Free assistance of an interior photographer in choosing a wide-angle lens

 

A) Every lens has a price. For an interior photographer, this price is important because is a business investment. The price indirectly affects the cost of services. 

B) Every lens has some specific qualities. Some lenses are suitable for indoor photography, some are not. 

interior photography: Sony Alpha SLT-A99
interior photography: Sony Alpha SLT-A99

Today, light will be shed
on these and other aspects of
choosing lenses for indoor photography.

If you are a professional photographer, then you will not find anything new in this article. If you are entering a business and are at the beginning of the journey, then I will try to save you several years of life and several thousand dollars. 

Start over. The first thing a beginner photographer needs is a wide-angle lens with working parameters and a camera. The lens and the camera exist only in conjunction, imposing some restrictions on each other. 

About wide-angle lenses for indoor photography.

The lens should have three main performance parameters:

a) resistance to backlight and glare,
b) no wave distortion,
c) commercial sharpness at diaphragms 5,6-12. 

Not all super wide-angle lenses in the 95 ° -125 ° range handle backlight and flare well — this is important for every interior photographer. This parameter is related to the quality of the lens coating (anti-coating), the quality of the adhesion of the lenses that make up the lens and the quality of the inner coating of the lens barrel. Let me give you a practical situation.

Example. Every photographer has to photograph against a window. It is very rare to find a balance between outdoor and indoor lighting. The shooting budget does not always include time for working with additional light sources.

In such situations, the photographer uses exposure bracketing up to 10 stops. The resulting photos are compiled in a photo editor to obtain a natural picture. Photo processing methods can be different, but you can get a promotional image if you have high-quality original photos. If the lens gives us images with poor contrast, color, flare, then we are forced to apply laborious, and therefore expensive, processing methods.

Some lenses made before the year 2000 with old coatings or poor design create significant loss of contrast and color transformation in areas with large differences in light brightness. 

example of flare in a wide-angle lens interior photography

A sample of highlights in a wide-angle Canon EF 16-35 mm F / 2.8 L lens. Interior photography

First of all, these are places where bright light from the window passes into dark curtains or window frame . Of course, a professional photographer should be able to solve such problems not only through the selection of optics, but also through additional lighting. Working with additional interior lighting affects the shooting time and mobility of the photographer, and hence the competitive advantage. Additional lighting should be used as a last resort. In any case, it is better to have a good lens than a lens with limited usability.

In addition, you should pay attention to the light from chandeliers and small diode lamps . Many lenses create the most unexpected flare from bright point sources. Glare caught in places with a complex texture or informational places can ruin the photo. To avoid such glare, photographers take some shots by covering the light source. 

Wave distortion is a dangerous property of some wide-angle lenses. It not only interferes with the photographer’s work, it can cause the photographer to literally redraw some lines in the frame during photo processing. It is very difficult and time consuming. The most common types of distortion («barrel» and «pillow») are easily corrected in any editor. But «complex distortion» is something to be afraid of.

example of wave distortion in Sigma 14 / 2.8 EX Aspherical HSM Samyang 14 / 2.8 ED AS IF UMC lenses

Example of wave distortion in Sigma 14 / 2.8 EX Aspherical HSM Samyang 14 / 2.8 ED AS IF UMC lenses

Wave distortion looks like this: at the corners the lens gives a «cushion» or barrel, but relative to the center of the image, another «hill» or «wave» appears. If you are photographing a landscape, it may not be noticeable. But in interior photography, such distortion will bend straight lines. This is especially true for straight foreground lines . It is not possible to correct such distortion in the editor through the «lens profile». The fact is that wave distortion can be reflected in different ways at different planes (distances). Beware of lenses that show difficult distortion in benchmarks.

Is sharpness a very simple point?  No. To be honest, every lens is worth testing before buying. For example, I tested 4 copies of the Canon EF 14mm f2.8L II USM and refused to buy. The reason was precisely the sharpness of these specimens. The lenses hold back light well, cope with flare, but the sharpness on them was obviously worse than on the Samyang 14mm f2.8 ED or  Sigma 14mm f / 2.8. At the same time, the last two lenses had wave distortion, but gave out excellent sharpness. 

