Best Lens for Shooting Architecture

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Archman!, Apr 12, 2011.

  1. macrumors member

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    #1
    My firm has asked that I begin documenting some our past projects. Both interior and exterior shots. Being an amateur I am not sure what lens/settings I should use to get the best shots. I have a Nikon D90 with a 15-55mm and a 55-200mm VR lens. I also have Nikon's SB400 speedlight.

    I would be more than grateful for any advice on which lens/settings to use or any good book suggestions on photographing architecture.

    Thanks!
     
  2. macrumors regular

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    #2
    Hmm. I'm sorry if this isn't much help, but generally architecture is shot with medium format. You could probably score a used film one for cheap at a flea market or thrift store. You would need a 50mm lens which is roughly equivalent to a 35mm on 35mm film; which is also roughly equivalent to a 50mm on your APS-C.

    Confused yet? Haha.

    Now. I'm not a Nikon expert, as I shoot Pentax, but you'll want to find something around 21 to 28mm. One that's rated to be really sharp at f8, and f11 - which, luckily, is most lenses.

    After a quick google, I found this, which is fairly priced and gets good ratings.

    Hope this helped.
     
  3. macrumors G4

    Joined:
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    #3
    You're looking for a Nikkor PC lens.

    Some are incompatible with the D90. For the manual ones, you need at least a D200 for metering. Metering has to be adjusted.

    Anyway, the focal lengths are geared towards full frame.
     
  4. macrumors 65816

    Cliff3

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    #4
    You mainly just want a wide angle lens with minimal field distortion. Architecture is full of straight lines, and ideally the lens should keep them as straight as possible. I'd probably look at a Nikon 10-24 or a Sigma 10-20 in your situation. The photozone.de site publishes Imatest results for a number of lenses, including these two. Those results include tests for distortion. I'd have a look at those.

    You can correct for perspective distortion in post processing. LR3 supports this adjustment, as does Photoshop. Aperture may too, but I don't use it. Cropping gets pretty extreme when you do this, so you would probably have to stitch together multiple photos in a panorama to ensure you have enough coverage of your subject to accommodate this cropping.
     
  5. Eaton Photos, Apr 12, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2011

    macrumors regular

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    #5
    Dude, WTF. Apparently you do not know what you are talking about, and you must be smoking crazy stuff. Medium Format used to be the Standard over 20+ years ago. And when using Medium Format, you used a Bellows with a wide angle lens.

    Again, you apparently do not know what you are talking about. 50mm is not a lens you would use for Architecture. Before you start making suggestions, I would Strongly suggest you know the answers, before giving incorrect information.

    With regard to focal length, the above stated information is totally incoherent logic.

    To the OP;

    As a General Rule of Thumb, any type of Architecture, whether it be Interior or Exterior, is shot with a Tilt Shift/ PC Lens. Click on the Hyper Links to see the lenses I am referring to.

    Canon 17 TS-E
    Canon 24 TS-E
    Nikon 24 PC

    When shooting Architecture, you want a lens that has a wide angle, preferably a PC/ TS lens, and a solid tripod rig, if possible (some locations do not permit tripods).

    Here is a link to a photographer, I have worked with & studied under. Bryan used to use Medium Format + Bellows, but now shoots with a 1DsMKIII & 17 TS-E Lens: http://www.moberlyphotography.com/arch_ext.html

    Here is an Article, from the Canon Learning Center, about Architecture & using Tilt Shift/ PC Lenses: http://www.learn.usa.canon.com/resources/articles/2011/intro_tilt_shift_lenses_article.shtml

    One Last Thing, to anyone who says Photoshop/ LR/ Aperture, can do what a PC Lens does, doesn't know what they are talking about. To a certain extent, Software can mimic a shift lens (perspective correction tool), but it does not do what a Shift Lens does. If you want to do it right, even as an Amateur, do it right the first time, and you won't be trying to fix mistakes later. Regarding say the PC tool in Photoshop, what it does is it stretches the image to make it look straight, but if you cannot afford to lose those areas that fall outside the correction tool, then what good does the software do for you. If you do it right in camera, then your done, except for whatever post process work you choose to do.

