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Can a Real Estate Photographer Get by with just a 24mm Tilt-shift Lens?

Published: 01/02/2017

Tom on the Big Island asks:

I'm new to real estate photography. For now, I am doing condos/homes in the $250K to $500K range with $500K being the low end of our price range for homes on the Kona side. I am not ready for the higher end homes although I have shot one condo that was in the $650K range. Currently using a Nikon D7200 with a wide angle Sigma 10-20mm lens. I usually try and shoot at 12mm (with the crop sensor I am at around 18mm). I keep my camera level, using levels and use the live view grid to adjust my line angles.

I have plans to purchase the Nikon D810 full frame camera (for other reasons beyond RE photography) and I am considering a Rokinon TSL24M-N 24mm or the Nikon PC-E 24mm tilt shift version.

Would you try and use the lens in a small condo (i.e. 700sft) with low ceilings etc? Would you use the T/S lens to shoot a small bathroom? If shooting in a small space, where you could not back up to get more in the field of view, have you had agents object to a photo that was shot at 24mm?

Tilt-shift lenses are fantastic for shooting interiors! Many real estate photographers don't want to use anything else once they've tried one. However, you do lose some flexibility in small spaces and as we've discussed recently, many real estate agents want wider shots that 24 mm. I would recommend having a wide angle zoom like the 14-24 mm as well as of a tilt-shift 24mm if you are shooting a lot of small condos. Also, you could always use your D7200 with the Sigma 10-20mm when things get tight.

Read our review on the classic 24-70mm lens if you don't want to go for a tilt shift option. Or, read our review of the best wide angle lens for real estate photography.

Larry Lohrman

14 comments on “Can a Real Estate Photographer Get by with just a 24mm Tilt-shift Lens?”

  1. I am not sure why this is a question to be asked. If you can take the photographs that satisfy your clients in your market, then sure, why not? If not, then no.

  2. I think a wide-angle zoom is a far better investment for RE photography. When I shot real estate the old Nikon 17-35mm almost never came off of the camera and the majority of my images were shot around 18mm or so. I certainly couldn't get by with only a 24mm PC lens - especially considering that the Nikon 24mm PC is really not very good at the edges when shifted. I'm on my third copy of the lens and it still disappoints.

  3. If I was stranded on a deserted island, I wouldn't want a T-bone steak, rather the tools to gather and prepare foods for survival. It is much the same with a T/S lens. It is a luxury with specialized features, many of which can be approximated in post with various lens adjustments of vertical and horizontal planes. When I used a Nikon, my go to tool was the 16-35 f4 that rarely came off the camera during an RE shoot, and if it did, I slapped on a 70-200 for a specialized shot (across a pond or in a boat, etc). Never felt that I NEEDED a T/S to the extent that cost would be recouped. Now that I have switched to Sony, it is a non-issue as a non-adapted native T/S lens doesn't exist. My hardest decision when looking at primes within my 16-35 range, do I want the 18 or 25 Batis or 21 Loxia? Each of those would be a luxury with specialized usage including beyond RE, much like the T/S is a luxury.

  4. I just picked up a 17 TS-E and have it used it solely on a few smaller properties. The sharpness is amazing, but I do think it's too wide in some situations and can lend to some distortion. As to the OP I think a 24mm may not be wide enough in many situations (very large homes you could probably get away with it).

  5. @Larry Gray

    What's wrong with adapting lenses to your Sony? I shoot with a Sony as well and have messed around with the idea of a Canon 17mm TSE. Although, I 100% agree that it's a complete luxury item. I'm using the Sony 16-35 now for 99% of my RE work and couldn't be happier. If $2k falls from the sky I'd consider it.

  6. Nikon now produce a 19mm TS lens which would be interesting to use. When one is available locally to rent, I'll be giving it a go for a week.

