The best Canon cameras and lenses for architectural photography

Architect-turned-photographer Fernando Guerra brings a unique perspective to his craft. Here he explains how EOS R System cameras, paired with tilt-shift and RF lenses, help him to interpret buildings and their occupants in unusual and creative ways.
Two figures ascend a circular stairway in the centre of a large white room.

Portuguese photographer Fernando Guerra enjoys shooting square images, which he typically creates by taking two images in-camera – one with his tilt-shift lens shifted up and the other with the lens shifted down. He then combines the two in post-production. "The effect that you get is completely different from just a normal vertical shot, because it's wide and you really feel like you're inside the house or inside the scene," he explains. Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L lens at 1/4 sec, f/7.1 and ISO400. © Fernando Guerra

Through his innovative inclusion of people in his architectural images, Canon Ambassador and world-renowned architectural photographer Fernando Guerra has become known for bringing spaces to life. "I push for living architecture. I'm not really interested in shooting a house without furniture or people. What I really like is to get to a house in the morning and shoot the kids getting ready for school – to see the normal rhythm of the house. Nobody was doing that extra layer of storytelling before I started. What drives me is the story of the people who live there," he says.

So what are the best Canon cameras and lenses for architecture photography? And when it comes to architectural photography lenses, how can having Canon tilt-shift lenses in your kitbag help when shooting buildings?

Here, Fernando shares the cameras and lenses essential to his work, while Mike Burnhill and John Maurice – Canon Europe Product Specialists and experts on lens technology – explain why Fernando's choices are suited to the architecture photography genre.

Fernando takes a minimalist approach to equipment, and has narrowed down his list of favourite architectural photography kit to two reliable lenses and a mirrorless full-frame camera. "The more that I shoot, the less I need," he says. "It's all about the gear. New camera models such as the Canon EOS R5 also make me shoot better."

Formerly a Canon EOS 5DS R user, Fernando has switched to the mirrorless EOS R System, with which he's able to use his core lenses from Canon's TS-E lens range, as well as mirrorless full-frame RF lenses.

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Focusing manually, Fernando works only with depth of field to create layered images, with everything in focus, rather than using small apertures and bokeh. Usually shooting at around f/8, he seeks complete sharpness from 1m to infinity. For his day-to-day shooting, he travels light, leaning on the Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L and Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II lenses, which are attached to a pair of Canon EOS R5 bodies via EF-EOS R Mount Adapters. He uses this setup for the majority of his work, gaining extra versatility from each through his use of in-camera crop modes.

Read on for the ideal Canon kit for architectural photography, from wide-angle lenses for capturing a broad field of view to the best lenses for capturing small details of a city and the people behind the buildings.

Best Canon cameras for architectural photography

A girl wearing a blue bathing costume and swim cap dips her foot in a swimming pool which is reflecting the light shining through the slats on the wall behind, while a small dog watches on.

"The stabilisation was the thing that I wanted the most," says Fernando of his decision to add the Canon EOS R5 to his kitbag. "The focus on everything I do is people, as they give meaning to the architectural structures that I shoot. Now I can leave the tripod at home and just follow the action and react more quickly, like a photojournalist." Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II lens at 1/100 sec, f/8 and ISO400. © Fernando Guerra

Best all-round camera for architecture: Canon EOS R5 

"The Canon EOS R5 is basically the perfect camera for what I do," enthuses Fernando. "It's the perfect size, and it has a great buffer, silent shooting and a touchscreen, which I love. I never – and I really do mean never – look through the viewfinder. When I'm shooting the interior of a building, and even many exteriors, the camera is usually quite low, so it's much easier to use the vari-angle screen. I'm now just accustomed to shooting this way all of the time.

"The EOS R5's stabilisation is also such a great tool. I can get low, rest the camera on my knees and use a longer shutter speed to blur people walking in front of a building while the building stays sharp.

The Canon EOS R5 camera.

Canon EOS R5

The EOS R5's uncompromising performance will revolutionise your photography and filmmaking.

