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Real Estate Photography Q & A - Zillow and Sony Mirrorless?

Published: 31/07/2014
By: larry

QandADavid's Question:  Came across this article today on the zillow acquisition of TruliaI'm sure you are already aware of the rumors. I am curious what your thoughts are about such a team up and it's impact on real estate photographers / photography? My guess is that if this particular teaming doesn't pan out that there will be other similar plans in the future.

Answer: Zillow has been the dominant force in syndication of real estate listings for years. Back in 2005 when Zillow was founded I recall being impressed by their innovative features, like collecting all the public domain tax records and presenting them as an estimate of a property's value.

Agents don't like the high fees they charge to promote agents on listings, but as long as it works for agents it will continue. There has been a move among agents for the last couple of years to not syndicate their listings to sites like Zillow. I wrote about this a couple of years ago. Agents and brokers have control over their listings. They don't have to syndicate their listings if they choose not to.

From a photographers point of view the only threat that goes on is that they can keep using the syndicated listing photos after the property has been sold if you don't take steps to remove them. For example, my wife and I sold this rental property back in 1/2012 and my photos are still being used on the property (I could take them down if I wanted). The listing agent can claim the listing and remove or change the listing photos if they want.

Bottom line is that as long as photographers and agents keep track of how these sites work they are no big threat. Agents are still in control of their listings. The reason Zillow is the top syndication site on the net is because they have the best technology... It's the first place I go when I'm looking at property. was the top syndication site before Zillow launched in 2005. blew their lead because they didn't innovate. Zillow did. It was clear in 2005 when Zillow launched that they were going to become the winner.

Melissa's Question:  I have a Sony Nex 6. In researching it seems like a lot of pro photographers were using these as well or  many cases instead of- less gear, manual settings interchangeable  lenses etc. easier to get around and were taking great photos. Do you have any experience with these cameras and what would a good wide lens for it be? Or should I ditch this and go with the Canon T3i/Canon 10-18mm that you recommended on the agent webinar. Those cameras just seems so heavy, and clunky to me and harder to travel around with.

Answer: Yes, you can get a wide angle lens for the  Sony NEX 6 but you don't have many choices. I've done some brief searching, and it appears that the best quality wide angle lens for that body is the Sony 10-18mm F4.

I don't have any experience with the Nex 6 or other Sony cameras. They are great for most kinds of photography but anyone that is serious about doing quality real estate photography will be carrying a sturdy tripod, 2 or  more flashes and a couple of light stands so whether you are carrying a standard size DSLR or a mirrorless Sony is of little consequence. Yes for many kinds of photography traveling light is a huge issue but I don't think real estate work is one of them. The reason I recommend Canon Rebels is for the cost they do great for real estate and have a lot of choices for quality wide angle lenses. You can get a T3i and Canon 10-18mm for about $800 total, but the Sony 10-18mm is about the same price for just the lens (because they don't sell that many).


12 comments on “Real Estate Photography Q & A - Zillow and Sony Mirrorless?”

  1. @Mellisa - Canon and Nikon are the major manufacturers of professional camera bodies and lenses. While Sony makes some good products, there isn't the array of third party accessories that Nikon and Canon enjoy. There is also better support for C and N when it comes to software support in applications such as Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and the CamRanger.

    I agree with Larry that the difference in size and weight of the camera and lenses in a RE photography set up is inconsequential. For travel, especially if you must fly on small propeller aircraft, the smaller size and weight could make all of the difference.

    I've tried some of the Micro 4/3 and mirror-less cameras and they are too dang small for my hands. I am not a fan of the touch screen interfaces either. The virtual buttons are too small for me and it takes too long. I'm so used to my Canon that I can feel for buttons and make adjustments without having to look at the camera. In fact, I spent time teaching myself to work by feel so I could change settings quickly in low or no light. Coming from a photojournalism background, I know how important working fast can be.

