Should You Upgrade To A Full Frame Camera Body For Shooting Real Estate?

October 11th, 2015

FXsensorsAnn asked the question:

I’ve been using nikon D7000 for interior RE photography. Should I upgrade to a full frame for interiors?

The answer to your question depends a lot on where you are in the level of your work and what your goals are.

I looked at your interior portfolio on your website and to me it does not appear that the D7000 is getting in the way of you doing quality work. Your interior work looks very impressive. You are clearly not a beginner.

I would say that if you are shooting only for real estate agents there is probably not much point in upgrading to a full frame camera and lens. Most agents could probably not tell the difference. However, if you are starting to shoot for interior designers, architects, the very top-end listing agents showing up with the best equipment adds to your credibility and allows to do the very best work. In the overall scheme of things your ability to come up with great compositions and your lighting techniques have a bigger effect on the quality of your work than the specific equipment you use.

Be aware that if you were to upgrade to a full frame body like a D810 or a Sony A7RII both of which are in the $3000 range you would also need to purchase a top-end wide-angle lens to get the best use of a high quality sensor. The quality glass in both cases would be in the area of $2000. So don’t make the mistake of thinking that the only cost is for upgrading the camera body.

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15 Responses to “Should You Upgrade To A Full Frame Camera Body For Shooting Real Estate?”

  • The only reason to go FF is to fully take advantage of Tilt/Shift lenses.

  • Actually, the biggest reason to upgrade to FF is because the quality will blow your freakin’ mind and make you wonder why you’ve been settling for less all this time.

    It’s not the realtors who need it, it’s that photography is the pursuit of perfection. One could have argued that back in the film days realtors would have only needed an image from an instamatic pocket 110, and while true, it doesn’t exactly lend itself to this pursuit.

  • This is an entertaining video covering the topic
    http://www.imaging-resource.com/news/2014/07/30/lets-cut-the-crop-zack-arias-on-the-full-frame-vs-aps-c-debate

    I think it’s good to ask photographers who have mad the upgrade too.

  • Does sensor size *absolutely* matter?

    “Let’s cut the crop: Zack Arias on the full-frame vs crop sensor debate”
    http://www.imaging-resource.com/news/2014/07/30/lets-cut-the-crop-zack-arias-on-the-full-frame-vs-aps-c-debate

    “Will A Full-Frame DSLR Help Your Real Estate Photography?”
    http://photographyforrealestate.net/2015/04/12/will-a-full-frame-dslr-help-your-real-estate-photography/

    “Crop vs Full Frame – Which Camera Do You Need?”
    http://www.colesclassroom.com/crop-vs-full-frame-camera-need/

    Although I’ve been shooting with a FF 5D MkII + 24-105L for years (shot these 1x.com-published architectural photos using this system: https://1x.com/member/gekarcz), it’s most likely that I’ll be upgrading to a Fuji X-T1 (APS-C) system due to its superior image quality, for my applications.

  • The local real estate office I shoot for now requires all files to be 3200 x 2133 @300dpi. When I check my work on the MLS I feel like I am trying to tell a hair raising story to a bald headed man. A lot of wasted effort. By the time they end up on the MLS @ 72dpi I don’t see any difference then when I gave them the smaller files. I think the same would apply to DX vs FX.

  • These days sensor size has pretty much nothing to do with file quality. The Nikon D7200 (a crop sensor camera) has 1/5 of a stop less dynamic range than the Nikon D810 (which arguably has the most dynamic range of any digital camera in any format). That’s not even once click on the exposure dial.

    The advantage to full frame 35mm DLSRs when shooting architectural subjects is the broader selection of high quality lenses, especially ultra wide angle and perspective control lenses.

    For strictly real estate shooting – there’s no good reason to “upgrade” to full frame.

