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Can You/Should You Use Micro Four Thirds Cameras For Real Estate?

Published: 08/04/2013

Panasonic7-14I get questions about using micro four thirds cameras for real Estate. Can I/should I use micro four thirds for real estate? The important criteria for choosing any gear for real estate photography use always boils down to two main considerations:

  1. Can you get a quality wide-angle zoom lens ( between 16 and 24mm effective).
  2. Can you trigger small flashes and/or shoot brackets easily.

I admit that micro four thirds gear can probably meet both of these criteria, nowadays, at least if you use a lens like the Panasonic 7-14mm f/4.0 zoom, but I have a hard time seeing a compelling reason to use micro four thirds gear for real estate.

Seems to me that the compelling feature of micro four thirds is it's near DSLR quality at point-and-shoot size  and weight. That's a plus for many types of photography but not all that big a deal for real estate.

There's another consideration. Joe McNally brought this up at one of his workshops I attended. Someone asked Joe if he could shoot any assignment with small flashes, and he said, "sure, he could probably do most assignments with small flash, but he doesn't because he looks more professional when he uses big lights and clients are more willing to pay him what he's worth". I think the same goes for using a small camera that looks like a point-and-shoot; you don't look as professional. That's a plus for street photography but not where you want to look professional.

Does anyone out there use micro four thirds gear to shoot real estate?

Larry Lohrman

18 comments on “Can You/Should You Use Micro Four Thirds Cameras For Real Estate?”

  1. I do. Works great and the size is a plus for carrying around with my gear.
    I'm probably not nearly as accomplished as most, but I don't see a need for a big show of equipment if your product is making your clients happy.

  2. Perception is reality for some people (clients) and that alone is reason enough to use the bigger gear. But on the other hand, I've used an APS-C setup for years until I could afford full frame. Now that I have a full frame body, I I've branched off into other forms of photography and have less desire to purchase the very expensive ultra-wide lens. Besides, I'm not sure my clients could tell the difference between the two cameras. I would agree that the full frame setup would yield better quality results, but how much better does it need to be for the web were these photos are used?

    I've considered using a micro 4/3 setup, but as Larry has pointed out, there's no advantage in real estate photography to the smaller size body, except maybe when hoisted onto the top of a pole. Since I can put any of my DSLR's on the pole, I see no reason to purchase an entire setup just for elevated shots. If I really need light weight, I'll put the G11 on the pole.

  3. I use a Sony NEX-5 and have had good experiences with it. Clients see that it is smaller than some of the Nikons and Canons but the name Sony and the fact that it is the latest technology from Sony gets them over the fact that it look like a smaller camera. It works great on a pole. I have a number of clients that think the photos look great.

  4. Good summary and good point re the connection between the professional look and fees.

    My bottom line on the question is can you (yes) and should you (it depends on other considerations such as budget and primary use of the camera). For example, if a photographer has other reasons for needing or wanting the size, weight, flexibility and/or features of a particular M4T camera and real estate photography is but one use, it certainly makes sense to weigh those other considerations rather than to avoid the M4T solely due to the real estate use. If the photographer is primarily shooting real estate, however, it makes sense to lean toward the usual suspects (Canon/Nikon) within budget.

    I use an M4T camera regularly, successfully and happily (btw, using that great Panasonic 7-14mm f/4.0 zoom pictured in the post), but the real estate photography portion for me is for one client (my wife).

  5. For real estate I don't know that it matters all that much; if it did, then the same should apply to most consumer to 'prosumer' DSLRs as well. I use a D90 and a D300, and I don't know how many times I've gone into a home and heard, "is that a D90? Oh, I have one of those, I love it!"... or (this was a recent one) "what are you shooting with? A D300 eh? Yea, I have a D700, really love the full frame sensor, I'm about to upgrade to the D800"... and I lost count of how many times I've heard "I have a 5D MKIIIIIIIIIII". Good cameras are so much more accessible and common in the digital age, if you want to truly "look" professional, you almost have to go medium format. I say get what works for you (within reason), and don't worry too much about how you look in the field, unless you are at the McNally level.

