Which Camera Should I Get For Real Estate Photography?

August 12th, 2015

EnfuseLR6I’ve had a several questions lately about which camera to purchase for real estate photography. For example, Nick said:

I’m in the market to upgrade my camera body and I was excited to find you had expanded on the section in Photography For Real Estate on equipment. The new pages definitely gave me much needed information unfortunately however I’m still left stranded for answers on which body to buy…

I’ve being weighing up the Canon 5D Mark III against the Sony A7R and although the 5D seems like a great camera with excellent reviews and used by many in the field, I can’t help thinking that its already 3 year old technology. The Sony is newer and has more advanced features like more dynamic range, 4k video and lighter in weight. Coupled with a glass adaptor and you still have the same amount of lenses to choose from as the Canon. Your opinion would be greatly appreciated.

In a post about a month ago, I pointed out that technically the Sony A7R beats the specs of Canon and Nikon upper-end DSLRs. Two readers made some significant comments on that post that I’d like to highlight because they are right on:

  • Barry said, “These tests are so arbitrary – lighting and composition are far more important than which body you use!”
  • Ken said, “Better is the enemy of good enough” ~ Arthur C. Clarke. For most RE work, a crop sensor DSLR camera is more than adequate. Even if you are doing more critical work that demands a body with better specs, bringing the APS-C body to an RE job instead lowers the wear and tear, and possible damage to the more expensive body.

I totally agree with Barry and Ken, your real estate photography is going to be much better if you focus on lighting and composition. All you need to do great real estate work is a cropped sensor DSLR with a quality wide-angle lens and a few manual flashes. I recommend any recently released Canon or Nikon, cropped sensor (APS-C) DSLR. Most if not all of your clients won’t be able to tell if you have a full frame camera or not.

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25 Responses to “Which Camera Should I Get For Real Estate Photography?”

  • I would agree the statements above. I have both the 5D Mark lll and the A7S cameras and for photography I use the Canon 5D Mark lll – but maybe that’s because I’ve been using it for years and my routine is down. For video however, the quality is much better with the A7s. I shoot B roll with the Canon and the difference is pretty dramatic. So if you’re just shooting pictures, the Canon might be the camera. But if you’re going to shoot video too, I’d look into the Sony line.

  • “’Better’ is the enemy of good enough” was a phrase attributed to Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Sergey Georgiyevich Gorshkov (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sergey_Gorshkov).

  • ah….. gear. Everyone loves it, the promise of the better photo, better jobs, better rates. All can be rendered right in the world if you shoot the BEST CAMERA EVER.

    The dirty little secret is that most gear from the respected names is plenty good enough for real estate photography. I shot the best Canon had to offer for 5 years (5 DII / DIII, L glass) then switched to fuji because I liked the ergonomics of the cameras better. I now have about a year under my belt with the fuji, and I can emphatically state that the Fuji handles reds and oranges better, but their wide glass tends to flare more. And I can’t shoot more than three brackets with the Fuji. Thats it. If I woke up tomorrow and discovered that someone had swapped me back into my Canon kit, it wouldn’t matter. My clients would not notice (which is a compliment) and my quality of work would not change as well.

  • I just started my business June 1st. I was in the same position that you are in now. when I started looking for a camera, I did the usual spec hunting and shopping. I went into a camera store and asked what was a good buy for about $700,00 since that was all I had. I was directed to the Sony A6000. After that meeting I looked at the reviews for this camera and was amazed at how many pro shooters have dumped their Nikons and Cannons to get the A6000 or an A7 or the A7S or the A7mk2. I encourage you to do the same. In my opinion, Sony is now the leader in camera technology for MUSH LESS then Nikon or Cannon.

    You can get by with an APS-C set up like the A6000 since most agents only need JPG’s to put on the MLS but more mega pixels to work with the better. You may also want to look at getting the 10 to 18mm ultra wide angle lens. It’s very spendy but well worth the cost in the long run as not many lens makers make a fully compatible lens. Also take a look at getting you copy of Capture One Software.

    that’s my two cents worth.

