The best lens for real estate photography: complete choosing guide

December 29

27 min. to read

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Check out the ten best lenses for real estate photography to do fantastic work and be proud of your images.

Whether we like it or not, today, photographers have to monetize their hobby to do it and not just pretend. Real estate photography is one of many options, including commissioned portraits, wedding photography, etc. You need specific equipment for each type of photography. I will discuss choosing a lens for real estate photography in this article. I decided to divide this article into two blocks: theoretical, where we will look at the characteristics of lenses you should pay attention to when choosing, and practical, where I will present my personal TOP lenses for this kind of shooting.

How to Choose the Best Real Estate Photography Lens: Specifications to Explore

You probably know that a wide-angle lens for real estate photography is needed. A short focal length allows you to cover much more space to show in one frame, for example, a large living room. However, there are many different lenses, so which one should you choose? There are a few things to consider before buying an optic.

First, you don't need an ultra-wide-angle fisheye lens. Photo editing programs cannot remove the distortion it creates; such a photo will not allow the viewer to imagine the space entirely. Remember that your image should be as informative as possible.

The outdoor shoots differ from interior photography in the house. Therefore, you should also be prepared for this. Lenses with a focal length of up to 20 mm are great for shooting inside, but the use of this lens is unsuitable for photographing the facade or the area around the house. Lens distortion will be noticeable with such a small focal length, so you'll need something extra. For example, I use a Canon EF zoom lens with a range of 11-24mm, but this is not an option for everyone (we will discuss this later).

How does a crop sensor affect focal length?

What lens for real estate photography should you choose? If you shoot full frame, the lens will always be confident. That is, 12 mm is 12 mm, 16 mm is 16 mm, and so on. However, if you have a crop sensor, it may be different. Cameras with an APS-C (Advanced Photo System type-C) sensor crop the frame's edges, which changes your focal length. Just imagine the expected angle of view at 24mm is 84°, but your sensor is N times smaller than the classic 35mm film. And, of course, the light entering the camera through the lens covers the entire matrix and goes beyond its edges since it is designed for a large 35 mm matrix. That is, not the entire image from the lens falls on the matrix, but only the central part, N times smaller than the one that the lens passed through itself. Thus, an image with a smaller viewing angle is obtained in a cropped camera.

Fortunately, we can easily calculate the N factor, also known as the crop factor. Manufacturers of digital cameras always indicate it in the specifications. For example, for most Canon cameras, this is 1.6. So if we're shooting with a 24mm lens, we need to multiply the focal length by the crop factor:

24 * 1.6 = 38.4mm ≈ 35mm

Thus, we calculated the approximate focal length of a particular lens for a particular camera. And our viewing angle narrowed from 84° to 64°.

The same applies to cameras from other manufacturers. For most Nikons, Fujifilms, Samsungs, and other popular brands, the crop factor is 1.5.

Zoom vs prime: what are the best real estate lenses?

There is a myth that a professional photographer should have a whole bag with different lenses for different tasks. Sometimes this is true, but not always. As I said, my best wide-angle lens for real estate photography is the Canon EF 11-24mm. Yes, I use zoom. This is very convenient when you need to work quickly and efficiently without spending a lot of time framing. But many photographers prefer legs over zoom or carry a bag of lenses for each shooting session. 

I see several reasons for this. Firstly, many photographers shoot not only real estate. It's a job, but sometimes you want to shoot portraits, landscapes, streets… just for yourself. In this case, you will have several lenses for different purposes, so why spend money on another one? 

Secondly, prime lenses are really better. They have a larger aperture, which allows you to shoot in low light conditions and use a shallow depth of field to create fantastic bokeh. In addition, prime lenses have fewer elements placed in them to perform certain functions. That's why it produces fewer optical defects such as chromatic aberration and distortion, which improves image quality.

The number of elements in a zoom lens is more significant because it must provide variable focal lengths, affecting sharpness. However, day by day, zoom lenses are getting better in terms of image quality and sharpness to match prime lenses.