  6. I investigated moving to 4/3 for architectural photography. However, after intense investigation I decided to stick with full frame. Many of my architect clients still love big prints and at the end of the day there still is a difference in image quality when you are printing a 24 X 36 or a 30 X 40. If I were strictly shooting for the web I would have a Panasonic GH3 in a heartbeat. The GH3 has excellent image quality and awesome video quality"with auto focus!" For real estate photography 4/3 could be the answer for many pros shooting stills and video. BTW: I think that the GH3 is very professional looking...just smaller.
    Bottom line, quality output is dictated by the person operating the shutter 🙂

  7. Joachim I really like your work. The interior featuring the guitar is fantastic. The highlights on the wood and leather of the lounge chair, the sofa and books really make it pop. I would love to see how you lit it. It's really opened my eyes to what can be achieved with a mirrorless camera!

  8. @Joachim: great pictures and way to the point re M4T (it's the photographer, not the camera).

    @Ron: agree re the GH3 (very pro looking, just smaller, and exceptional video).

  9. I've started using a NEX-7 for exterior shots. The advantages are in-camera HDR, and the the processing reflects whatever settings you're on for regular stuff, so it doesn't have to get outrageous in color, just a long tonal range and you can always add saturation and contrast to taste in post. I've got the 16mm pancake with the wide-angle attachment making it a 12mm. The really big advantage is that the camera also does in-camera chromatic aberration correction on the fly, so no more pink or green stuff next to branches or hi/low contrast areas. I love it, and in many respects, it beats my 50D and my 7D for exterior real estate. The will have to make a few adjustments to the firmware for me to switch to it for interiors, based on the way I shoot indoors. All in all though, it's more then capable for this type of work.

  10. I use my D-7000 for my real estate work .
    But because of the Nikon weight, I have to use my Olympus 4/3 E510 with a 9-18 mm lens, (for my elevated images) from about 40 feet in the air. When it is windy, this is a problem, so I have to reduce the elevated height to only 25 feet, which reduces the impact of the images that I try to sell to my agents.
    I would love to find a lightweight 4/3 micro camera with a super wide (equal to my18mm) that I could mount and trigger for my elevated images. But I do not want to invest in another expensive camera system.
    (I keep my D-700 more for fun and fine art work)

  11. I recently made the switch to MFT with the GH3 and I love it. I got it mainly for video, but I have found it to be excellent for stills also and have been using it exclusively for my real estate photo and video shoots, the 7-14 is a great lens. It works great with wireless flash setup and the built-in wifi lets you have full control with your phone for pole or distant shots.

  12. I shoot with the Olympus OM-D micro fourthirds and love it. I use the M. Zuiko 9-18 lens which gives me 18-36mm in 35mm equivalent. I used to have the Olympus E-5 but this little camera actually is a better camera, and I loved the E-5.

    I have always used the tripod, even though I've been told it is easier at times to hand hold for difficult shots. The OM-D has the best inbody stabilization of any camera out there, and I have trusted hand holding a lot more now, especially since it has the built-in level that you can see in the view finder, or on live view on the LCD. I love how fast it focuses, though that's not critical for this kind of work, and the live view and tilting screen makes using the tripod a delight.

    No one has ever questioned my use of a smaller camera, in fact I have gotten so many questions and comments on it because it is so retro and pretty, and I have several friends who have gone out a bought one after trying mine out.

    So, for me... a huge yes.

  13. I have to crop the images from my D700 and D300 to a 4 to 3 ratio that MLS demands and lose a good percentage of the wide angle that I get from my 11-16mm Tokina. Will using the 4/3 system cameras give me the proper image proportions so I don't have to provide 2 different size photos?

  14. I use m4/3 exclusively for real estate photography, its ideal as there are great wide angle lenses for real estate. depth of field is twice a full frame at any given aperture. If you don't have a big investment in legacy glass then 4/3 is ideal. mirrorless is the future.....

