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Best Lens for Shooting Interiors/Architecture

Kate Lair , Jun 07, 2009; 09:14 p.m.

I am about to purchase a Canon EOS D5 Mark II body, and I'm going to need a good full-frame, wide field of view, low light lens for shooting interiors (which I hope to do professionally). I've had the following lenses all highly recommended to me by various "experts":

  1. Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L II USM
  2. Sigma 12-24mm for Canon
  3. Tokina 12-24mm for Canon

I'd really appreciate some advice from someone who shoots interiors and/or architecture professionally (or otherwise has experience with this type of photography). Thanks so much. Kate

Responses

Ken Schwarz , Jun 07, 2009; 09:35 p.m.

Kate, make sure that the lens you choose is suitable for a full-frame camera, such as your 5D2. I'm not sure about the Sigma or Tokina, but the Canon 16-35 is OK. For high-quality interior/architecture work, I think you should look at the new 17mm or 24mm TSE lenses from Canon or use a product like DXOptics to correct distortion and perspective in post-processing. The 16-35 is a very high-quality lens, but I think it has too much distortion for these applications without that extra step in your computer.

Robert Brewster , Jun 07, 2009; 09:52 p.m.

To see what people are doing for professional interior photography, look at the available magazines that feature this: Architectural Digest, the architecture magazines, the home magazines. Your local library probably has some of these. You mention a "low light lens" but for interiors you'll be working on a tripod; you don't need the wide apertures so much. Also notice most of the views are only moderately wide angle; for most work, a 28mm is wide enough, and closer views are often with a 50mm, 85mm or longer lens. We do a lot of architectural and interior work, and use mostly the lenses that allow you to shift the lens so you can keep the verticals vertical. Another advantage is that you can shift the lens, say, to the left, and take an exposure, then shift to the right without moving the camera and take another exposure, and combine in photoshop for a wide view.
Canon makes tilt/shift lenses (they call them TS-E lenses) in focal lengths of 24mm, 45mm, and 90mm. The 24mm is useful for wide angle work, but it's expensive, about $1000. or so. We use the older Nikon PC lenses as well, they work on the Canon cameras with an inexpensive ebay adapter. The 28mm Nikkor PC sells used for around $500. or so, and the 35mm for perhaps 300. or so. If you buy off ebay or something, be sure to ask the seller if the shift is firm and doesn't slip; sometimes they wear out, and when you shift the lens up, it won't stay in place, it will slide down. This may sound complex, but it's pretty simple in practice, and this is really the best way to do professional level architectural work with these cameras. If you use a wide zoom instead, the pictures won't be as sharp, they will have more barrel or pincushion distortion, and you'll have to correct the perspective in Photoshop, which will lose more sharpness.
Hope this helps.

Juergen Sattleru , Jun 07, 2009; 09:53 p.m.

Ken is right - if you are really serious about shooting interios professionally, then you will need a tilt/shift lens to keep all the lines straight. The Sigma really won't work, neither will the Tokina - too much distortion.

JDM von Weinberg , Jun 07, 2009; 10:21 p.m.

You can get by with just a "wide angle" like the cheaper 17-40mm or the 16-35mm f/2.8 (the faster the better, of course, for indoor). Problems requiring the "shift" feature (vertical lines converging) can be handled in Photoshop, but anything involving putting the focal plane on a bias can really only be done with the tilt function one of the Tilt-Shift lenses like the 17mm or 24mm TS-E

There's a good probability that the new 17mm TS-E lens will be superb for your purposes, from the preview pictures we've seen. Of course, the fact that it is expensive even for an L lens doesn't help any, and it is only f/4, but tilt-shift stuff together really calls for a tripod anyhow for most purposes.

Clayton Tullos , Jun 07, 2009; 10:49 p.m.

As others have said you would/should be using a tripod for the mentioned type of interior work.

Rainer T , Jun 08, 2009; 04:32 a.m.

Lets sort the lenses out first ...
the EF 16-35 as well as the Sigma 12-24 are lenses designed for fullframe, whereas the Tokina has a "DX" in its name, which is Tokinas designator for a lens designed for crop-1.6. ( Some users report, that the Tokina covers the full frame at settings at and above 17mm, but frankly I wouldn't use a a crop-1.6 lens on a fullframe camera).

The Sigma has a reputation to have a quite low barrel distortion, which is good, but seems to flare quite easily. So, the "EF 16-35/2.8L II" is likely your best choice. Make sure you buy the version II of this lens, which seems to be signifficantly improved over the first verison of this lens.

Luca Foto , Jun 08, 2009; 12:54 p.m.

The 16-35 II is the best choice on your list, but there is barrel distortion at 16mm; that is why a TS, as suggested above, would be the best choice- try renting one like the 24mm TS-E before buying. Canon's 14mm rectilinear is also a good (and expensive) choice.
As for fast (f2.8), that affords a shallow depth of field, which is not what you want to fully capture an interior. For any architectural shot low light or not a good tripod and remote trigger are imperative.
As well as Photoshop can adjust your image, I prefer to spend time behind the lens and get the final shot right rather than having to adjust an image on my computer.

Mark Anthony Kathurima , Jun 09, 2009; 05:14 a.m.

I agree with others here, lens speed (i.e max aperture) wouldn't be my first criterion for interios/architecture. I sometimes shoot interiors (for contractual reasons I can't display them on my webpages), but each time I find I will use a tripod, mirror lockup and remote release to optimise sharpness. I also shoot between f/8 to f/11, at which aperture many lenses are at their so-called 'sweet-spot.' I would go for a tilt-shift lens for reasons described above. I don't shoot interiors often enough to justify the purchase of one, but I would certainly do so if I were going to do it professionally.

Norris Lam , Jun 09, 2009; 10:45 a.m.

Simply use 17-40mm f4L will fit your needs. For indoor, u will use available light and tripods. Put the lens horizon to the ground will yield you perfect picture. Curvature at edge is very slight and if it does appear, crop it. Best value-for-money lens.

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