Architectural photography has a long history. In fact, the world’s oldest surviving photo, view from the Window at Le Gras 1820, is an example of architectural photography.
When it comes to this type of photography, having the right lens is key. Most of the time, it calls for tilt shift lenses to correct perspective distortion. This means that when you’re capturing a vertical building, tilt shift lenses actually help in making it look like vertical lines and not slanting towards each other.
To help you find the right lens for you, we’ve compiled 10 of the best lenses for architectural photography.
As a photographer, a restoration, and a designer, Emily isn't just a jack-of-all-trades, she's a certified expert. She's a tech junkie, and the most screen-addicted member of the IRC team. When it comes to product reviews, her insights and recommendations are second-to-none.
The Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8 is considered to be one of the best lenses for architectural photography as it has the best performing tilt shift lens. It allows you to capture architectural structures with exceptional image quality. This lens is not recommended to photographers who are only starting with photography, especially as it has a steep learning curve. If you already know the basics of using a DSLR and have learned how to take great photos, then this lens is for you.
The lens comes with manual focus, so you can take photos with the focus you prefer. However, the front element doesn’t rotate as you manually focus the lens, so if possible, you can use a polarizing filter. Additionally, the F2.8 aperture allows you to take amazing panoramic shots with wide angles. Which means that you can fit a very wide building or the inside of a building in just one shot. As the lens’ distortion is also low, you don’t have to worry about capturing your subjects in the image squeezed or stretched together to fit.
This lens does not come with a cheap price at $1400. But with the photo quality you’re getting with this lens, it’s worth it. So, if you’re really serious with taking photographs of architectural structures, then this is a lens worth considering.
✅ Amazing panoramic shots.
✅ Extremely sharp image quality.
✅ Low distortion.
❌ Manual focus only
The Canon EF 16-35mm f4 is among the best lenses for architectural photography since it’s a wide angle lens, allowing you to have a better perspective when capturing architectural structures. As its lenses are versatile, ranging from 16mm to 35mm, it gives the perfect comprehensive view to capture every corner of your subject.
When it comes to focusing on subjects, the Canon EF 16-35mm f4 gives a fast and highly-precise focus to help you get a sharp image with clear visibility throughout the frame. Apart from that, the lens also allows the full-time manual focus override for high-precision.
Additionally, it’s the best lens for interior architectural photography because of its aperture that allows low light performance and the focal length can capture minor details without destroying the image quality. So, it’s great for architecture photography because it works efficiently, even when the lighting is unfavorable.
✅ Compact and dust-resistant
✅ Versatile focal length
✅ Has weather sealing
✅ Great for taking photos in tight spaces
✅ Take quality wide angle shots (ideal for urban areas)
❌ Some vignetting and distortion when capturing images
❌ Steep learning curve especially for beginners
❌ Heavy and bulky
If you’re looking for the wildest tilt shift lens from Canon, then look no further with the TS-E 17mm f/4L lens. It belongs to the rare breed of 17mm lenses, so this is best if you want a lens with a small focal length.
The lens is designed with UD glass to minimize and compensate for chromatic aberration. Meaning when taking photos, you don’t have to worry about introducing weird colors to your photographs, and there are no visible inconsistencies too. The lens is also created to have the highest possible glare-free image quality with its specially coated aspherical elements.
The tilt shift lens offers an angle of view of 93 degrees for better operability.
✅ Takes photographs with amazing contrast and color
✅ One of the few 17mm lenses available in the market today
✅ Durable build quality
❌ Heavy and bulky
❌ Needs extra care to prevent scratches and bumps because of its protruding front elements
If you’re looking for taking photos with a longer reach, then the Canon EF 1.4x III Extender might suit your needs. The extender mounts between the camera body and a lens. Its main purpose is to extend the focal length of your lens by 1.4x. With this, you’ll have a greater freedom when taking photos outdoors and not have enough capability to carry all of your lenses wherever and whenever needed.