    PM

  • “Go for the Glass!!!” no matter what system you decide on, always get the best glass you can. I use Nikons, for business, and Fuji for fine art and pleasure. The only reason I use Nikon, was because during film days I had a lot invested in my hi-end Nikon pro Glass, so I was locked into the Nikon system.

    Later, Nikon’s quality and services went down dramatically, so Canon kicked their but and picked up the pro sports photographer’s and now the former Nikon Pro’s business, but I think they are now about even in quality………both companies customer service is terrible. if I were starting now, Sony and Fuji are the ones I would look into. I just happen to like Fuji as they are a progressive company with some of the finest lenses,(not great video) and they are the closest thing I have found that reminds me of shooting with my Leica. Sony, on the other hand, has great glass, and heard their video is also top notch.
    The one concern I have with mirrorless cameras is their flash sync is slower than my Nikons and hope that can be changed in the future. perhaps making some leaf shutter lenses, as they are starting to do on digital Medium format lenses.
    If I were just starting out and wanted to build a system. (The key word here is “System”, as you want everything to work together) I would truly look into either Sony or Fuji instead of Nikon or Canon. I think mirror less cameras are the future. Also, you can use lighter weight tripods, and heads, which after a while is a pleasure to carry and set-up.

  • If only you guys would tell us a tiny bit about yourselves we could help a lot more? Are you a successful pro with positive cash flow? Do you own a camera now, What kind? Read Ty Mattheu comments on this subject, absorb it and forget that a certain camera will make you successful.
    You throw out terms, “weighing up”, “3 year old technology”, etc.etc.

    Sit down and answer the more “Important” questions. Why on earth would you think you require more than a Nikon or Canon cropped sensor??? More important, sit down & plan your whole package 1st. Camera, lenses, tripod, tripod head, camera bag, PP computer, necessary PP, fusion, etc. software, delivery system (photos to client), collecting your money (when & where), professional looking invoice, staging worksheet, etc.etc.

    Will You be using flash, many of us Do Not.
    Will You be using Bracketed Fusion techniques, many of us do, many don’t. If you plan to use exposure fusion, be sure of the ability to shoot a minimum of 5 -4/-2/0/+2/+4 brackets, these are “Minimums”.
    Your clients are trying to sell a property, they are paying You to help “Sell their property”, your equipment will not sell their property, only your skill and ability to become a “Professional” Real Estate Photographer will help them “Sell”.

    Your Success will be Measured in “How Many $$$$$ you make to support you business in becoming the “Go To Pro” in your area.

    No Specific camera will make you a pro in the RE area. My 2 cents….

  • I am reminded of the statement from an aging French sexy actress “Its not what you’ve got, its what you do with what you’ve got”. Good photographs are about light (photo) and graphics (composition). As long as your camera and its lens is good enough to reproduce what you see and is up to the quality of how the images are to be displayed, I would focus, so to speak, on shooting the best images. Remember, cameras don’t take photographs – photographers do. The camera is just the tool. And you have to know your craft well enough to know exactly what you will be doing with post processing before you expose film, er, um, pixels. So you shoot your image in your head before shooting it using your camera.

    I have been working just fine using a Canon Rebel with a Sigma 10-20mm lens. I have enough experience to know their limitations. If I was shooting for freeway bill boards I would use something else better suited to the ultra hi res necessary. But for RE, I find my equipment works well even for the print work that includes front wrap around covers at 300 dpi of local real estate magazines. Plenty of resolution for wrap around covers even with 18million pixels. Far sharper than even my Fuji 35mm film could ever produce for the same publishing. I have even gone back and looked at my Kodachrome slides taken with my fixed focal length lens Nikon body and lens. And my Rebel produces far better range from highlights to shadows and resolution.

    My recommendation is concentrate on your photographic skills and less on the equipent you use. Just become a master of what equipment you settle on. Do we ask artists what brushes they use? Equipment should just be an extension of your mind without thought. The time you spend on thinking about your camera and its settings is time you steal from thinking about the images you are taking.

