I have been shooting real estate for about 4 years and currently shoot with the Canon 5DMkII and 5DMkIII. But the lens I have been using is the Tamron 10mm-24mm. When zooming to about 14mm there is serious vignetting. I like this focal length but its time to upgrade since the edges of images lose focus, and I can't find a lens that opens to 14mm or even 15mm. Is the Canon 16-35mm the only full frame lens option for wide shots?
Canon makes the 11-24 f/4 lens that is very high quality, but I would not recommend that anyone use a lens this wide for shooting interiors. It will work but it is over-kill. I've used a Canon 16-35mm lens on a Canon 1Ds and 5DMkII for a very long time and my opinion is that in most situations even 16mm is too wide to shoot interiors.
The perspective distortion at 15mm and 16mm is huge. Perspective distortion is where objects in the extreme corners become way wider than the same object closer to the center of the photo. Also, circular objects in the corners become squished and don't look round. Good interior photography is done closer to 24mm. That's why tilt/shift lenses designed for photography are usually 24mm. The most popular Canon full frame lenses for real estate photography are the Canon 16-35mm and the Canon 17-40mm (see the poll on my lens page). The wider lenses in the 10-20mm range are intended for crop sensor DSLRs that have a 1.6 or 1.5 multiplier on the focal length.
Yes, I know there are some Realtors out there that ask for ultra wide-angle shots but they need artistic guidance from professional photographers that are more visually sophisticated.
So, for Canon 5DMkII and 5DMkIII DSLRs I recommend either the Canon 16-35mm (the f/4 version is all you need) or the Canon 17-40mm. These are both quality lenses that go plenty wide enough for shooting interiors.
Aaron in OH asked:
This post brought up a question about wide angle lens' and video that I have. Basically, what is the best focal length for filming video of interiors?
I shoot stills with a Sony A7ii and Sony 10-18 mm (15-27mm FF). I film video with the Osmo Pro (X5) and the Olympus 12mm (24mm FF). I know that you have discussed 24mm being the sweet spot for interiors and I could not agree with that more. Despite how much I educate clients, they always want everything as wide as possible and I work with that as much as possible. I prefer 20mm (FF) for filming and after upgrading from the Osmo x3 (20mm FF) to the x5 I am really missing the loss of 4mm. At 24mm I seem to loose most of the floor and ceiling. The footage between the x3 and x5 is a night and day difference and I know photography and videography is about trade-offs at this point.
Then, I see videos in my area such as this, which seems to be used with an ultra wide lens for such a small home. So again, what is the best focal length for filming video interiors?
I am also asking because I will ditch the x5 and just buy a gimbal for my DSLR if I need to obtain a wider shot.
There is no BEST or RIGHT focal length for shooting (still or video) interiors. What is best is what your client likes best or what creates a strong composition. If you want to get an image published in Architectural Digest or if you want to win the PFRE Still contest you will not want to shoot "UFWA" as Scott Hargis says when you shoot ultra wide. If your client is a designer who is trained in the arts, you probably won't want to shoot ultra wide because that doesn't create a strong visual composition like they are looking for. But, if you want to please the average real estate listing agent whose iPhone won't shoot wider than 28mm effective then you will probably want to rack it out as wide as you can go because like you say, that's what they want.
I don't think it's worth your time to "educate clients" in the arts. Be flexible and do what it takes to create satisfied clients whether your clients are agents or interior designers. But as a photographer, understand and be able to see the difference between UFWA and an interior image with a great composition like what Scott Hargis, Tony Colangelo, Brandon Cooper, Jason Roehner or Barry MacKenzie would shoot. As you learn to compose like this you will want to do it all the time!
BTW, note that UFWA is now an official a term in the Urban Dictionary. But Scott says they have the definition backward! UFWA is a bad thing, not a good thing! I guess it all depends on your point of view.