Best Focal Length for Real Estate Photography 2022
The real estate photography industry is both exciting and challenging. With multiple products coming into the market on the regular, upgrading your arsenal is a whole experience in itself. Many seasoned professionals, any hobbyist alike, love to collect different camera bodies, tripods, flashes, and camera lenses to ensure that they have a complete lineup of gear and ready for just about any occasion.
If you are just starting out with your real estate photography business or would prefer to keep your set of gear down to the most necessary, you would understandably want to invest in high quality equipment that could last you a very long time. This may be a little more costly upfront but the return on investment is well worth it.
One of the most crucial tools you would not want to be too frugal about is a camera lens. However, when it comes to real estate photography, any ordinary camera lens will just not do. You need one with a good focal length range to ensure your images come out as detailed, vivid, and stunning as possible.
What is the best focal length for real estate photography?
First of all, what exactly is a focal length? The focal length of your lens is primarily what dictates just how much of the whole property your camera can capture in a single frame.
Smaller focal length numbers such as 8 mm or 10 mm pack a much wider angle of view to the point that these are considered ultra-wide lenses. Despite being able to show much more detail, they also carry with them more distortion.
Bigger focal length numbers such as 12 mm up to 40 mm have a narrower field of view. While this range shows less of the scene, the photos are far more accurate, sharper, and have little to no distortion.
Which lens should you choose then?
The best lens for real estate photography will always be a wide-angle lens since it allows you to photograph any setting with an ample field of view, ensuring that you do not miss out on any important details.
As mentioned, the range that wide angle lenses cover can be anywhere from 8 mm up to 40 mm, however, we suggest sticking to a maximum of 12 mm for your real estate images in order to prevent dealing with the distortion of ultra wide angle lenses.
A popular example of an ultra wide angle lens would be if you were to use fisheye lenses. While these are fine for leisure shots, they are far too unrealistic and inaccurate to be used for real estate listings.
The best focal length for real estate photography would range between 12 mm to 40 mm, depending on the camera you are using, the property you are shooting, and how narrowed down (or opened up) the space is.
Things to consider before buying lenses based off focal length for real estate photography
The many different specifications of both your lens and camera can directly affect the available focal length you have to work with. To ensure that you can maximize the best focal length range and capture all the necessary details within your shot, you must first understand the top 5 things to consider before purchasing lenses.
Whether you are a real estate agent, photographer, or home seller looking to get some great images for your listing, be sure to keep these factors in mind:
Factor #1: Wide Angle Focal Length
We have already established that a wide-angle lens is most ideal for real estate. Its small focal length is what enables you to shoot in narrow and even poorly lit environments while still producing high quality images.
You get to enjoy these results for as long as you stick within the 12 mm to 40 mm focal length range, you can greatly minimize risk of distortion.
Factor #2: Aperture
Next up is your aperture. The aperture settings you use in taking photos directly affect how sharp and bright your images will turn out. Understanding how powerful this element is can give you full control over its capabilities and maximize its potential.
With a wider aperture, your images turn out more vibrant even in low light or environments with challenging illumination. A good aperture to aim for in a lens is one that can reach at least f/4 throughout all the available focal lengths. If your lens can go even wider than that, the better!
A lot of standard or kit lenses come with variable aperture, meaning it changes each time you adjust the focal length needed for the shot. While these can still produce good quality images, it can sometimes be inconvenient and lower the quality depending on the lighting situation.
If you have the resources to invest in a lens that holds a constant aperture regardless of the focal length range you utilize, then it will be well worth the purchase. These types of lenses give you more control over how your images turn out and can greatly level up the quality.
Factor #3: Zoom or Prime Lens
The next factor that directly affects how your focal length can function is if the lens you are getting is a zoom type or prime type. Between the two, there is only one major difference.
Prime lenses have only one fixed focal length, while zoom lenses have a full range of focal lengths to choose from.
Due to the lack of flexibility, prime lenses are generally more affordable than that of zoom lenses. However, they also produce relatively sharper images. The main downside with prime lenses is that it is not as versatile should the situation call for a more varied set of shooting options.
While taking your projects into consideration, if you feel that shooting your subjects from a great distance is not a situation you would find yourself in too often, then perhaps a prime lens is fit for the job. Moreover, if you do not mind bringing in more than one lens (one prime and one zoom for instance), then investing in a prime lens should be well worth it.
In any case, should you opt to get only one lens while starting out, we recommend getting a zoom lens since these are more flexible, can be used in more varied situations, is overall more practical, and much more convenient.
Factor #4: Chromatic Aberration and Distortion
Lenses that are manufactured with higher quality have little to no chromatic aberration and distortion to them. Wide-angle lenses will of course have some distortion due to its nature, but its severity is not one that can cause the image to look inaccurate or unattractive. In fact, it can easily be fixed in post production or in camera.