  • I spent some time looking over bodies, and already had invested in the 24 tilt shift lens. I stuck with Canon to protect the investment in my lenses and went with the 6D. It’s more than sufficient for my work.

  • @Charlie What lens are you using on the Sony? I’m wondering if the mount is robust enough to handle the weight of a Nikon 14-24. (I’m a little suprized that lens didn’t come with a tripod mount)

  • Peter, I’ve put together artwork before for billboards, you have plenty of resolution for that as well.

    Kelvin, I can’t speak to the 14-24, but I’ve used some larger lenses on the a6000 (Nikon 80-200 2.8 One Touch). Seemed strong enough but it is a little nerve wracking. You’re going to need an adapter anyway, get one with a tripod foot, that way the metal adapter is holding the lens and the body will (very slightly) balance it.

  • I would be the extremist here and suggest that the bulk of RE photography could be splendidly executed with a nice Olympus or Panasonic kit. I have to say that with a 7-14 and a 12-40 I could handle virtually any assignment that I currently do with my Canon FF gear.
    I have a GX-7 that I use for certain jobs and gave it to my assistant when shooting a large commercial RE project.The images he made were excellent. So much so that we used a number of them on the project and they were subsequently printed as full page images in a brochure. And that was with the kit lens!
    Photos skills and business skills are the two things needed to succeed. Gear is so good today that one could grab almost any camera with a decent AOV and deliver top notch results.

  • Brand doesn’t make much difference, remember it’s old a week after you get it. I prefer full frame and some really great glass, I like the 14-24 but also use a 24-70 and even a tele like a 70-200. Most used is my 14-24.

  • Kevin, I don’t have any experience with the 14-24 as I shoot with the Nikkor 16-35 which I have put on a borrowed A7 as well as a 70-300. Also on an A7II which I thought was going to buy but developed a major warranty issue during the return period and Sony announced the A7RII, so returned it. No issues with weight of those lens, but the issue is with adapters. Canon people have it much better with Metabones and some knockoffs giving electronic connections with to the camera, where Nikon’s are dumb adapters requiring manual everything (an auto adapter may be released soon). The big issue there is aperture with “G” lens is guestimate ring on adapter and manual focus isn’t bad wide open, but stop down is less accurate. No concerns about flange weight on the A7 or A7II, and reportedly strengthened even more on the A7RII…but you do want an adapter with it’s own tripod adapter which my $29 one does not have. Both are very unwieldy on my wife’s A6000. In fact, when on a trip and she dropped it, busting the kit 16-50 lens, there was no way she was going to use the 16-35. Rather, I had a Zeiss 35 f2.8, while full frame, is very light and compact and she had an introduction to the world of prime.

    While everyone notes the strength of Sony is using non-native lens, there are a couple of issues no one refers to. First, no EXIF info transfer so ACR has no idea of the camera/lens combination to apply a lens profile to, and ACR profiles are very camera/lens specific if you have ever created one in Adobe labs, but people consider ‘close enough’ matching with similar bodies in the same brand. I don’t think there is any ACR profile matching a camera body with non-native (or 3rd party different mount) as would ne the case with Sony body with a Nikon, Canon, Leica or other M mount lens designed for other cameras.

    That said, my Zeiss FE 16-35 f4 arrived yesterday and will be switching to the Sony in the near future, selling my D610 and most Nikon glass. For Real Estate, don’t use TTL but had/have premium PW and Nikon speedlights so can use Nikon’s CLS as backup if needed (happened one time, dead wafer battery in PW TT1). Have switched to Yongnuo manual system, Nikon mount, that works with Sony and have a single Sony TTL flash in case I need it for non-RE work that is more fast action.

  • I am an ambient light photographer (although I’m starting to experimenting with flash) and rely heavily on my camera’s dynamic range. I currently use a Sony a7ii with a Zeiss 16-35mm. I don’t goof around with HDR/fusion, I take advantage of the dynamic range of the sensor and post-edit single frames.

