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Why SmartPhones Don't Make Sense For Real Estate Photography... Yet

Published: 19/11/2012
By: larry

In the last few months I've gotten several requests to write a list of tips for real estate agents for taking better photos with their SmartPhones. A good photographer with good technique can make a beautiful photo regardless of the camera/gear but interior photography has a couple of challenges that SmartPhones still have trouble with:

  1. Wide-angle shots are problematic: Notice I didn't say impossible. I know, there are clip on wide-angle lenses but these are all pretty bad quality compared to an inexpensive wide-angle zoom you can get for a DSLR. Of course this problem goes away if you get a SLR lens mount for your SmartPhone but I don't know what you do if you want to use a tripod.
  2. Triggering lights is a bit of a problem: Sure you can shoot brackets all right but I would argue that for acceptable quality with even with bracketed images you need at least one flash. I can't get my iPhone's built-in LED light to trigger any of my optical slave flashes. There's a KickStarter project for someone.
Scott Hargis has a post on his blog that demonstrates an outside lighting situation where it's difficult to tell the difference between a shot taken with his iPhone 4s and his 5DMkII. I couldn't correctly pick which one was the iPhone! But once you get inside it's a different ballgame, you need to be able to control the light to get quality results.
Given the rate of improvement in smart phone camera technology I expect that some day soon these limiting issues may go away. But I'm not ready to write a list of tips for real estate agents on how to use their SmartPhones for real estate photography... yet.


11 comments on “Why SmartPhones Don't Make Sense For Real Estate Photography... Yet”

  1. I bet if you came up with all the accessories to make a smart phone usable for the task and they cost more than an inexpensive DSLR, smart phone users would go out in droves and buy them.

  2. First of all iphone is not the only smartphone in the market. There's loads of smartphone models with a way much better camera then the iphone.
    Take for example the Nokia 808 PureView that has a 41MP camera with Carl Zeiss lens.

    But the best of the best phone camera can never compete with dslr. It will be always on the level of a small point and shoot. Actually it will perform worse then most point and shoot. And that's only because of size. To have good photos you need a good sensor and good lenses. To have a good sensor you need a big sensor, size matters a lot in this case. And good lenses need to be big. It's a law of physics. So no way the limitations will go away. Ever. Not in this dimension. Sure in some very specific situations it might be difficult to spot the difference between the worst dslr with the worst lenses with the best camera phone.
    Light is everything.

  3. IMO, its just a matter of time. 95% of the people I know have a smartphone that was released within the last three years. There is a huge demand for these products, thus that is where the R&D money will be spent in the future. The sensors, the lenses, everything... will inevitably improve to the point where it will be on par with most DSLRs, at least so far as to say that most people (non-photogs) using the phone will have a hard telling the difference.

    In the end, technology is just a tool. Even if Appple put a D800 inside their phone, there would still be a whole lot of people taking amateurish photos, especially of interiors. In a way, if I could replicate what I do with $5000 worth of gear with a $500 smartphone, I would actually look forward to that. Would definitely make packing for the shoot a whole lot easier...

  4. Ah, I see. While you're probably right - a smart phone will never equal what a DSLR can do - I'm betting that in the very near future they'll be good enough for real estate photography. And I don't mean they'll produce crappy images that an agent thinks is good enough - I mean they'll produce images that are perfectly well suited for real estate photography.

  5. I think that there are several smart phones in the current market that serves this purpose... And I agree with Malia, not a lot of people carry DSLR cameras around.

  6. the smallest thing you will get with a good quality will be a mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera like the sony nex. it has an APS-C sensor and quality is on pair with many current dslr. in the future what will happen is that we are going to start to see bigger sensors, full frame, on much smaller bodies. the Sony DSC-RX1 is one example of it.
    so no way a smartphones will have the same quality. unless they make it the same size of a compact camera and add a good sensor and lens mount but in that case is more like a camera phone then a phone camera. something like this:

  7. What about triggering external lights when you really think that will ever be incorporated into a smartphone since it would constitute such a small segment of the market. And smartphones suck in low light because of the much much smaller sensor...I realize time will tell. but in order to put a bigger sensor in a smartphone it going to necessitate creating a larger smartphone. Now, tablets/Ipads on the other hand may have the advantage in that area...along with the ability to see a much larger image instantly....

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