Best Lens for Car Photography 2023: 4 Top Picks [December]
With literally hundreds of lenses to choose from, it’s really hard to choose the best lens for car photography. Sometimes you know exactly which lens you need, but I have often had the result not being what I wanted.
I have 5 years of experience as a car photographer and have also owned numerous cameras. That also included lenses, and over that period I have learned exactly which lens is best for car photography. You might be able to guess my favorite lens after reading this article.
In this article, I will tell you exactly what the best lens for car photography is, and not only that, I will also show you the best price. This way you can photograph with your new lens as quickly as possible!
(Cover photo: 24-70 mm F/2.8 L @ 24 mm, F/2.8, full frame)
The best lenses listed
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What are the best lenses for car photography?
When I first started as a car photographer I had no idea what lens to buy, I had a kit lens on my Canon Rebel XSi and that got me far. I discovered what I liked while photographing and I am going to share that with you.
Now, with years of experience, I know exactly which lens you need in every situation. My bag is not full of dozens of lenses, I have two lenses that I mainly use to photograph cars.
My goal is that you buy the right lens with a good feeling, that does not mean that I have recommended the most expensive lenses. I do give some cheaper alternatives for each lens, so you don’t have to empty your entire wallet.
In general, lenses wider than 24MM (full-frame) are a no-go for car photography, so let’s get straight to the first and best lens for car photography!
Canon 24-70 mm F/2.8 L @ 24mm, F/3.5, full frame
Best lens for car photography
24 - 70mm (F2.8)
With years of experience as a car photographer I have used countless lenses and the one I love the most is the 24-70mm. Preferably with the aperture of F2.8, which makes it very bright.
With this lens I do almost all my photo shoots, from sales photography to campaigns, the 24-70mm is always on my camera. The 24 mm provides a wide view and the 70 mm provides an image where the focus is on the car.
All in all, this is the best lens for car photography, in my opinion.
On B&H Photo
- Minimum focal length of 24mm and maximum of 70mm
- Constant aperture (F2.8)
- Very good image quality
- Often of good build quality
- Often about 1 kg (2.2 lbs)
What I like/dislike about the 24-70mm lens
- As I said, the focal length is good for all types of shoots. From sales photography to campaigns of major brands
- The image quality is of course fantastic, even if you have it fully open (F2.8) then it is razor sharp, which is something you don’t get with many zoom lenses
- The build quality is also good, it can happen that a stone hits it during the rolling shots or that you drop it, it can often survive that and it also feels professional
- The only drawback of the 24-70mm is the weight, it often weighs more than 1KG, so you may be exhausted faster
What are the alternatives for the 24-70mm?
There are a few alternatives to the 24-70mm F2.8, but it’s not for everyone due to its extremely high price. If your budget is just under $2500, which is understandable, the 24-70mm F4.0 is a good option. This is a budget version of the F2.8, which is less bright but also weighs a lot less. (B&H Photo / Amazon / Adorama)
For crop sensor cameras the 17-55mm (or something close to that) is also a fantastic lens, if you have a 1.5x crop factor then this focal length is perfect for your camera, then you basically have a 24-70mm lens. A 17-55mm lens is the best APS-C lens for car photography. (B&H Photo / Amazon / Adorama)
Finally, you can of course choose to buy a different brand of lens, these are often a lot more affordable and the quality is still very good. The Sigma 24-70 mm is also of fantastic quality and is without a doubt the best camera lens for car photography, without breaking the bank.
Canon 24-70 mm F/2.8 L @ 24mm, F/2.8, full frame
Best prime lens for car photography
In addition to the 24-70mm, the 35mm F1.4 is always in my bag, not without reason, of course. By putting the 35mm on my camera I force myself to be more creative, to get a different image you have to walk around and this makes you think differently.
The constant F1.4 aperture creates a blurred background that really brings out the car and differentiates the background. This effect makes the 35mm the best prime lens for car photography.
On B&H Photo
- 35mm focal length
- Constant F1.4 aperture
- Extremely good image quality
What I like/dislike about the 35mm F1.4 lens
- As I just mentioned, the focal length is perfect for car photography. You can get quite a lot of environment in the picture without distortion
- Despite the fact that you can take a lot of surroundings in the picture, you can make the car stand out because of the F1.4 aperture
- The image quality is very good, despite this being a Sigma lens, which is not a mainstream brand
- Because it is a Sigma lens, you can get it fairly affordable, new or second-hand is doable for many photographers
- The Sigma version is not water resistant, so any rain shower could be the last for the lens, be warned (See alternatives for a solution)
What are the alternatives for the 35mm?
