What is a good real estate photography lens? This is a very important question! Indeed, for real estate photos, your lens selection is one of the most important things in your entire kit!
In this article, we’ll list some of the best lenses for real estate, of course, but more importantly, we’ll make sure that you understand the factors that go into choosing a lens- what focal length, zoom range, and/or aperture range is right for which situation? Having this knowledge will be worth its weight in gold, (or just regular dollars!) because it will make the difference between average and truly high-quality work that your clients are willing to pay more for.
Thank you to Photomatix for sponsoring this tutorial series and making it possible. The tips given in this tutorial are based on professional experience by our full-time staff of photographers, and are our own opinions and advice!
The Right Focal Length For Real Estate Photography Subjects
For general work, from normal-sized property exteriors to decently spacious interior shots, you can probably photograph almost everything at around 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, or maybe 70mm or 85mm if there are distant or detail shots to be had. Thankfully, there are zoom lenses that can cover all of these focal lengths at once!
You’ll usually only need to go wider (16mm, 14mm, or 11mm!) for interior spaces that are very tight, where you’re forced to stand against a wall, and “fit in” as much of a room as possible.
Canon, Sony, Nikon, Sigma, Tamron, Tokina… What’s The Best Real Estate Lens?
The other question that a lot of photographers ask is, “what is the best Canon lens for real estate photography?” …or, “What is the best Nikon lens for real estate photography?” …and so on and so forth. Honestly? When it comes to the best lenses for real estate, thankfully, the brand name isn’t as important as what the lens is really offering you.
The fact is, you can find a great lens that fits almost any budget, on literally any brand of camera or lens mount. This is because real estate photographers don’t usually need extremely fast aperture lenses, or even extremely high-end autofocus sysems. The most important things are having the right focal length, having good overall image quality, and of course, long-term durability for working professionals.
If you can afford a budget of $600-1300, then almost every third-party lens will be attainable, and even some name-brand options, too. If you want an “exotic” name-brand lens, then some of the more modest ones may be as affordable as $1000-1300, but many of the best will be well over $2000.
A “Standard” Lens For Real Estate Photography
Before we start talking about the exciting, exotic wide-angle lenses that you might want to buy, let’s remember that no aspiring real estate photographer should go into business without covering the “normal” focal range first. So, make sure you cover the range of 24-70mm, or similar, before you do any other lens shopping.
Virtually all of the 24-70mm f/2.8 lenses from Canon, Nikon Sony, Sigma, Tamron, and Tokina are more than acceptable for real estate photography. In fact, the ones with an f/2.8 aperture and very beefy optics are probably a bit overkill!
So, if you already have a 24-70mm f/2.8, that’s great, however, if you don’t, then don’t hesitate to get a 24-70mm f/4, a 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5, a 24-105mm f/4, or 24-120mm f/4 type lens instead. You’ll be using smaller apertures much of the time, for depth of field, and lenses these days are very sharp when stopped down to those apertures, (say, f/8 to f/16) even if they aren’t giant, expensive, “flagship” lenses.
Zooms VS Primes For Real Estate Photos
One question you might have is, what about prime lenses? Of course, primes are great, and well-suited for things like portrait and candid photography where your shooting conditions allow for ample moving of both the camera and the subjects. However, with real estate, you are frequently constrained by where you can place your camera, while at the same time needing to capture an entire house or room within the angle of your lens.
So, can prime lenses work for real estate photography? Yes, absolutely. However, because zoom lenses are so sharp, affordable, and abundant these days, we simply don’t feel like we need to recommend any primes. Get yourself a mid-range zoom and a wide-angle zoom, and you’ll be good to go!
Wide Angle Lens For Real Estate Photography
Most experienced real estate photographers would argue that a wide-angle lens is the most important one for most types of work. However, the term “wide-angle” can be vague. In fact, it really means any focal length wider than about 35mm.
So, to answer the question, “what is the best wide-angle lens for real estate photography?” we must first consider the focal length or zoom range that you will actually use for the work you do. In other words, don’t make the mistake of just buying a lens because you heard it was very sharp; its focal range might not turn out to be best for your needs!
