Photographing indoors, need lens recommendations
June 13, 2014 4:27 PM   Subscribe

I need a recommendation for a camera lens for my Rebel Xsi. I'm photographic quilts indoors (the quilt is hanging flush against a wall) and I can't photograph the whole dang thing with my current lenses (a 50mm 'nifty-fifty' and a EFS 18-55). Is there an affordable lens I could buy that would work better? The distance from wall-to-wall is about 7 feet. The quilt I was trying to photograph was 70x70 inches. Thanks in advance.
posted by pibeandres to Technology (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
At almost 6 feet square, any lens you use to shoot from 7 feet away is likely to give you strong fisheye effects. Your zoom goes all the way down to 18mm. I'd be really surprised if you could find something wider while still being affordable.

Can you move the quilt?
posted by advicepig at 4:40 PM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Take four photos with identical light and metering and stitch them together. Photoshop has a tool built-in for this. Or use a fisheye and correct the distortion in Photoshop.
posted by supercres at 4:42 PM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Use the Dimensional Field of View calculator on this page to see how wide of a lens you need to capture something of a certain size from a certain distance away (keep the default 1.6 multiplier, which is correct for your camera). There are rectilinear (as opposed to fisheye) lenses that are wide enough for your application. Examples include the Tokina 11-16mm and Canon 10-22mm lenses. Both are around $500, not exactly cheap.
posted by zsazsa at 4:51 PM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure how accurate my math is, but it looks like you'd want 15mm or less. Canon has a 10-18mm zoom for about $300, looks like it has pretty heavy distortion at the wide end, but not so bad in the middle of the range.

Depending on how often you need to do this you could also just rent a lens.
posted by ckape at 4:53 PM on June 13, 2014

My math says that at 7' an 18mm lens should have a 72" horizontal FOV. Which I guess would mean you're losing a bunch of the top or bottom.

18mm is pretty wide. The cheapest thing I can find that's wider than that is a Rikinon 8mm fisheye for $230. But fisheye has weird geometry, and while I guess you can correct that in photoshop you'd have to do less work, and probably get better results, and will probably get more general use from the Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM ($299). It does have some barrel distortion, but it won't be anything like a fisheye.

The best solution, IMO, is to find a way to photograph the quilts from farther away. The 50mm lens is by far the best lens you will be able to find without paying a ton of money, so my recommendation is to try to find somewhere you can get 30 feet from the quilt so you can use that for the picture.
posted by aubilenon at 4:55 PM on June 13, 2014

My girlfriend photographs big quilts outside, pinned to a wall on our garage with even light.
posted by hamsterdam at 5:46 PM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah it would probably be cheaper and easier to find some way to get further from the thing you're photographing than to buy a wider lens of use photoshop.
posted by RustyBrooks at 7:37 PM on June 13, 2014

Sigma's 8-16mm zoom is rectilinear; if you shoot from the center there will be distortion at the edges but not much and correctable. It's not a fast lens, so use a tripod if you can.
posted by Shotgun Shakespeare at 10:02 PM on June 13, 2014

Inspired by this question, I read up on stitching photos on Photoshop Elements. In your place, I'd give it a try since I have the software. I don't know if it would be good enough for your purposes.

I also noted that Elements has tools for removing the most common types of lens distortions. Again the results may not be good enough for your purposes.
posted by SemiSalt at 7:14 AM on June 14, 2014

If you go the stitching route and you don't have mad photoshop skills the stitching software provided by Canon for free for users of their cameras is decent.
posted by Mitheral at 9:25 AM on June 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nthing find somewhere else to shoot. You know how big Greenland looks on a map vs. how big it is in real life? Even if you got the 'right' lens you'd end up with the same effect just in reverse. Ideally, to get good 'document' images of quilts, you want a longer focal length (at least 75mm) and get even further away.
posted by sexyrobot at 10:11 AM on June 14, 2014

If you got a full frame body you'd get a wider angle of view for any given focal length, and a 28mm would probably be wide enough. That seems less of a waste of money than buying any more of those limited S lenses that tie you to a crop-sensor body forever.
If you're determined to stay with a small sensor, I hear good things about that Canon wide angle zoom mentioned above by zsazsa.
posted by w0mbat at 10:08 PM on June 14, 2014

A full frame camera will have a slightly wider field of view, but the lenses are also more expensive so you won't be able to shoot a 6' square from 7' away with an appreciably cheaper lens than the APS-C camera can. 28mm won't cut it for sure.
posted by aubilenon at 2:30 AM on June 16, 2014

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