Many DSLR cameras in the market can correct distortion in the camera while you shoot. This feature makes it highly convenient when shooting with wide-angle lenses. For those without this feature, you can easily remedy the distortion in Adobe Photoshop or your preferred editing software by utilizing the built-in lens profiles.
Chromatic aberration and distortion are both preventable and controllable, depending on the kind of lens you invest in, the focal length utilized, and the quality of the build.
Factor #5: Crop Factor (Crop Sensor vs Full Frame Sensor)
Last, but most definitely not the list, the crop factor of your camera. This has a huge impact on the focal length of your lens, or rather, the amount of focal range you are able to maximize. This is an essential element in choosing the right set of lenses that are most compatible with your camera, so that you can utilize each gear to its full potential.
With a crop sensor camera, also known as an APS – C, your field of view will be limited. As its name suggests, the camera tends to crop the image, which in turn makes your photos look more zoomed in than they ought to be.
With full frame cameras on the other hand, you are able to maximize the entirety of the frame, we are talking corner-to-corner capture. This is what makes full frame cameras a great choice, the ability to take the full scene in without feeling concerned that you may crop out some essential details.
With an APS – C, lenses with a smaller focal length are not the most compatible option. You will need ultra wide alternatives in order to balance the image out and get more of its focal range into the mix.
While full frame cameras may not be as affordable as crop sensor ones, they are still very much worth the investment. Should you decide to get, or already have, a full frame camera, we recommend getting a lens between 12 mm and 40 mm.
Understanding The Focal Length Multiplier
In relation to understanding the balance between crop sensor cameras and focal lengths, you need to be in the know about the focal length multiplier.
Full frame cameras are simple and straightforward. The focal range you acquire through the lenses is exactly what you can maximize with your camera.
However, a crop sensor camera is far more complex since the sensor sizes in APS cameras are much smaller and will have the effect of multiplying the available focal range by a focal length multiplier.
The focal length multiplier to be used depends on the maker of the camera. When you are using a Nikon or Sony camera, the focal length multiplier is 1.5, and if you are using a Canon camera, the focal length multiplier is 1.6.
As an example, let’s take a 12 mm lens and pair it with a cropped sensor Nikon camera. In this case, the focal length multiplier is 1.5.
You must multiply the given 12 mm focal length by the Nikon cropped sensor multiplier, which is 1.5.
12 x 1.5 = 18
This means that the effective focal length with this combination is 18 mm.
Understandably, investing in a crop sensor camera is more tedious because this means that not all of the lenses can work as efficiently. Especially in real estate wherein a wide angle is essential, crop sensor cameras can directly affect that and make your photos look narrower and lacking in detail.
Here are our top 7 picks for the best lenses based on focal length for real estate photography
1. Canon 16 – 35mm F2.8
Best wide-angle focal length for real estate photography
Right off the bat, you can tell by the look and feel of this lens that it is made of high quality material and sports a robust build. The quality of the glass is exceptional and its body is not at all flimsy. It may be a little bit on the heavier side but its durability is unsurpassed.
Because of how the lens translates the vivid colors and depth of contrast in the scene, you will oftentimes need only minor editing afterwards. It is also incredibly sharp and full of gorgeous details. On top of that, it is impressively wide, which helps in making even the most narrow of spaces look big enough to appreciate.
The downside with the Canon 16 – 35mm F2.8 is the tendency to form a vignette at around 16 mm. If you turn it up to 35 mm, however, the vignette disappears.
- Quality glass and great build.
- Exceptionally vivid colors and depp contrasts
- Best wide f/2.8 aperture.
- Super sharp.
- Excellent image quality.
- Prone to vignette in some focal lengths
- A bit on the heavier side
2. Canon 24 mm F/2.8
Best full frame focal length for real estate photography
Canon does it again with its 24 mm F/2.8 lens that performs like an absolute beast. Not only does it offer a great wide angle, but it also has amazing low light capabilities.
Moreover, the construction is durable and sturdy to say the least. Its focus ring is very smooth and even has a focal meter and image stabilization.
All of these combined ensure that you are going to get a lot of sharp images despite unfavorable lighting conditions, and come up with quality images every time.
When it comes to videography, the footage is as smooth and seamless as it can get.
- Compact & lightweight.
- Great, sturdy build.
- Impressive focal length.
- Performs exceptionally well in low light situations.
- The focus ring is very smooth.
- Autofocus is very accurate and fast.
- The picture quality is very sharp.
- Great value for money.
- Produces sharp and smooth videos
- Features that reduce hand held camera shake
- Lacks in manual focus capabilities
- Noticeable vignette at f/2.8
3. Samyang 12mm F/2.0
Best affordable ultra-wide angle focal length for real estate photography
With a relatively wide aperture of F/2, you are capable of letting in a lot of natural light through your sensors, which works exceptionally well for those who prefer handheld shots.
It is manufactured specifically for mirror less camera bodies, and performs very smoothly. Its is made of half quality plastic and half solid metal, which may not be the most robust construction out there but is great for its price range.