    For every job there is a right & wrong tool. If you want to do Architecture, even as a Hobby, then I would strongly suggest you consider investing into a PC Lens. A wide angle zoom lens, will not give you the same perspective or view that a PC lens will. If you decided to go the PC route, you don't have to buy new. You can buy used, and save quite a few $$$. I just did a search on the FM B&S, and there are quite a number of 24mm PC lenses for sale (http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/search.php).
     
  6. macrumors member

    Joined:
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    #6
    ^^^ This. PC lenses are also called Tilt-Shift or TS, and if you're serious about architecture it's absolutely the way to go. I can't speak specifically about Nikkor lenses as I'm a Canon guy, but cube is right on with this recommendation. You'll want one that's a rather wide-angle, too.
     
  7. macrumors 6502

    walterwhite

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    #7
    Standard Architecture camera for a Pro has always been a 4x5 or 8x10... large format... now with a digital back. The large format offers high variability on the tilt and shift in all directions. But with only a 35mm the TS lenses are the best alternative.
     
  8. macrumors 65816

    Cliff3

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    #8
    In other words, sell your current POS toy camera and drop $5000 on a D3S plus another $2000 on a PC24E lens. Alternatively, head into 5 figure territory with medium format.

    Somehow, I don't think the OP is getting very actionable advice in this thread.
     
  9. macrumors 68040

    Designer Dale

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    #9
  10. macrumors G4

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    #10
    You don't need to go there.

    Used D700 + used 28mm AI PC Nikkor.

    Or go used Canon.
     
  11. macrumors 65816

    Cliff3

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    #11
    Which is still not inexpensive. Keh has a copy of this lens at $500. The going rate for used D700's on Ebay appears to be $2000-$2250. Given the level of the OP's current gear, this sort of investment might be outside of his comfort zone.
     
  12. macrumors G4

    Joined:
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    #12
    The used lens is cheap. A used D700 with high number of actuations can be found for around $1300, when you do.

    If you're not going to shoot in low light, you can get a used Kodak 14n, which are very cheap now.
     
  13. macrumors 68040

    Designer Dale

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    #13
    Before we drift off into chat about the best gear for this, what does your company mean by "documenting"? If they just want photos for internal use, then your present gear and a tripod might do the trick. If they want presentation quality images to show off their stuff to business and the public, then the upgrades we are talking about become more relevant.

    Dale
     
  14. macrumors G5

    Consultant

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    #14
    And probably hire a professional architecture photographer, especially if the question is "best lens" for xyz.
     
  15. macrumors 6502a

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    Nov 21, 2004
    #15
    Tilt/shift or large format film. For architecture, nothing else will do. If you don't have perspective control, it's game over.
     
  16. macrumors regular

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    #16
    What are you talking about?

    Medium format is still the standard for pro architecture and landscape photography. I know this because I shoot it. How many pictures in National Geographic are taken with APS-C or full frame?

    And a 50mm medium format is equivalent to 35mm on full frame. That's the perfect length for sharpness and distortion. You may have to stand back a bit, but that's the price for quality.

    I suggest you do a little more research.
     
  17. macrumors regular

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    #17
    You are definitely more correct. But large format is a pain to use. Mine has been collecting dust.
     
  18. Eaton Photos, Apr 12, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2011

    macrumors regular

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    #18
    I shoot Architecture also. All the Pro Shooters, that I work with do not use MF/ LF anymore. The resolving power of the 1DsIII/ 5DII/ D3X are quite sufficient for most clients. Said photographers have since sold off their MF/ LF gear, as the gear was collecting dust. Granted a MF Sensor is approx. 3X larger than 35mm, but who has the budget for an entry level $10,000 Body/ Sensor, or $50,000 for the Top End? MF/ LF have become niche market's, even more so since digital came about, and that is what they are, but that does not mean that MF/ LF are the Standard, nor the only route for shooting Architecture.

    Regarding NatGeo, I could not provide you with an answer on whether or not APS-C is used to captured images, that are published. However, I personally know several NatGeo Shooters, and all they shoot with is 35mm DSLR's.
     
  19. macrumors 65816

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    #19
    +1
    Since you are a novice I doubt they are expecting professional results (hope not anyway).