"The crop mode of the EOS R5 means that you get two lenses in one as well," Fernando continues. "So, when you have a 17mm lens attached, for example, you press a button and you have the view of a 28mm lens. And if you have a 24mm lens attached, you get a 38mm lens. So I don't need the camera's 45MP resolution to create 45MP images, I need it because it gives me the option to crop in-camera – and nobody has ever complained about the size of my files."

"The EOS R5 in particular is excellent in low light," adds John, "and it offers a high resolution when you need it, so it's a nice blended camera for architectural photography. If you compare it to the previous high-resolution model, the Canon EOS 5DS R, the dynamic range is improved. You've got those elements of usability that have improved as well, such as the vari-angle screen which the EOS 5DS R didn't have."

A figure leans against a wall, slats on the wooden overhang creating light patterns below.

Fernando started shooting using the vari-angle touchscreen when he bought his original Canon EOS R, and now always shoots with this rather than the viewfinder. Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon TS-E17mm f/4L lens at 1/160 sec, f/8 and ISO200. © Fernando Guerra

Best lightweight body for architecture: Canon EOS R

Fernando initially used the Canon EOS R when he made the move to mirrorless, and it's a camera that still holds up as a great option for architecture photography. "I embraced the Canon EOS R when it launched because there were so many things that I gained with it," he says. "It's small, it has a silent mode and a tilting screen, which I love. If I go to a location to shoot for an architect, I want it to be as if I'm not there, for people not to see me. With an EOS R over each shoulder, I could be as invisible as possible, and it's the same deal with my two EOS R5 bodies.

The Canon EOS R camera.

Canon EOS R

A full-frame 30.3MP sensor with impressive detail, ISO performance and Dual Pixel CMOS AF.

"The vari-angle screen meant that I could shoot from the hip and, as the touchscreen can also be used as a shutter, it was easy to put the camera in positions I wouldn't have been able to get in before, such as against a wall or on the other side of a fence. As someone who is shooting every day, a tilt screen really helps me. When you're constantly in airports, having small kit that you can take everywhere is amazing. The EOS R made my day-to-day life easier."

Mike agrees: "If you're shooting low angles, the vari-angle screen means you don't have to get on your knees. Or you can have the camera above your head and tilt the screen down, so you can shoot the building at different angles than eye level. These simple little things can make a big difference in how you interact with a camera and subject. By using the Drop-In Filter Mount Adapter EF-EOS R on the Canon EOS R, you're also able to add filters behind the lens. You can put a neutral density or polarising filter with all your lenses and you can swap between lenses and have the filter in exactly the same position."

Best Canon lenses for architectural photography

A figure stands on a curved balcony overlooking the city.

The Canon TS-E 24 mm f/3.5L II allows tilt and shift movements to be made independently of each other. This means perspective and depth of field can be controlled separately, vastly enhancing lens flexibility. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV) with a Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II lens at 0.3 sec, f/7.1 and ISO100. © Fernando Guerra

A figure reclines in a chair undercover with a horse and landscape in the background.

When Fernando spends a day shooting a house, it's not unusual for him to end up with 4,000 to 7,000 photos. "You might expect architectural photography to be pretty slow, but it's not," he says. "Although the buildings don't move, life around them does, so you need to move quickly to capture it. While I don't really need the 20fps of the EOS R5, I do need its good buffer, as I cannot be waiting for the camera to write files." Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II lens at 1/160 sec, f/10 and ISO200. © Fernando Guerra

Best all-round Canon architectural photography lens: Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II

"It is always best to start shooting architecture with the Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II lens," says Fernando. "Even if you can't fit all of the building inside the frame at once, it trains you. When you start trying to solve problems and really want to learn how to photograph architecture, the 24mm is the best lens to use. It is also safer for beginners than a really wide-angle lens, which can cause distortion. When I need that focal length, the 24mm is perfect, with close to no distortion, which is great."

Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II

The TS-E 24 mm f/3.5L II has been refined to deliver superb image quality right to the edges of the frame. Independent rotation of the tilt and shift mechanisms permits maximum creative freedom.

