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How Various Wide-Angle Lenses Deal with Recessed Ceiling Lights

Published: 29/08/2018

Update 9/4/2018: Kelvin has pointed out that there is evidence that the problem he points out below is actually a Sony ghosting problem with the A6000, A6300, A6500 and A7's. See this article for more details.

Kelvin from Bigsky Country sent me the example to the right and says:

In light of Nikon’s announcement last week, I'm wondering if I should buy another Sony A7R series camera, or wait for the new Nikon Z6/Z7 mirrorless. I did an actual lens test on an issue that’s been bugging me for a while. Certain combinations of lens/cameras I use render flare and light bloom in different ways, and some are just horrible in certain situations.

The rest of the image is just fine with any of these combos. This is a photo that compares the flare off of recessed pot lights in a typical home. I’d say the Nikon 14-24 f/2.8 smokes the rest of my ultra-wide lenses, making it worth my while to consider the new Nikon. I’d be interested to see somebody post a similar comparison with other commonly used RE lens/camera combos.


Your comparison test confirms my understanding that the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8, for a very long time, has been the highest quality wide-angle lens on the planet. It is interesting that the Canon 17-40mm f/4 appears to be a close second. It is also interesting that gives the Nikon 14-24mm a lower rating (31) than the Sony 16-35mm f/4 (33). So much for DxOmark ratings!

As for using the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 on the new Nikon mirrorless Z6 and Z7--you can get adapters for both Sony A7R series and Nikon Z mount to use it on either mirrorless body.

The bottom line is for those who have a Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8, you probably can't get a better wide-angle lens.

Larry Lohrman

11 comments on “How Various Wide-Angle Lenses Deal with Recessed Ceiling Lights”

  1. For crop sensors, I thought the new Tokina 10-24 was very good in this regard. I never tested it in the way it ismbeing tested above though. I would be curious to see how it stacked up.

  2. @Frank What is AS ?

    I'm hoping somebody here has the 16-35 2.8 GM that can hopefully verify it doesn't have this characteristic. As you can see, both the Sony 10-18 and the 16-35 4 have the very same problem with recessed lighting, mostly in the corners of the frame. The 12-24 handles it differently, but nowhere near as well as the Canon 17-40 or the Nikon 14-24.

    And, this is a very specific problem. I use the 16-35 4 the most, as well as the 10-18, and in most situations they are amazing lenses. This bloom problem is the one exception. But, since we are interior photographers, and these recessed lights are in quite a few of the homes we shoot, it's definitely an issue.

    For fun, I shot a house Monday morning with my D610 with the 14-24 on it. No bloom whatsoever.... but, it's a bulky setup with no tilting rear screen, making it a slow way to work. I typically shoot 2-6 homes a day, so I try for a very fast, streamline predictable setup. Shooting with the A7rii and the 12-24 is also a slower combo, both for shooting (chimping/buffering time is slow), and in post, you have to change the workflow, - make sure to sync vignetting before anything else or you're wasting precious edit time (not to mention large 42mp files). The a6500 is slow for interiors due to the placement of camera buttons. The fastest RE setup I've used is a regular A7 with the 16-35 4, and it pretty fast for LR as well.

  3. This article is completely misleading and contains some bad advice. Flare is an optical phenomenon that is a feature of the lens only. "Bloom" is electronic, an overload of the camera's sensor. The photos appear to illustrate flare. However, flare resistance is only one component in determining overall lens quality and a lens may exhibit high flare resistance and yet be a poor performer in other ways.

    As for DxO, their ratings are based on the combination of lens and camera. So, to use their ratings to make apples-to-apples lens comparisons, you have to use the same camera body. Furthermore, their ratings just represent a summary of all the characteristics that make up lens performance. A particular lens might have lower resolution than another lens and yet might score higher than the other lens because of its better overall performance. Also, different photographers will place different emphasis on different areas of lens performance, depending upon the type of work they are doing. If you actually bother to delve into DxO's explanation of their process and into the broad range of technical test details they offer, you will begin to understand this better.

    Larry, your blog is pretty good on the business of real estate photography and to some degree also on the stylistic considerations of this genre, but your knowledge of technical matters regarding photographic equipment is very poor in my opinion. To provide technical info for your readers, I would suggest that you just link to materials by recognized experts, rather than trying to do it yourself or relying on submissions from readers who may not have a very solid grasp of technical matters either. In my experience, many estate photographers seem to have large gaps in their technical knowledge about photographic equipment, and that includes photographers who have been doing this kind of work for many years.

    All that said, the Nikon 14-24mm lens is by all accounts a top-notch lens. Whether it is best for a particular photographer will depend upon that photographer and what his or her needs are.

  4. Shooting with the Canon 16-35 f/4 here and I never run in to issues with recessed lights. In fact, if I stop down to f/14 I can I get some beautiful sunstars, sometimes.

  5. I think the analysis is valid.
    For whatever reason Sony is not handling the flare issue being exhibited. More research may be needed to determine what is the root cause but IMO the test does a service in showing a potential weakness of a lens/camera system that may have meaningful impact on one's work.

    My experience of the Sony 16-35 was that it was an excellent performer under normal conditions. However I use Canon gear for my architectural work and I would be quite annoyed to see flare like that in my images.