  • Here is a bit of a story:

    I also started with a Nikon D7000+Tokina 11-16mm and I had very good results. After a year of heavy use, the D7000 had a shutter failure (shutter count was under life expectancy), which I had repaired. Shortly after that I noticed the on/off button and some other buttons starting to wear out and reliability became a worry for me. I then bought a Nikon D800E + 16-35mm lens and was blown away by quality. The bonus was with so many megapixels, I had the freedom to crop some detail shots from much wider shots while still getting high quality images. Even though my Macbook Pro with 16GB RAM was performing well with processing the D7000 files in Lightroom and Photoshop, it became very sluggish processing the 36 megapixel RAW files of the D800 and upgraded to an iMac with 32GB RAM. I could not have been more happier and I produced great images for real estate (and other work). Everyone was very happy. My D7000+Tokina became my backup camera, always in the back of my car. The earlier shutter failure taught me a lesson that I need a backup plan in cause of a failure.

    One day half way through a job, I did not placed my tripod (with D800+16-35mm mounted) properly with the legs widely enough spaced and didn’t noticed it. While discussing the shot with the agent, I heard a big bang and there it was. My D800 was lying on the floor, still mounted to the tripod, but with the lens broken at the mounting point. Glass was OK, but not focusing and zoom not functioning. As rattled as I was, I hopped out to the car, took out my old D7000+Tokina, insert my SD card and finished the shoot. The agent was just too grateful I could finish the job as it was a difficult tenant. While my D800+lens was in for repairs (it was insured), I continued shooting with my D7000. That week my most valued client booked me for a twilight shoot of a very high end property. I did not say anything about my D800 under repairs and the fact I am shooting with my backup camera. When I sent the images to the agent, he praised me said that it is best work I have produced for him of all the jobs I’ve done for him. I must admit it was a very nice property and the weather played nicely, but it just proofed a point to me you don’t have to have a full frame, high end camera to produce high quality work. After all, its a tool, and you are the master driving that tool to produce good quality work.

    I must add that after 2.5 years of heavy use the D800 has no issues of buttons wearing out or showing any signs of wear and tear. Its a real work horse and quality is great, but for real estate, I could produce equally as good images with a crop sensor camera. Mechanically, the more expensive D800 by far outlasted the D7000, but then again, I could have bought several new D7000’s for the cost of the D800 + lens + more powerful computer. Don’t get me wrong, I have no regrets that I ever bought the D800, I simply love it!!!

  • My feeling has always been that professional photographer should have full frame camera systems, especially since they are becoming affordable (sort of). But do you need full frame for real estate work, no. Hi end cropped sensor cameras produce excellent quality, but bigger sensors produce better quality. I use (mostly) Nikon DSLRs for my real estate work, D-300, and D7000, but when I have a commercial shoot, I use my D-700 which is full frame, and more like using my old film cameras. I would never tell anyone to trade up to full frame, from a hi-quality cropped frame for real estate. But for higher quality professional work, like Architectural, portraits or commercial work, then full frame is the way to go.
    Even though they have been slow to come out with new pro bodies, I have slowly been changing to the Fuji X Pro system, as their optics can rival any company out there. That is why Hasselblad used them for their lenses.
    If you are just starting out and only shooting real estate, then cropped sensor cameras are fine. If you think you will be doing more than real estate, like events and other professional photography, then you might as well invest in a full frame system. But always invest in the better lenses, as you will be upgrading the bodies every few months.

  • “Hi end cropped sensor cameras produce excellent quality, but bigger sensors produce better quality.”

    Please tell me you’re trolling. Anyone who thinks that 8 year old camera bodies like the Nikon D300 and D700 are the current standards for camera sensor tech has absolutely no business commenting on the current state of camera sensor tech.

  • Some of the most amazing shots I have seen this year have been taken with either a D90 and a tokina lens, or a Sony crop sensor (A600???) and a Rokinon 14mm manual focus lens.

    On the other hand, give me the most expensive medium-format DSLR out there and I am pretty sure I could produce some of the UGLIEST photos you have ever seen without even breaking a sweat (and I normally sweat a lot!!!).

    A great photographer with good equipment will beat a good photographer with great equipment every time.

  • @AL: “These days sensor size has pretty much nothing to do with file quality.”

    Fully agree, and the operative phrase is “these days,” due to technological advances in both sensor and lens manufacturing techniques. Five years ago, however, it was certainly a different story. The Nikon D7200 is a truly impressive APS-C camera, as is Fuji’s APS-C X-T1–both having successfully closed the gap between FF and crop-sensor image quality. If sensor size was a main factor of image quality, medium format digital cameras would occupy a significantly greater niche and would be proportionally less expensive.