"The Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II is an everyday, high-performance TS-E lens," elaborates Mike. "It gives quite a wide angle, stunning quality and a wide range of movements so you can shift the lens upwards to avert parallax error, or you can tilt it to increase depth of field for architecture.

"These lenses have ultra-low dispersion (UD), high-performance glass to cut out chromatic aberration. That's important in architectural photography, as you often have hard edges of a building against the sky, which is where you're going to get this colour fringing showing up. The SWC coating is our maximum performance to prevent flare and ghosting affecting the image, and the large diameter glass moulded aspherical lens elements improve sharpness across the image."

A yellow staircase on a building's exterior is pictured against a blue sky.

John highlights the Canon EOS R5's large RF mount as a benefit when shooting architecture with a tilt-shift lens such as the TS-E 17mm f/4L. "The image circle is very wide on a tilt-shift lens, which means the in-camera stabiliser can move the sensor to a greater degree to correct shake," he says. Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L lens at 1/4 sec, f/6.3 and ISO100. © Fernando Guerra

Best specialist Canon wide-angle lens: Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L

"When you are shooting architecture, of course you want to get everything in your photo, but you usually don't have a lot of space because you're shooting in the street and have a huge building in front of you," says Fernando. "When the Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L was launched, it completely changed my life – all of a sudden, I could shoot a high rise in one photo, which I couldn't do before without walking 300m backwards. I also think it changed the architectural photography scene forever, as the 17mm, together with the Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II, forms the basis of shooting architecture.

The Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L lens.

Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L

Designed for architectural photography, the TS-E 17mm f/4L exhibits low distortion and excellent edge-to-edge sharpness, as well as independent rotation of the tilt and shift mechanisms.

"The only rule in architectural photography is that vertical lines need to remain straight. With a wide-angle lens, it's easy to change the proportions of a building. But if I consider myself a messenger, I cannot create a different building from the one I'm supposed to photograph. With TS-E lenses you can tilt and shift, and what I really need is to shift the lens up so it remains straight in relation to the building, and I can then fit the building inside the frame."

"The Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L has the widest field of view of any tilt-shift lens on the market, making it ideal for interiors or large buildings where it can be difficult to fit everything in," adds Mike. "It also has very little distortion for such a wide lens. Architectural photography has to be beautiful and interesting but at the same time totally accurate – you don't want buildings that bow or to change the architect's geometrics just because the lens gives it a nicer look. With many wide-angle lenses, you'll get some curvature and the effect of getting more space. This is an important lens as, when used by professionals, it shows the building the way the architect wanted it to look."

A figure stands within a large grey geometric structure.

The Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L has the widest field of view of any tilt-shift lens on the market," says Mike. Taken on a Canon EOS 5DS R with a Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L lens at 1/20 sec, f/10 and ISO200. © Fernando Guerra

A figure on a bicycle cycles past a grey geometric structure.

"It's not the buildings that excite me – it's the people, stories and characters," says Fernando. Taken on a Canon EOS 5DS R with a Canon TS-E 50mm f/2.8L MACRO lens at 1/125 sec, f/8 and ISO200. © Fernando Guerra

Best lens for both people and buildings: Canon TS-E 50mm f/2.8L MACRO

"The Canon TS-E 50mm f/2.8L MACRO is a nice portrait lens," says Fernando. "In the field, I might need to shoot someone who is in the house, or all of a sudden need to take a portrait of the architect, and this is a marvellous lens – although I am more likely to carry the smaller Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM these days. If I use the crop modes I can also have a really nice 80mm lens just by the push of a button. Being an architect, it's easy to say that I love architecture. But that's not really why I do what I do. I love shooting people in their surroundings."

Canon TS-E 50mm f/2.8L MACRO

This specialist compact 50mm tilt-and-shift lens offers perspective control for critically sharp landscape and architectural shots.

