Choosing right camera for architectural photography

Clicking stunning architectural photographs is a different ballgame altogether. The high degree of man-made element combined with the whims and fancies of natural components poses peculiar challenges not found in many other genres. Here is a look at what camera equipment is ideal to kick-start this journey.

What you need to capture architecture?

Whether you are a serious hobbyist or an architecture student who likes to record architectural ideas for self, you would want to click marvellous pictures of your architecture-subject. The subject itself may widely vary, from landscapes to buildings to intricate patterns, but the basics of architectural photography remain the same. You do not want camera shake, you want a unique perspective, and you want to capture the structure’s essence. Start off with a camera, a tripod and if possible, a remote trigger, these are the bare basics to achieve the above. And of course, select a camera to suit your objective and clicking style to bag that perfect shot.

Point and Shoot Cameras

Small, compact, light and cheap, a point and shoot is the most basic form of a camera. Almost everything in a point-and-shoot is automatic i.e. you have very little control over the settings. They have relatively low resolution and poor low-light performance, which can be a major deterrent for night photography. So do not rely on your point-and-shoot for pics of the dazzling Eiffel tower against the Paris night sky. In most point and shoot cameras, the lens is fixed.

The sensor size of the camera decides how much detail of from the captured image gets stored and also how much image gets cropped. With smaller sensor sizes the ‘crop factor’ becomes considerably big and less amount of data details get stored making the image look pixelated.

However, nowadays a new breed of point-and-shoots are emerging- the mirrorless cameras with interchangeable lenses such as the Sony Alpha series or the Panasonic Lumix series. The automatic functioning of a point and shoot makes it easy to learn. Quiet operation and inexpensive price range make it a good entry level buy.

DSLR cameras

DSLR expands to Digital, Single, Lens, Reflex i.e. cameras with live optical viewing. There is a mirror that allows you to see the image you’re about to shoot through the viewfinder. The most compelling advantage of a DSLR is the picture quality, which is a result of the large sensor size and the fact that it can be used at faster ISOs, leading to less shake.

DSLRs come with a range of lenses, which is important in architectural photography. You may often want to switch between shooting a wide-scape of the London Bridge (using wide-angle lens), and a close-up of its intricate metal patterns (using telephoto lens). A DSLR thus fosters flexibility. And lastly, every photography input can be controlled in DSLR photography, right from the shutter speed to aperture size to the ISO setting, allowing you to compose the shot the way you want it, and not how the camera envisions it.

With a wide variety of lenses, choosing the right lenses and carrying them around becomes a strenuous and time-consuming task.

On the flipside, DSLRs are bulky (especially with their accompanying lenses), making them a hassle to tag around. They are much more expensive. It also takes time to learn the technical nuances of using a DSLR.

Bridge Cameras or Semi DSLR

A bridge camera has the looks of a DSLR but comes with a fixed, long-zoom lens. In effect, a single bridge camera can help you achieve the same zoom range as you would get from some telephoto DSLR lenses. The Canon Powershot, Nikon Coolpix and the Sony Cybershot DSC-RX 10 fall in this category. The advantage is great ‘zoom ratios’, in excess of 50x power allowing you to capture diverse architectural perspectives with one device and is a great day-to-day photography tool. However, in lower end models the sensor size tends to be small, leading to lower picture quality than the DSLR.

The small sensor size of the camera leads to more distortion in the image.

Making the choice

If you are into clicking architecture as an amateur hobbyist, architectural blogging or vlogging (video blogs), and looking for a convenient and cheap device for record-keeping or social media, opt for a point and shoot. However, if you are looking at a long-term rendezvous with architectural photography, or progressing to the professional side, a point and shoot camera may not be the right choice. Not only will it falter on quality, but you will outlearn it very fast. But you may also choose to start with a semi-DSLR, depending on your budget because it will offer better flexibility. For clicking professional-grade architectural shots for magazines and assignments, a DSLR is highly recommended. It will help you explore the limitless possibilities in the field, but also push you to constantly learn to outgrow your previous photographer-self.

In most of the cases, DSLR cameras offer you a wider range of tools and functions along with an ability to manually set almost every camera setting, such as shutterspeed, ISO, aperture. This leads to more flexibility for capturing the exact desired photo.

As in any endeavour, take baby steps towards your passion. Start small with a DSLR or a Semi-DSLR and progress to a DSLR as you progress from amateur to experienced.

About the author:

Rhucha Kulkarni is an entrepreneur, a wildlife lover, a photographer, a traveller and a writer. She loves juggling different hats and currently leads jungLEADz, her wildlife travel venture.

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