Will the Latest Gear Improve Your Real Estate Photography?

January 13th, 2017

Diana recently asked me if she needed to upgrade to the new Canon 5DMark IV or the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 III:

I was wondering if there was any benefit to the different Canon EF 16-35mm Lens. I use the f/4L now, but I was just wondering if there was any benefit in upgrading to the 2.8L III.

Also, I am considering the new Canon 5D Mark IV. Has anybody noticed how much of an improvement that one is for picture quality vs. the Canon 5D Mark III for real estate purposes.

I can certainly identify with wanting to upgrade to this new gear since my Canon gear is older than Diana’s. I have a Canon 5DMarkII and the original 2003 version of the 16-35mm f/2.8.

I can’t answer your questions for sure because I haven’t gotten my hands on either of these items but here are my guesses on the subject based on reviews:

  1. I think the improved specification that will be noticeable in real estate shooting is that the 5DMarkIV has slighting better dynamic range than previous 5D models. 1.9EV better than the 5DMark III according to DXOmark. This comparison also shows the low light performance for the 5D Mark IV to be significantly better.
  2. My motivation for upgrading to a 5DMark IV would be all the other general photography features like GPS, Wi-Fi, touch screen, autofocus tracking, and being able to use all my Canon glass; not any improvement in real estate photo quality.
  3. With the 16-35mm f/2.8 III  you may be able to tell the sharpness difference but your agent clients are not likely to notice the difference.

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that for those that may be obsessive about image quality that while both of these new pieces of Canon gear have big improvements from previous versions they are not the best available. Most reviews indicate that the Nikon D810 and the Sony A7RII both have slightly better image quality.

I also need to point out that while many real estate photographers use this upper-end camera gear it is not required to do high-quality real estate photography. This example by Wayne Capili illustrates the kind of real estate results that can be had with gear that is a fraction of the cost of high-end gear.

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19 Responses to “Will the Latest Gear Improve Your Real Estate Photography?”

  • I want to upgrade from Nikon D5300 with sb600 to either a Nikon D810 or the Sony a7rii or the a7sii. Sony mirror less would be a big change.Any help is appreciated.

  • Any thoughts on this lens. It say’s for Sony Alpha, I want to make sure it’s full frame “what is the dx”

    Tokina 11-16mm F/2.8 AF-II Super-Wide Lens for Sony Alpha Digital Cameras


  • Ok, I just went through this exercise.
    I shoot architecture and interiors and a lot of other commercial subjects. Like many, I got tired of hearing how the sensors in my Canon 5Dm3s were inferior/outdated etc.
    So I borrowed a friend’s Sony A7RII and the Sony Zeiss 16-35 f4. I compared it directly to my 5Dmk3 and the Canon 16-35 f4L.

    I shot available light images of my living room at a variety of exposures from 3 stops under to 3 stops over. I also tested varying ISOs.
    The results were surprising to me as I expected to see a huge difference in the files.

    This was not the case.
    Color was good in both but different.
    The Canon lens was sharper in the edges but only slightly so.
    The DR in the Sony files was better however it was only apparent in deep shadows that had to be opened up dramatically. In truth that is not real life for me.
    Even when the files had been dramatically pushed/stretched beaten to death, the differences were visible but slight and then only at 100%.

    Bottom line, while I liked the Sony for some things, there was no way a client would ever see the difference. It would not make my life in PP any easier as the added DR is not the game changer so many seem to be fixated on.
    Arguably, the differences would only be seen at a very large enlargements with viewers looking at seriously manipulated areas of dark tones that meant a failure of the photographer to expose or light the scene properly.
    IMO most work, even some very demanding jobs, could be done by anything from 1″ sensor to MF with almost no awareness by the final user assuming some skills on the part of the photographer and their ability to expose and light.

  • Since I am not at all familiar with the particular equipment being compared here, I come at this from a position Larry touched on in his reply. Unless you are shooting for high resolution and large prints or 4 color off set printing, so much that almost any DLSR cameras produce in the way of resolution will be lost when reduced in size for the Internet. So while without doubt equipment that is up to the job is vital, the success of any photography is in the eye and skills of the photographer. So I would say don’t expect the equipment to improve your photography; rather focus on your technique, your lighting, your post processing whether that is minimum or forms the core of your finishing. Almost any camera, even today’s cell phone cameras, in the hands of a fine photographer will result in amazing images.