Mike says: "One of our newer lenses, the Canon TS-E 50mm f/2.8L MACRO has a much wider range of movement than wide-angles along the focal length. The great thing about Canon tilt-shift lenses is that they feature rotation, so you can change how you use the lens much more easily. If you want to shoot a tall building but you've also got a path leading into it, this lens will enable you to increase your depth of field by tilting it, therefore maximising the sharpness, but also shifting it, so you can get all of the building in. With other tilt-shift lenses on the market you can only do one of these movements.

"The smaller you stop the aperture down, the softer your image gets as you increase depth of field. The advantage of a TS-E lens is you can tilt the optics to an angle to give you more sharpness across the image, front to back, by moving the optics at a similar angle to the land in front of you. Therefore, you don't have to stop the lens down to the smallest aperture to get everything sharp. The best optic sharpness is in the aperture range in the middle of the lens, so you can actually use the sharpest aperture and still get maximum depth of field, and in doing so, you're increasing the resolution of your image."

Best lens accessory for architectural photographers: Canon Drop-In Filter Mount Adapter EF-EOS R

Fernando uses the Drop-In Filter Mount Adapter EF-EOS R to attach his EF-mount TS-E lenses to the RF mount of his Canon EOS R5. "The last thing I want is for Canon to make a native RF-mount TS lens," he says, "because being able to use drop-in filters in the mount adapter is an incredible solution for any architectural photographer!

"I use a polarising filter every single day of the year, and I often use an ND filter when I'm shooting buildings on busy streets. If I don't want people or traffic in the shot, I can take the exposure to over one minute, so then you don't see any of the moving cars or people."

As John points out, the Drop-In Filter Mount Adapter EF-EOS R is particularly beneficial for those lenses where it is difficult to attach filters at the front. "The Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L doesn't have a flat front element, for example, so you would otherwise need a bespoke filter system to accommodate that. The fact that it's a drop-in filter also means that don't have the issue of vignetting that you typically get when you put a filter on the front of a wide or ultra-wide lens."

Canon Drop-In Filter Mount Adapter EF-EOS R

The Drop-In Filter Mount Adapter EF-EOS R takes the functionality of Mount Adapter EF-EOS R and adds the ability to use drop-in filters, removing the need to fit filters on the front of a lens, especially useful for wide-angles with a large front lens element.
Several buildings with protruding windows shot from the front on a sunny day.

"It's a great lens because it's so small and I can just throw it in my bag," says Fernando of the Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM. With new optics and a very quiet STM motor, this modern 'nifty fifty' will take your photography to the next level. Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM lens at 1/6000 sec, f/1.8 and ISO100.

Best lens for combining portraits and architectural details: Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM

Fernando has added a Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM lens to his kitbag, which he often uses instead of his Canon TS-E 50mm f/2.8L MACRO. "Sometimes I need to do portraits of the architects or shoot details inside houses, but I like to do it handheld. Having a f/1.8 aperture gives me more options, and I can create compositions that are very different to what I get from the 17mm or the 24mm lenses. Also, if I need to do a portrait, I just flick on the Canon EOS R5's crop, and then I essentially have the equivalent view of an 80mm lens, so it's perfect for what I need," he says.

Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM

The RF 50mm F1.8 STM is a small, light and affordable lens with a fast f/1.8 aperture, ideal in low light and great for creative depth of field.

"A 50mm f/1.8 lens is often the first creative prime lens that people discover," adds John. "The EF version is very affordable, and the f/1.8 maximum aperture is creatively very interesting, as it's good for blurring backgrounds and good in low light. The Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM continues that legacy, but with better quality and a compact size. It's very convenient and it doesn't take up much space, but it's a very powerful tool."

Other Canon RF lenses to consider

The rustic interior of a cosy bar furnished with sofas and wooden tables and chairs in shades of brown, yellow and green, and decorated with lamps and potted plants.

The Canon RF 24mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM is a wide-angle prime lens that offers a fast f/1.8 maximum aperture, image stabilisation and macro focusing capabilities. Taken on a Canon EOS R6 with a Canon RF 24mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM lens at 24mm, 4 sec, f/5.6 and ISO100.