  6. For crop sensors, I like the new Tokina 11-20 mm f2.8.
    99% of the time I'm shooting around 20mm, but there are times (such as bathrooms) where 11mm comes in handy!

  7. @David Eichler Geez David, really? I've been at this for 30+ years. For pete's sake. /eyeroll

    The lenses don't have to be on the same body. It's not a camera issue, it's a lens issue. The purpose of showing different lenses on different bodies is to illustrate that the equipment RE photographers choose could well cause unexpected issues. These are not unusual body/lens combos for RE. That Sony 16-35 4 does the very same thing on the A7rii, as it does on the A7. It simply doesn't handle dark rooms with hotspots well, and that includes small windows. I can put the Sony 12-24 4 on both bodies and it doesn't happen. I can shoot a house with hanging light fixtures and even the 16-35 4 does just fine. It just cant handle the recessed lighting well at all.

    In some ways, it resembles Coma and Spherical aberration, when lenses add a tail to night stars. Astrophotographers have to consider lens selection pretty carefully to avoid coma and distortion. But its hard to say exactly what the definition is, because it has colors like chromatic aberration as well.

    In terms of DXO scores, Coma is not a particular feature they test for. They do some tests that are adjacent and related, but not anything that explains this exact issue. The reason they rate the Sony 16-35 4 slightly higher then the Nikon 12-24 2.8 is more about a small amount of extra sharpness, slightly better scores on some of the other tests they do - but frankly Canon & Nikon, and more expensive Sony lenses might have better glass for various types of aberration correction. And thats a good thing for everybody doing this to know.

    And you cant necessarily use the cost of the lens to make assumptions: (here's what I paid for these - all were new)
    Sony 10-18 4 $750
    Sony 16-35 4 $1350
    Sony 12-24 4 $1750
    Canon 17-40 4 $750
    Nikon 12-24 2.8 $1950

    The thing is, I typically take a look at DXO when making lens selections, taking into account total score, and sharpness and CA, understanding that ultra-wide lenses are going to involve some compromises. And while I suspected that I had an annoying problem on my hands, it wasn't until I compared the issue side by side with other lenses that I was able to identify which lenses were extreme offenders.

  8. Kelvin, perhaps I did not explain clearly enough, but I don't think there as any need for sarcasm. I said that flare is solely a lens issue. I addressed DxO because Larry brought it up in his comments in a way that doesn't relate to the subject of flare alone. That is, he was trying to extrapolate overall lens quality from the level of flare resistance alone. Furthermore, he was misinterpreting how the DxO ratings work.

    By the way, lens flare can exhibit colors.

  9. @Kelvin,

    Which lens is overall better, in your opinion, for real estate the Sony 16-35 f4 or the 12-24 f4?

    Why is the one particularly better than the other...overall?

    Which would be better 4 a 5 ambient bracket HDR shooter?

  10. Kevin, sorry, AS meaning anti shake. There are times when it doesn't mean a thing on tripods and others when it does. There are a lot of possible variables going on here that have not been considered in the equation of what the anomaly is. If it (AS) was on it could add to a bit of movement that would be more noticeable in the corners because of the 5 axis anti-shake of the camera lens combination. I do kind of agree that it looks like COMA and Spherical aberration. However the light in question is right in the corner of the lens where you would expect softening etc. To add to all of this you have the flicker of some bulb types while the 1/8th sec shutter speed should help that it's just another part of the equation that is missing here, the type of lighting and the wattage in the fixtures. It is there though and that's all that matters, not what causes it, and here is why.

    I have the perfect fix for this that works on all lenses and cameras. We are all fixated on the fine details technical analysis of the pixels and miss the composition of the image. I'd just crop the crap out of the frame. First off I'd use a 16x9 crop that would cut out most of the ceiling and some of the distractions on the edges. That troublesome lighting fixture should never show up in the frame after a good crop.

    If I could attach an image to the replies I would. I tend to shoot real wide for everything and then crop the edges out and recompose of site. With an UWA lens and normal crop there is always to much ceiling or floor. And to make it worse if you move the camera up or down to eliminate that you change the angle of what you are looking at (like looking straight at the edge of the counter and not see what's on the counter). In this image there would be a lot less ceiling and both edges if you use a good crop.

    While this should probably be another discussion I remain astounded by how many constantly stay with the restrictive standard frame proportions. I freely use all different standard proportions (4-3 16-9 4-6 1-1 16-10) as well as free form. I have never had one complaint but I have had a lot that say wow your images look so great and how did you get that angle etc. For the most part they are not looking at COMA or CA or SA. They are looking at composition. Maybe it's just me but I view our business as more of Ooooo Pretty and less COMA CA SA 3 bracket 5 bracket etc. I look at the whole frame, if it doesn't say Oooo Pretty I crop and move the frame around until it says Oooo Pretty at min. Of course sometimes it just says Oo Pretty but I keep moving the frame until it says Oooooooo Pretty. That's when I know it's really fixed.

    I have never seen anyone else do this (extensive free form cropping) and I wonder why? I'm not knocking anyone, I truly just wonder why no one does this. Am I alone?

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