I have the Sigma version of the 35mm myself and I literally use it on every photo shoot, it is not water resistant, but that doesn’t bother me. If that does bother you, then you can look at the 35mm F1.4 from major brands such as Canon, Nikon, and Sony. The quality is often slightly better here, but you also pay a lot more for it. (B&H Photo / Amazon / Adorama)
If you have a crop sensor camera, the 35mm suddenly becomes 50mm. To compensate for this, you can look at a 24mm lens, which is roughly equivalent to a 35mm on full-frame. With the 24 mm, you will not get the same blurry effect (bokeh) as with the 35 mm. The 24mm lens is the best APS-C lens for car photography. (B&H Photo / Amazon / Adorama)
All in all, I think the Sigma 35mm F1.4 is the best prime lens for car photography. The price/quality ratio is just right and the image quality is even better than my 24-70mm lens.
Sigma 35 mm F/1.4 ART @ F/1.4, full frame
- 35mm focal length, 52.5mm equivalent focal length on APS-C...
- F1.4 maximum aperture; F16 minimum, This model is compatible...
Best budget car photography lens
The third lens that is always in my bag is this one, the 50mm F1.8. A cheap lens that is affordable for every photographer. I used to use it almost every photo shoot, but since I got the 24-70mm it’s just in my bag.
It’s a much-loved lens nicknamed ‘plastic fantastic’, you guessed it, it’s made of plastic. Each trap can therefore be the last for the 50mm, but if you break it you can get a new one. That makes the 50mm the best budget lens for car photography.
I’ve got a comparison between the 35mm and 50mm by the way, make sure to check it out.
On B&H Photo
- 50mm focal length
- Constant F1.8 aperture
- Very light and compact
- Made for any camera
What I like/dislike about the 50mm F1.8 lens
- The best thing about the 50mm lens is the price, it often only costs $100-$150, so almost everyone can get their hands on one
- You can really separate the car from the background through the F1.8 aperture, which gives you a blurred background
- It is very light and compact, so you can take it with you wherever you go. It’s in my bag with me and I often don’t even notice that I have it with me, always handy when I need it
- Due to the price, there are a few disadvantages to the 50mm, for example, it is made of plastic, which makes it feel very cheap and is not water-resistant
- If you have the aperture fully open, it is not sharp enough, the photos are fairly blurry when you zoom in. At an aperture of F5-8, these problems are solved
What are the alternatives for the 50mm?
There are of course also alternatives to the 50mm F1.8, because the image quality is not the best. The lens is nice as a hobbyist, but if you get paying customers then you really need to look at something better.
Fortunately, most brands have also made an F1.4 or even F1.2 version of the 50mm lens, these lenses are often of the very best quality. With that comes a higher weight and, above all, a higher price. (B&H Photo / Amazon / Adorama)
When you shoot on a crop sensor, the 50mm quickly becomes 75-80mm. As a result, you are really a lot closer to the car than you think in advance. The 35mm, which I have already mentioned above, is then the best lens for car photography. 35mm on a crop sensor is equal to 50mm on a full-frame sensor. (B&H Photo / Amazon / Adorama)
Best beginner lens for car photography
When I first started as a car photographer I had little money, so I bought a Canon 70D with an 18-135mm kit lens. I photographed with it for a long period of time and took really nice pictures with it, to my surprise.
That means that you really don’t necessarily need the latest and most expensive lens to take beautiful pictures of cars. You often get a lens with a camera, with crop cameras it is often an 18-55mm (or something in that direction) and with full-frame cameras it is a 24-105mm lens.
All in all, a kit lens is the best beginner lens for car photography, especially if you have few lenses.
On B&H Photo
- Common zoom lenses (18-135mm zoom range)
- You get it as a kit with a camera
What I like/dislike about the kitlens
- There are of course countless good points to mention about the kit lenses, because you often have to pay little extra for them, so you can start shooting right away
- Because of the large zoom range you can discover what your way of photographing is and at which focal length you take the most beautiful photos, I learned everything with a kit lens of € 50 euros, so you can do it too
- The lenses are often compact and light, so you can take them anywhere without any problems
- The kit lenses are often not of the best quality, both build and image quality. As a result, most cheap kit lenses are not well suited for paid car photography work
- You only get a constant aperture with the full-frame kit lenses, with crop-sensor cameras you can unfortunately forget that, when you zoom in the photo becomes darker
- Sometimes it can be smart to immediately buy a good lens and not choose a kit, if you are sure that you want to do paid work, for example
Canon 18-135 mm @ 18 mm, F/3.5, crop sensor
In short, you now know exactly which lens you need for car photography. With years of experience as a car photographer, I’ve tested plenty of cameras and lenses for car photography, so feel free to take a look at the best cameras for car photography.
The best zoom lens for car photography is the 24-70mm due to the perfect zoom range and image quality. If you want a prime lens, the 35mm F1.4 is the best lens. I hope you’ve found this article helpful, go out shooting and learn as you go!
Who is Sebastiaan?
Hi! I am Sebastiaan, the writer of this blog. With years of experience as a professional photographer, I want to share my expertise with you. From recommending cameras and lenses to giving tips that make a world of difference, that’s what I enjoy doing most.
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