Why Not Use A $400 HD Video Camera For Real Estate Video Instead of A 5DMKII?

January 1st, 2015

5DMKIIIJason asks:

I have a question I would like to ask. I have a 5d mk2 & slider and find it quite difficult to video a home interior because of the lighting. So would it be easier to keep the 5d for the still shots and invest in a 400 USD HD video camera that auto adjusts everything. I don’t want to spend loads of time on the video as the agents won’t pay for that kind of quality.

I’m sure readers out there that shoot regularly shoot real estate video will give you plenty of advice on this subject, but here’s my basic answer:

The 5D MK2 (and DSLR Video cameras in general) bring some huge advantages to videographers over cheap HD video cameras of the past. The biggest is probably the ability to use high quality wide-angle lenses that are either not available or only available on super expensive video gear. I have an old Sony Camcorder that was pre-5DMKII and the lens is crappy and the video is aweful compared to my 5DMKII with a Canon 16-35mm. I would never recommend a cheap camcorder to anyone for RE video. Better to not do video that provide a crappy product.

Yes, you’ll need to deal bright windows, but when you are shooting a series of shots with a slider, it’s not that hard to plan the moves so each clip has a fairly constant brightness and you are not panning across bright windows. All this takes practice and you may need to charge more than a still shoot to cover your shooting and editing time.

It sound’s to me like your market may not be ready for video. I don’t think real cinematic video makes sense everywhere. Markets like Seattle, Hawaii, Southern California, Florida, New York, Brisbane, London, etc. where there are a lot of high-end luxury properties are good Video markets but not everywhere is like those markets. You may be better off doing some “tactical” video clips and include them with tours. This would allow agents to make comments about the listing or have a little video where it really makes sense and it wouldn’t be as big a time investment.

What other feedback do others have for Jason?



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20 Responses to “Why Not Use A $400 HD Video Camera For Real Estate Video Instead of A 5DMKII?”

  • Unfortunately a $400 USD HD video camera wont come even remotely close to what a 5D Mark ii can for video, especially when it comes to low light and lens selection. At that price range you would be completely throwing money away. If you are looking to shoot auto why not just use your Mark ii?

    If lighting is that much of a concern, your best best might be to upgrade to the 5D Mark iii and use it for both stills and video as its even better than the Mark ii in low light. If you wait another few months the Mark IV is supposed to be announced which should drop the prices on the Mark iii quite a bit.

  • I think Jason is asking the wrong question. Getting into filmmaking is expensive and if you’re looking to cut corners before you even start it might not be the best business decision for you. I’m not saying you have to go all out with a RED and HMIs (unless you want to) but if you’re willing to sacrifice quality before you even get in the game then your game is already over.

  • #1 the camcorder is automatic. Every time a window comes in frame the camera will compensate and make it dark.

    #2 my 14mm cost $2400. No way a piece plastic the size of a quarter going to come close. Not to mention the difference in sensor size.

    #3 video is really a “agent commercial” disguised as a property video. The top agents know that and since it’s really about them getting more listings and not necessary about that particular listing they shouldn’t be interested in a low quality production. As one of the top agents in my market I need my marketing to go to work for me getting more sellers. If the quality isn’t there then I will be like all the rest.

  • Just my 2c but I’ve been using a sony NEX-6 with a sigma 10-20 for everything including videos and it’s going wonderfully. I will be getting an A7s but I’m not sure if the high image quality is really worth the extra time in post. I have used the A7s for half a dozen shoots and while it’s awesome, grading that S-log is time consuming.

  • Malia is absolutely right. Moving down the scale of quality for the sake of convenience, rarely work out well. While I agree that the form-factor and functions of DSLR’s are awkward for video work, a really great video camera alternative will cost at least as much or more.

    Let’s face it, providing good video is hard. It’s a different discipline requiring a different skill set. My personal feeling is that unless you can provide video of equal quality to you still work, why offer it at all?
    If it is something you choose to offer, then invest in the right equipment and learn how to do it well.

    my 2 cents

  • Thanks for all the feedback so far.
    I dont want to lower the quality, i’m just new to the video market and am running a bit blind.
    Trying to move forward in the photography business is always hard I guess. πŸ™‚

  • Jason,

    If you have no budget and want to improve your video, I believe MagicLantern works with your camera. It offers RAW video recording and may very well be the solution you need to capture as much dynamic range as possible with literally no added expense. That, and you have much better control over WB and highlight recovery in post than with a traditional MP4 or MOV or whatever your camera’s native video format is. The only downside is that RAW video requires a very fast card and a ton of space. Luckily fast cards are cheap.

  • Playing “Devil’s Advocate” here, but I think it’s all relative.

    If CBS, NBC, ABC, TLC, ESPN, etc., all use some of these $400 HD cameras for broadcast video (I’m talking about GoPros here) , certainly there is some use for them in our world?

    I realize that we are trying to maximize our assets, but many personally can’t afford (nor does it make sense in those markets) to own a 5dMIII and – perhaps – a DJI Ronin (remember, we want quality…) that probably won’t fit in many of even the larger homes they shoot. Especially if the agents “don’t want to pay for that kind of quality.”

    Moreover, we have skewered the HDR crowd because flash photography has become the “way to go.” However, I come from a broadcast background and we we think of lighting video in the same way the PFRE community thinks of lighting stills. With the right lighting I pretty sure I can make interiors with a GoPro video look seamless with a 5DMkIII.