    So while it is certainly important to buy new equipment if what you have is holding you back and you are not being able to achieve what you want to capture, it is not what you have, rather it is how well you use what you have. You can’t expect equipment to take your photos for you; you need to take the shot in your head first then get your camera to capture your mental image using what you have. I worked as an assistant to an advertising photographer as I made my way into this career who always took less equipment than he knew he needed to do the assignment. He said it made him think more about how to get the results needed with what he had.

    So my question would be to you, are you sure you are getting everything you can out of your current equipment? If you are, then definately upgrade since the equipment can be holding you back. If you are not, I would suggest spending more time on learning how to push yourself to get more from the equipment you have. As long as RE photography is your only photography market. If you also do other types of photogaphy, then you may need to upgrade to give you the quality necessary of advertising or other fields.

  • i have a opposite story…recently a friend gave me a mint 5D MKII because he wasn’t using it. I use the Canon 17 and 24 Tilt Shift lenses that I use on my Sony.
    I found the image quality really good, and your right, the shadows can be a bit noisy, but since I use lighting to compress the dynamic range in a scene it’s not a concern.

    It does sound like the other aspects of your photography are in areas that a wide aperture lens and high ISO are needed. If that’s the case the IV and a great 2.8 lens is an investment.

    For RE work…nope!

  • Either I am crazy or other people are. I tested my 11 year old Nikon d40 against my newer d7100. Those are processed and lit the same way; I honestly can’t tell any difference. I light every scene though, which makes all the difference I suppose.

    You tell me though, am I crazy or are you… 🙂

  • I have to agree with Peter as I too was a Commercial photographer, but in NYC. it is not the equipment, but how you shoot and use your equipment to its fullest.
    But, sometimes, you just want an excuse to buy new equipment, which I have been guilty of myself.
    So, if you just want to upgrade to the latest equipment and can afford it, than use the excuse that it will make you a better photographer and make your work easier. I have been slowly moving away from the Nikon System as it is heavy and don’t love working with it (I think Canon and Nikon are on the same level). instead, I just purchased the new Fuji XT2 with the tilting screen, and the image quality, is noticeably much better than my Nikon. But, the main reason I switched, is that Fuji’s X system, lenses, especially the wide primes, are extremely sharper than my Nikons and Tokina 12-28 f-4. But, what I truly love, (especially the X-Pro2 and X-T2) is that the Fuji X system cameras, have gone back to the retro feel of the film cameras and actually makes photography fun again. I’m sure the Sony mirror less cameras are fine, especially if you get the Zeiss lenses, but the Fuji system is so reminiscent of shooting with a film camera that it’s fun to shoot. And since I shoot some very low angle shots, the tilting LCD screen is so helpful.
    So my switching to a different camera system makes my life easier and my assignments more enjoyable. Otherwise, I would save my money on the camera system, and invest in a nice pro quality monolight lighting system, if you don’t have one.

  • I can say without question that after following the Flickr PFRE photo stream for 6 years that it almost certainly doesn’t matter what equipment you use for real estate photography when it comes to image quality. If you can’t create beautiful images with a bottom/mid range crop sensor camera then it’s unlikely you’ll be able to do so with a top of the range full frame dslr.

  • Well, this is an interesting thread and I’ve had a related quandry … I shoot all me real estate with a full frame Nikon D700 which I’m very happy with AND the file sizes seem perfect for the relatively small image sizes needed for real estate. I also have a D800 that I use for everything else (portraits, landscapes, etc.) … My reasoning is why create 42Mb RAW files when 18Mb will do? What I have been wondering about is would the additional dynamic range be worth it? DxOMark puts the D800 at 14.4EVS and the D700 at 12.2. DxOMark does note that anything 12 and above is excellent … Would 2 extra stops be worth tripling my file size?

  • @Brady – Wayne and Andrew above answered your question. IF you use lighting to compress the dynamic range there’s no advantage in using the D800. If you don’t use lighting the answer may be different.

  • Lighting is the great equalizer for camera bodies. As a business you factor in file size, upload time, and most importantly — what the client needs. If you have a high megapixel need, rent a body for the day to do the job. If it’s real estate work, odds are even a 12MP file would suffice. In terms of the D810 and A7RII improved dynamic range, it’s not as dramatic as it was a year ago — the 5DM4 and 1DX2 have improved significantly in shadow recovery. The biggest downside for most with the Sony system is the lack of CamRanger support. Yes, the Sony app is okay, but it’s not the smoothest solution and it can slow down the workflow. I purchased both the A7SII and A7RII but after 30 days I just couldn’t handle the combination of large files and the Sony app. If your shooting style is built around compositing multiple flash layers I can’t overstate the pain and the extra editing time (same goes for the 5DS/5DSR). If the budget is there I’ll deal with it, or if I was shooting tethered to a laptop on a commercial shoot that’s fine. But in terms of real estate photography it’s just not practical.

