If you’re just starting as an architectural photographer, you may feel a bit lost with all the equipment you think you need to buy and all the conflicting reviews.
Never fear this post will take you through the bare minimum amount of gear you need to start out and get out taking amazing architectural photography.
It may also be worth you checking out my previous post on mistakes to avoid when starting out architectural photography, to help you avoid some of the common pitfalls.
Minimum kit for architecture photography
As with any hobby or starter business there is always going to be a minimum level of kit you’re going to need to get yourself going.
I’m going to keep it really simple and stick to the only three things I believe you need to start out.
First camera for architecture photography
This one is obvious but you’re going to need a camera, your first camera doesn’t need to have all the latest touch screen/wifi/AI features, it just needs a sensor which is going to get you half decent photographs.
I would really recommend looking for these second hand, if possible, as the chances are your first camera is going to take a fairly hard pounding.
It also allows you to discover points which you do or don’t like about a particular system which if you went and blew all your money on, you may regret in the future.
For example, i’ve only ever used Canon cameras simply because I like how they feel in my hand.
The ergonomics of the grip suit the size of my hands and it wouldn’t bother me what logo was on the front of it, get what suits your needs and ignore the forum chatter.
APSC or full frame camera for architecture photography
Before we dive into the best cameras it’s important to note the differences between an APSC camera and a full frame camera for architecture photography specifically.
- An APSC sensor is usually 1.6x smaller than a full frame sensor, which is why it’s often referred to as a “cropped sensor”.
- A full frame camera will generally have a better dynamic range and better low light performance than a full frame camera.
- APSC cameras have a greater amount of lenses available as they can take both APSC and full frame lenses. However you won’t be able to use the full angle of view on the full frame lenses because of the crop factor.
- Full frame cameras will have a shallower depth of field because of the larger sensor size.
- APSC cameras are generally cheaper than full frame cameras.
Best beginner APSC camera for architecture photography
If you’re just starting out and budget is your main concern then an APSC camera is probably going to be your main choice.
Not only will the body be cheaper but it will also allow you access to cheaper lenses too.
There are loads of options available for all budgets but my first choice would be the Canon 90D.
Canon 90D for architecture photography
The Canon 90D was released in September 2019 as a prosumer body, sitting between Canon’s beginner and pro camera ranges.
- 32.5 Megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor
- Dual Pixel autofocus (live view/video)
- 45-point all cross-type AF (through the viewfinder)
- 220k-pixel metering sensor w/face detection
- 7 fps burst shooting w/continuous AF
- Fully articulating 3″ touchscreen display
- Optical viewfinder w/100% coverage
- 4K/30p video capture with no crop
- USB 2.0 port with Micro USB connector
- Wi-Fi + Bluetooth
This is only my “best” recommendation and if budget is a concern, looking at a used or older version of this camera, such as the 80D would still be a good choice and nearly half the price.
Best full frame camera for architecture photography
If you’ve got a little bit more spare change in the bank account or just want the extra benefits of having a full frame camera then my pick would be the Canon 5DS R.
It was released in February 2015, so is 5 years old now, but definitely still punches above its weight and means the price has come down somewhat since its release.
Canon 5DS R for architecture photography
- 50MP CMOS sensor
- 5 fps continuous shooting
- ISO 100-6400 (Extends to 12,800)
- 61-point AF module with input from 150k pixel metering sensor
- Dual Digic 6 processors
- 3.0″ 1.04M-dot LCD
- CF & SD slots (UHS-I compatible)
- 1080/30p video
- M-Raw and S-Raw downsampled formats
- 30MP APS-H crop and 19.6MP APS-C crop modes
- USB 3.0 interface
This beast of a camera packs a huge 50.6 megapixels, meaning you can print A0 size images, straight from the camera.
Some of it’s real benefits for architecture photography are a mirror vibration control system, which is designed to remove the vibration from the shutter, capturing a sharper image.