An elaborate ceiling made up of circular panels and colourful stained glass shot from below.

The Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM is an advanced ultra-wide zoom lens equipped with a 5.5-stop Image Stabilizer for tripod-free architectural and landscape photography. Taken on a Canon EOS R6 with a Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM lens at 15mm, 1/6 sec, f/8 and ISO100.

Best options for photographing buildings on a budget

While the TS-E lenses are the best for architectural photography, there are some wide and ultra-wide lenses in the RF range that will enable you to capture interiors and city scenes for more modest money. "Take the Canon RF 24mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM, for example," says John. "It's a small, lightweight option for people who like the look that a 24mm focal length produces. It's interesting to have macro on a wide-angle lens, which allows you to get close to a subject or detail and show it in context. So now you can buy a bag of RF prime lenses in classic focal lengths – 24mm, 35mm, 50mm and 85mm – that are all a similar size and weight and come with IS and macro functionality, as well as offering higher quality than their EF counterparts.

"Many photographers like ultra-wide angle zooms because it gives them the flexibility to capture architecture, interiors and events, and the Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM is an advanced and affordable option of this type of lens. It may be a little bit dark in terms of maximum aperture, but architecture and landscapes are often taken at f/8. If you were using an f/4 or f/2.8 lens, then you wouldn't be using the full capability a lot of the time.

"If you did want a brighter ultra-wide lens, there's the compact Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM," continues John. "This focal length is a bit divisive, as some people say it starts to get too weird under 24mm, but that's a question of taste."

Two children relax in an elegant room with an indoor pool set into the wooden floors and a floor-to-ceiling glass window overlooking beautiful countryside.

Alongside his tilt-shift Canon lenses for architecture, Fernando loves the versatility of the affordable RF 24-240mm F4-6.3 IS USM zoom lens, which he used to shoot this indoor pool. Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 24-240mm F4-6.3 IS USM lens at 24mm, 1/125 sec, f/14 and ISO160. © Fernando Guerra

A figure crouches beneath a slatted wooden roof, which casts lines of shadow across the wall and floor.

"With the EOS R5's crop shooting option, I can go to almost a 400mm lens at the press of a button," says Fernando of combining his EOS R5 with the Canon RF 24-240mm F4-6.3 IS USM lens. Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 24-240mm F4-6.3 IS USM lens at 80mm, 1/80 sec, f/18 and ISO320. © Fernando Guerra

Another lens that Fernando uses frequently is the versatile Canon RF 24-240mm F4-6.3 IS USM. "It's an amateur zoom lens, but I love it for shooting building details or a distant scene," he says.

Finally, Fernando recommends his favourite lens for street photography, which he's been doing since he was 16. "I'm known for including the street, and not only the building, to give some life and meaning to what I'm shooting. Putting people into architecture also gave me something new in the architectural field. When I'm on the street I don't want to be the focus of attention. The Canon RF 35mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM is super nice because it's a small lens that you can put on a body and go out at night. You can make street photography, but also focus on showing the buildings."

"The Canon RF 35mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM has stunning image quality for one of our entry-level lenses for the EOS R System," agrees Mike. "It does macro, has a fast aperture and stabiliser and all that in a package that is smaller than the same sort of DSLR lenses. It's very compact and lightweight, so is a discreet lens to carry around almost as a notebook, to record little bits of detail. You can work silently as well, if you want to have subjects in the frame and not disturb them as they interact with the buildings and architecture."

Canon EOS R System cameras give architecture photographers the freedom to capture the design and structure of buildings in creative new ways. From a high-resolution sensor and in-camera cropping options to IBIS and vari-angle touchscreen, there are significant practical benefits to switching up to a camera such as the Canon EOS R5.

And then there's the flexibility offered by the RF mount and mount adapters. "Although we don't have RF tilt-shift lenses, wide-angle has become stronger in the RF range," adds John. "The design of the RF mount makes it easier to make high-quality wide and ultra-wide lenses, and there are more options for people to choose from when it comes to architecture photography."

Lucy Fulford and Marcus Hawkins

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