Several times a week I get asked if the "kit" lenses that come on low-end Nikon and Canon DSLRs would be good for real estate shooting. The answer is no they are not wide enough. More importantly the question reveals that the person asking doesn't understand several of the basic principles for choosing a lens for real estate shooting. Here are the basic principles:
- For real estate shooting you need a lens that is between 16mm and 24mm (35mm effective focal length).
- The lower-end, non-full frame DSLRs have a focal length multiplier (1.5 for Nikon and 1.6 for Canon) because the sensors are smaller than a frame of 35mm film. The focal lengths specified on lenses are called 35mm equivalent focal length because it is assumed they will be used on image sensors the size of a 35mm film frame. So the wide-angle end of a kit lens (18mm) is really 27mm for Nikon and 28.8 for Canon... not wide enough.
- The implication of #2 above is that to get a focal length between 16 and 24 (35mm effective focal length) on a DSLR body that has a small sensor the lens must be in the 10mm to 20mm range. I've built a table that lists all the lenses that are real estate appropriate for Canon and Nikon bodies.
- Glass is the MOST important area to spend money when you are a real estate photographer. A high quality lens will not become obsolete as quickly as a body. So I recommend buying the best possible glass available. After all a few shoots will pay for a quality lens so a quality lens is a good business investment that has a relatively short pay-back time and will pay off in high quality images in the long run.
So the bottom line is if you are purchasing a low-end DSLR don't bother with the kit lens that they try to sell you with the body (except for taking snaps of the kids) go with the best: Canon 10-22mm (possibly the 14mm if you can live without a zoom) or Nikon 14-24mm. You'll be glad you did!