What is architectural photography? It used to simply be photographs of buildings, bridges, canals, and other structures designed by architects and brought to life by engineers and contractors, but it has evolved into much more. Designers, engineers, and marketing firms still require high-quality images of structures, but many go beyond the basics and now have images taken at every stage of construction and from angles, and vantage points that were never considered even a generation ago.
Finding the best canon lenses for architectural photography is part of the process when starting out with a Canon camera body.
The best lenses for architectural photography Canon offers vary widely on the style and format of the images you’re trying to produce. Some require a tight focus for things like wiring panels, others use wide angle lenses to capture the images of a building against the broader backdrop of a city, while still others don’t worry about the tightness of the image, but concentrate on high contrast, artistic images of a building that will impress investors and entice potential buyers, the genre is a huge one.
Here are Our Top Canon Lenses for Architectural Photography in 2023!
BEST TELEPHOTO CANON LENS FOR ARCHITECTURE
Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L is USM Super-Telephoto Lens
There is no “one size fits all” lens for this photographic genre. Choosing the best Canon lens for interior photography is vastly different than finding the best Canon lenses for real estate photography as examples. The world of photography when taking images indoors under controlled lighting is challenging, but not nearly the same as doing the same thing under natural light where clouds, shadows, and even the humidity in the air are factors to deal with.
In some settings, the surrounding flora and fauna are key elements of choosing a lens as well, as finding the
The best Canon lens for landscape and architecture in combination means a more versatile lens, with many more options than a fixed focal length with light adjusting available via artificial lights to compensate for a limited aperture.
Few architectural situations require a fast shutter (aside from possibly filming a building being imploded with explosives) so low F-stops and wide aperture settings are rarely required unless you’re shooting at night, which we will discuss at length with at least one of the lenses we’ll review. What you need is a lens capable of high contrast, in variable light for outdoor shoots, and a stable, possibly fixed lens for interior shooting.
If you’re subject is a high-end hotel, you’ll want to capture all the amenities they have to offer, and entice customers with quality photographs of the rooms they have to offer. A good lens will help you in both settings.
Things to consider in the best canon lens for architectural photography
- Variable settings for outdoor work
- Fixed settings for interior work
- Wide aperture for night imaging
- Macro settings for intimate architectural designs
- Wide angle settings for skyline backdrops
- Tight telephoto images for scaled photographs
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens
Best Canon camera lens for architectural photography
Why buy the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens
You probably already have this lens or one that is similar. We’ll start with the old standard, the “Nifty Fifty” since it is the single go-to lens for most professional photographers. The pros know this lens will always produce a great image. We selected this Canon EF 50mm for its wide 1.8 aperture. It won’t gather the light a faster F-1.4 or 1.2 will, but it won’t peak your credit card as fast either.
This light lens weighs just 5.6 ounces, and it’s inexpensive, that’s why it’s a packaged lens included with most cameras.
The versatility of a 50mm lens to gather light in both artificial and ambient light while being able to shoot clear images is the biggest reason to buy this lens.
What you’ll love about the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens
The price is outstanding, why pay more when this inexpensive lens will do the job? It’s the least expensive lens you can buy, and the lower cost is not reflected in lower quality. When it comes to architectural imaging, it is an effective choice for a wide variety of shots.
It produces clear images of backgrounds while retaining the ability to close in on a specific feature your client wishes to highlight, and it remains strong through the periphery of the screen.
Outside in daylight, you can generate great images in automatic mode, but if you find the light a little challenging for the auto features, switch to manual, open the aperture wide, play with the white balance, ISO, and shutter speed, and get those same quality images in low-light. The contrast and depth of field won’t be as impressive, but without that wide aperture, you wouldn’t have any image to capture at all.
This is a prime lens that with a little effort will fill a lot of gaps. For multiple reasons, this is the best Canon EF lens for architectural photography.
What you won’t love about the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens
There isn’t a lot of glass in this lens. Five groups with six elements each are a little on the short side for many photographers. Elements multiplied by the number of groups are a good indicator of lens quality, and at a total of 30 when combined, it’s much lower than competing prime lenses that have numbers at 180 or higher.
The combination of elements and groups produces clearer images, than just simple optics, and this lens won’t match the higher-level combinations. But the price offsets the lower quality, and for general architectural work, you’re client won’t be able to tell if you’ve handled the shoot properly.
Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens
Best Canon RF lens for architectural photography
Why buy the Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens
A few skilled professionals prefer the fixed nature of an RF zoom lens for a wide variety of architectural photography. The Canon RF 24-105mm covers the gamut of mid-range requirements you’ll find in both interior and exterior architectural photography. The 24mm aperture offers wide-angle shots, and the fully extended 105mm focal length provides double the magnification of the human eye.
The in-between is where this lens will pay off with its versatility.
Mechanically the lens offers three aspheric and one UD lens element to lower aberrations, distortion, and astigmatism. The lens delivers good detail from across the range from 24 to 105mm. The nine-blade circular aperture offers the ability to add soft backgrounds to your shots, a prize feature when it comes to architectural work.
The price is high, maybe too high for many photographers, but the versatility of this lens makes it one of the few that can come close to a single lens that delivers in all possible concert settings.
What you’ll love about the Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens
The F-4 setting stays in place from wide 24mm shots to tight, telephoto zooms at 105mm. It takes a bit to master the idea of a fixed aperture, but you’ll get the hang of it. When you do, your images will reflect your newly discovered skill, and hopefully demand a little more in payment when you land that big hotel job.
The weight is average, at one-and-a-half pounds, and the lens is long enough to use as an offhand stabilizer for steadier shots. A little weight offers greater control.
This might be the best Canon RF lens for architectural photography since it has such a unique zoom range.
