Photography For Real Estate

Tips and techniques for real estate photography

What is a Wide-angle Lens?

Posted by larrylohrman on March 15, 2006


What is a wide-angle lens? This is a concept that is critical for real estate photographers to understand. The angle of view or how wide an angle a camera can “see” is related to the focal length of the lens. That’s the number that you always see quoted in millimeters (mm). The angle of view is also related to the size of the camera’s sensor but that factor is taken care of by the convention that the focal lengths for compact cameras with small sensors are adjusted for the sensor size. Digital cameras with removable lenses that have small sensors have a multiplier (like 1.5 or 1.6) that must be multipled by the focal length to get the effective focal length.

So all you have to think about is effective focal length. The diagram above shows that a 24mm lens can ‘see” 73.7 degrees and a 35mm lens can see 54.4 degrees. Lenses with smaller focal lengths can see even wider angles of view. My 8mm fisheye can “see” 179 degrees.

For the purposes of shooting interiors you need lens that is 24mm or shorter. Why 24mm? Because 24mm lenses have a wide angle of view but are not so wide that the perspective starts to look exaggerated. Whether you go wider than 24 to 20mm or 16mm or 14mm is a matter of taste. I work with a 16-35mm zoom and find my self having the lens zoomed to 16mm or 18mm all the time.

The main message I want to get across is don’t be sold a camera for interior shooting that won’t zoom down to at least 24mm. This happens all the time. Last week I was at a real estate convention where the speaker was recommending camera whose widest angle was 35mm. With a 35mm lens your interior photos will look like you are looking through a keyhole!

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