  • @Nick Marshall, Good point. High pixel counts lead to more processing power needed. Some bodies will capture a smaller RAW file, but if you don’t need the full capability of the camera’s sensor for other types of work, you are just overspending and creating a bottleneck in post even if you aren’t doing a bunch of compositing. Big files take a fast computer to get work done in a reasonable amount of time.

    I’d love to get a 5DSR this year, but I’ll keep using my 50D for everyday RE work. 15mp is adequate, the noise is low enough (I use flash) and if I kick the camera over it’s not going to send me to counseling over the loss.

  • Someone talk me out of the good old Nikon D40!
    I just bought another used one with 92 clicks for 200 bucks.
    I tried a D7200 but did not like the slowwwww flash sync.

  • @Rudy,
    I revisit my old Canon 10D files and they still hold up.
    If I had it I would be able to use it today just fine for RE.

  • I am stepping up to the Sony because video is becoming so popular and the Sony A7RII is incomparable when it comes to video. It is also lighter and smaller for when I am travelling.

    My Canon DSLR does great still shots – though I need versatility and flexibility

    that is my 2c worth

  • I am deciding between a Canon 5D Mark IV and a Sony Alpha a7R II.

    I have been following these threads and am unsure which direction to go. . . I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark II and am ready to upgrade for the long hall in RE Photography. I know how important lighting is, but am just considering the body and lenses right now. I was planning on jumping Canon’s ship and switching to Sony. (Partly for the small size for traveling I admit; I am not interested in video, just stills.) My plan was to get the Metabones adapter (for now) to use my Canon L Series lenses on my new Sony. I am worried about losing quality with an adapter vs. native lenses. . . The more research I do, the more I am confused. I love the thought of saving time at the shoot and in post, but have had such a good experience with Canon when it comes to durability and repairs and am not seeing reviewers saying there is a big difference in the end product.

    Has anyone made the switch from Canon to Sony wishing they hadn’t? Or are so happy they won’t go back to Canon?

  • @Kiera – Very difficult choice! I struggled through the same decision. I recently upgraded my old 5DMkII to a 5DMkIV. I have all this lovely Canon glass (16-35mm, 24-70 mm and 70-200mm) and I was thinking about getting an A7RII.

    What stopped me from moving to Sony is about a year ago, I bought an A6300 just to try Sony out. The hardware is great but the user interface is terrible compared to Canon. Sony is just not very good at building user interfaces. I ended up giving the A6300 and 17mm lens to my grandson so he could get started in real estate photography… he likes it but he’s never used anything else.

    There’s no right answer but for me, I’ve used Canon gear since 2003 and while Canon may have user interface shortcomings too, I’m used to the Canon interface. My new 5DMkIV just feels like an extension of my old 5DMkII.

  • Thank you Larry! That is exactly what I was wondering. Today I am definitely leaning towards sticking with Canon.

  • Thank you all for all your shared experience, i use a Canon 6D and just bought a Sony A7R-II as i was filming with a Dji Osmo, and also with a Lumix LX100 on a Zhiyun Crane Plus, at the end, i just had too many “toys” and ended up in more than 30 Pounds on my back everyday with drone, tripod, laptop etc..

    so now i’m testing the Sony, and i’m using a Sigma MC-11 which is awesome, as it works with all my sigma crop sensor lenses from my previous T3I, and also With my Full frame Canon Lenses, and even with a Tamron 70-300, this due the capability of Sony’s A7RII of switching from full frame to crop sensor automatically, (IDK if this is made by the adapter)

    My 16-35 f2.8 Canon lens is version 1, and i see some soft edges, but the center focus is great, my 17-40 f4.0 works great too.

    i really miss the colors from Canon on my shots, also i first noticed grainy images on the Sony’s photos on the darker areas, and i had several out of focus shots with my Canon 16-35 f2.8 V1 lens, i’m getting a 16-35 f4.0 Zeiss lens this week, to see the difference as i feel it might be the old lens with the adapter, i’ll keep you posted about how it goes with it.

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