuo-yn-560-iii-trigger-optically-or-with-rf602603-triggers/)

  • Thank you!!

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