Are some of these lenses actually “better” than the others? Just barely. In fact, if you use a lens correction profile, which are automatically available in raw conversion/workflow software like Adobe Lightroom, and specialized software such as Photomatix, …then you can enjoy near-perfect corrections for things like distortion and vignetting.
If you do this, then the playing field is very level, and your best choice is really whatever lens suits your budget and your focal length needs. For example, there is actually a huge difference between 14mm and 17mm, and the wider range can definitely help out for some real estate jobs, so we are listing these lenses in that order:
The best wide-angle lenses (that reach 14mm, 15mm, 16mm, or 17mm)
for real estate photography
Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DN Art ($1300)
(for Sony E-mount, although you can use an adapter for Nikon Z-mount)
Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 HSM Art ($1200)
(For Nikon and Canon DSLRs)
Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S ($1300)
(For Nikon Z-mount only)
Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 G ($1250-1600)
(For Nikon DSLRs)
Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 VC ($900-1300)
(For DSLRs; the original and the G2 are both very good!)
Canon RF 15-35mm f/2.8 L IS ($2300)
(For Canon full-frame mirrorless cameras)
Canon 16-35mm F/4 L IS ($1000)
(For Canon DSLRs)
Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 Di III RXD ($900)
(For Sony E-mount, though you can use an adapter for Nikon Z-mount)
Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4 Di OSD ($600)
(For Nikon & Canon DSLRs)
Best Lens For Interior Photography
Any wide-angle lens is great, but if you are going to be photographing a lot of interiors, especially small, cramped rooms such as bathrooms or small bedrooms or offices, then you can almost never have a wide enough lens! Of course a 14-24mm lens is still a great choice, but, there are also some 12-24mm lenses out there, and even some lenses that go to 11mm and 10mm. (None of these are fisheye lenses, either!)
Having such super-ultra-wide focal lengths at your disposal can be very helpful, however, they can also introduce significant perspective/scale distortion if you’re not careful, so be aware of any undesirable “stretching” effects at the edges of your images.
On the plus side, one advantage of having extremely wide focal lengths is that with a high-megapixel camera body, you can photograph a scene with the camera kept perfectly level, (so that all vertical lines remain vertical) …and then just crop in during post-production to achieve your actual desired composition.
The best wide-angle lenses (that reach 10mm, 11mm, or 12mm) for real estate photography
Sony 12-24mm f/4 G ($1773)
(For the Sony E-mount, though you can use an adapter for Nikon Z-mount mirrorless)
Sigma 12-24mm f/4 HSM Art ($1200)
(For Canon & Nikon DSLRs, though you can use an adapter for Sony E-mount)
Canon 11-24mm f/4 L ($2700)
(For Canon DSLRs, and you can use an adapter for Sony E-mount)
Laowa/Venus 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 FE ($850)
(For Sony E-mount, and you can use an adapter for Nikon Z-mount)
Best “Crop” APS-C & Micro Four Thirds Lenses For Real Estate
What about Fuji, or the Sony A6600-type cameras, and all of the amazing Nikon and Canon APS-C (crop sensor) DSLRs? They all make great cameras for real estate work!
Fortunately, there are a large number of amazing lenses for APS-C and Micro Four Thirds cameras, many of which are just as impressive as their full-frame focal range equivalents!
Nikon and Canon APS-C DSLRs (1.5-1.6x crop) have great lightweight 10-18/20mm lenses available, if you want very basic, lightweight, no-frills options that go ultra-wide and get the job done. For something slightly more high-quality and durable, there are numerous options by both name-brands and third-parties in the 10-24mm range, or more exotic APS-C lenses like the Tokina 11-20mm f/2.8 ($450).
Nikon DX mirrorless (1.5x crop) is relatively new, so you’ll have to use the FTZ adapter and some Nikon F-mount lenses, which are listed above.
Canon’s APS-C mirrorless EF-M mount (1.6x crop) has one wide-angle zoom option, the extremely portable and affordable Canon EF-M 11-22mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM ($40) if you’re on a really tight budget. Otherwise, you’re better off using a Canon EF to EF-M adapter, and any of the EF-mount DSLR wide-angle lenses that are available.
