THE Best Real Estate Photography Camera-Lens Combo

July 10th, 2008

Several days ago a reader asked me what THE best setup for shooting real estate would be. Until then I’d always been asked what the cheapest one was. At the Seattle Workshop in April I had a chance to shoot with a Nikon D3 and 14-24mm f2.8 for about 20 minutes. I could tell then that the 14-24mm was very special glass.

It wasn’t until a recent comment exchange on the “lenses” page with a couple of readers that it dawned on me that the D700 was the other half of a sweet combination for real estate photographers.

So here’s why I think the Nikon D700 and Nikon 14-24mm f2.8 is currently the best possible combination of body and lens for a real estate photographer:

  1. The 14-24mm f2.8 is currently the best ultra-wide glass on the planet. As Ken Rockwell says, “…it makes all other ultra-wides look line poo-poo”. The 14-24mm covers the perfect range for real estate shooting. The best ultra-wide glass is a good place to start!
  2. The D700 is full frame. This means the 14-24mm lens is a 14-24mm lens… no 1.5 crop factor. An important feature for wide-angle shooters.
  3. The D700 is the same sensor that the D3 has that has ISO sensitivity that goes up to 12,800. OK so probably you are probably not going to shoot at ISO 12,800 but if you get good results at 800, or 1600 or 6400 that increased sensitivity effectively increases the power of your off  camera flashes.
  4. The D700 has a built-in flash unit. This means you have away to trigger off camera flash units like the SB-800 or SB-80 or other optical slave flashes without buying extra equipment like Pocket wizards or cactus triggers. You just use optical triggering. After seeing Thomas and Scott use this technique at the Seattle Workshop I was sold on the simplicity of optical triggering. Apparently the built-in flash can also act as the “commander” for Nikon’s automatic flash system too if you are inclined to use that mode.

I rest my case. Because of the built-in flash I think the D700 is even better for real estate than the D3 which costs $2000 more. Oh, by the way, I have all Canon equipment (1Ds and 16-35mm F2.8), but if I had to replace it tomorrow I’d replace it with a D700 and a 14-24mm.

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29 Responses to “THE Best Real Estate Photography Camera-Lens Combo”

  • I would have to agree Larry, that would be a nice package! That 14-24mm would still be a great lens even on a camera with the 1.5 crop factor.

  • It’s almost time to replace all my Canon equipment. Just need to save for the 24mm Tilt Shift lens.

  • Easy boys. Just wait until the replacement for the 5D comes out. Go Canon!

  • well… RE photography isn’t all that demanding in terms of resolution and lens superiority, but I concur, albeit with reservation until I can get my hands on a D700.

    The 5D successor should be fantastic.

    These days, it doesn’t really matter what camp you’re in. Skill > gear.

  • It will not be long before Sony will have it’s full frame camera too!

  • Jerry- Yes, the full frame CMOS sensor used in the D3 and D700 is in fact made by Sony. The biggest down side of buying the Sony body is that you won’t be able to use the 14-24mm f2.8 lens. The lens in this combo is the primary reason for purchasing this duo. There are many other full frame bodies but only one 14-24mm and it will only fit on the D3 and D700.

  • Scott, Bryce- Yes, the silence from Canon is deafening. After over 25 years shooting with Nikon, I switched to Canon in 2003 just to get a full frame sensor and a real wide-angle lens and they have been ahead of Nikon since that time but in the last few years Canon has been resting on their laurels. Ken Rockwell’s description of the Nikon D3/D700 product manager is sitting in his office giving the finger to Canon when the D3 was announced is very appropriate.

    I too hope that the expected 5D replacement will change all that but I want some Canon glass like the 14-24mm. I’m standing by to be amazed!

  • Actually… the D3 and the D700 are not Sony sensors:
    From Rob Galbraith’s site: “A 12.05 million image pixel, 23.9mm x 36mm CMOS sensor designed by Nikon that is identical to that of the D3…”
    I have read it other places as well, but that’s the first one I could find at the moment. Plus I think Sony’s is rumored to be a 24mp which there is some speculation on whether that will be used in the next Nikon (D3x?)

    I think that’s part of the reason they did an early announcement and release this year instead of waiting for Photokina… so they could beat Sony with their full frame camera and Canon’s 5D successor to the punch.

  • It just hard to compete with Canon’s EF lens lineup. But as a Canon user I would like to see something new from Canon… just to strengthen my loyalties.

  • Keith, yes the Nikon sensors used in the D300, D700 and D3 are Nikon designs and are probably manufactured for Nikon by Sony. Sony uses the stepper motors made by Nikon in the manufacture of sensors. Nikon, as far as we know, does not manufacture it’s own sensors. Sony has manufactured some sensors for nearly makes of cameras, including Pentax and Canon.

  • @Keith- You could be right about Sony not making the sensor. I’m almost sure that I read somewhere that the sensor was designed by Nikon but manufactured by Sony. But I see that lists the sensor manufacturer as “unknown”.