The price on the secondary market between the aforementioned lenses differs by 5-6 times. Of course, it is difficult to work with wave distortion. But if the lens does not provide the desired sharpness, then you can put a point on it.

interior photography: Panasonic LUMIX G9. lowa 7,5; Olympus ED 9-18mm f/4.0-5.6
interior photography: Panasonic LUMIX G9. lowa 7,5; Olympus ED 9-18mm f/4.0-5.6

For 20 years, camera sensors have changed a lot. Some lenses with a matrix resolution of 8-12 megapixels. looked just wonderful. But when the resolution of the matrixes rose to 18-20-24-26 megapixels, the photographers were disappointed. As an example I will give Tamron AF 11-18mm f / 4.5-5.6, aka Sony 11-18mm F4.5-5.6. This lens for cameras with a crop factor of 1.5-1.6 gives excellent color, fights well (but not great) against backlight and glare. But all those copies that fell into my hands did not give the desired detail on matrices of 15 megapixels or more. The Sigma 10-20mm f / 4-5.6 is the same (except for color)  

It’s no secret that all firms that produce photographic equipment have large advertising budgets for bloggers, endorsers and ambassadors. Thanks to these figures, the Internet is filled with laudatory reviews of new optics and each new lens becomes a «hero for six months.» Photo enthusiasts entering the industry do not see these processes and trust the reviews. In vain.

Not long ago the Sigma 12-24mm f / 4.5-5.6 was released for FF cameras  , and then the Sigma 12-24mm F4. The first lens fell into my hands 5 times. This is a working lens, but even for the interior, the focal length of 12 mm is redundant for me, and I considered the image detail not sufficient. I found the Sigma 14-24mm f / 2.8 more interesting  , but this lens also needs to be tested.

In addition to the super-wide angle, it is also desirable to have lenses with a focal length of 20, 24, 28 mm. I would like to caution against buying multiple lenses.

interior photography: sony a900; sigma 14mm 2,8; sony 20mm 2,8
interior photography: sony a900; sigma 14mm 2,8; sony 20mm 2,8

Warning. The S0ny 20mm 2.8 produces excellent color, works well with backlight, but its sharpness at all apertures is far from ideal. For indoor photography, it is suitable for completely closed apertures.

The Sigma 20mm 1.8 attracts with its price and fast aperture, but in reality this lens is capable of producing commercial sharpness only from 2.8 aperture, which makes a purchase senseless, and sharpness at infinity is not present on all copies. However, if you go through 10 lenses, then perhaps you will be lucky. For video shooting, this lens can be interesting. 

Canon EF 20mm f / 2.8 USM, as a rule, becomes operable only at apertures of 4.5-5.6, which is normal for indoor photography, but the residue of sadness remains. 

About cushioning optics and cushioning optics

Here are some numbers to ponder. A new Canon EF 20mm f / 2.8 costs about $ 550, and a used one costs $ 200. At the start of sales, the SIGMA AF 20 mm f / 1.8 cost about $ 700 (even those bucks), and now at flea markets it is estimated at $ 200-300. I hope that everyone will interpret these facts for himself. The lenses haven’t gotten any worse.
I will give examples of standard lenses for cameras with a prop factor. The new Sony Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar T * E 16-70mm f / 4 will cost $ 700, but it can only be sold for half the price. The situation is similar with the  Canon EF-S 17-55mm f / 2.8, but the   Nikon 16-80mm f / 2.8-4 loses less in value.

interior photography: OLYMPUS OM-D 5 Mark 2. Panasonic 20mm f/1.7, Panasonic 14mm f/2.5 laowa 7,5, , Olympus ED 9-18mm f/4.0-5.6
interior photography: OLYMPUS OM-D 5 Mark 2. Panasonic 20mm f/1.7, Panasonic 14mm f/2.5 laowa 7,5, , Olympus ED 9-18mm f/4.0-5.6

What are the conclusions from this? The following. If you are planning to photograph for realtors who post photos on the Internet, then take cheap lenses without fear. If your ambitions extend to shooting for magazines or designers, then start to understand modern expensive optics. It is possible that along the way you will be able to find something old and useful. 