On Sony’s E-Mount (1.5x crop), you have a similarly modest, portable (but, pricier) option, the 10-18mm f/4 OSS ($900), plus the possibility of adapting any DSLR lens you want.
On Fuji’s X-mount, (1.5x crop), the tried-and-true Fuji XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS is a solid performer at a decent price (~$1000). If you have the budget to go truly exotic, the Fuji 8-16mm f/2.8 is even wider, though it will set you back nearly $2000.
On the Olympus/Panasonic Micro Four Thirds Mount, (2x crop), there are a handful of wide-angle options that take you to the equivalent of 14-16mm on full-frame, which is pretty respectable for such a compact system. Olympus’ flagship wide-angle lens, the Olympus ED 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO, (~$1300) is one of the widest possible choices.
Panasonic makes one of the most exotic ultra-wide lenses around, the 10-25mm f/1.7, which will only set you back $1800. Personally, though, we’d recommend the Panasonic 8-18mm f/2.8-4 instead, since it goes a bit wider (equivalent to 16mm full-frame) and costs under $1000.
Tilt-Shift Lenses For Real Estate Photography
For those photographers who really love “getting it right in-camera”, and who have the budget, you can consider a tilt-shift lens. These are specialty lenses that are made for exactly this type of photography, where keeping vertical lines vertical is a very common goal.
With a tilt-shift lens, you can aim the camera at your scene with the camera body perfectly level, and then raise or lower the lens optics independently to compose your image in an upward or downward direction. The result is a perfectly framed shot, without any of the vertical lines in your scene “leaning” in or out.
Is this type of lens really required for most real estate photography? You can correct perspective distortion in Lightroom, and as we mentioned, sometimes you can just zoom your lens out wider than your composition, level the camera with the horizon, and then crop your final image upward or downward to get the intended final composition.
In short, no, a tilt-shift lens is not absolutely necessary. However, they can be a lot of fun to use if you’re into the technical aspects of perspective correction, and they really do save you lots of time in post-production. So, if you ever have the budget, do consider one. They are, of course, all prime lenses, and most of them are made for DSLRs, and are rather pricey:
Canon 17mm f/4 L TS-E (~$2150)
Nikon PC 19mm f/4 E (~$3400)
Canon 24mm f/3.5 L TS-E II (~$1900)
Nikon 24mm f/3.5 PC-E (~$2200)
Rokinon/Samyang 24mm f/3.5 Tilt-Shift (~$700-800)
Venus/Laowa 15mm f/4 Macro/Shift (~$500)
(This wide-angle lens offers a little bit of shifting only, (not tilt) when used with APS-C cameras.)
Venus/Laowa Magic Tilt-Shift Adapter ($300)
(This adapter, when combined with the Canon EF-mount Venus/Laowa 12mm f/2.8 Zero-D, creates a 17mm full-frame tilt-shift lens.)
FotodioX Pro TLT ROKR Tilt-Shift Adapter ($200+)
(For Canon/Nikon DSLR lenses, offers shifting capability through converting from full-frame to APS-C on the Sony E-mount or Fuji X-Mount. Many other mount conversions are possible, too!)
For additional equipment recommendations, check out our real estate photography gear article here. Another closely related article is this one about correcting lens distortion in real estate photography. Below is a complete list of articles on the subject of professional real estate photography:
Real Estate Photography Marketing Guide – How To Book More Jobs
How To Fix Lens Distortion In Real Estate Photos
A Step By Step Guide On How To Become A Real Estate Photographer
Ten Tips To Be Profitable In Real Estate Photography
Real Estate Photography Equipment Guide: Cameras, Lenses, Accessories & Software
HDR Versus Flash In Real Estate Photography
Real Estate Photography Lighting Guide
Six Common Real Estate Photography Mistakes And How To Avoid Them
Thanks again to the folks at Photomatix for sponsoring this content! We’re really enjoying being able to bring you these great, real-world tips and guides on real estate photography. Stay tuned for more coming soon.