Compact Camera’s For Real Estate Photography

August 16th, 2009

I promised a post on compact cameras for real estate photography in my last post so I’m delivering on my promise because I don’t want to be scolded by my friend Sabrina Huang who is a Realtor in San Jose and teaches local Realtors how to choose cameras for real estate photography.

I have to thank Sabrina for being insistent that you can do real estate photography without using a DSLR. I’ll have to admit that before Sabrina got on my case I was a little down on compact cameras because back in 1999 through 2002, I used one (a Nikon CoolPix-995) and was very glad to give it up when I got my first DSLR in  2002. But technology marches on and today’s compact cameras are pretty amazing. I am daily dazzled by the quality and flexibility of my little Canon G9 compared to that DSLR I got in 2002.

However, very few compact cameras are suitable for real estate photography and with many compacts you have to make some serious sacrifices. First of all, here are my criteria for compacts suitable for real estate shooting:

  • You must have a 24mm or 25mm effective focal length. This eliminates 99% of all compacts.
  • Yes, you can use a wide-angle converter to get the effective focal length down to 24mm or below. However, I recommend you avoid converters if at all possible. They are typically poor quality an generally a nuisance.
  • You need a hot-shoe or a way to trigger some external flashes or you will be restricted in your options for lighting.

So, what compact cameras fit these requirements? I have a close to complete list on the bottom of my cameras page in the compact camera section. Some of these are already unavailable from many retailers. Compacts come and go very quickly. To me there are two compacts that stand out above others:

What you gain by using one of these alternatives is you save around $500 USD over the a DSLR with a removable ultra wide-angle lens. But what you loose is the ultra wide end of the wide-angle lens (from 16mm to 24mm). This is workable but handicaps you in those really tight space situations.

The other big downside of a compact is that when you show up for a shoot you don’t look anything like a professional photographer. Which is OK for a real estate agent but not at all cool for a professional real estate photographer. You might think this is a frivolous consideration but if you are trying to establish yourself as a professional photographer, it’s a big deal!

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9 Responses to “Compact Camera’s For Real Estate Photography”

  • We have been doing RE photography for six and a half years and have done over 3,000 shoots with a lot of very satisfied customers. We have used a Nikon Coolpix 5000 for all of those shoots, having bought several on E-Bay after our original new one. We also have a Nikon D70 and attended Scott Hargis’s and Thomas Grubba’s workshop in Chicago but we just can’t seem to make the change to the D70 because the 5000 is still keeping us and the customer’s happy. By the way, we are not trained photographers and I am sure a lot of your members are not also.

  • I am still milking a 300D for my personal listings and property surveys. The imaging technology is interesting to watch and there are several developments I am watching that include the detailed analysis of this website, one of the first lets not forget.

    Interestingly the same truth applies now as in 1999, the homeowner and agent just do not appreciate quality. So I have over time lowered my own standards of production to make shoots profitable (barely). Business has changed and the REO Foreclosure market is now upon us. So now with a lower standard convenience and connectivity seem to be the first things I am looking for. Check out this new Nokia Camera phone with the sweetspot 24mm focal length , could something like this get good enough video? For the virtual tour I was thinking again lower standard but ease of use and storage with one of these . There is a lot out there and new stuff all the time. Thanks for keeping us up to date.

  • I´m writing from Argentina. I think your website is excellent, because here in Argentina in general the realtor don´t use techniques for real estate, I´m a real estate agent in Argentina.
    You know, I would like to know your opinion about my camera, It is a Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-H10 . Is good for real estate???
    Thanks for all

  • Leandro- The biggest problem you’ll have with the DSC-H10 is the widest it’s zoom goes is 38mm. This is not wide enough for shooting interiors. The only way the H10 would work for interiors is if you could get hold of a wide-angle converter that would convert it down to around 24mm or below.

    Here’s what you would need:

    There seems to be wide angle converters for H10’s. Just google “wide angle converter for DSC-H10” and you’ll find more of them.

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  • Hi
    Thank you for a Great post What do you recommend now a year later ( 8/2010)

  • @Jeannie- I would look at the new Panasonic LX5 that was recently announced. See:

  • Larry, I was wondering about this post as well. I’ve read some good things about the Fujifilm FinePixHS10 (including the 24mm lens). The thought of having to lug around a bunch of AA batteries is not very attractive. Also, the size is a bit bulky but I think it might help to give you a little more professional appearance to the typical homeowner. I am definitely not a professional but I have a strong desire for quality and want my camera to be capable of excellent results. My Canon Powershot SD750 is just not enough to get the job done. Thanks for the advice.

  • @Jeannie & Dave – the Panasonic LX3 is going to be replaced by the LX5 as of Mid-August 2010. I think in general people will be much happier in the long run with a low end DSLR (Canon X1i or Nikon D3000) and a Sigma 10-20mm wide angle lens. But if you must purchase a point and shoot I think the LX3 or LX5 can be used to shot real estate.

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