    @javier- Canon L series lenses are the highest quality lenses that Canon makes. Higher quality than the EF lens series. The only thing that Canon has that comes close to the Nikon 14-24mm is either the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L II or the Canon 17-40mm f/4 L but neither are as high a quality as the 14-24mm. Look at my “lenses” page to see how rates these lenses… it rates the 14-24mm as 10 out of 10.

  • Either way, it’ll take a lot of shoots to cover the cost of that combo! 🙂

  • A better lens choice IF you are still using a DX format Nikon (like me–for some time yet) is the Nikkor12-24mm. It’s smaller, lighter, less expensive, and can take normal filters. I agree, however, that the ultimate (money not being a concern) is Larry’s recommendation!

  • For folks invested in the Canon camp without the budget to jump ship, what would you consider the best Canon combo?

  • I’m getting super results from the Sigma 12-24 on my Canon 5D. When this lens is used on the non full frame Canons, it’s even better. It has very low distortion for such a wide angle lens.

  • I hate it when Nikon pulls an Apple on me. I just purchased the D300 and now here comes the D700 full frame. Aside from the crop factor though the D300 is an amazing camera. With my trusty Tokina 12-24mm mounted, I’ve been pretty happy with the results. That being said, I will be saving for the $1500 Nikon 14-24mm. Lastly, and not to make this a Nikon vs Canon spitting contest, but ladies and gentlemen with full frame capability now in the D700 or D3 and the superior glass of nearly any Nikon/Nikkor lens, there truly is no argument as to the superior quality of this dynamic duo. Mount any VR on either of these cameras and watch your competition melt with envy. Happy shooting!

  • I’m with David Davis – I just bought a D300 too. But I’m not too worried. Until I’m relying on magazine covers to put food on my table, the D300 with a (gag) Tamron 11-18 is doing just fine. Unless I upgrade to the latest and best body/lens out there every six months, I’ll always be behind the times.

    Guess what… if I get my lighting right, and if I do a good job in PP, it doesn’t really matter if I have the latest body/lens. A good picture is a good picture, and it doesn’t matter what I used to get it.

    I certainly don’t argue that we shouldn’t strive for perfection. But in the world of reality, most of the shots we’ve seen posted here are more than worthy of publication. And most of these photos were taken with equipment that doesn’t compare to the latest and greatest. The photographer makes the image, not the equipment.

    Give Scott or Thomas or Jeremy a half-decent point-and-shoot, and they’d still be running circles around most of us.

    And that’s all I have to say about that.

  • It’s amazing at how some of you are echoing some of my sentiments about my post from “the new standard” of shooting photography real estate…
    I have just purchased the D300 less than 3 months ago… So, I feel your pains folks.

  • Sissies camera 🙂

    best RE combo so far: Phase One full frame (not puny 24*36mm, real 645 frame, three times bigger) P65+, mmh, 60 megapixels, 12.5 stops dynamic range
    with the mamiya 28mm (like a 18mm in 35mm world)

  • Marc- Yes, I admit that everything is a sissies camera compared to the P65. I’m not sure I’d like working with the 180 Mb files:)

  • Marc,
    Now what?

  • wow, I’m not doing magazine quality work, it’s web only. A canon a640, wide angle attachment, & photoshop keep my costs down. And being light, it works great on top of a 20 foot pole. If I were to drop it, and I will, no big deal. Yea I’ll cry but… it’s better to replace a $300 camera than a $1300 camera.


  • […] week after I did a post on THE Best Lens/Body combination for real estate photography I got questions and comments like, “What if you don’t have […]

  • Hi Everyone;

    I have found the Canon 30D or of course now 40D works really well with the 10-22. I realize that it is not a full frame sensor but I’ve not found a need yet to move to one for RE work but of course it would be nice for really large print work…By the way, if you have a Fry’s near you they have refurbished Canon Pro-9000 in stock for $200 right now with up to a 6 year service plan. Great ink jet printer

  • I was recently moving house and wrote about why I think the new Sony NEX cameras are perfect real estate photography: (perhaps not for magazines, but ideal for the independent agent needing good quality shots of houses)

  • I got rid of a Canon MK5II & 16-35LII (go ebay!) for a Nikon D700 & Nikkor 14-24 zoom. Have not regretted it for a minute! 14-24 lens is beyond great, you have to own one to appreciate how much better it is! D700 gives 9 shot brackets for exposure fusion which I use daily. Much easier than doing with Canon gear.
    I owned 5 Canon L lenses which sold for close to what I paid on ebay. The pro glass is the only way to go!

  • I have to agree with the Sony NEX5 for a capable and economical RE camera. I took a look at

    A lot of great features for the RE Photog.

  • I’ve got a Nikon D3000 that i use for my real estate business. It came with the 18-55mm lens but I can’t tell that it takes a wider angle picture than my other digital camera. Can anyone suggest a good (preferably cheaper) wider angle lens?

  • Thanks for the valuable suggestions, from experience that you share. Better looking images get interest, cause desire, create action and memorable interest. Videos using the eyes and ears are pretty important too. A free, easy, natural and comfortable warm approach to look what we have here. To tell, show your buyer a property listing. Video is on demand, now. What buyers want, sellers expect and properties deserve.

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