But if we're only talking about the real estate wide-angle lens, does that all really matter? By no means! You don't need bokeh, and shooting at minimum shutter speed isn't essential either.

Yes, image sharpness matters, and sometimes you have to take images in a bad light if the weather suddenly changes. But these things are easily fixed in specialized software, such as Luminar Neo, for example (I use this, but more on that at the end of the article).

In turn, zoom lenses give you the flexibility to shoot quickly and efficiently without wasting your client's time. You do not need to change lenses for each new photo or choose the angle for a long time. It is very comfortable.

Another considerable advantage of zoom lenses is their price. Yes, it costs more than a single prime lens, but it gives you multiple focal lengths. Think about it. Do you need to buy at least two lenses for the interior (12-16mm) and exterior (22-24mm) when buying one zoom is cheaper?

With that in mind, I think a zoom lens is perfect for real estate. But you won't need anything else if you already have a few wide-angle prime lenses covering the 11mm to 24mm range.

A prime lens should only be purchased if sharpness is critical to you (well, or if you live somewhere in London where the sun rarely shines).

Tilt-shift lens: a great toy for professionals

I also can't get past this, as it's gaining more and more popularity in real estate photography. 

Tilt-shift lenses allow you to tilt or shift the optical plane of focus. In other words, you can move the lenses inside the lens relative to the matrix of your camera. The shift occurs with the help of small clamps on the lens barrel.

The device of such lenses is traditionally complex. They have a lot of optical elements, and in addition to them, a complex mechanism for rotating and fixing optics in various planes is implemented.

In addition to this, these optics are usually designed for use on full-frame cameras but, in fact, cover the area of ​​a crop sensor. The reason is that to be able to shift, the optics must cover a much larger area than in normal use.

Here we come to the most important thing because tilt-shift lenses cost an average of 1500-2000 dollars and have neither zoom nor autofocus. Why are such lenses needed?

It's all about the shift of the optical axis, which allows you to control the frame's perspective.

When the optical axis is shifted, the lens remains at the usual angle to the camera but moves away from the camera. This is what it looks like mechanically. The effect you get is a shift of the entire image in the viewfinder.

A classic use case: the camera is directed at some building at a right angle. You get smooth, not littered, walls; in the frame, you see only its lower part. Then you turn the lever on the lens, which is responsible for the shift (shift), the lens rises relative to the camera, and in the viewfinder, you see the whole building without the usual blockages.

With a normal lens, you need to tilt the camera and look up to capture the entire building from the same vantage point. This would inevitably lead to a blockage of the perspective of the image. The shift function allows you to put the camera at a right angle to the building, shift the lens relative to the camera's matrix and get a smooth perspective.

Tilt Shift lens is for you if you are looking for the best professional equipment. However, I think this meticulousness in the filming process can be justified by large fees for each photo or by your enthusiasm.

There are much easier ways to achieve similar results for standard orders in the same direction. Photographing real estate is programmatically aligned, and a greater depth of field is provided by wider focal lengths in combination with image cropping or focus stacking.

Tilt-shift allows you to get high-resolution and detailed images, but where this is in demand is a good question. 99% of today's commercial shoots are to post photos online. And where large-format printing is needed, software photo processing methods are already enough.

What are the best camera lenses for real estate photography?

Now, let's take a look at a few real estate photography lenses that can help you succeed in this business. I will talk about some Canon and Nikon lenses since I use them myself. In addition, these brands are also the most popular, so I'm almost 100% sure that's what you're looking for.

Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM

Since I already mentioned the Canon EF 11-24mm, I'd start with this one of the best wide-angle lenses for real estate photography. It is the widest classic full-frame lens, with 126-degree diagonal coverage. To achieve such outstanding results, the manufacturer equipped the lens simply with a giant 108mm spherical front lens. Naturally, the only protection for the front glass is the built-in hood. When using the lens, I often thought that the front element could be easily damaged, and I tried to hold the lens with the cover on it more often.