    Your present gear will produce nice photos to document what has been done. You don't say what scale is involved. Are these skyscrapers or single family dwellings? Single family dwellings will have far fewer problems with distortions.

    Take a look at the photos in Architectural Digest or other publications to get some ideas for how the shots are setup. Look at the time of day the pictures were taken and where the shadows are and how close or far the photographer was from the building.

    Being part of the firm you have the advantage of knowing something about what is important. It might be more artistic to shoot from a certain corner but it might be more practical to shoot another angle that shows the windows/walls/doors etc. that your firm designed.

    If I were in your shoes I wouldn't worry too much about making really great pictures as I would just learning to avoid the obvious blunders. Just my opinion.

    You also don't give any idea as to the scope of the work. Is this just a few buildings or will you be busy for a year? I'm guessing it is not a big job.

    If you do decide you want to try a PC / Tilt-Shitt lens you can rent one for three days for less than $100 including insurance and shipping.
    http://www.borrowlenses.com/category/nikon_micro
     
  20. thread starter macrumors member

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    #20
    We need to get some good images that we can use for proposals and the like. Maybe some for the website as well. The images could be used for presentation boards and other marketing material.
     
  21. macrumors 6502

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    In Hell
    #21
    Just ignore most of these answers.

    You can shoot architecture with what you have.

    I do a bit of architecture photography for some of my clients, I'm more of a portraits/product guy myself, and even though I have both the 17 & 24mm TSEs usually I just use the trusty old 24-105mm zoom, which is similar to your zoom. I do admit that I make sure that the 17mm TSE is on the camera when I turn up, it creates a good first impression with the clients clients.

    Use a tripod with a spirit level, try to keep the camera level it makes the post work easier, if you have to point it up then make sure it's still horizontal.

    If you're shooting outdoors morning or evening (obviously), get all the lights turned on, outdoor lights and indoor lights.

    3 Shots, 2 stops, HDR.

    Correct distortion in photoshop.

    If you're shooting indoors turn all the lights on including the ones in adjacent rooms, open all the curtins, shutters and doors.

    Make sure you shoot a grey card for every shot, light colour can vary a lot inside.

    It's not rocket science, you'll be right.
     
  22. Archman!, Apr 12, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 13, 2011

    thread starter macrumors member

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    #22
    You also don't give any idea as to the scope of the work. Is this just a few buildings or will you be busy for a year? I'm guessing it is not a big job.

    If you do decide you want to try a PC / Tilt-Shitt lens you can rent one for three days for less than $100 including insurance and shipping.
    http://www.borrowlenses.com/category/nikon_micro[/QUOTE]


    We plan to document about 20- 30 buildings inside and out. We figure it will take about a month with scheduling and planning probably more though in my opinion.

    I think it would be great idea to try one of the PC tilt shift lens that many have suggested. Is this a lens that I could figure out? I have read on Ken Rockwells site http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/24mm-pc.htm that if you are not fully versed in the ins and outs of photography that this type of lens would be way to much for a novice.

    Thanks for the links and the advice! I would love to get one of those PC shift lenses but they may cost prohibitive for me/the firm. Might try renting though..
     
  23. macrumors regular

    Joined:
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    Location:
    KY
    #23
    Your welcome. I just provided information that would help you, for what you are looking to do. If you cannot afford to buy one, then definitely rent one, through either Lens Rentals or Borrow Lenses. Your D90 is quite sufficient body wise, so all you would need is the lens. Renting will give you experience with the lens. The learning curve is not that difficult when it comes to using Shift, even for a novice. OTOH, using Tilt is a whole different story. But a TS/ PC lens is quite practical in other applications aside from Architecture.

    That was your 1st MISTAKE :D:D:D Many people take KR's information as gospel, and well actually it is just his opinions. From many a Photographer's point of view on the info KR puts out, his knowledge/ info is taken with a grain of salt.

    Once you have shot one of these Assignments, post some images, and show what you did. :)
     
  24. macrumors 6502

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    #24
    If you're going to rent one then rent a full frame body too, 24mm ain't very wide on a crop.
     
  25. macrumors 65816

    luminosity

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    #25
    The best lens for shooting architecture is probably a view camera.
     

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