The largest decision you make when starting out in photography is which camera system to choose.
Currently the big three are Canon, Nikon and Sony, all of which offer a wide variety of cameras, each with an impressive amount of numbers after their name which seem to serve only to confuse consumers.
Hopefully this short guide will give you a good idea on the best camera for architecture photography.
It will largely come down to personal preference. It doesn’t matter what the diehard fans of each system will tell you on various forums (go there at your peril).
Most cameras are now so close together that you’re probably considering the lens choice as your defining factor in your purchase, check out my best lenses for architecture photography for more info on that.
I would recommend you try each camera which catches your eye out. The ergonomics and simple things such as the menu systems may end up being the biggest factor for you.
Probably the biggest decision you will have to make before you purchase your camera is whether you want to go down the full frame sensor route or opt for the (usually cheaper) cropped or APSC size sensor cameras.
Full frame or cropped sensor for architecture photography?
This question may be older than photography itself and is the subject of many keyboard warrior photography forum arguments.
In all honesty, it will all come down to what you’re comfortable paying and carrying around.
A cropped or APSC sized camera will, on the main, be considerably cheaper and lighter.
However, you will see a slight improvement in your images due to the increased dynamic range available to a full frame camera and better low light performance on a full frame sensor.
It will also let you use the full angle of view of your lenses, meaning you can use that 16-35mm in all its glory.
One more thing to consider on the technical front is the shallower depth of field which a full frame camera will give you. Not particularly important for architecture photography, but worth considering if you’re going to be photographing more than just architecture.
Best full frame camera for architecture photography
The 5DS R features a monster 50.6 megapixel CMOS sensor, which means you can print A0 size images straight out of the camera.
Also – and perhaps most interesting for architecture photography – it also features a mirror vibration control system, which is designed to cut down the vibration produced from the shutter of the camera, allowing you to capture a sharper image.
The obsession with image quality continues with the inclusion of a low-pass cancellation filter which, Canon claims, optimises sharpness and increases clarity even further.
So if you’re looking for the best image quality this would be a good place to start.
This camera is a couple of years old now, so the price has come down significantly since launch and you can pick up a brand new body for around £2500.
Many claim this to be among the best cameras ever made and Nikon doesn’t disappoint with a 45.4 megapixel FX sensor which received a DXO rating of 100 – the first DSLR to do so.
It does this by featuring a backside-illuminated (BSI) sensor which allows it to capture light more effectively, giving a boost to dynamic range (rated at 18.8 EV), colour (offering a bit depth of 26.4) and signal to noise performance to improve low light shooting.
All this offers an image quality in-line with most medium format cameras, all in a package which is much lighter on the wallet.
Sony joins the party with its 42.4 MP full-frame Exmor sensor mirrorless system.
Featuring a Bionz X processor, the camera is capable of delivering up to 15 stops of dynamic range, giving you loads of tonality throughout your shot. Plus, a 14-bit RAW format ensures you won’t be losing details in your highlights and shadows.
The big benefit of the Sony a7R mk3 is that it features something called “Pixel Shift Multi Shooting”, where the camera shoots four RAW images, shifting the sensors a single pixel between each shot. This allows you to capture more detail when shooting still images. The one big drawback to this system is you have to import them into Sony’s Remote application in order to process the files, which introduces another step into the post-production workflow.
This is Canon’s headline prosumer camera at this time and features a 26.2 MP full frame sensor.
It features an upgraded DIGIC 7 processor which offers a colour depth of 24.4 bits.
The dynamic range of the 6D mk2 is where the camera falls down a little, giving you only 11.9 stops, which – compared to some modern DSLR cameras – could be a massive letdown.
It also features many extra features you’re probably never going to find much use for, such as wireless connectivity and a touch screen.
If that kind of thing does it for you, then the 6d mk2 could be for you – but otherwise, I would suggest going for one of the cheaper and older 5d models.
The little brother of the D850, the d750 offers a 24MP CMOS full frame sensor which is paired to an Expeed 4 processing engine.
It offers the same design and build quality of the older d810, as well as the same RGB metering system included in the flagship D4 range, so you’re getting a serious amount of technology for your money here. Which if you find a good deal, can be up to 60% of the price of the D850.
Best cropped (APSC) camera for architecture photography
The 80D is the hero of the current prosumer Canon lineup and is a very capable camera if you’re looking for something which can do a bit of everything, as well as being great for architectural photography or a backup camera for a full frame camera.
It features a 24MP CMOS sensor paired with a Digic 6 processor, which gives you loads of pixels to play with. This improved sensor also offers a colour bit depth of 23.6 bits and a dynamic ranger of 13.2 Evs on DxOMark’s tests.
The sensor for the D7500 is the same 20.9MP sensor and Expeed 4 sensor, which Nikon fits in its D500 pro level body so you can be sure you’re getting great image quality.
What this gives you is a camera capable of great low light performance with a colour depth of 24.8 bits and a dynamic range of 14.5 Evs, which put it above the performance of some of the full frame cameras on offer above.
The major differences between the two come in the design of the body. The D500 features a magnesium body, whereas the D7500 is a “carbon fibre reinforced monocoque construction”, which is in effect a very durable plastic.
It’s used in F1 cockpits to protect the driver, so it should be more than capable of holding on to whatever you can throw at it.
The Sony A77 is an SLT (Single Lens Translucent) camera, which basically means the mirror is semi-transparent, allowing light to hit the sensor and the mirror at the same time. This allows for phase-detection autofocus through an electronic viewfinder.
Autofocus shouldn’t be a decisive factor when choosing a camera for architecture photography, but the ability to shoot at iso 50 with this camera could be, allowing for incredible image quality, dynamic range and colour depth which comes close to that of a full frame camera.
The 7D mk2 has the lowest megapixel count of all the cameras above.
However, in the real world, your images probably aren’t going to be viewed on anything much bigger than your computer screen. So the 20MP CMOS sensor, paired together with the DIGIC 6 processing engine, in the 7D mk2 is going to be more than enough.
One of the major selling points of the 7D mk2 is the quality of the weather sealing, that can sit alongside even the flagship 1DX mk2. So if you’re ever caught out by the rain or find yourself in a dirty environment, you can be sure your camera can handle it.
However, where the 7D does fall down is that the dynamic range, which is basically how much information the sensor records across the highlights through to the shadows, is fairly limited at 11.8Evs.
That is still a fairly large amount of information the camera is capable of capturing, it just doesn’t stand up to some of the other cameras on this list.
That’s my list of the best cameras for architecture photography, are there any cameras which you think should be on the list?
If so pop a comment below and I’ll check them out!