This is a question I get asked a lot. And in the hopes of not having to rewrite the same email many times over, and in apology to anyone I’ve failed to reply to over the years, here’s my thoughts on camera gear as of 2016.

Camera

The short answer: Canon 5Ds (For beginners – Any Canon DSLR).

Why do I recommend Canon? It’s because of their lenses. They make two exceptional lenses for architectural photography, the 24mm TSE ii  and the 17mm TSE. These types of lenses (tilt shift) allow you to achieve perspective correct images. Few manufacturers make TSE lenses and even fewer make decent quality ones. Nikon has an old 24 TSE and Samyang make a 24mm, but neither have very good reviews. The noticeable exception to choosing Canon is the Sony and it’s mirrorless A7R ii. By use of adaptors you can use Canon lenses, but it’s a more complicated setup which I wouldn’t recommend to someone just starting out. So in short, choose Canon if you want to be able to use their lenses.

Which body do I recommend? Any Canon DSLR when you first start. The 700d (around $600) for example will be more than enough to start with. If you want to jump up to the best body, then go with the 5Ds ($3200). It’s designed for slow photography like architecture and has a massive 50mp of resolution. The 5Ds is what i’m currently using for my professional work.

Lenses

The short answer: The Canon 24mm TSE ii (For beginners – Canon 10-22mm EF)

Starting out i’d recommend the Canon 10-22mm (around $600) for a crop frame dslr, and the Canon 24 – 105mm (around $1000) for full frame bodies. Both are relatively wide (especially the 10-22mm) and both have zoom, and autofocus, which new users tend tend to be more familiar with. Once you want a lens dedicated to architectural photography i’d suggest the Canon 24mm TSE ii ($2700). This is my work horse lens and is used for about 80% of my shots. It allows for perspective correct images (more info on that here) and has exceptional quality. It’s also not too wide – I prefer a more restrained perspective to what ultra wide angle lenses deliver. For really tight spaces like bathrooms then I recommend the Canon 17mm TSE. Great quality, even if too wide for my taste, but necessary for some situations.

Tripod

The short answer: Manfrotto Junior Geared Head

Starting out I’d recommend any tripod you can get your hands on. You can get one on Ebay for around $80. What’s more important is the tripod head. Ideally, go for a geared tripod head like the Manfrotto Junior Geared Head ($250). That will give you 3 way axis control with small adjustments. Alternatively you can get a standard 3-way head which come standard on a lot of tripods. They don’t have the fine tuning of a geared head, but serve the same purpose. Don’t go with a ball head, they’re way too sloppy for architectural photography. Here’s an older post that goes into more details about tripods.

Accessories

Here’s a few other bibs and bobs. If your camera doesn’t have an electronic level (or if you don’t like using it) then a hot shoe bubble level ($5 online) will help you level up your camera. A remote trigger will help remove camera shake when taking photos. You can normally get an off market one for under $40.

Summary

Entry level setup

Item Cost
Canon 700d $600
Canon 10-22mm EF $600
Ebay tripod (with 3 way head) $80
Accessories $50
Total $1330

 

Advanced setup

Item Cost
Canon 5Ds $3200
Canon 24mm TSE $2700
Tripod legs $500+
Geared head $250
Accessories $200
Total $6850