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No Compact Cameras For Real Estate Photography!

May 11th, 2011

I know, I can hear the objections already! For many years I’ve had a Point and shoot section in my recommended camera list and in the choosing a camera chapter of my Photography For Real Estate eBook. But that’s all over now.

Here is my reasoning:

  1. To do quality work you need to have a lens that has an effective focal length of between  about 14 and 24mm. To do that on point and shoots you have to resort to poor quality wide angle converters.
  2. A wide angle lens is the most important piece of gear a real estate photographer has. A good quality wide angle lens costs as much as a high end point and shoot. Many cost twice that much.
  3. If you are not serious enough about real estate photography to invest in a quality wide angle lens I don’t think you should be doing it.

So as a result, I’m taking the point an shoot section off my camera page and I’m removing the point and shoot and wide angle converter material from my Photography For Real Estate eBook in the update that I’m working on. I don’t want to be involved in any way of lowering the barrier to entry for real estate photographers. I’ll be updating my camera page in the next day or so.

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21 Responses to “No Compact Cameras For Real Estate Photography!”

  • Have you seen the latest mobile apps that let you create panos directly from phones? They stitch in real-time and don’t require lens attachments. They are still a bit rudimentary but that is just a matter of improving software.

    While I agree with you for point-and-shoots, I think that mobile apps are about to change this forever. With a mobile phone, an app costing just a few bucks, and a little time *anyone* will be able to create high-quality panos. Eventually this will include on-board live HDR as well.

    I think all of that is a good 12-18 months away from being mature, but it is definitely coming and this will be an important fact for our industry.

  • @Alan. The software can not replace a single wide angle lens. The quality will never compare. I have spend many many hours and lots of $ on the various mobile apps. They have a long way to go to being acceptable. Also I have done extensive work in photoshop with stitching. To get it to work it requires a certain amount of technique that most will not take the time to learn. Also it requires hours of post editing to make sure everything looks seamless.

    I would not worry too much about the mobile phones. Nothing can replace the proper tools and experience when it comes to getting the job done right. If anything it is up to us to be ahead of the wave of tech. Finding out what works and what does not. Including what does and evolving our buisness with the market as it does.

  • Bravo Larry!

    Not to forget sensor sizes..
    A point and shoot has a sensor MANY times smaller than a DSLR.
    Smaller sensors = less dynamic range.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image_sensor_format

  • All other things being equal, a larger sensor captures images with greater dynamic range than a smaller sensor. The larger area provides a larger “well” in which photon-freed electrons can accumulate before overflow (highlight clipping) occurs.
    As of December 2007, many DSLRs have sensor areas around 370 mm2, while many compact camera sensors have one-fifteenth the surface area: a standard 1/2.5″ sensor has a surface area of 24.7 mm2. Thus, a typical DSLR will have a signal-to-noise ratio that is nearly 4 times higher than a typical compact digital camera.

  • I agree with you in that “A wide angle lens is the most important piece of gear a real estate photographer has”. On the other hand, Scott Hargis’, in a blog on his website (http://scotthargisphoto.wordpress.com/2011/01/31/smoke-mirrors/), advises “…I’m sorry, guys — 17mm is just too damn wide for interiors work. It just is”. Which of you is correct?

  • After 2 years of waiting, thinking, speculating and trying cheaper lenses, I finally bought the Nikon 14-24 2.8 . It’s a terrible expensive lens (for me), but it’s the best choice I’ve ever made. I loved this lens after the 1st 3 shots.

  • I agree in principle with the position on point-and-shoots, but question the 14-24 range. I believe 24mm is more than sufficient to capture interiors. I see many interiors shot in the 14-18ish range with distortions that are well beyond what is necessary (refrigerators become extra-wide refrigerators and queen sized beds become super-king-sized beds, for examples).

  • As many professional architectural photographers would agree, 17mm is one of the primary focal lengths that are used on a regular basis. I would assume that is why Canon built a dedicated 17mm TS-E, for architectural photography. With no disrespect to Scott, I couldn’t provide the wide architectural views my clients expect without a 17mm lens.
    BTW: the Canon 17mm TS-E is one awesome lens and incredibly sharp! For Nikon the 14-24 is the ticket!!
    Best Regards,
    Ron

  • @RL – It would depend on whether Yvan is shooting on a full framed or cropped sensor. The 14-24 would be fine on a cropped sensor.

  • @Alan- I’ve tried many pano Apps and they all feel like toys still to me. Don’t get me wrong, I love my iPhone and my G9 compact but when I shoot an interior neither come close to my 5D w/16-35mm lens. I’ll standby to be amazed.

    @Dave/RL- Yea, the “how wide is too wide” question has a lot of personal taste involved. I agree, that you could get by most of the time with an effective 24mm, I did for several years on my film camera, and in high-end architectural work you never see images shot wider than 24mm (for example, look at Architectural Digest) but there are some Realtors that want and expect wider shots. And for about a year after I got my Canon 16-35 I rarely took it off of 16:)

  • I agreed with you when you added compact cameras to the list. I even agreed with the cameras you chose to put on the list. I now agree with you in taking compact cameras off the list and for the same reasons. I’m not being just a ‘yes’ man, it’s just coincidence that we have the same opinions at the same times.