11-24, like all top-end equipment, is made in Japan. The assembly is impeccable, and the lens is monolithic, with a fairly smooth (more correctly, even moderately tight) zoom stroke. Focus is not internal. During the zooming process, the lens does not change its physical dimensions. Still, the rear and front lens groups “ride,” so theoretically, dust can seep into the structure over time, even though this is an L-lens with dust and moisture protection.

The body has a focus-switching slider (MF/AF) and a focus scale window. Moreover, only 3 main values applied – 11, 16, and 24 mm. As with all Canon wide-angle lenses, there is no optical stabilization.

The 11-24 is a completely unique lens. No matter how fantastic it may sound, it is super-sharp across the entire frame plane and at all apertures. Not in vain, just having appeared, she received 2 prestigious awards at once - both TIPA 2015 and EISA 2015.

The use of this lens is landscape, architectural, and interior photography, that is, the ability to mount the camera on a tripod and take thoughtful pictures. The lack of built-in stabilization additionally hints at this.

Once again: Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM is the best Canon lens for real estate photography. Of course, this is just my opinion, but you should definitely take a closer look at this eye.

Specifications:

  • Weight: 2.6 pounds

  • Filter size: Rear insert-type

  • Maximum aperture: f/4

  • Lens mount: Canon EF

Pros:

  • Fantastic sharpness

  • Virtually zero distortion

  • Widest one for full frame

Cons:

  • Heavy and bulky

AF-S NIKKOR 14–24mm f/2.8G ED

This one was released back in 2007 and was the best lens available until the introduction of the Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM. However, I believe that this is still the best Nikon lens for real estate photography. For many fans of the Japanese brand, this is a real dream embodied in glass and metal. It's all about minimal geometric distortions, which almost do not appear in the resulting images.

Another of the trump cards of the lens is the maximum aperture of f/2.8, available over the entire range of focal lengths. This allows you to shoot in low light conditions without fear of increasing shutter speed or ISO. But all the lens capabilities appear when working with modern full-frame cameras.

I especially want to note the impeccable work of autofocus. Aiming at the subject was lightning fast, even in low light conditions!

I must also mention the excellent sharpness of this lens. With an aperture of f/2.8, the image's center and edges are still sharp. As the aperture is closed further, the sharpness will gradually increase across the entire field of the frame and will reach its peak at f/5.6.

A built-in lens hood and nanocrystalline lens coating minimize the possibility of light reflections inside the lens. So catching lens flare and ghosting is not an easy task. However, even the highlights caught in the frame look just fine. Note that when shooting in the backlight, chromatic aberrations do not appear in the image.

Specifications:

  • Weight: 2.2 pounds

  • Filter size: N/A

  • Maximum aperture: f/2.8

  • Lens mount: Nikon F

Pros:

  • Fantastic sharpness

  • Virtually zero distortion

  • Fast autofocus

  • Perfect low-light working

Cons:

  • Not compatible with standard filters

Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM

The Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM is one of the best camera lenses for real estate photography from the STM family. Its distinguishing feature is the presence of STM stepping autofocus. Unlike lenses with USM and other drives, it focuses at a variable speed without noise and jerks, which is especially important when shooting movies with active autofocus. Thus, these lenses are a universal solution for those who shoot photos and videos.

At the same time Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM is one of the best Сanon lenses for real estate photography. This is a compact ultra-wide-angle lens designed for cameras with an APS-C sensor. Weighing only 240 grams and small in size for its class, it perfectly complements compact SLR cameras. The focal length range from 10 to 18 mm allows you to work in extremely narrow spaces.

Shooting with the Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM is fun but challenging. With it, you always want to take pictures at the widest angle because the world at such an angle looks very unusual. However, this effect can turn a frame into a caricature if mismanaged.

At 14mm, straight lines are really straight. There are no optical distortions. But at shorter focal lengths, distortion becomes more noticeable. In general, the level of distortion is not too high, especially considering that the lens is budgeted.