  7. There is no better tool for shooting tiny bathrooms than a train ltsgift when used properly shift up and down or right to left and stitch. Other than occasional highlight shot of an architectural detail with a 70-200 I don't think you can go wrong with the TS

  8. Funnily enough i also just acquired 17mm tse and have to say the image quality is out of this world but the 16-35 has sat on one of my bodies for past 6yrs and used daily. 24mm tse not so impressive.

  9. It's funny this question came up today. My mentor has been telling me to stop using my 17mm TSE so much and use the 24mm TSE. So yesterday I shot a 1000sqft condo and forced myself to only use the 24mm TSE. I'm glad I did! I think the pictures look much better. I know you gotta please the agent first and if they want a wider look then that's what you give them. Personally I think the 24mm is great and yes you could make it your go to lens.

  10. Put me down on the 'can't take it off my camera' list. In fact I'm wondering how I lived without it.

    Need wider than 24mm? No problem; stitch vertically or horizontally w/ 2 or 3 exposures (takes an extra 1 minute on location and 30 seconds in Lightroom post).

    Shooting at 24mm significantly improved my skills, practically overnight. And the T/S gives me advantages with counter elevations, low ceiling issues, tall entryways, rambler cover photos etc etc etc. Other than a slightly telephoto lens for view and "property head-shots" I see absolutely no reason you'd need anything else for RE.

    - ps - I just shot an 839 sq ft, 3 bedroom home (the rooms were tiny) with a 24mm T/S and the client LOVED it 🙂

  11. I think the market your addressing is what determines the answer to this question.
    Will your market know or care if you are using a TS lens? Will it sell a house faster for your agent?
    Will the agent be able to tell the difference? I think not.

    If, on the other hand, you are shooting architectural photography, with designs of getting your work in Architectural Digest, you should consider the purchase of the lens.
    What's a few thousand when you can get all the glory!!


  12. @Peter - Point taken, but I approach every shoot thinking mostly about selling myself, rather than my client's home. Don't get me wrong, I want to provide a product/ service that makes my clients happy, helps get showings etc - but all those, I believe, fall into place anyway with a good photo. In many cases I've found TS lens helped make a better composition faster. Sure, you can shoot wide and fake a TS in post, but that takes even more time (if you remember to).

    The real argument against daily use is more time on location - I've found that minimal, maybe 15 minutes max/ 25 photos...

  13. TS lenses are fabulous at helping to make some very good photos. The downside is they are fiddly to use. Consider the level of home you are photographing when making lens choices.

    The bulk of the properties I photograph are very middle class and time on site is a big consideration. I use a Canon 50D with a Sigma 10-20mm and a Canon 17-40mm for 90%+ of my images with the 17-40mm doing most of the work. I've rented a 17mm TSE a couple of times for special jobs and would love to have one of my very own, but until I'm pulling in much more expensive homes with larger marketing budgets, I can't justify spending the money and time.

    I'm slowly converting my clients to tighter compositions as they play better on small screens, but there are still plenty of situations where I need to be wider or tighter than 24mm. If all you have is a hammer…….

  14. @ Daniel Bigley...didn't mean to infer that something 'wrong' with adapted lens, but native glass designed to work with the camera is superior in many areas. While I sold most of my Nikon glass, I do have a manual adapter (major issues with recently introduced Nikon auto adapters including electronics frying cameras), a Canon FD adapter and a Sony/Minolta A adapter. Canon/Metabones reportedly is good with the handful of lens that it supports, but I don't own Canon glass other than some old FD stuff that is not supported, and focusing speed tends to lag native glass, but at least you have autofocus. Nikon manual adapters, and most other manual adapters work but generally require opening up for enough light to focus then stop back down for exposure, doable with non-moving RE photos, but a pain. Finally, manual adapters typically do not transmit EFIX data due to the lack of electronics, and even if Lightroom or Photoshop is able to read data transmitted, there are zero lens profiles for Sony (or any camera) + adapted lens. That is why I limited it to native glass...but I do enjoy experimenting with adapters.

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