I got a very challenging question from Annette in Pennsylvania:
I was searching your site for advise on the which is the best camera and lens combination for the highest quality images. I am in the $5000 and under price range. I will be doing Video in the future but want to produce the highest quality Architectural Photos I can. I shoot mostly HDR.
Annette, I have the feeling that there is more to your question than just what you said above. I think you may be asking what can I do to improve the quality of my interior images.
First of all, it's important to understand that the amount you spend on your camera body and lens is a small component of the quality of your images. If you replace your current gear with a near $5,000 body and lens don't expect your real estate clients to say, "oh, wow, your images look way better with your new camera and lens." In fact, if you don't tell them most probably won't be able to see the difference. Particularly if you do HDR post-processing where has as much or more effect on the image quality as the camera and lens.
The other dimension of this question is what do you mean by "highest quality images"? Your images currently look very acceptable and many folks would tell you that spending time and energy on composition and lighting would do the most improve the quality of your images. To pursue this approach you could join and participate in the PFRE Flickr group and studying the PFRE contest groups (still and video) and the winners. You can usually see the gear that the winners use.
At this point, you could point out that many of the contest entrants and winners use high-end full frame DSLRs. But again, it's not so much their gear that is making their work high quality. It's their lighting and composition skills.
Now that we have all that out of the way, what are some good choices if you are going to spend under $5,000. I don't think there's a single simple best answer. Here are some of the popular alternatives:
Each of these choices has their strong and weak points. #1 is very popular, on #2 the Nikon 14-24 f/2.8 is probably the best quality wide-angle zoom on the planet, #3 is way better for video than the others and #4 is lightweight and gets the job done beautifully.
Post Script: A continuing discussion with Annette after I wrote this post revealed that my initial feeling about what she was asking was correct. She is really asking what can I do to improve the quality of my images? She already has a Canon 6D with a Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L II. Pretty high-quality gear. So I'm going to do a second post that addresses her real question: What can I do to improve the quality of my interior images? Stay tuned.