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A com­pe­tent choice of lens is one of the most impor­tant com­po­nents of the suc­cess of any pho­tog­ra­ph­er, and archi­tec­tur­al in par­tic­u­lar. Pho­to: archeyes.com

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.

wide angle
Zoom or fix
Tilt-shift lens­es
Oth­er use­ful fea­tures
Wide angle lens­es for archi­tec­ture and inte­ri­ors
Tilt-shift lens­es

wide angle

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.

Tilt-shift lenses

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:

Per­spec­tive dis­tor­tion is espe­cial­ly notice­able on long par­al­lel straight lines, which is why “glass­es” are espe­cial­ly val­ued in archi­tec­tur­al pho­tog­ra­phy, which can min­i­mize them. Pho­to: digital-photography-school.com

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.

As you can see, the back of the lens (clos­est to the cam­era) remains in place, but every­thing else can be shift­ed and tilt­ed. Pho­to: northlight-images.co.uk

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

The width of the Canon RF 15–35mm f/2.8, despite its wide range of focal lengths, looks quite bal­anced on mir­ror­less bod­ies. Pho­to: techradar.com

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.

Nikon

The NIKKOR 14–24mm f/2.8G ED is com­pat­i­ble with mir­ror­less cam­eras via an FTZ adapter. Pho­to: alexluyckx.com

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.

Sony

Inside the Sony 16–35mm f/4 OSS are top-notch optics from Zeiss. Pho­to: thephoblographer.com

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

The lens is per­fect­ly bal­anced on Fuji­film crop bod­ies. Pho­to: amateurphotographer.co.uk

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.

Tilt-shift lenses

Canon TS‑E 17mm f/4L

Canon’s first lens with inde­pen­dent tilt and shift adjust­ments. Pho­to: macdanzigphotography.wordpress.com

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.

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