With the added focal length from the extender, you can expect to frame your subjects more tightly, which makes it excellent for capturing architectural structures. However, with the extender, it’s not recommended to shoot fast-moving subjects. Doing so leads to a drop in image quality because of the additional lens element for the light to pass through
✅ More affordable than high-end lens
✅ Allows tighter images with good contrast
❌ It’s not at par with high-end lens
❌ Only great for still subjects
When doing architectural photography, sometimes the space being photographed needs to be shown in a dramatic fashion for more impact. That’s where ultra-wide lenses come in, particularly the Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L. The lens was designed primarily for discerning landscape and architectural photographers.
The almost fisheye field of view does not create a significant impact because of the lens’ rectilinear optical design. With such design, you’re assured that the lines, vertical and horizontal, remain straight while still giving a dramatic perspective.
The lens’ Ultrasonic Motor allows for a fast rear focusing system and quiet autofocusing. The minimum working distance of the Canon EF 14mm f/2.8 is at 8 inches, so it’s great for when you want to include foreground elements in a shot.
✅ Dust and moisture proof
✅ Anti-glare with accurate color balance photography
✅ Compatible with full-frame and APS-C sensors
❌ The lens’ convex frontal element doesn’t support filters
❌ Not as sharp when capturing photos
This lightweight Nikon prime lens ensures impeccable images, which can highlight the intricate architectural details. The wide maximum aperture of this lens is F/1.8, making it perfect for when you’re shooting under low-light conditions. The wide aperture lens also allows to capture the detailed designs of buildings by beautifully blurring the background.
What’s even better with this lens is that its classic normal view angle has the capability to capture architectural structures almost as how you’d look at it with your eyes. If you’re also a photographer that’s on-the-go or in a place where you need to quickly capture images, you’d appreciate this lens’ fast and precise autofocus that maintains quality of the image. Meaning you won’t have to worry about maintaining the perfect composition of the subject while you’re focusing on the lens.
The biggest limitation of the Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G is that it doesn’t have zoom lenses, disabling you to change the focal length. Even though the absence of zoom means you’ll have better quality photos and can shoot under low-light conditions, you can’t adjust the focal length to shoot from a distance.
✅ Excellent in low-light conditions
✅ Lightweight compared to other lenses
✅ Wide aperture lens
❌ It doesn’t have zoom lens
Focal length: 10-24mm
Aperture Range: F/3.5
Lens Type: Wide Angle
The Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G ED ranges from ultra-wide to wide angle lenses, making it the best nikon lens for architectural photography. The lens’ focal distance and aperture capability allows you to easily zoom on images without distorting the quality.
With a 10mm lens, it’s very wide so you can take photos with unique perspectives that you cannot achieve with longer lenses for architecture photography. Also, its aperture of f/3.5 is wide enough to gather a lot of light to improve your photographs.
The lens is also designed with a special multi-coat design to prevent flares and ghosting effects. With this, you can capture crisp photos at any time of the day.
✅ Consistently sharp images
✅ Quick and precise autofocus with its Silent Wave Motor
Another great choice of lens for taking architectural photographs is this Nikon AF-S lens, which comes with fast autofocus. The lens is functional under any light conditions, ensuring high-quality photos at any time of the day without worrying about light availability.
The lens is perfect for capturing images both indoors and outdoors because of its F1.8 aperture. With a single lens, you can capture images of architectural details and interior shots. Meaning, it’s very handy and useful, because with the lens, you no longer have to keep changing lenses for when doing indoor or outdoor photography.
With such great features, the lens comes at a price that’s practically affordable and is a great value for money. So, if you’re a photographer who wants better photos but not enough finances, then this might be your perfect pick.
✅ Lightweight and suitable for indoor and outdoor shoots
✅ Great performance under any light conditions
❌ Shows image distortion
❌ Doesn’t have a wide angle view
One of the best lenses is the Nikkor 45mm f/2.8D. Its tilt shift lens enables you to shoot the entire plane of focus while focusing on both nearby and farther subjects. The tilt shift motion also provides great control over the image plane and the lens optical axis. With this lens, you’ll have the capability to beautifully capture the grandness of the Taj Mahal or the sky-high Burj Khalifa.
What’s even better is this lens is not only for architectural photography, but it’s also designed for commercial, macro, and nature photography. The lens can rotate up to 90 degrees for perspective control, however the proximity of its built-in pop-up flash may be an issue.
