I have solid lenses for my 7D for outdoor photography, but now I want to venture indoors. Closer focal distance, Potentially less light. What are the key artistes of a lens that I should look for?

Wide angle?


I'm looking at some prime lenses but I have never ventured into that realm before. Thanks for the points.

I'm not looking for specific lenses as much as overall aspects and attributes to weigh.

  • 5
    I like where you're going in general here with looking for important aspects rather than specific lenses, but... "indoor use" is incredibly broad. Indoor weddings? Indoor still life with carefully arranged lighting? Casual portraits in ambient light (or darkness?) Formal portraits? Nightclubs? Totally different - and barely scratching the surface of different situations. – mattdm Aug 11 '15 at 0:59
  • @mattdm Let's go with indoor, <10m to subject, Ambient lighting, candid (moving subjects). I'm amateur [obviously:], so the lens attributes would need to allow for versatility across different situations. – Marcus Aug 11 '15 at 1:13

I would say that focal length is the most important thing to look at. Somewhere around 35mm-equivalent (so, 23mm or so on APS-C). That's the field of view of most phone cameras these days — because this kind of situation is definitely one they need to cover. Similarly, kit lenses tend to be zooms covering this range, for the same basic reason (although see below for thoughts on aperture). If you go wider, you lose the ability to really get individual people without being so close there's weird distortion. If you go longer, you end up with not quite enough room.

I used a 40mm lens on APS-C Pentax for a long time, and often found it just a bit too narrow — and sometimes quite a bit. I've got a 23mm for my current (still APS-C) camera, and am finding it really handy for just the situation you describe. You might even want to consider a wide zoom in the 18-35mm range.

A fast aperture is the second factor, but, honestly, at this wide focal length, I wouldn't stress. It's actually harder to use, since you can't isolate a single subject as often; I wouldn't worry about getting faster than f/2.8 — again with experience from using that 40mm f/2.8, that was never the limiting factor. Today's cameras can go up to ISO 6400 with decent results.

It'd be nice to have something faster than the typical f/3.5-f/5.6 of a kit lens, though, because that's a lot darker than f/2.8. But, you might consider not overspending on a lens here and instead rethinking the ambient light aspect — in most situations, a wirelessly-triggered flash will do so much more for your indoor photography than a new lens — see Prime lens or flash: which upgrade will most improve baby photos? for more.


The short of it is that the you will want to look for the same attributes regardless of if the lens is for indoor or outdoor use.

One could argue that the following short list is of special consideration:

  • Focal length (you may hit walls and distortion is a big concern)
  • Weather sealing (not as important if you never go outside)
  • Weight constraints (not as important if you never go far)

I could see aperture being argued either way. If you have full control of the lighting, which is very possible indoors; then aperture is certainly something that is less important to me. But at the same time, a wide aperture may be necessary if you are indoors with low light and cannot control the lighting. You may also desire the depth of field control that a larger aperture provides.

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