What you won’t love about the Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens
The range will eventually frustrate you. It is great for all-around mid, to close-range photography, but it’s not a wide angle, and it’s not a deep telephoto either. You’ll need a true telephoto lens to capture the serial number on a distant cell tower or instrument cluster on the top of a skyscraper and this one just can’t reach those lengths.
The fixed F-4 aperture will give you problems initially, but as you work through the zoom at different focal lengths, you’ll soon master the challenge.
Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II Ultra Wide Tilt-Shift Lens
Best Canon architecture lens
Why buy the Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II Ultra Wide Tilt-Shift Lens
The claim that this is the best Canon lens for architecture comes with a bit of an explanation. It is the best for broad-spectrum architectural photography, meaning, wider-angle shots of buildings, bridges, dams, and other large structures against a strong backdrop.
The key to this lens is its ability to adjust for distortion. That adjustment allows crips, stark images of the focal target of your photographs while keeping the background imaging bright, and well-focused. This isn’t a lens to use for motion blur or other image alterations, but it is perfect for “Natural Geographic” style images of impressive architectural features. If you’re shooting the Sphinx, the Taj Mahal, or the opening of the latest Arby’s at your local mall, this lens will get the job done.
What you’ll love about the Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II Ultra Wide Tilt-Shift Lens
In a word, the shift. This lens allows you to tilt and shift the lens itself. The lens elements allow you to adjust the tilt plus or minus 8.5 degrees and shift the lens plus or minus 12mm. That’s an element you won’t find in other lenses of similar aperture and focal length.
In addition to the shift feature, you’ll find aspherical and UD lens elements that minimize chromatic aberration. A super-spectra coating that minimizes ghosting and flare and a circular aperture that allows the creation of blurred highlights, a very creative feature in some backlit photographic venues.
This full-frame lens weighs 1.75 pounds. It is surprisingly heavy for such a small lens with dimensions of just 4.17×3.5×3.5 inches. That’s indicative of the glass packed into this wide-angle 24mm beauty.
What you won’t love about the Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II Ultra Wide Tilt-Shift Lens
First, you won’t like the price very much. For a wide-angle lens, it is on the upper end of the cost scale. You’ll expect to find a wider aperture in a lens at this price with as much glass as is packed into it, but it has a maximum opening of just F-3.5.
It is a wide-angle lens. At 24mm there are only a few applications you’ll be able to use this lens in aside from horizon-to-horizon wide-angle photography. At 24mm it isn’t even the widest angle lens for extreme cityscapes or natural vistas against the backdrop of a bridge or dam.
The magic in this lens is the minute adjustments you can make to achieve locked-in, high-level images.
Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L is USM Super-Telephoto Lens
Best telephoto Canon lens for architecture
Why buy the Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L is USM Super-Telephoto Lens
This is a favorite of the Paparazzi as they hang out on motel balconies, or wait in dumpsters to jump out and catch unaware celebrities off guard. You’re not likely to indulge in dumpster diving to get a quality architectural image, but the same extreme 100 to 500mm zoom features that make this popular with celebrity-addicted photographers work equally as well with architecture. The key is the extreme magnification. To get an idea of the magnification potential of this lens just take the focal length and divide it by 50. At 100mm that means twice the magnification of your eye, and at 500 that’s 10 times what the average human can see unaided. That’s a lot of magnification in a clear lens with a maximum aperture of 4.5.
What you’ll love about the Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L is USM Super-Telephoto Lens
You’re going to love setting this lens on a tripod from a good vantage point and then clicking away at distant subjects. If you have an assignment to shoot images of city streets from a unique vantage point, that same balcony the Paparazzi prefer is a prime location with this lens. You can even create transformation animated GIFs with this lens by locking in on a target and slowly zooming in or out. You won’t have the pixelation that occurs with digitized images scrolling in or out since the lens captures the image with similar numbers of pixels in a mechanical progression. This lens is great for adventurous photographers.
What you won’t love about the Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L is USM Super-Telephoto Lens
This is a great zoom telephoto lens, but it comes at a great price. You won’t like the aberration that comes with zoom telephoto lenses. No matter the quality of the construction, you can’t compete with a prime lens for quality, lack of distortion, and overall image quality when you put a lens to the maximum range of quality and image control.
This lens is heavy at five pounds and doesn’t include a special lens mount. You’ll have to attach your camera body to a tripod to use this and it will create a lot of stress on the mount. The lens is long at 9.1 inches, and has the same height and width dimensions as well, making it unwieldy on all but the sturdiest tripods.
You can’t use this lens offhand, it is too powerful and unless it is braced solidly against a pillar or held tightly on a post, you won’t like the motion blur it makes unless locked in securely.
With these limitations, it is still an excellent telephoto zoom choice due to its extreme magnification. There are third-party customized mounts that might work with this lens to ease the stress on your camera body when using a tripod, but those are an extra cost on an already expensive lens.
Do you need a DSLR for photography? That question seems a little ridiculous in light of all the advances made in digital photography over the last 25 years, but it remains a good one for the high-end photographer who still shoots using film in some settings. A DSLR is much easier to use, but large format cameras still have a place in architectural photography, though that place is diminishing with each successive generation of DSLR that hits the market.
You can shoot buildings, bridges, dams, and dining rooms with your cell phone camera, but you won’t be selling those to any advertising agency very soon. You might be able to show your brother-in-law the Golden Gate in just the right long light on a warm afternoon in San Francisco, but you’re not selling that image to Getty or anyone else.
To get the best quality, you need to find the best lens for architectural photography Canon makes. The Canon camera is a great body for getting those quality images and a Canon lens for architecture can have other uses aside from just a dedicated Canon architecture lens.
Those other uses, combined with the ability to capture the quality you’re client demands is the key to becoming a great architectural photographer.