    With that being said, if you’re going to expose for outdoors and fill indoors with flash, the quality of the body isn’t as important. Invest in a great lens and you’re all set.

  • @ Kelvin & @Loughton Good glass is a great investment. They hold their value, unlike camera technology that drops in value every month. A good lens can hold its value. I use the Sony Zeiss 16-35mm. Yes, I want one that’s larger too. But for all my interior video I use that lens. I do still have a lot of Canon glass that I could sell tomorrow for what I paid for it. So I use, with Dave Dugdale VIDEO recommendations, a Commlite adapter for the A7s and Canon glass. And that works great. I use the 24 TSL all the time.

  • If, after reading the above, you’re still not convinced by what all the PFRE pros are telling you, check out the “Pro Photographer, Cheap Camera Challenge” series of videos from my favorite YouTube channel, DigitalRev TV.

    Kai Wong (YT channel host) features challenge episodes with such well-known pros as Philip Bloom ( “Barbie” camera), David “The Strobist” Hobby ( “Buzz Lightyear” camera), Chase Jarvis (“Lego” camera), and Zack Arias (Kodak Easyshare camera – no aperture nor shutter speed control – and handheld slave flash) will give you the best insight as to what and how they can go about creating great photos with less than even prosumer equipment. This is a link to a page listing those videos: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Pro+Photographer%2C+Cheap+Camera+Challenge.

    And, check out their “Pro Camera, Noob Photographer” challenge in 2011 where a model, used to being out front in focus but who knew very little about photography, got to shoot with a Nikon D3S. Link is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AAdA9DkPCrk. Starting at 8:03 in that video, Kai said what PFRE pros are saying: It’s less about the camera and more about you. The equipment is just a tool. It’s more about your passion and willingness to learn.

  • I am currently using the Canon 5Ds with the 11-24mm for photos. However, things are changing so fast! I have ordered and am switching over to the Sony a7R II with a Metabones and the Canon 16-35 f4. The main reason is the Canon 11-24mm is super heavy…a little too much for my handheld gimbal for video. It does work well with my Second Shooter though. For video I have the GH4 with Metabones and 11-24mm right now. The new Sony a7R II is going to be PERFECT because I will be able to use one camera and one lens for both photo and video. If anyone is looking to buy either the 5Ds or 11-24mm I will be selling them very soon.

  • I will also be selling the GH4 and Metabones Speedbooster .64x. Gonna save a boatload by getting the Sony a7R II instead of using two cameras! Yay 🙂

  • I’ve used Sony cameras since May, 2008 when my poorly made Canon 5D fell apart. My main camera now is the Sony A6000 which has about one f stop more DR than the 5Dmk 3. When I joined the local camera club here in Albuquerque two years ago, I was the only one I know of out of 300 members using Sony. Back then, nearly everyone used Canon/Nikon. Now when I go on photowalks with them, I’m seeing many mirrowless Sonys. The main reason they give is they got so tied of carrying all that heavy equipment!

  • Still shooting with a Canon 6D and waiting for the reviews of the Sony A7R II.

  • @Dave Williamson, I attribute the quote “Better is the enemy of Good Enough” to Arthur C Clarke due to the story “Superiority” he wrote that is used as an example at the US Naval Academy about not spending time trying to find a perfect solution, but to make a quick decision and execute it rapidly. I wonder if he got it from Gorshkov or the other way around. I also see references to Voltaire and Clausewitz.


    The depth of third party accessories should also be factored into a buying decision. Canon and Nikon are very popular in part due to the enormous array of stuff that is made for them. Items like CamRanger aren’t available for Sony or Fuji. I also have to wonder how much work Adobe puts into its RAW converter for Sony and Fuji in comparison with Canon and Nikon. DXO?

    One of the big reasons I started in with Canon is because I have two friends that also use Canon. It was a big help to have some free tech support when I started getting back into photography in a serious way. Not that they would lend me any L glass, the cranky so and so’s. I heartily suggest to anybody getting started to strongly consider Canon or Nikon at the moment. Sony is gaining a pretty good following and many online rental houses are starting to stock Sony and compatible gear, but I just don’t feel comfortable recommending going with them yet. I know that I can find Canon equipment and service in nearly every large city in the world if I need to. If I get really strapped, I might be able to find a friend of a friend I can borrow a body from in a pinch.

