Decided to take a picture of the Kazan Cathedral, but only the dome barely fit into the frame? Are you planning to do interior design, but photos on a smartphone are not suitable for a portfolio? The answer to both problems is the same — a special lens! Today we will figure out what a lens should be for architecture and interiors, and consider the best models.
Zoom or fix
Other useful features
Wide angle lenses for architecture and interiors
A wide-angle lens is a must-have for architectural photography, both outside and inside buildings. Such “glasses” provide a wide viewing angle, which allows you to capture the entire building / room in the frame. To do this, you need a model with a focal length of 17mm or wider.
Zoom or fix
Wide-angle zooms give you more freedom of action compared to fixed focal lengths, as you won’t always be able to get close to a building from exactly the right angle and climb to exactly the height you need for your shot.
For beginners, a zoom lens is also better, as it will help you quickly find the right angle. For a beginner photographer, a 17–40mm f/4 or 16–35mm f/4 is a good start.
More advanced photographers are more likely to opt for ultra-wide-angle professional lenses with powerful f/2.8 apertures, such as the 14–24mm f/2.8. The angle of view of the 14mm lens allows you to “capture” all the necessary space in the frame, and the aperture of f / 2.8 is suitable for night shooting in the style of “building plus starry sky”.
However, primes usually boast sharper optics and a sharper picture, although this varies by model.
Many architectural photographers shoot with conventional wide-angle lenses, but they have a flaw.
When you shoot up close, perspective distortion appears. Buildings seem to be:
- tilted back;
- curved inward.
Here is an example of such distortions:
Why not get rid of these distortions in post-processing? The problem is that frame cropping is applied for this. And if the distortion is significant, you can lose a noticeable part of the composition.
While these distortions do not always look bad (and sometimes they even look like an artistic technique), many professional architectural photographers prefer special lenses that can shoot without these distortions — tilt-shift lenses.
Tilt-shift, from the English tilt-shift, means the tilt and shift of the optical axis, when the lens remains at a normal angle to the camera, but the lenses inside the lens are shifted relative to the matrix. This is how it looks.
With such lenses, you can photograph tall buildings and rooms with high ceilings immediately without distortion, but you will have to pay much more for them than for classic wide-angle lenses. Please note that tilt-shift lenses are not suitable for crop cameras.
Other useful features
Additional advantages of the lens will be:
- protection from dust and moisture (if you often shoot outdoors);
- optical stabilization (more convenient when shooting handheld).
- compactness (usually wide-angles are quite heavy and bulky, so compact sizes are especially appreciated in this class).
And now let’s move on to the best lenses for shooting architecture and interiors.
Wide angle lenses for architecture and interiors
Tamron 15–30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD
Tamron’s fast zoom is made for Canon and Nikon cameras. It has a sharp picture, great color reproduction and accurate autofocus. And, as usual with Tamron, low price. There is an optical stabilization system, but, according to user reviews, it is not very effective.
Another disadvantage of the lens is that it weighs more than a kilogram. But for the price, this is one of the best fast wide-angle zooms on the market.
Canon has a cool professional zoom for full-frame mirrorless cameras with the Canon RF 15–35mm f/2.8 L IS USM. This is a relatively compact lens for its class, extending only slightly at its widest angle of 15mm. A plus is protection from dust and moisture. The price, of course, bites (more than 2000 dollars).
If you’re after a DSLR lens, the company has a slightly more affordable zoom, the Canon EF 11–24mm f/4L USM. It is less aperture, but can capture even more space at the ultra-wide end. This “glass” will work with both SLR and mirrorless cameras through an adapter.
A slightly more compact option would be the Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM. This is an old (2007), but time-tested lens with protection from bad weather.
The classic Nikkor AF‑S NIKKOR 14–24mm f/2.8G ED wide-angle zoom boasts super-clear image quality and a solid build. At the same time, this professional lens does not have a stabilization system, so prepare a tripod.
If you are willing to sacrifice aperture and save some money at the expense of this, there is a simpler and wide-angle option — Nikon AF‑P DX Nikkor 10–20mm F4.5–5.6G VR. The picture is not as sharp as the 14–24mm f/2.8G ED, but there is optical stabilization.
For those who prefer prime lenses, the Nikkor AF 14mm f/2.8D ED is the way to go. Like Canon’s fix, this is a venerable old man who does an excellent job with distortion and demonstrates an excellent picture. However, unlike its competitor, it did not receive protection from dust and moisture.
In the case of Sony, we will go the other way and start not with a fast professional zoom, but with a very cool Sony 16–35mm f/4 OSS. It is perfectly balanced in all respects — a sharp, compact and strong all-metal “barrel”. Of course, the price of 100 thousand rubles can hardly be called friendly for novice photographers, but when you buy such a lens, you take a universal tool for years to come: it is good not only for architecture and interiors, but also for landscapes and street photography. It does not cope with distortions as cool as the next model, but everything is fine with the picture (after all, Zeiss optics inside).
If f/4 doesn’t suit you, the company has the Sony FE 12–24mm F2.8 G Master. It is very expensive (more than two thousand dollars), but it has practically no minuses — cool optics, a compact body, and it also perfectly controls all distortions.
Those who want to travel light will definitely like the new Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 GM fix. The novelty weighs only 460 grams and at the same time has weather protection. Its f/1.8 aperture makes it a great option for nighttime architectural landscapes and interior photography in all lighting conditions.
Fujifilm 10–24mm f/4
This zoom from Fuji is great for architecture — its equivalent focal length on Fujifilm crop cameras is 15–36mm, so its “width” is more than enough to catch everything you need in the frame.
The lens is equipped with optical stabilization, so in good light you do not need a tripod, and in general the picture is very sharp.
In 2020, Fujifilm released an updated version with dust and moisture protection — Fujifilm XF 10–24mm F4 R OIS WR.
Of the fixed focal length lenses that may be suitable for architectural photography, we can note the Fujifilm XF 16mm f / 2.8 R WR. It has an equivalent focal length of 26mm, so sometimes you’ll have to struggle with angles, but other than that it’s a very nice budget prime that’s good for everyday shooting.
Canon TS‑E 17mm f/4L
This professional architectural and interior lens is the widest angle of the manufacturer’s tilt-shift lenses. It provides an ultra-wide angle of view (104 degrees) and the ability to independently adjust the shift and tilt, which allows you to very accurately adjust the focal plane, completely getting rid of distortion.
Nikon PC NIKKOR 19mm f/4E ED
Nikon’s “answer” was the PC NIKKOR 19mm f/4E ED. As with Canon, you can independently adjust the level of shift and tilt. At the same time, it slightly loses to the Canon tilt-shift in terms of viewing angle (97 degrees), but it can boast of protecting the body from dust and moisture.
Venus Laowa 15mm f/4.5 Zero‑D
Venus Laowa 15mm f/4.5 Zero‑D is available for Sony, Canon and Nikon cameras. Moreover, for Canon and Nikon there are options with a bayonet mount for both SLR and mirrorless models. This lens has the widest field of view of our trio of 110°, allowing you to frame the tallest buildings and most spacious rooms completely and without distortion.