How do you get to know the best optics with the least loss? In any large city there is a rental of photographic equipment. In Moscow, these are zoom-prokat.ru, kino.rent, pixel24.ru, rentaphoto.com, arenter.ru.

On average, renting a modern excellent lens will cost you $ 15- $ 20 per day, excluding any promotions. If you don’t have a camera, then add the same amount for renting a camera. Renting is a good temporary step as the loss of money on the resale of new optics will be the approximate cost of 15-30 days of rent. The amount of the deposit is often reduced by up to three times if you provide the store with your full details. 

What is good and bad rent? The photographer does not need to have every imaginable and unimaginable equipment, especially if some things are rarely used. There may be one more situation: the client insistently wants the shooting to be carried out on the equipment of a particular company. I haven’t had any, but I’ve heard of similar situations.

Renting is not convenient because you need to additionally travel to receive and hand over equipment, you need to invest a deposit. 

However, I would advise novice photographers to turn their attention to finding the source of orders, and not to investing in equipment. If you have orders, then the equipment will be found immediately. Technique is not a shortage. And if there are few orders, then you have to sell lenses and cameras at a loss. Count how many orders per month you make and calculate your ROI. 

FF or crop? For interior photography, this question leaves the field of topical. The reason is that cameras have appeared that take shots with high resolution by shifting the matrix (High Resolution). For example, a budget camera like the Olympus M5 MII easily captures a 40MP frame, which will surpass the real detail of FF matrices up to 25MP. These cameras include Olympus E-M1 MII, Olympus M5 MIII, Olympus E-M1 MII, Panasonic DC-G9, although they are much more expensive. The Sony a7R III and Sony A7RM4 cameras have a “Pixel Shift Multi Shooting Mode”. It is possible that other models with a similar function have appeared.

It should be noted honestly that the presence of moving objects in the frame is not desirable for «high-resolution modes». Those. This mode is not suitable for dynamic landscapes or city life, but for product photography or work with interiors and architecture, this solution is considered ideal. But that’s not all. 

About polarizing filters. Every professional photographer appreciates the use of a polarizing filter. What is a polarizing filter for? A quality and expensive polarizing filter can minimize reflections from fixtures on hardwood or stone floors. A cheap polarizing filter will inevitably make changes in color, sharpness, and contrast. Another thing is that rare wide-angle lenses make it possible to use polarizing filters. their front lens is convex.

Everyone can study this moment for himself. Some modern lenses make it possible to attach filters not only in front of the front lens, but also to insert the filter into the lens barrel. This is a great option, new and expensive. When deciding on a purchase, you should be guided by the approximate cost of photography in the planned segment of services.

About the video. Many photographers, myself among them, are trying to expand their direct services by filming. It is no doubt difficult to take both video and photo at the same time. However, it is interesting.  

If you plan to shoot video from a steadicam, then you need to clearly realize that the combination {FF-camera + FF-zoom-lens} requires steadicams with powerful motors. Such steadicams have significant weight. For example, the Moza Air 2 weighs 1.4 kg, and the Zhiyun Crane 3S weighs 2.5 kg. Yes, of course, you can try to work with lighter steadicams, but problems will arise. 

The search for lighter bundles «camera + lens + steadicam» leads us to consider cameras with a crop factor of 1.5 to 2. But there is another reason other than weight. 

Many ff cameras record video in crop modes. If the videographer wants to work with wide-angle optics, then this is a significant problem. I believe that over time it will be solved, but the weight of the camera + lens bundle will remain. 

Further, there are questions about the permissible aperture for hyperfocal shooting of interiors and about the illumination of the premises and the permissible iso. The answers are as follows.

For ff matrices, lenses with a viewing angle of 100-110 degrees give a sharpness acceptable for video filming at an aperture of 5.6-9 with a depth of field of 1.5-5 meters. This depth of field is fine for indoor use. Now you just need to test a specific lens and camera to understand the parameters of the desired iso for shooting. So you personally come to some conclusions. However, it is quite possible to shoot video with more standard lenses and with a smaller viewing angle and at lower aperture values. 

What do I photograph and video on?

