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When Does the Quality of a Wide Angle Lens Become Overkill?

Published: 12/04/2018

Peter in Alberta asked:

Is anyone shooting with the Sigma 12-24mm f/4 DG HSM Art Lens?

I may have overreacted when I told Peter that I thought that the Sigma 12-24mm f/4 DG HSM Art Lens is overkill for shooting real estate.

Here's why I think the Sigma 12-24mm f/4 DG HSM Art Lens may be overkill for real estate:

  1. I've been "balled out" many times for racking wideout to 16mm (on my full frame Canon DSLR) when shooting my wife's listings. I can only imagine how she would react to shots done at 12mm! It wouldn't be pretty!
  2. Even though back in 2003 when I purchased my full frame Canon DSLR, I bought a Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 lens to go with it for real estate work. I know now that a lens for half the price would have been more than adequate for real estate.

Don't get me wrong, I really appreciate high-quality gear. I love geeking out and getting the best quality available but it frequently doesn't make good sense. The fact is, when you pay twice as much to get a little bit better quality, your clients usually can't tell the difference!

Larry Lohrman

14 comments on “When Does the Quality of a Wide Angle Lens Become Overkill?”

  1. It seems like I remember a widespread article reviewing the lens, though it was a product photographer (read: expensive sports car photographer). He spoke of ridiculous lens shake which was, ironically, caused by the stabilization function. I'm pretty sure that's the same lens but could be wrong. He said basically, "Buyer beware."

    With that said, at least you could zoom in to 20 or 24, not like anyone would be confined to shooting at 12mm, which I agree is ridiculously wide for just about anything; I can only imagine the fisheye distortion that would result before correction.

  2. The same post could substitute "gear" for "lens". It's always gratifying to have the best tools and investing in good lenses is not a bad place to start. It really comes down to a business decision about whether the difference in quality is going to produce a noticeably better product and/or one that makes the photographer more money, or, if the money might be better used to purchase another piece of equipment. I don't use my ultra wide angle lens for any paying job other than RE and trading up isn't going to bring me any more work. I pushed the boat out on the 70-200mm telephoto since I use that lens for lots of different work with some of those needing the technically best quality images that I can deliver.

    If you are very busy and have the money, got for it. If you need to stay within a budget and could use some other gear to make jobs easier or to have as a backup, only buy the quality level you need to get the job done.

    I paid more for my tripod and head than I did for my camera body. I expect my tripod to last the rest of my life and the camera body about another year. Mind you, the camera body was used and not top of the line.

  3. Some of the decision making will depend on the photographer's aspirations. Is thinking that the clients can't tell the difference an attitude that's conducive to continuous improvement and pushing the boundaries? I don't think it is. There's probably not much wrong with that attitude in a cookie cutting photography business though.

  4. Sigma introduced a new lens, the Sigma 14-24 F2.8. So called rectilinear to limit distortion! Most MLS shots don’t do the image quality well, but still want better image quality for realtor websites that display their own images ( not just showing mls site ), and for printing and other marketing materials.

  5. Never! The Sony 12-24 4 is A M A Z I N G. Your job is to amaze yourself, and if you do that, your clients can't help but be in utter awe. Truth, mic drop. 😉

  6. There is very little need for fast lenses in this business. I always try to shoot at f 11. Often we have the choice of a faster f 2.8 or slower f 4 version of the same lens. The slower one is all that a real estate photographer needs. The benefit of the slower lens is a much lower price, a smaller and lighter lens (with smaller filter ring sizes) and often better optical quality than the faster lens. I still use a 37-70 f2.8 Nikkor which is a really great lens. I could buy a 28-70 in either f2.8 or f 4. If I didn't already have the 35-70, I would get the 28-70 f 4. I still want to shoot at f11.

  7. I'm using the Tamron 15-30, which is affordable and has astonishing clarity. Check the DXO rating. It is a handful but I've gotten used to it. Excellent build quality.

  8. I have long heard that one should never use lenses longer than 24 mm or 21mm or whatever arbitrary focal length someone felt was too long.
    When I was shooting with a Canon 10D back in my earliest digital days I was at a loss for real wide angle because of the crop. I bought a Sigma 12-24 to solve this problem as my business was largely shooting models of starter homes in subdivisions. The rooms were tiny with bedrooms seemingly only slightly larger than the twin bed in them. The client of course wanted to show as much as possible.
    This lens solved the problem.
    It was also the lens that landed me my biggest client as I was able to get a view that eluded all other photographers.

    I learned that, used recklessly, an ultra wide is an easy way to make ugly pictures. Used carefully one could make images that were very difficult absent the UWA. The key is in composition, camera position, and foreground objects. The other thing that is a a great many photographers are enslaved to the 2x3 proportion of the DSLR and include way too much ceiling and floor thus accentuating the UWA aspect of the lens.
    Limiting oneself to a certain focal length means that some views are unavailable to you.
    Many of my properties are very large homes with very short back yards necessitating a very wide lens to capture the width. I acquired a 17TS-E a number of years ago when it first came out and it was the prime money maker in my kit. Even so, some instances demanded a wider lens so I got a Rokinon 14 mm to see if that was capable enough to do the job. Surprisingly sharp and with distortion correctable in LR it was used in those instance where UWA was needed.

    But I was getting more commercial buildings in downtown locations that needed stitched 17 mm images. So now I have the Canon 11-24 and I am astonished at how many times I shoot at FLs shorter than 16mm.
    Don't get me wrong. I am not advocating UWA above all else. I still choose the longest FL that will render the view well. However, many times it is an UWA that does the trick.

  9. I rented the lens from for a week. Was testing it, and saw a dark dot at the bottom of a few images. It was the end of my tripod leg. I like wide, actually, but not that wide.

  10. Last month I did a 'commercial' shoot (in a house) for a company that gave me a shot list and instructions to "always shoot as long as possible, NEVER wider than 50mm". Yes, they even used caps. It was hard, weird and seemed like I was missing shots - But the images came out pretty nice. Today I did a normal RE shoot, approx 2500 sq ft home, using the 50mm for about half of it including the kitchen. It'll be fun to see what the broker thinks!

  11. Good note from Dave Spencer. I think there is a distinction between interior design and architectural photo shoots, compared to real estate. When I shoot for builders, designers, and stagers, they are aiming for the "arch-digest" look, which I'll usually shoot with a 24-70mm lens, primarily utilizing the 24, 35, and 50mm focal lengths.

    For real estate, the 16-35mm F4 is king in my book. No need for the faster 2.8 model, the aperture rarely goes past 9.0. Great glass, coating, and build. I'm pretty much always locked in to 16mm to capture the entire room while being strategic where I cut my frame off, because agents usually want the property to look large and for the images to capture as much as possible. If you're shooting on a crop sensor, the 10-22mm of any make is great.

  12. It may be a shock to some, but for TINY (but very well designed/selling feature) rooms, I have been providing a couple of 16mm view angles - usually vertical layout - AND ALSO a labeled fisheye view! Mine are done with a Meike 6.5mm lens and then edited, straightened, and cropped as pleasingly as I can, and a label is actually included on the image itself, "Super Wide View." To be clear, regular views are always included with the crazy wide photo.

    The agents and sellers are rather enthusiastic about the added images when needed; it actually clarifies rather than misrepresents the layout of tiny spaces, in both agent's and my opinions.

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