    In all to Malia: If we are that concerned with getting the highest quality, I think we perhaps SHOULD be looking at the Canon REDs if we really cared about our clients. πŸ™‚ We talk about 5DMkIIIs like they are the pinnacle. Why shouldn’t we shoot with a Hasselblad? They are unarguably better. Because there is a diminishing return on investment.

    I’ll bet you can find a forum somewhere right now of “purists” saying that they would not be caught dead stooping to shoot ANY video with a 5DMkIII

    All I’m saying is that if you are getting great photos and video, I think it shouldn’t matter what the ‘vehicle’ is. I have won several major competitions (Thermador, etc) and had many large regional and one national magazine spread (WSJ) with photos I shot on a Nikon D5200. The D5300 puts out some good video too.

    Seriously not trying to be a pain, but the game is not already over if you don’t (or can’t) spend the big bucks.

    Let the backlash begin! πŸ™‚

  • P.S.: I know we’re mainly talking about a $400 consumer camcorder and not a $400 GoPro, but I’m just saying that quality and price (or features) do not necessarily go hand-in-hand.

  • Agree with comments from Malia and George — If I can also add to pull off video convincingly like a pro requires getting some fundamental techniques right as well as the camera and lenses. Sacrificing quality to save a few bucks can hurt medium/long term as often there will be an unraveling of the mistakes made at start up including equipment, shooting and editing techniques and that can take months or years not to mention costly. That said it does not require to much more to get started right and if the 5dmkii and 16-35 lens is on the radar? Well that’s a great place to start. Most of my website portfolio from 2008 to 2014 was shot on this camera lens combination and it did not effect opportunity of a rewarding career pathway. The second task I would recommend is doing a short course in video/film production and if possible specific to real estate video. There are online options available but practical hands on courses are the best IMO and I would recommend checking out the fabulous and informative workshops Malia Campbell has on offer.

    Lastly what is talent? Well talent is gained and earned by repetition, practice and continuous doing of the function or task to develop your own unique form. Video production can take years to do well similar to learning a new musical instrument it can take years of practice to play it excellently and it only gets better with practice and practice turns to talent and talent leads to master of the craft. It also can be creatively and financially rewarding but it’s also important to get the technique and fundamentals right from the start.

  • Thanks Craig, I shot a quick ‘room pan’ video with my iPhone to see what happens… It wasn’t so bad. No good for realators, but the point is there must be an affordable setup to use for a start point. The storyline would just be a pan outside the home, followed by 4 or 5 second pans of the rooms. I’m looking to offer an inexpensive video service here in Denmark. The agents here don’t want the super HD videos, just a step up from the normal stills.
    Any ideas?

  • Craig – First off Canon doesn’t make REDs. RED makes RED.

    But more importantly you totally missed my point.

  • @Craig

    Sorry, Im confused, how exactly does DJI Ronin not fit into a house? You do know that its less than the width of the average adult don’t you?

  • Dissenting opinions can’t dismiss the fact that Hollywood has been and continues to use apsc and full frame Canon and Nikon cameras, i.e. 5d, 70d, d800, etc.

  • We tested a Sony FS100 with a Tokina 11-16 over the holidays and it produced really nice quality. The Sony 16mm with the wide angle attachment looked good on it too.

  • @Kelvin – yes, the Sony FS100 is $2500…not what Jason was asking about. Why not get a DSLR and shoot both video and stills?

  • That said, the reason the 5d mk I iii is mentioned so much is because of all the DSLRs availible, it’s the best suited for video in terms of ease of setup, and quality (moire & aliasing).

    My 6D is also easy to setup, but it’s prone to aliasing. My 7D stinks at video except for talking heads in a controlled environment. My D610 is harder to setup well, but is much better at handling aliasing. I think my GoPro is worthless for real estate (unless mounted on a drone). My NEX7 is only good in sunshine. My NX300 makes very pretty exterior video, but stinks indoors. So, the choice of camera you try to shoot video with makes a ton of difference. All the cameras I own are inferior for video compared to a 5d mk iii, so each has its own limitation or frustration, which isn’t something you want to fight with daily.

    Consumer camcorders just don’t afford enough control to bother with.

    Frankly, I think I’d prefer a GH4 over any other choice, though I havent tried one yet.

  • @Jason. Your mkii should be able to produce a great result, but I found with my 6D that the best settings were completely counter-intuitive to me. I came to them by looking at a myriad of online posts, and then some sort of happy accident that I had the smarts to assign to C2 when I found a sweet spot, but frankly… I can’t say why. They are not settings I’d ever shoot stills with.

    Perhaps somebody could offer an informed comprehensive suggestion for Canon video settings, though I’ve yet to run across it on a single post yet. I’m not sure if the exif reveals it in entirety.

    I have found that my settings look great out-of-camera via HDMI to flatscreen TV, but don’t look nearly as good on a computer monitor, unless tweaked for internet broadcast. They look flat and lifeless, and less sharp on a monitor, but if you can get very close in camera, the tweaking in post is minimal and predictable.

  • @Kelvin: Check out Uwe Steinmueller’s book Mastering HD Video with your DSLR. An easy read and answers your questions regarding camera settings.

    FWIW – Back when I was shooting video on my 5d3 (and 5d2 before that) I shot everything at 30p and 60fps, aperture wide open and used my iso to adjust exposure 95% of the time.

  • The problem I see with not using the 5D you have now and using some 400 dollar solution is you lose the wow factor. If your videos are average with the 400 dollar solution how does that sell your services to your clients? If your clients see your videos and think they can replicate it with the latest and greatest camera phone with its high gigapixel count you lost that client. By using good gear like the 5D you show your clients the value you add and expertise they cannot easily reproduce.

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