Personally, I settled on a specific choice. I photograph with Panasonic DC-G9. It gives high-quality 4K video, working ISO for video is 1600. As for wide-angle optics, I gladly settled on lenses of two light and compact lenses: the light laowa 7.5mm f / 2.0 and the dark Olympus ED 9-18mm f / 4.0-5.6 … The first lens comes with a high-quality polarizing and neutral density filter. The lens is suitable for filming dark rooms with 2.0 aperture. Although it has a «vignette» up to aperture of 2.8, the vignette can either be corrected or left as it is. shading the corners of the frame looks natural in dark rooms. The second wide-angle Olympus ED 9-18mm f / 4.0-5.6 is good for everything except a slow aperture. I rarely use it for indoor videos. The lens works great with backlighting, practically does not catch glare. The filter diameter for this lens is only 52 mm. This means that filters from the best companies are not at all expensive for this diameter. 

The modern competitor to the Olympus ED 9-18mm f / 4.0-5.6 is the Panasonic Vario-Elmarit 8-18mm f / 2.8-4.0. After going through about a dozen Vario-Elmarit in the secondary market, I was convinced that I was not ready to spend about $ 1000 for a lens with such an unstable quality. At the same time, the Olympus 9-18mm is on the secondary market a perfect little money for a wide-angle, and it is sold quickly and without losses. 

It’s worth noting that the laowa 7.5mm f / 2.0 has competitors in the form of the Olympus ED 7-14mm f / 2.8 Pro and the Panasonic 7-14mm f / 4.0. Both lenses do not provide the ability to use light filters. At the same time, Olympus has a faster aperture, and Panasonic copes better with glare and backlight. Without a doubt, Olympus Panasonic lenses are also more versatile. have a spread of focal lengths. But this versatility turns out to be a victory for the laowa 7.5mm f / 2.0 for indoor photography.

The Olympus ED 12-40mm f / 2.8 Pro is the third lens I use for photography and video in interiors. It lacks internal stabilization like the Panasonic 12-35mm f / 2.8 II ASPH. OIS Lumix GX Vario, but significantly better in sharpness and detail.

In the early 2000s, I photographed with Kenon. Then I switched to Sony. Worked on Sony A700, Sony A900, Sony A900, Sony SLT-A99, Sony SLT-A99 m2. I have long believed in Sony. But her change of mounts, shoes, lens compatibility, advertising lies about the uniqueness of translucent mirror technology and such nonsense led me to want to part with this company and its products. Although I still remember with pleasure both A100 and A900. Another thing is that the combines that started with the 99th model disappointed me. Why? Because by making cameras that “everyone can customize for himself,” the company avoids searching for the best usability solutions for everyone. I will add that quite a few Sony ff cameras have a disgusting viewfinder and monitor that spoil our eyes and the feel of the process.

How I switched to Panasonic. One of my favorite cameras was the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LC1. Yes, it had only 5 megapixels from a small matrix, but this lens and the camera itself were perfect. I even filmed reports on this brake «brick». This is Love. Once the camera «burned out». Another brief experience I had with the Panasonic Lumix G5 amateur camera. There were few settings in the video mode, but the quality of the clips was quite impressive, and the quality of the photos was disappointing. And I almost forgot about Panasonic. 

Then I happened to take pictures with the OLYMPUS OM-D 5 Mark 2. This interesting camera came to me in a disgusting silver body, which quickly came into a garbage look. Both the camera’s viewfinder and video quality left a lot to be desired. And I remembered Panasonic. And he took the G9. Now I am happy with everything in my camera except ISO in the photo mode. Any camera releases should be checked personally. I believe that for photography, Panasonic DC-G9 has only two acceptable values: 200 and 400. But with video, everything is better. The camera’s maximum commercial ISO for video is 1600. For the depth of field that the Micro 4/3 system achieves at apertures of 2 to 5.6, this is a great combination. I very rarely turn on additional lighting.

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and Mark III are a great alternative for photography with the Panasonic DC-G9. But at Olympus, the very quality of the video saddens me. 

Conclusion. Find a compromise for yourself. Look for skills and clients, and test equipment is always available for rent.

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