  • Drat! Now I have to go out and buy a DSLR and a wide angle lens. What next? Have to shoot in RAW too!

    Just kidding. I actually landed a listing today ina larg part due to photography. As I talking about marketing a home, photography presentation becomes a key component. As they are looking at a portfolio book of examples, not only do I emphasize DO NOT use a P&S or cell phone camera to market their house, on neighborhood comps I pointed out where 75% didn’t even have a virtual tour. They signed the listing agreement for a $350,000 home and I am shooting it tomorrow as they straighten it up.

    Let the Realtor’s keep using P&S and cell phone cameras, please! Also, this may be the first that I take an actual video if it looks professionally presentable to replace or augment the virtual tour.

  • It’s about time! Bravo, Larry

    Michael

  • My opinion on ideal focal length for RE photography is 21-24mm on a full frame sensor. I tend to lean mostly towards shooting at 24mm, and sometimes at around 21mm. I don’t like to go much below that anymore.

    @ Allen – i don’t think software will replace wide angle lenses in the near future(5 years). I have seen some software offerings and web services geared towards real estate agents, that let them shoot a hand-held, multi-image, stitched wide angle picture, but these have also been of poor quality, and they all suffer from the “garbage in – garbage out” dynamic that happens when most individuals pick up and attempt to use a camera for commercial purposes. I also don’t think that iphones will be creating high quality panos anytime soon either. There is a lot of knowlege and skill required that goes into making great panoramic images. I’m sure the software offerings for phones will get better with time, but I don’t think they will rival what I create with a 5D, a great rotator, and the knowledge I have amassed over time creating this type of image. In-camera HDR so far, has been very underwhelming for me. There are so many variables to take in when creating HDR images. Just look at all the adjustments available when creating an Exposure Fusion image, and the fact that those fused images ALWAYS need to be tweaked afterwards in an image editor. That said, I am watching developments in these areas because it is very interesting to see where it is headed. I would love to create usable 360’s on my phone for personal use!

  • As a Broker first and a photographer second, I love wide shots! My favorite lens is the Canon 10-22mm on my 40D. If anything, I find myself wishing it were even wider! 🙂
    I own a 7D and the 5DmkII with the 17-40L, but for everyday shooting, I will take the 10-22mm and the 40D. Very clean lines (made even better by lightroom) and no barrel distortion.

    That said… I still carry the Sony DSC-HX9V 24-384mm point and shoot with built in Backlight correcting HDR, for those quick walkthrough photos with a seller or buyer. Great little camera!

  • Larry,

    Good idea.

  • Concur with the topic’s reasoning … but still believe a point and shoot camera is an essential tool in the real estate photographer’s toolbox. As emphasized in the 26-Apr-2011 post, “In real estate photography the front exterior shot is THE most important shot.” Frequently the best shot can be had via PAP (Pole Aerial Photography), and I’m not risking my DSLR on a twenty-foot pole rig. A high quality point and shoot is a must for PAP.

  • @Malia: Good point. A cropped sensor would make a difference in those types of shots. I still agree with some of the other commenters that 24mm is usually enough. I wish panos could be a better option for those super wide shots because they have the potential to give a great perspective, but unfortunately, they just are not ready for listing quality photos. That is one area where I expect software to catch up and provide a new option.

  • If smartphone apps will be replacing me in 12-18 months, I’ve dedicated far too much time and money into my career. I’m not worried.

    Thanks Larry for removing p&s.

  • I know this thread is 6 months old, Larry but it bears revisiting. About 9 months ago, I went against your advice and bought a higher-end superzoom (Fuji FinePix HS20 EXR). It was that 24mm lens and all the hot air Fuji was blowing about how wonderful the HD Video was going to be on the camera. The still shots are pretty darn good. The video is highly disappointing. YOU WERE RIGHT, LARRY! I should have continued to wait and bought a DSLR.

    Videos are a huge part of my rental homes and property management business. I really need a better camera in order to get truly commercial results. I’ve got $1,000 to spend. In order to step up my game I figure there are only a few choices:

    1. Give up and just deal with the so-so video quality
    2. Purchase a better quality camcorder (possibly use a wide-angle adapter)
    3. Purchase the best DSLR I can afford. (I know I cannot get one that shoots good HD video and still have enough to get a Sigma 10-20mm)

    I love real estate video and want to create the best possible results but my budget creates a real challenge. Any suggestions would be much-appreciated.

  • Larry, I wanted to check in and let you know my personal $1,000 challenge turned out MUCH better than I thought. I was able to score a Canon T2i with EF-S18-55 IS Lens (refurbished w/ warranty) for only $519 (free shipping) and found a used Sigma 10-20mm for only $350! So, I still have a little over $150 left in my budget. Any recommendations on where to spend that last bit? I was thinking of maybe a 50mm lens.

    I had no idea anything this good would be possible for such a relatively low amount. Can’t wait to start shooting some quality video! Thanks for all your help and advice over the years.

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