  • A big factor in deciding whether to use a FF camera for RE work is where the images are going to be displayed. If you are shooting middle-class homes where the images are going to be used on the MLS and various consumer facing websites, plus basic brochures from time to time, go with the less expensive APS-C sensor camera body and spend the difference on the lenses and accessories. If you start making photos of upscale homes with the possibility of those photos being used in magazines and displayed on high-res monitors, a the extra expense of a FF camera might be the way to go provided you have or are also going to max out the quality of the glass you put on the front.

    Part of the reason for the FF body might be strictly politics. You will be expected to be using a top shelf camera on fancier jobs and may have problems with your customers if you don’t. I have images on magazine covers shot with my old Canon 30D, but my editor was enough of a pro to look at the images I submitted and not care what camera I shot them with. Others might not get the skill vs. equipment thing.

    Even if you do invest in a FF camera, hang on to your crop frame camera as a back up. It might also make sense to put most of your shutter clicks on the less expensive body and reserve the FF for more critical work until you have the budget to carry two FF bodies. Big names like Joe McNally will carry 3 or 4 bodies to have backups and bodies with specific features.

    The work I am getting now is well serviced with a APS-C body. I am still upgrading lenses until I have the best quality possible for each focal length/range that I use. I have a back up body and enough overlap in lenses to get by if my main combo falls and breaks. If I really must have a FF body for a job, I can rent one and have it in two days and build it into the fee. A backup body is the same as having extra batteries and memory cards for me. I can’t recommend having one enough.

  • This question is a double edged sword and in my opinion a lot of the answers are both right and wrong. Plenty argue that it depends on how you light it etc. but we can safely assume the same user would be lighting the same with different cameras, so the sensor difference is 100% relevant.

    I upgraded from the A6000 to the A7 about two months ago. I shoot RE part time, probably about 50 listings this year. Where people are right: The A6000 which has among the best APS-C sensors, was about 1000% the camera you need for listing shots. It was significantly better than the D300, which was significantly better than the D200. I had a D7000 but that was before I tried RE. My gut would be that it wasn’t too far behind the A6000 though, which would put it in great APS-C company. Most of the ultrawides for the D7000 will hold there own against the Sony 10-18 too, so you’re in fine shape.

    Now, that said, is FF better? Absolutely as long as you understand what is better and how to realize it. People have argued that APS-C has closed the gap and that’s just not true from sensors of the same generation. A7 has same megapixels as the A6000 but image is much better. It’s cleaner at low ISO, the digital noise is significantly more pleasing, you can push it at low ISO and it stays a lot cleaner, it has nearly double the color depth and DR is noticably better though A6000 was very good in this regard. Now, do you need all that? Probably not, especially when it’s downsized for the web. But if I have to recover shadow areas they look better now, and difficult lighting on exteriors looks better when it’s cleaned up. I’d also disagree about Print, thought I’ve only had my RE printed once and it was in newsprint, so it didn’t look good regardless. But I print my own landscape work, I have a 20×30 poster print from my A6000 on my wall and it looks great. If prepped and sharpened correctly for print, even the 16MP of the D7000 would look great in a magazine spread.

    So: “Should I Upgrade?” If you want to, go for it, and if you’re even asking you probably do. If you enjoy shooting and process your RAWs you’ll appreciate the difference. Will the MLS users be able to tell? Probably not.

  • The image quality of the better crop-sensor cameras is really good these days and it seems to me that the only reason to use full frame cameras for real estate work has to do with the nature of any print usage of the images. If the images will be reproduced large in high-quality brochures and magazine ads, then using a full frame camera might be more of a consideration, and this is one of the reasons I primarily use a full-frame camera for real estate work.

  • I’ve shot real estate since 2007. I started crop, and then shot full frame for 5 years. Last year I switched to Fuji, and I honestly can say that my work has improved, not suffered one bit,as a result. I’ve shot billboards with it, so it’s a fully competent system.

    The photographer needs to shoot a system that makes him feel confident. If that’s full frame, so be it. But don’t bite on the mostly marketing hype that tells you you can’t be a pro if you aren’t dropping $2000 on a body.

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