  2. @Mellisa - For my wife's birthday I bought her an A6000 as it met her requirement of small (ruling out obtrusive humps) and had a viewfinder as she progressed from a P&S. I drool every time I handle it and the thought was "Sell all my Nikon stuff and get an A7 (full frame)" Then it quickly passed as I did the research, and a lot applies to the A6000. Yes, there is a crop sensor UWA lens, and soon a full frame UWA rumored for Sept announcement, but that is about where it stops. Flash, major problem with Sony changing the hotshoe and all of the third party triggers using the old shoe, requiring an adapter which raises the flash unit, becoming placement critical if using umbrellas or soft boxes. Phottix does make a nice (moderately expensive) unit that allows at-camera adjustment of flash power as my PW with AC3 unit has spoiled me. Camranger not made for Sony, which I hear they would like to as so many are requesting it but Sony keeping coding proprietary. I haven't played with the Sony/iPad app to see how close comes to Camranger, but suspect lacking. Weight savings, not so much. Bulk savings, absolutely, but weight savings appears to come in body only. I added the grams of the lens and they were very close to Nikon and sometimes exceeding when comparing similar lens, and of course, couldn't compare to the 16-35 f4 as Sony's is not out yet. Total weight savings, about 1 lb vs my D610 and lens, with virtually all that savings coming in the body. I am sticking with Nikon.

  3. A6000+samyang 12mm f2 is a serious contender for real estate photography: good dynamic range, tilt screen, good evf for checking the pictures with strong bright conditions on the field and good price.
    The lens performs very well too.
    Camranger, why? It has built in wifi and it works flawlessly, for free.

  4. Melissa,
    I am a Nikon user, but just invested in a Fuji X- Pro 1 and their super wide 10-24 f-4 Zoom and 18-135mm lenses for my fine art and travel. I was a Leica M-6 user in my film days, and the Fuji X- Pro 1 feels similar and comfortable in my hands. It has been years since I have been so impressed with a camera. The Fuji optics in my opinion rival my Zeiss lenses, but it is not an inexpensive investment, and as others have mentioned, does not have all the support or even accessories, flash, and triggering support that Nikon or Canon has.
    Last week I tried using the Fuji on a small property, but found that it was taking me a while to get use to shooting with it and learning the menus. The baggiest issue I had was the lack of Hi-speed flash synch and mounting my flash and pocket wizard s. But the image quality was first rate.
    I think in the near future, mirrorless cameras will compete with DSLRS in the professional market. But as mentioned by our fellow real estate photographers, I think you can get a better deal on a DSLR and more lens choices for now.

  5. Melissa,

    If you are using a Nex-6 you should consider grabbing a Metabones speedbooster adapter, not only does it give you a much better lens selection (like all canon ef for example) it makes any lens 0.71x wider and increases maximum aperture by 1 stop.

  6. Larry, for sure, one thing about Sony is their poor lens selection.

    I just got the non speedbooster version for my Sony A7S that I use for video only (EF to E mount adapter), its full frame so speedbooster is not needed. But it allowed me to use my canon 17-40 on the A7S. The only drawback to these adapters is slow AF, but for real estate it really shouldn't be a problem because nothing is moving, and you can always use manual focus anyway.

  7. @Melissa The Sony NEX6/7/6000 works just fine for real estate photos when you use the 16mm pancake and the ECU1 wide angle adapter, which turns the 16mm into a 12mm equivalent. You can get a hotshoe adapter that will mate the camera to any standard radio trigger, since you don't need ETTL anyway for real estate. Then it's just a matter of developing a workflow that make the images from your NEX6 predictable, and you'd have to do that for any other camera system as well.

    But yeah, frankly, the results from the 16mm and the ECU1 are more then up to the task, and that's a bit cheaper then investing in a whole new system. The main thing is to learn what you want... and you can only figure that out by working through 100 or so homes, and THEN, it would be far easier to figure out what you WANT in a camera system, as opposed to dropping a bunch of cash now on something without really knowing why. But basically, the NEX's are light and portable, and can do anything you need with the right lens setup attached.

  8. @ Christian & Larry I think the Metabones adapter is over-priced, and really doesn't outperform the one I got on Amazon for $105.

    That said, in low light, any of these adapters are slow focusing unless you're going to put some fast glass on them. My Canon 17-40L and the 24-105L are reasonable in good light, and less so in interior light. But if I put on my 100mm 2.8, which seems technically "fast", it's absolutely terrible even in good light. Very slow. Reminds of 1980's focusing tech.

    ...and for our victim, er I mean, questioner... it would just exacerbate the problem of learning how to shoot real estate, because she'd have to spend all day stressing about being in focus all afternoon. The 16mm with the ECU1 will take all those issues off the table, and let her concentrate on composition and lighting.

  9. This is so canon biased. Some sony alpha nex are actually cheaper and much better. I mean you can't even compare the sony 10-18 f4 OSS with the crappy canon equivalent. Not sure what you have against other brands.

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