95% of my photography is real estate interiors - 5% being those propertys' exteriors. Most images are displayed on the web, some go to press, some to print - so good quality is required. I mainly shoot hi quality Jpeg for speed of processing, using RAW only with some of the high end bracket.

I currently use a Canon 550D with Sigma 10-20mm F3.5 EXDC and most always employ my Canon 430 EXII Speedlite and use a tripod. I want to go FF and am eyeing a Canon 5D MKII - I need a wide angle to suit and for versatility would prefer a zoom over a prime. The Canon EF 17-40 f4L seems an appealing contender to me for its image quality and especially price, almost half that of the Canon F2.8 16-35L.

Is the 5D with 17-40 L a good combination that'll produce quality sharp wide angle images or, can you suggest alternative/better combo's? I'd prefer to keep the budget around £2,000 and will probably keep my existing gear as backup. I'd appreciate your opinions/experiences.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Adding it as a comment since it doesn't really answer your primary question...but be careful when using a flash with the 17mm that lighting is uniform in your scene. At that focal length the scene is wide enough that your flash could be illuminating only a part of the scene and not the whole thing. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 29, 2012 at 20:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ As a comment as well: The rumor mill is really heating up about an upcoming product refresh for Canon -- namely a 5D Mark III. Because it is only in the rumor stage, it would be unwise to draw any conclusions other than this: If you want latest-greatest technology, today might not be the best day to buy, as the Mark II is nearing the end of it's product life cycle. That said, it's a great camera and you might get a better price on the body with the rumor mill on the next camera so white-hot right now. \$\endgroup\$
    – Steve Ross
    Feb 29, 2012 at 21:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ I am in a similar position, looking to upgrade to a FF for real estate photography but also do a fair bit of landscape photography in my spare time. I've been looking into the sigma 12-24mm but am turned off by the fact that you cannot mount any filters (nd, polarisers, etx) Has anyone used this lens? Also, most of my real estate work is in small appartments, which is why I was particularly drawn to the wide focal length of the sigma. Is the 17mm focal length of the canon 17-40 sufficiently wide to make small apartments 'seem' larger? cheers. \$\endgroup\$
    – user11003
    Aug 7, 2012 at 10:26

3 Answers 3


Is the Canon 17-40mm L lens good for architecture and real estate photography - Absolutely. Keep in mind that especially at 17mm you will need to remove the barrel distortion in post processing. If you are especially worried about this, and want to take the extra time and attention that it requires, you might be interested in tilt shift lenses or perspective control lenses. You can shift and fix converging lines with these, which can be a huge advantage with architecture. If you want to shoot indoors without a flash(you don't for almost all real estate photography) you can look at the more expensive Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L II USM lens, but I wouldn't.

The 5D MkII is also an excellent choice for real estate or architectural photography. One of the main reasons that this is true is that the full frame sensor will give you more options when it comes to wider lenses. For example a 17mm tilt shift Canon lens on your 550D will have the field of view of a 27mm lens on the 35mm format. On the 5D you can actually use that full 17mm and get a great indoor shot. This is a huge advantage.

I think it is important to understand why you feel that you need to upgrade. The lenses that you point out aren't ones that you can only find on full frame cameras. The 17-40 is roughly equivalent to the Canon 10-22mm lens that is already produced for crop sensor cameras. If you are upgrading for the ability to use a lens like the 17mm tilt shift Canon lens and have the field of view of 17mm as outlined above, that is a great reason to upgrade. Beyond that, I think it would be of much more value for you to invest your money into additional off camera flashes, preferably the Canon 580EX II with a few pocketwizards as an option.

Another item I feel is worth noting, is what type of photography are you actually pursuing? Are you shooting in volume and only looking to increase your throughput? After your comment on "speed of processing" I think this may be your area. If you truly are trying to capture the high end segment, then you really need to invest in a wider range of lighting to get great indoor shots, that, along with time and attention to detail, is where the high end market lies. I don't think your current body and lenses are limiting you in achieving that.

I leave you with an article that compares "Architectural" photography and "Real Estate" photography by my friend Mark Teskey. He is a local photographer and does excellent professional architectural work. He has a very interesting perspective on the trade that may influence your desire to upgrade your camera body, or look at other options such as workflow enhancements or lighting upgrades.


  • The 5D MkII & 17-40mm pair excellently for real estate photography.
  • The body/lens that you currently have also pair excellently for real estate photography.
  • You may benefit more from investing in lighting equipment then a new body.
  • Consider if you are photographing to "shoot and burn" or if you are photographing to create a true work of art to be admired. You may be investing in the wrong place.
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    \$\begingroup\$ EXACTLY what I was going to say on all counts. Great answer. +1 :) \$\endgroup\$ Feb 28, 2012 at 21:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for the third paragraph, going from 10mm crop to 17mm FF doesn't get you a wider field of view. Yes the image quality will be better from the 17-40L and 5D2, but if most of your images end up on the web and you're shooting JPEG you might not see any improvement for your substantial investment! \$\endgroup\$
    – Matt Grum
    Feb 29, 2012 at 16:38

I would certainly suggest the 17-40L over the 16-35L if 95% of your photography is real estate interiors, you don't need f2.8 since the majority of your should will likely be in the f8 or above territory with a tripod for maximum depth of field. My only caution would be that the lens will have noticeable barrel distortion and get a bit soft at the edges, I'd employ perspective correcting software in post and always shoot with the intention of cropping 5%.

Two lenses I'd suggest that are outside your current budget but would be absolutely perfect for interior architecture would be the 14L f2.8 and 17L TSE. The 14L f2.8, it is very rectilinear and for interiors it captures a lot of the scene, the the 17L gives you a wide field of view and tils/shifts to correct perspective. I've owned both but gave them up as I shoot mostly outside and the exposed front elements scared the crap outta me.


The lens is excellent, but keep in mind that f/4 is not excessively fast. The 5D mkII has good high iso performance, so you can compensate for that. Or (better) you can use a tripod.

I don't know if you can avoid buying the camera but the lens is definitely recommended.


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