The aperture is a D-type aperture, which means it can be set electronically from the camera. It can also be set using an aperture ring, which you can find between the focus ring and tilt shift mechanism.
✅ Excellent bokeh quality
✅ High-quality build
✅ Features allow selective focusing
❌ Only has manual focus
❌ There’s minimal distortion when shooting wide open
Maximum Focal length: 55-300mm
Aperture Range: F4.5-F5.6
Lens Type: Telephoto
The Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G is equipped with Nikon’s latest lens technologies, including the Nikon exclusive Silent Wave Motor for quick, precise, and quiet autofocus operation. Another built-in feature is its Super Integrated Coating to enhance the lens performance under low-light conditions and minimize ghosting and flare. It also comes with a Tripod Detection Mode that helps reduce vibrations when you’re shooting with a tripod.
The main feature that makes this lens standout is the wide range of the adjustability of its focal length, which ranges between 55 and 300mm. With this, you can shoot stunning images, even when you’re far away from the subject without any distortions.
The vibration control results in blur-free shootings, which makes it easier to capture images on the field without putting away all your attention to manually focusing on the lens. This is a great lens choice for anyone who’s into shooting large-scale buildings and monuments.
✅ Blur-free handheld shooting
✅ Maintains high quality photos even when shooting from a distance
✅ Great low-light performance
❌ Somewhat heavy and bulky
❌ There’s a possibility of loss of image sharpness
When it comes to architectural photography, photographers do not take photos but make photos. It requires extensive skills and techniques to capture the breathtaking beauty of architectural structures. And because the subject is still, you don’t need to focus on speed or continuous shooting modes.
Instead, you have to focus on quality. No matter how stunning a building or monument is, if the image quality is low, then the result will not be as good as it is when you see it in person. Great architecture images are captured using many different cameras and lenses.
In architecture photography, one thing that you have to consider is the ability to change lenses, which is vital when you’re encountering many different scenes.
There are two styles when it comes to architecture photography: exterior and interior.
Exterior architecture photography refers to capturing photos of the outside of a building or structure. With exterior shoots, you can make use of natural light to provide better lighting to your subject. And depending on the details or design of the structure’s exterior, you can produce varying, moody, and dramatic results.
On the other hand, interior architectural photography refers to photos of the inside of a building. Taking Interior shots is more challenging because of inconsistent lighting or low lighting. For interior photography, the ideal focal length for lenses is between 16-35mm. And for more detailed shots, anywhere from 35mm to 200mm is better.
When taking photographs of architecture, real estate, or monuments, it’s difficult to manipulate lighting especially when capturing the exterior. Because of this, it’s critical to choose the right lens, as they can greatly influence the image.
In fact, to have an excellent image quality, the lenses are much more important than the camera. The most common lenses used in architectural photography are the tilt shift lenses and wide angle lenses.
The distance between the lens main plane and the focal point is what we call the focal length.It is usually denoted in millimeters (10mm, 17mm, 200mm, etc.). The focal length is directly related to the image section or angle of view, which means that the shorter the focal length of the lens, the wider the field of view.
When you’re taking photos of a wide space but little space to move around, it’s ideal to choose a lens that has a focal length of 24mm or lower. But, if you’re working on a large space with more freedom to move, you can work on detailed shots with an 85mm lens.
Another thing to consider when buying a lens is the aperture. The lens aperture determines how wide or narrow the angle of view you’ll need to take a photo. It is the ratio of focal length to effective aperture diameter, usually specified as an f-number. The lower the f-number means the greater the aperture opening, allowing more light to reach the image sensor.
For example, a 17mm focal length f/4 lens has an aperture opening of 4.25mm.
In architectural photography, high-quality images are results of skills and expertise, but having the right lens significantly impacts the results. Because you’re mostly not capturing moving subjects, it’s okay to not focus on lens speed. Instead, what you’ll need in architectural photography are lenses that allow you to work on any lighting conditions, wide and narrow spaces, and at a distance.
Generally, lenses used for architectural photography are versatile. Which means that on days when you’re not traveling or out to explore brilliant architectural designs, they can still be useful in taking portrait shots, nature shots, or any other normal activities.
We hope that after reading our reviews and recommendations, you now have an idea on how to choose the best lens to take the best architectural photos.