I've promised several readers that I would update my popular two year old post that talks about what the important considerations are for choosing best entry level camera for real estate photography. Here are what I think are the most important considerations:
- Consider ultra wide-angle glass first: For real estate photography the range of effective focal lengths you will want is between 16mm and 24mm. Understand that low-end DSLRs have a 1.5 (Nikon) or 1.6 (Canon) multiplier effect on the focal lengths.
- Consider how you will be lighting: If you are going to use flash lighting how are you going to trigger your flashes? Optical? If you are going to use HDR or Exposure Fusion you'll want to be able to shoot a bracket of -2EV, 0EV, +2EV.
- Don't purchase "kit" lenses unless you are going to use them for something other than real estate. Kit lens (typically in the 18-35mm range (28.8-56mm effective focal length on a Canon body) are not wide enough for real estate.
- Consider used equipment for sale online: Check craigslist.org or ebay.com or amazon.com for used equipment.
- Consider if you to want to look professional: If you are shooting real estate professionally and you show up with a $300 point-and-shoot camera agents will think, "gee, if this doesn't take any special equipment I should do this myself". I heard a Joe McNally interview where Joe says he doesn't shoot big important jobs with small flashes because it doesn't look as professional as big studio lights.
Given these considerations I think there are several obvious least cost equipment choices:
- Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM: ($479) This is without a doubt the highest quality ultra wide-angle lens for the money on the market . There are a huge number of real estate photographers using this lens because with the 1.5 or 1.6 focal length multiplier the effective focal length in the sweet spot (15 and 32mm) for shooting interiors . This lens is available for Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Sony and Samsung bodies. There is a faster version of this lens (f/3.5) but it's another $200. The extra speed is useful but not essential for real estate shooting.
- Canon EOS Rebel XS: ($395) At this time this is Canon's low end DSLR. It has all the features you'll need as a real estate photographer.
- Nikon D3000 Digital: ($369) This is Nikon's low end DSLR that competes with the Canon Rebel XS.
I believe either of these low end bodies in combination with the Sigma 10-20mm lens make an excellent entry level real estate photographer choice. I think you could also use any of the low end Canon or Nikon bodies that you will find on the used camera market with the Sigma 10-20mm lens. The choice of the lens is far more important than the body and the lens will not be replaced with another model as fast as bodies are. Sure, a Pentax or Samsung body would also work well too.
At this point I know there are readers out there about ready to protest that I didn't include point-and-shoot (compact) cameras. I have a list of compact cameras at the bottom of my "Cameras" page that I believe are appropriate for shooting real estate if you cannot afford a DSLR. Notice that the difference between a compact camera and the ones I recommend above is only about $400 these days. My favorite on this list is the Panasonic DMC-LX3. It has almost everything you need in a real estate camera. The main thing it is missing is the ability to go wider than 24mm. To me, the ability to go wider than 24mm is well worth $400.