Specifications:

  • Weight: 240 g (0.53 pounds)

  • Filter size: 67 mm

  • Maximum aperture: f/4.5

  • Lens mount: Canon EF-S

Pros:

  • Fantastic sharpness

  • Fast autofocus

  • Image stabilization

  • Super lightweight

Cons:

  • A little barrel distortion if you shoot at focal lenses shorter than 14 mm

Nikon AF-P DX NIKKOR 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR

One of the best Nikon lenses for real estate photography. I was blown away when I picked up the Nikon AF-P DX NIKKOR 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR. This is an ultra-wide-angle lens with a solid IS, a fast AF-P motor, and an attractive price. Yet it is stunningly compact compared to any other ultra-wide-angle lens. It is five times lighter than the "golden" Nikon 14-24! Strengths are shooting ultra wide-angle real estate and shooting indoors. It also has no competition in video shooting: a stabilizer complete with a tranquil AF-P motor and an ultra-wide angle is not found anywhere else.

A 10-20mm focal length on a DX sensor will look the same as a 15-30mm focal length on a full-frame camera. That is, 10-20mm will give you a slightly narrower angle of coverage than 14-24mm on an FX matrix. However, 10 mm gives a view of 107 degrees. That's a lot! A little more, and your boots will fit into the frame. At a maximum focal length of 20mm, this lens overlaps the focal lengths of the Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR a little, which is quite convenient. Two compact lenses cover a fantastic 10-300mm range.

After big and heavy superzooms, this little one looks frivolous at first. It weighs only 230 grams, half the weight of its predecessor, the Nikon 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G ED AF-S DX. But at the same time, the Nikon AF-P DX NIKKOR 10-20mm f / 4.5-5.6G VR has a stabilizer, while the old lens does not.

The main body material is plastic. The mount is also made of plastic, so it needs to be removed and put on carefully. When focusing, the front lens does not rotate, which makes it possible to use polarizing and gradient filters. There are 14 optical elements inside the lens, united in 11 groups. Of these, 3 lenses are aspherical.

Specifications:

  • Weight: 230 g (0.51 pounds)

  • Filter size: 72 mm

  • Maximum aperture: f/4.5

  • Lens mount: F mount

Pros:

  • Fantastic sharpness

  • Super lightweight

  • The cheapest of the best

  • Image stabilization

Cons:

  • Noticeable barrel distortion & chromatic aberration

  • Made of plastic

The best lens for real estate photography: FAQ

What is the best focal length for real estate photography?

Since you'll be shooting outdoors and indoors, you'll need either one zoom lens or multiple prime lenses ranging from 10mm to 24mm. This is the best option. However, keep in mind that the crop factor must also be considered for cameras with a crop sensor.

Why is the focal length longer on crop cameras?

This is because APS-C cameras crop the edges of your frame. The focal length of the lenses is indicated for the 35mm film standard, but the crop sensor is N times smaller. This value is called the crop factor.

Are tilt shifts lenses the best real estate lenses?

More likely, no than yes. But it depends on your approach to work, of course. Tilt-shift lenses allow you to control the perspective while shooting. But they are costly, and everything you need can be done in photo editing programs.

What software should I use for real estate photo editing?

You can use any program you are comfortable with. However, I recommend Luminar Neo because of the fantastic combination of convenience and simplicity with the fullness of this software's possibilities.

The developers have implemented artificial intelligence technology to make processing as convenient as possible. Thus, Luminar Neo can perform most of the manual operations automatically, and you only have to set the necessary parameters.

Correcting lens distortion is easy in Luminar Neo, thanks to an intuitive interface and a huge set of tools that allow you to control even the smallest changes. It is very convenient for processing real estate photos.

In conclusion

When choosing the best lens for real estate photography, many interesting nuances should be carefully considered before settling on one. I hope that my advice will help you with this. Also, I listed several lenses worthy of your attention in the article. Of course, this is far from everything that can suit you, but this is what I personally held in my hands, of which I am one hundred percent sure. I will be glad if my recommendations are useful, and one of these will become your faithful assistant in real estate photography.







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