  15. I use a GH3 and I find it far better for real estate photos because: 1) the native aspect ratio is already suited to real estate sites used by agents, you get what you shoot and you can change the aspect ratio easily in camera. 2) It has live-view built-in as a normal function of the camera - it is designed for it and the fold out screen is excellent for viewing at waist level. 3) Settings are very easily adjusted via touch screen, or menu, or dials. 4)Excellent battery life. 5) I do manual flash and it works just fine with that, and for long exposures has a nice built-in timer that allows rock steady shots. 6) It has a built in level for horizon and for tilt backward or forward which allows perfect use for wide angle. 7) that 7-14 lens is very excellent and virtually no distortion at the center and minimal at the edges. 8) it is weather sealed. 9) tons of other lenses including the two new zooms. 10) It is about as small as anyone would want and very portable. It could use a higher flash sync speed and some more dynamic range, but generally RAW provides quite what you need. 11) it includes wifi right to your iPad should you want to use that. 12) it has an EVF which I prefer by far to the alleged wonderfulness of optical finders, shooting EVF for still things Is better, frequently I can see MORE in low light via an EVF than optical. This is not sports. 13) You have plenty of megapixels for anything you really need at least 8 times what you need for the web, and plenty for print as well. 14) I own Canon 5D version I and II and lots of lenses etc. they make great stuff, but frankly not including built-in live view with a fold out screen is a screaming failure especially in the mark iii, I don't think I should have to pay extra for a monitor to to shoot waist level, nor should I have to pay extra for a level or wifi, and I want control of the aspect ratio to see what ai will get. Being locked into 3:2 or having to crop later is just stupid. Touch screen should also be normal since if it sits on a tripod and you want to adjust focus just touching the screen should be enough. 15) I can critically review an image using the EVF to look closely at parts of an image - it works better than using the fold-out screen and certainly better than trying to do that on the back of any 5D, in which case you will not see the right aspect ratio anyway. 16) have you seen the size of that honking 12-24 sigma - I have one, I much would rather use the Panasonic 7-14. 17) Canon L lenses are getting far too pricey and they can't blame the yen exchange rate forever, and Canon these last several years just does not seem to be interested in giving value for the money paid the mark iii is basically what the mark ii should have been - relative to focusing, and the iii is just warmed over. Operator easily used live-view is where it is at and where it is going. Mirrors? Seriously - what century is this? Granted for some things the technology is not quite there, but for stills it has arrived.

  16. I shoot real estate with an EM1 all the time. And so far, the only photographers I have heard that think you need to have a full frame camera are photographers who shoot with a full frame camera.....which don't own, and in most cases have never shot with a OMD camera. Are full frame cameras awesome.....absolutely! Do you need one to be a GOOD real estate photographer with GREAT pics? Absolutely not!
    I will stick with my OMD 4/3 thank you. I carry 2 bodies and 4 lenses along with 2 flash kits in one small camera bag. Now with that being said, once Olympus makes a 4/3 camera with a full size sensor rest assured, I'll buy it! So far only the Sony has a full size. I'm not a big Sony fan BUT I would purchase a A7 way before a bulky Nikon or especially Canon full frame SLR. I Use to shoot only Nikon, then I bought my first Olympus.....I use to type on a PC, then I bought my first air book, I use to ride a Honda, then I bought my first Triumph....I guess where I'm going is we are all different. It's what works best for you. But if anyone tells you that a OMD will not produce great PRO real estate (or any pro) shots has never shot with can view my real estate pics @
    Everything on that site shot with EM1 and EM10
    Shoot well my friends

  17. I am giving this a go, having bought an Olympus EM-10. Tomorrow I am getting either the Olympus or Panasonic 7-14 lens. The results with the 12-24mm kit lens have been pretty good.

    I took a photo with my Canon 6D and Olympus EM10 and showed both to a client, who actually preferred the photo taken with the Olympus!

    Rick McEvoy ABIPP -

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