It sports an NCS nano coating system, which greatly helps in reducing ghosting, flaring, and similar chromatic aberrations. It also has two spherical elements and two dispersion elements to boot.
The lens produces sharp images throughout all apertures, except for a little softness around the corners and barrel distortion, which are both easily correctable in post production.
- Compact, lightweight, and portable
- Translates vivid colors and deep contrasts
- Solid build quality.
- Produces smooth video.
- Fast aperture.
- Super wide-angle lens.
- Extremely sharp images
- Affordable and perfect for photographers with limited budget
- No zoom capabilities.
- Some barrel distortion.
- Signs of chromatic aberration.
4. Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 Aspherical Super Wide Angle Lens
Best focal length from Sigma for real estate photography
The Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 Aspherical Super Wide Angle Lens is one of the more popular zoom lenses on the market today. It is a crowd favorite among a lot of real estate photographers due to its beneficial focal length paired with good aperture.
This Sigma option is more than capable of taking excellent shots whether indoors or outdoors, and it is compatible with most of the Nikon and Canon DSLR cameras.
Furthermore, this lens has a multilayer coating on its glass that does an exceptionally good job in minimizing glare, flare, and ghosting, which gives you clear images that have little to not distortion. This is also true in environments wherein the lighting situation is not that great.
It can capture a relatively wide angle, which makes photographing tight and narrow areas easy. It also processes a good amount of light, even better than a lot of other ultra wide-angle lenses in the market.
Lastly, it offers a full-time manual fixing that gives you complete control over the focus of your image at any time.
- Ultra-Wide Zoom Lens
- Avoids front lens rotations
- Possesses a unique landscape perspective
- Features a multilayer coating
- Offers a much quieter operation
- HSM autofocus motor is very fast and mostly accurate
- Good, sturdy build
- Comes with a lens hood
- Works great for both photos and videos
- Autofocus needs some adjustment
- It is rather large and a little heavy
- The edges have a few issues with sharpness
- No weather sealing
- Minimal barrel distortion and soft corners at certain lengths
5. Sony 16 – 35 mm F/4
Best focal length from Sony for real estate photography
The Sony 16 – 35 mm F/4 is a highly versatile lens that takes exceptionally sharp images compared to other zoom lenses in the market. It produces a lot of great detail, and its autofocusing system is as accurate, quick, and quiet as you would want it. It would make a great additional to your set of Sony lenses for real estate photography.
- Excellent build quality.
- Ultra fast, accurate, and silent autofocus.
- Ultra wide-angle lens that help capture the entirety of the scene
- Takes very sharp images
- Offers a great focal length.
- Highly versatile lens, for both amateur and professional photographers.
- Has a great price to performance ratio
- Minimal vignetting & distortion.
6. Tamron AFA012N700 SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD
Best focal length for interior real estate photography
The Tamron AFA012N700 SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD is dubbed to be one of the best wide-angle lenses on the market today, especially for indoor real estate photography.
Its specifications have it working well in just about any space, whether that be vast exteriors, narrow interiors or sizable rooms. It is also rather popular among architectural and landscape photography.
The glass on the lens has a fluorine coating, which helps prevent dirt and other external debris from getting on the surface. Especially when shooting exteriors, this feature can definitely go a long way.
- Features Vibration Compensation
- The zoom range of 15-30
- Fluorine coating on the lens
- Weather p build
- Lower noise
- Efficient background blur
- Bright f/2.8 aperture
- Efficient optical stabilization
- Full-frame compatibility
- It is not very lightweight
- Rather bulky
- Image quality tends to suffer on high resolution sensors
- Heavy barrel distortion
- Nikon version does not support rear filters
7. Canon EF 16 – 35mm f/4L IS USM
This Canon lens is part of their L-series, which are known for their exceptional build and high quality glass. This series definitely raises the standards and are far more durable than that of most regular lenses.
This features top of the line weather sealing as well as protective fluorine coating, bringing you peace of mind no matter the weather during the shoot. Moreover, it has an Ultrasonic Motor (USM) on the lens for ultra quick and highly accurate autofocusing.
Construction aside, this is Canon’s sharpest wide-angle lens to date, and you can expect no softness around the corners, or camera shake in your images.
Its focal length ranges from 16 – 35mm, which is more than sufficient enough to photograph spaces of almost any size.
- Exceptional Canon L Series build quality
- Fast and highly accurate aperture
- Efficient built-in image stabilizer
- Impressive sharpness
- Reduces chromatic aberrations
- Has fluorine coating on lens
- Weather sealed
- Well designed lens hood included
- Reasonable price point for its performance level
- Certain limitations with maximum f/4 aperture
- Aperture and ISO are audible in video operation
You’re all set!
With a better understanding of focal lengths, its impact on your images, and how it plays a role in choosing your lenses and camera bodies, you will surely be able to further hone your real estate photography skills and invest in the right set of equipment for a fruitful career.