    A quick stroll through DXOmark shows how the glass is starting to lag behind sensor technology. Or rather, that Affordable glass is lagging behind sensor technology. It’s fun to be able to brag about having the most pixels, but it stopped making that much of a difference some years ago. Put a Mamiya/Leaf medium format up against a good crop sensor camera when the photos have been reduced to jpegs and mangled by MLS software and the difference isn’t going to be noticeable to the customer of RE photography, so why spend the 10’s of thousands of dollars? Use the Mamiya for product and model work and don’t risk damaging it on a $200 gig to photograph a middle-class home. Got the job to photograph one of Larry Ellison’s mansions for a top magazine? Bring out the big guns and charge for it.

  • Howdy,

    Lot of good stuff’s been said. I went through an ‘upgrade’ process myself late last year. In the end, the basics were pretty simple. I moved to a 5DMkIII, even though rumors said a new 5D ‘something’ was imminent.

    * Ergonomics – I spent time with Canon, Nikon, and Sony. They were the only three I would seriously consider. The Sony, whichever A7 it was (A7r I think), was sharp edged and not comfortable to hold at all. If I was going to spend hours a day handling the camera, I didn’t want something I felt was uncomfortable. The Nikon was in the middle. Canon, for me, clearly had the best ergonomics.

    * Lens choice – Sony lost here big time. There were only a very few lenses to chose from and I felt limited. A lot of the ‘big names’ moving to the Sony were, uh, using adapters so they could keep using their Canon or Nikon glass. I was making an infrastructure choice. Bastardizing the situation from the start wasn’t something I was keen to do.

    * Quality and After-Market Choices – Canon, Nikon, were like Harley-Davidson motorcycles. The after-market (OEM or other) options are endless. I also spent time evaluating different lenses and bodies at the local camera shop one day. We went through two upper-end Nikon bodies that were defective (one out of the box), before getting a 3rd that worked. The Canons I tried, zero issue. That alone pretty much whacked Nikon for me.

    * Good Enough Tech – When the new 5Ds did come out, I was only ‘moderately’ bummed (I’d known they were coming after all) until I read the specs. What good (for me) is a 50MP camera paired to a limitation of ISO 6400? Part of why I got the 5DIII was it’s good low-light sensitivity. 6400? Didn’t and don’t feel bad about my ‘3 year old’ technology at all.

    In the end, take it all in, spend some time with the gear yourself, and make your own choice. Being informed first is important. Then, apply firsthand experience.

  • I’ve been a Nikon shooter for several years, but I recognize that many excellent alternatives exist. One of the major reasons that I’ve stuck with Nikon is the existing ecosystem. As others have commented here, all the accessories and software come out for Canon and Nikon first. Instructional books and videos primarily address Canon and Nikon cameras. When I look at what the pros in my geographic area use, it’s all Canon and Nikon. Yes, that’s changing as other brands are creating great cameras and becoming more popular. But if you’re just starting out and need a strong support system, Canon and Nikon carry fewer risks because of their strong legacy of market dominance. I still need a strong ecosystem to help me make my way as a professional. That’s why I stick with Nikon. The risk is lower because the ecosystem is more extensive. And if the equipment’s capabilities are less important than the photographer’s capabilities, as many others have pointed out, why should I take a risk on a brand that doesn’t have a comparable ecosystem?

  • My old friend and ex-landlord, Peter D., said it best. It’s all about lighting and where you put your tripod. Start cheap, study, practice, practice, and practice some more.

    State-of-the-art doesn’t involve money.

  • Im more concerned about the time it takes to upload photos on our local MLS… These larger high powered cameras seem to take FOREVER. I want something I can edit on my mac, that takes a wide angle shot, and uploads quickly. Also don’t want to break the budget.

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