Also a low-pass cancelation filter which, Canon claims, optimises clarity and sharpness.
If you want a more in depth review of both cameras and to see my other recommendations then check out my best camera for architecture photography post.
First lens for architecture photography
After you have made a decision on your first camera, the next thing you will want to buy is a decent lens for your architecture photography.
You’re going to want to get something which allows you to cover a variety of focal lengths if you’ve only got one so a zoom lens is a must.
Best beginner lens for APSC cameras for architecture photography
If you decided to go for an APSC camera then you’re in a good position as every lens (from the same manufacturer) will fit your new camera.
Full frame lenses will fit on an APSC camera but APSC lenses will not fit on a full frame camera as they sit deeper on the body and could cause damage to the mirror inside.
Canon EF-S 10-22mm for architecture photography
The Canon EF-S 10-22mm is an enthusiast level lens, so don’t expect too much in terms of build quality.
What it will give you though, is a great wide angle lens, perfect for your first purchase.
I’d avoid using it on the super wide end as you’re going to run into issues with barrel distortion and items close to the camera looking far too big, so ideally, try and stay 16mm+.
- Zoom Lens
- 10-22mm focal length
- Not image stabilised
- Canon EF-S lens mount
- Maximum aperture f3.5-4.5
- Minimum aperture f22-27
- Minimum focus distance 0.24m
- Maximum magnification 0.17x
- Weight – 385g
- Length – 90mm
Best lens for full frame cameras for architecture photography
The Canon 16-35mm is Canon’s top of the range wide angle lens which sets the standard for image quality.
It gives you a great workable range and will make most jobs achievable with just the one lens when you start out.
- Zoom Lens
- 16-35mm focal length
- Not image stabilised
- Canon EF lens mount
- Maximum aperture f2.8
- Minimum aperture f22
- Minimum focus distance 0.28m
- Maximum magnification 0.25x
- Weight – 790g
- Length – 128mm
If you want a more in depth review of all the lenses I would recommend, then check out my best lenses for architecture photography post.
First tripod for architecture photography
A tripod is the thing I would spend the most amount of time researching and getting right.
You’re going to add multiple different lenses and cameras throughout your career but if you get the right tripod, first time, it will probably outlive your photography career.
Best budget first tripod for architecture photography
If you are budget conscious, don’t worry there are still plenty of options available, just be aware you may need to replace this in the future with something a bit more robust or if you upgrade your camera and need a bit more weight capacity.
The Manfrotto 290 is a great beginner tripod. Manfrotto are the leading manufacturer in the tripod world so you know you’re going to be buying quality, even at their budget end.
It’s built in aluminium so is fairly sturdy and keeps the weight down to just 2.52kg
- 4 leg angle positions for total flexibility
- Durable, adjustable aluminium leg locks
- Steady grips thanks to rubber leg warmers
- Precision guaranteed with clever 3-way head
- Tripod with head comes with comfy shoulder bag
- Weight – 2.52kg
- Minimum height – 42cm
Best first tripod for architecture photography
If you do have a bit more budget to play with and really want to invest in good gear for the future then i’d recommend checking out Gitzo’s range of tripods, specifically the Systematic line.
They’re made from carbon fibre so are much stronger and lighter than an aluminium counterpart and the Systematic range is capable of extending to over 3 metres so if you really need a huge tripod, this is the one to look at.
- Gitzo’s strongest, series 5, 3-section carbon fiber tripod
- G-lock Ultra for secure leg-locks and quick operations
- Great versatility thanks to the modular accessories range
- The most rigid tripod of the whole Gitzo range
- New wider and adaptable feet for unbeatable stability
- Weight – 2.52kg
- Minimum height – 10cm
For a more in depth review of both tripods and also some other suggestions, check out my best tripod for architecture photography post.
I hope you have found that short guide on the best equipment to start architecture photography useful, if so please do share with others and consider signing up to my weekly photography tips.