Find the best lenses for car photography

Especially as a beginner in automotive photography, it can quickly happen that the large selection of camera lenses overwhelms you. However, the choice of your lens is crucial for your artistic possibilities. Because there are lenses that go well with car photography and those that don’t go as well.

In this post I show you lenses that I think fit well for the photography of cars.

Crop cameras or full frame for car photography?

To determine the focal lengths, it is important to differentiate between crop and full-frame cameras. Compared to full-frame sensors, the sensors in crop cameras use a reduced image section. For example, Canon’s APS-C sensors have a factor of 1 to 1.6.

Accordingly, keep the difference in the factor in mind when choosing the lens. The same lens will get a slightly different picture on a full-frame or crop camera.

normal lenses / medium wide angle

There is already good news here. The standard lenses (kit lenses), that are often included with new cameras in bundles, are in the medium wide-angle to normal focal length range and are therefore very suitable as lenses for car photography.

The kit lenses are in the focal length ranges from 16-50mm or from 18-55mm. Generally, this category includes lenses, roughly all lenses from 15mm focal length to about 70mm. If your lens covers this focal length range, then you won’t do anything wrong. You will be able to take most photos with lenses in this focal length range – both exterior images of the car and interior images.

The kit lenses of the manufacturers are in a very good focal length range for auto photography, but the lenses are among the more affordable ones. In the comparable focal length range you will find some higher quality lenses with an even better image quality.

For starters, however, the kit lenses still deliver very good quality.

Photographed with a Sigma 17-50 2,8 lens at 17mm.

Normal lenses and medium wide angle lenses

Canon 17-40 F4,0L USM

High quality Canon L lens •  Canon EF  Ø 77mm • Weight: 499g / 1,1 pounds• Model year: 2005 • Max. aperture: F 4,0 • Focal length: 17mm to 40mm

Canon 17-55 F2,8L IS USM

High quality Canon L lens • Canon EF-S  Ø 77mm • Weight: 645g / 22,8 ounces • Model year: 2006 • Max. aperture: F 2,8 • Focal length: 17mm to 55mm

Canon EF 24-70 F4L IS USM

High quality Canon L lens • Image stabilization • Canon EF  Ø 70mm • Weight: 599g / 1,32 pounds • Model year: 2012 • Max. aperture: F 4,0 • Focal length: 24 to 70mm

Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 17-55mm 1:2,8G IF-ED

Nikon AF-S  Ø 70mm • Weight: 755g / 1,66 pounds • Model year: 2006 • Max. aperture: F 2,8 • Focal length: 17 to 55mm

Nikon Nikkor 16-85mm AF-S DX 3,5-5,6

Image stabilization • Nikon AF-S  Ø 67mm • Weight: 485g /1,07 pounds • Model year: 2009 • Max. aperture: F 3,5 • Focal length: 16 to 85mm

Sigma 17-50 F2,8 EX DC

Image stabilization • Canon EF / Nikon EF / Sony A  Ø 77mm • Weight: 567g / 1,25 pounds • Model year: 2010 • Max. aperture: F 2,8 • Focal length: 17 to 50mm

Tamron 17-50 AF 2,8 XR Di II LD

Canon EF / Nikon AF-S  / Sony A Ø 67mm • Weight: 440g / 0,97 pounds• Model year: 2010 • Max. aperture F 2,8 • Focal length: 17 to 50mm

wide angle lenses

Wide-angle lenses have a short to very short focal length and therefore a very wide field of view, which makes them very interesting for auto photography in many situations. This brings great opportunities especially for interior pictures that you can only get with this type of lens. With wide-angle lenses, you are the only one really able to get a picture of the entire interior from the back seat or in the area of the doors.

But also for the outside view, some very interesting ideas for can be implemented.

Taken with a Sigma 17-50 2,8 lens at 17mm.

wide angle lenses for car photography

Canon EF-S 10-18mm 4,5-5,6

Canon EF-S  Ø 67mm • Weight: 240g / 0,53 pounds• Model year: 2014 • Max. aperture: F 4,5 • Focal length: 10mm to 18mm

Canon EF-S 10-22mm 3,5-4,5

Canon EF-S  Ø 77mm • Weight: 386g / 0,85 pounds • Model year: 2001 • Max. aperture: F 2,8 • Focal length: 10 to 22mm

Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 10-24mm bundle

Nikon F Ø 72mm • Weight: 231g / 0,51 pounds • Model year: 2017 • Max. aperture : F 4,5 • Focal length: 10 to 22mm

Nikon AF-P DX Nikkor 10-20mm 4,5-5,6

Bajonett: Nikon F Ø 72mm • Gewicht: 231g • Modelljahr: 2017 • Max. geöffnete Blende: F 4,5 • Brennweitenbereich: 10 bis 22mm

Sigma 10-20mm 3,5 EX DC HSM

Image stabilization • Canon EF / Nikon F / Sony A  Ø 82mm • Weight: 520g / 1,15 pounds • Model year: 2010 • Max. aperture: F 2,8

Tamron 10-24mm F3,5-4,5 Di II VC

Image stbilization • Canon EF / Nikon AF-S  / Sony A Ø 77mm • Weight: 440g / 0,97 pounds • Model year: 2017 • Max. aperture: F 3,5-4,5 • Focal lenght: 10 to 24mm

Prime lenses

Fixed focal lengths are characterized by the fact that you cannot change the focal length, i.e. you cannot change your image area. But what exactly is good for car photography? Now, thanks to the simple construction of a fixed focal length, you can get these lenses at relatively very reasonable prices. At the same time, the fixed focal lengths in the low price segment up to $150 have great image quality and light intensity, which you cannot achieve with zoom lenses in the same price range. Therefore, you can get a lens with excellent image quality for very little money just for getting started in car photography with a cheap prime lens.

I also use the Canon 1.8 50 mm prime lens. It can be used perfectly for detail pictures outside and for the interior. Due to their light intensity, you can display the details in the interior pictures particularly well and play with the background blur. When taking external pictures of the entire car, you should make sure that you have enough space around the car at your location, because at 50m you have to move a few meters away from the car.

Here are some prime lenses for car photography.

Ford Mondeo 2018 Modell - Rigshot
Aufgenommen mit einem Canon 50mm 1,8.

Prime lenses for automotive photography

Canon EF 50mm 1.8 STM

Canon EF Ø 49mm • Weight: 159g / 0,35 pounds • Model year: 2015 • Aperture: F 1,8 • Focal length: 50mm

Canon EF 50mm 1.4 USM

Canon EF  Ø 58mm • Weight: 290g / 0,64 pounds • Model year: 2017• Aperture: F 1,4 • Focal length: 50mm

Canon EF 35mm F2 IS USM

Canon EF  Ø 67mm • Weight: 304g / 0,75 pounds • Model year: 2014 • Aperture: F 2,0 • Focal length: 35mm

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm 1:1,8

Nikon AF Ø 58mm • Weight: 186g / 0,41 pounds • Model year: 2011 • Aperture: F 1,8 • Focal length: 50mm

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm 1:1,4

Nikon AF Ø 58mm • Weight: 290g / 0,64 pounds • Model year: 2008 • Aperture: F 1,4 • Focal length: 50mm

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 35mm 1:1,8G ED

Nikon AF Ø 58mm • Weight: 304g / 0,67 pounds • Model year: 2014 • Aperture: F 1,8 • Focal lenght: 35mm

Erik Dräger


Erik Dräger ist Automobil-Fotograf und Online-Marketing Experte in Halle (Saale).

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