If you’re looking to get into real estate photography, you’ll quickly learn that the most important piece of gear in your bag is the lens.
A lens can have a huge impact on how your final image looks, from its distortion to its clarity or versatility.
Let’s take a look at what to look for in a lens for real estate photography. And the best lenses for real estate photography currently on the market.
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What to Look for in a Lens for Real Estate
A perfect lens for real estate photography needs to allow you to quickly move through a property to cover all sorts of spaces.
You should be able to show even small spaces cleanly, and produce sharp images that your clients will be happy with.
For this we’re looking at:
For real estate purposes, you’ll clearly need a wide angle lens. As a real estate photographer, you want to show the entire property and to make the spaces feel ample and welcoming.
A wide angle lens will be crucial to making the spaces feel spacious, even when they’re a bit tight in reality. The key with this is to use wide angle lenses, but avoid going too wide and entering the category of fish-eye lenses.
Fisheye lenses are ultra-wide and tend to greatly distort the space. This can often be very misleading to potential buyers, so they’re not useful for real estate.
Zooms Offer Versatility
Especially as you start out, the versatility of a zoom lens will be a great benefit to your growing business!
A zoom lens that has a wide range will give you the freedom to learn the focal lengths that work best for you.
It will serve you well for a variety of spaces in a property, and it will take the place of what would normally be several different prime lenses.
Minimal Distortion or Chromatic Aberration
One of the major qualities that improve with better lens quality is the chromatic aberration. Essentially, this is the visual distortion that you might see towards the edges of the frame on a wide-angle photo.
It’s different than lens distortion, although you see that on lower quality lenses as well. Chromatic aberration is noticeable towards the edge of the frame when areas look a bit blurry, muddy, or moved.
The higher quality lens, the sharper and less distorted the edges of the frame will be! Early on, your budget may be the guiding force in your decision-making.
As you grow your business, though, you’ll want to upgrade your lens quality as soon as you can afford to do so. Your images will get an instant quality boost as well.
Top Lenses for Full Frame Cameras
For full frame cameras, we’ll take a look at:
- Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM
- Nikon Nikkor 16-35mm f/4
- Tokina AT-X 17-35mm f/4 ProFX
If you’re a Canon user, this is the lens you’ll want to get your hands on at some point. It’s an L-series lens, which denotes a higher quality glass and build.
The mount is for full frame cameras, so you’ll want to make sure the camera body you have is full frame.
The 16-35mm range is ideal for real estate. It’s wide enough to capture a small space in full. And it gives you the option to zoom in up to 35mm if you’re in a large space and or want a tighter composition.
There’s a similar lens that has f-stops down to 2.8, while this lens only goes down to f4. The lens that goes to f2.8 is about twice the cost, though.
While the more limiting f-stop range may seem like a disadvantage, keep in mind that for real estate purposes you’ll be shooting on a tripod at all times.
Not only this but for interiors you want to shoot at higher f-stops so that your room is all in focus. I don’t feel that the expense for a lower f-stop is necessary if you’re shooting only real estate.
For Nikon users, this is the go-to lens that you’ll want to aim for. The characteristics are the same as the Canon lens described above, making this a natural fit for real estate photos!
It’s noticeably heavier than its Canon counterpart, but the Nano Crystal Coating helps to reduce ghosting and flare in different lighting conditions.
Cost-wise, it’s on par with its Canon counterpart, making this another fantastic option at a reasonable investment!
If you have a full frame camera but need a more affordable option, this is the lens for you. This Tokina lens is available for both Canon and Nikon, and the quality is impressive for the price tag.
It’s sharp throughout most of the frame, offers a low enough f-stop to allow enough light in for interior use. And it has the perfect range of focal length to work with rooms of any size.
Top Lenses for Crop Sensor Cameras
For crop sensor cameras, which has an APS-C mount, we’ll be taking a look at:
- Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5
- Tokina 12-28mm f/4 AT-X ProDX
- Nikon Nikkor 12-24mm f/4G IF-ED
This Tamron lens offers the equivalent of the 16-35mm focal range in full frame camera lenses. This, then, makes it ideal for real estate because it captures the perfect range of options for all spaces.
The variable f-stop range is no problem when shooting on a tripod and at higher f-stops for fully sharp images. For crop sensor cameras, this is the best lens option out there for real estate photos!
The chromatic aberration is impressive for the price point, and photos with this lens are surprisingly sharp consistently.
This lens from Tokina has a focal length that’s equivalent to a 19-45mm on a full frame camera.
It’s another low-cost option, but delivers amazing quality images and build for its price tag.
This lens has a super sturdy build, optically performs at levels that compete with Canon and Nikon brand lenses, and keeps distortion to a minimum.
It’s not as wide as the Tamron lens above. But it’s got a fantastic range for real estate photography and can suit all spaces quite well.
While this lens is the priciest option on our list, it’s a great one for Nikon users who don’t plan on switching to full frame cameras anytime too soon. It offers the high level of build and quality that Nikon consistently puts out, with sharp images even at 12mm.
Its focal range is ideal for real estate photography, both indoors and out. The chromatic aberration and distortion are kept at a minimum with two Extra-Low Dispersion (ED) glass elements.
The 11.8-inch minimum focus distance is an added bonus for tight spaces or creative compositions.
Tilt-shift lenses are created for photographing buildings. They allow you to shoot at a wide focal length but keep vertical lines perfectly vertical. Consider how you need to tilt the camera up to capture a skyscraper’s full height.
The tilt-shift lens will allow you to capture the entire height without the tilting. Tilt-shift lenses come in prime lengths, meaning there are no zoom lenses that are tilt-shift.
Tilt-shift lenses are also quite expensive, making them not an ideal option for anyone starting out in real estate photography. Typically, I don’t recommend tilt-shift lenses to anyone in real estate photography unless you’re working with luxury estates.
The reason is that real estate photography tends to be more about volume, so you’ll be doing more shoots at lower price points. Again, the exception for this would be luxury estates, where you’re doing more of an architectural shoot.
Since you’ll typically be wanting to move through a property quickly and efficiently, and since real estate photo shoots tend to be at much lower price points than architectural, the tilt-shift lens is not a great fit.
The lack of zooming ability means you’ll be switching lenses more often than with a zoom that can serve all your spaces.
The higher price tag also means that the investment may very well outweigh the benefit to your business. It might not be a worthwhile option.
If you do decide to try out a tilt-shift lens for real estate, the top two focal lengths to use are 17mm and 24mm. The 24mm will most likely be your most versatile. It may prove to be a bit too tight for small spaces such as half baths or small condos.
The 17mm focal length is fantastic for smaller spaces but may prove to be too wide in larger rooms like living rooms or larger homes. Also, do keep in mind that tilt-shift lenses are exclusively for full frame cameras. That will also push you into a bigger price tag when it comes to selecting the ideal camera for real estate photography.
Tilt-shift lenses from Canon and Nikon are currently selling for $1,800-2,200. Other brands can be found for about half the cost.
The quality of build and performance found in the major brands like Canon and Nikon tend to far outweigh that of off-brands.
No piece of gear affects your real estate photos more so than the lens.
If you’re dabbling in this niche, you may want to rent one of the above lenses before committing to ownership.