Wide Angle lens on Digital Cameras

Real Estate Agent with RE/MAX Results

This is an update to an older post on the same subject. Digital cameras have changed over the 2 years since I last posted on this. But, although digital cameras have changed, one thing has not. We still need wide angle lenses on digital cameras for real estate photography. 

First we need to discuss how lenses are specified. Lenses are specified in millimeters, but since it is dependent on the size of the sensor, we need a standard in order to compare lenses. The most commonly used one is 35mm equivalent, which means we are converting the mm numbers as if they were on a 35mm film camera. Using this standard allows us to compare different lenses on the same scale. An example of this is as follows: A Canon Digital Rebel Kit lens is rated as an 18mm-55mm lens. In 35mm equivalents, this is approximately 29mm-88mm, since the Digital Rebel is a 1.6x crop system. Point and shoot cameras have a higher crop factor. An example of this is a 5.4mm - 16.2mm, which is about 28mm - 84mm. 

The rest of this post will be specified in 35mm equivalent ratings. 

So, how wide is wide enough? I am recommending 24mm (in 35mm equivalent) as the minimum wide angle needed. This rules out about 80% of the digital cameras out there, unless you add a wide angle adapter. Why 24mm? If you look at the photo below, you can see that at 35mm, you can't tell the size of the room much. Going to 28mm helps just a little.

(photo 35mm)35mm


Moving to 24mm shows much more of the room and gives people a better sense of the size of the room. Optimally, 20mm is probably the best to use, but there are no point and shoots out there with 20mm lenses. A DSLR camera such as a Canon Digital Rebel can take a lens that goes to 20mm. I use a 16mm - 35mm (it's called the canon 10mm -22mm ) lens on my Canon 40D. 

(photo 24mm)24mm


If 24mm is better, 20 is optimal, what about 16mm? Here's an example at 16mm. In this example, the far edges (left and right) have what's known as perspective distortion. Couches will stretch out in a funky way. End tables will be magically lengthend. It's actually too wide. 

(photo 16mm)16mm


In summing up, here is an overall guide to what is seen by the camera at various focal lengths.  I shot the same photo at different focal lengths, and then at 16mm. I was able to then overlay  what each of the different focal lengths represent onto this one photo. I occasionally teach a class on how to take better photos for listings to other agents, and this is one example that I use. 

(photo various mm)35mm-16mm


As far as cameras go, a DSLR is the best. A Canon Digital Rebel XTi with a 10-22 mm lens would work great. IF you are looking for point and shoot, there are a handful of cameras that have 24mm lenses. Both Canon and Nikon don't have many models that have 24mm. Panasonic has several. One such camera is the Panasonic DMX-FX500. It's about $200 at amazon. 

Speaking of retailers, there are tons of crappy ones out there, mostly in New York. But here are some that are of good quality: Amazon.com BHPhoto.com, JR.com, Adorama.com, BeachPhoto.com and a couple more. If you want to check out other vendors, look them up at http://www.resellerratings.com first and read reviews.

Posted by: Steven Hong, RE/MAX Associates Plus, specializing in older character homes in Minneapolis, and surrounding suburbs. My external blog is here.


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Nannette Hilliard
Century 21 Zwygart Green County Real Estate - Monroe, WI

Wow. I did not realize it was such a difference. What camera do you recommend?

May 14, 2009 01:31 AM #1
Michael Sahlman
www.HomesForVIPs.com - Keller Williams Realty - Miami Beach, FL
e-PRO - Miami Beach Florida Luxury Homes

Very interesting post. Have been debating on getting another camera for my listings, especially, the condos with smaller rooms, but also for my wife's work. She is an interior designer. Just don't want to spend a fortune right now. Can you recommend an inexpensive camera with a wide angle lens?

May 14, 2009 01:33 AM #2
Rob Pingeton
OneSource - Boston, MA

Nice post. The Tokina 12-24mm f/4 is a GREAT wide angle lens for this type of photography.

May 14, 2009 01:37 AM #3
Connie Lou Barnett
Real Living/Home Realty - Owensboro, KY

We got a wide angle lens for my digital  camera about a year ago. I could not believe the difference, especially with the visual tours.  Its well worth your money.  Thanks for reminding me.

May 14, 2009 01:45 AM #4
Kristin Johnston - REALTOR®
RE/MAX Realty Center - Waukesha, WI
Giving Back With Each Home Sold!

What a great post!  I didn't realize the difference either in numbers, and now want to know what I use! Thanks!

May 14, 2009 01:50 AM #5
Roy Kelley
Realty Group Referrals - Gaithersburg, MD
Roy and Dolores Kelley Photographs

Thanks so much for your post. It is very helpful!

May 14, 2009 01:55 AM #6
lucinda eng garcia
eng garcia group with keller williams capital properties - Washington, DC

Thanks Steven. I have a canon rebel xs w 10-22mm zoom. what are your thoughts on flash phtography. I tend to get hot spots when I shoot w my speedlite flash.

May 14, 2009 02:04 AM #7
Steven Hong
RE/MAX Results - Minneapolis, MN
REALTOR - Minneapolis Real Estate and Homes

Lucinda- Flash is another issue. You can take a look at my examples here : http://www.minneapolisvirtualtour.com and see for yourself. All those photos were taken without flash. I am now starting to use multiple flashes bounced off walls and will get some of those photos up soon. 

May 14, 2009 02:19 AM #8
Patricia Aulson
Realtor - Portsmouth NH Homes-Hampton NH Homes

Great post today thank you for getting it out the AR members.

I'm a Realtor and often have to "try to make a small room look better/larger

What camera do you recomment that is reasonably priced? I'd love to hear from you on this please

EM: sold@patricia4realestate.com

Patricia Aulson/Portsmouth NH Real Estate

May 14, 2009 02:21 AM #9
lucinda eng garcia
eng garcia group with keller williams capital properties - Washington, DC

Great site Steven! I look forward to your future posts!

May 14, 2009 02:46 AM #10
Wendy Bibeau
Keller Williams Realty DTC - Aurora, CO
The Bibeau Group - Realtor - Denver Colorado Real

I really appreciate the 'before and after' photos....thanks for posting!

Aug 21, 2009 07:44 AM #11
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Steven Hong

REALTOR - Minneapolis Real Estate and Homes
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