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Will A Full-Frame DSLR Help Your Real Estate Photography?

Published: 13/04/2015
By: larry

Tokina16-28In the last two weeks I've had two similar questions asking about using full frame DSLRs for real estate photography. Jolene asked:

I am new to the real estate photography  as a photographer, however have been in real estate for quite a few years. Thank you for your informative website. I am in the middle of learning interiors photography and now trying to decide on equipment. My partner has a Canon 5DMkIII and has encouraged me to get one, however reading more about the 6D being lighter and a great camera, I am considering it although with your wide angle 10-22 or 10-18 review, I am facing the predicament of compatibility. My questions are: If I were to go with the 6D, what wide angle lens would you recommend? I read about Sigma but being a snob I prefer top of the line quality. If I chose lens first then camera, which camera would you recommend for me?

First of all, the Canon 10-22mm and 10-18mm lenses are not designed to work on full frame Canon DSLRs. For a summary of the lenses that will work on full frame DSLRs take a look at my lens recommendation page. The lenses that will work on Canon full frame DSLRs are down in the section titled "For Canon Full Frame DSLRs."

One of the issues with full-frame DSLRs is that the top quality lenses for full frame tend to be more expensive. One full frame compatible lens that is available for both Canon and Nikon is the Tokina AT-X Pro FX 16-28. It gets good reviews and is about half the cost of the top of the line Nikon and Canon full frame glass. You may want to consider the Tokina 16-28 FX if you are getting a full frame DSLR, it could ease the cost.

Don't feel that it is necessary to use a full frame DSLR to be successful at real estate photography. While you may be able to tell the difference between images shot with a full frame and those shot with a cropped sensor DSLR your clients probably won't be able to tell the difference. Sure, there are benefits that full frame DSLRs provide in low-light and dynamic range but these things are not going to turn all your images into great images. Notice that the March PFRE photographer of the month used a Canon T3i with a 10-22mm lens.

As far as which full frame DSLR to purchase if you are going to purchase one, both Canon and Nikon have quite a range of full-frame options. They all tend to be refinements of previous models. Go with whatever you can afford. And, don't forget used gear, the Nikon D700 and Canon 5DMkII are great DSLRs for real estate shooting even though they are both many years old.

24 comments on “Will A Full-Frame DSLR Help Your Real Estate Photography?”

  1. Solid advice.

    I shot full-frame for years, but ultimately got tired of the weight of the kit, and the amount of money that I had tied up in having two Canon Full Frame DSLRs, multiple L lenses, etc. I sold it all and moved to Fuji -- opened a studio with the money I saved.

    A crop sensor camera in the hands of an expert photographer will sing -- conversely, a full-frame DSLR won't make a beginner a pro. Composition, lighting, and customer service will win the day faster than a 5D MKIII.

  2. I started with a full frame Canon 5D in 1988 to APS-C Sony DSLR and finally to a Sony mirrorless. It makes for a much more compact light weight setup to move around a house. I'll never go back to full frame!

  3. I've been shooting RE for 6 years mostly with a cropped Nikon D300s + Sigma 10-20mm. I recently switched to full frame Sony A7R + Zeiss 16-35mm and now the A7ii after I left the A7R at an airport. I immediately saw an improvement in my images and so did a few of my more astute clients. Full frame is by no means a requirement at all, but if you have the option to make the jump, I would highly recommend it. I also don't think I've seen a single chromatic abboration after switching to Sony.

  4. I think the only reason to use a full frame for today's real estate photography is if your work has to be reproduced at very high size and resolution. Coming from over 30 years as an advertising photographer using everything from Nikon 35mm to 8"x10" view cameras, I remember clients asking for the large formats even when the image was going to be used for a 6"x9" ad on newsprint. They just had it in their head that larger was always better. Size in my mind is always a factor of how the image will be published. I do not have any clients for whom the cropped sensor images I shoot are not more than adequate since the majority of the images will be used on the internet at 72 dpi. The cropped sensor images I shoot I can even crop to verticals for local real estate magazine covers and still have resolution left over. I remember Pete Turner only shooting back in the day with a Nikon and 25 ASA Kodachrome when everyone esle was using at least a Hasselblad. It worked.

    Then you have to consider the additional cost not just of the equipment but of the hard drive space these much larger images will require and the back up hard drives you will need. And the longer time to process the processor heavy larger files on your computer especially if you bracket and go HDR. I have a client with a top of the line Nikon full frame with the zoom lenses to go with it. He keep shaking his head as he stands along side me when I am shooting and saying. "Here I am almost where you are, shooting the same scene with the same light and (well he does not say this but he means it) while you are shooting with a cheaper camera and lens and your shots look great while mine look like crap." It is always not the equipment. It is the photographer. Or as that great French actress said "its not what you have, it what you do with what you have."

  5. When I used to wonder if I needed a full-frame camera to take amazing images, I'd go over to the PFRE Flickr group and look at some of the shots Iran Watson was taking with his crop sensor Canon 60D. I know he also shoots with a full frame 6D now, but the images he was able to create with his crop sensor 60D convinced me that it wasn't the lack of a full frame that was holding me back.

  6. For 3 years I did RE photography with a Canon 7D and a Tamron 10-24 lens. My real estate agents were delighted. But I have wanted a full frame camera to add to the mix. I now have a Sony A7 II with a Sony f/4 16-35 lens. The photographs are noticeably better: cleaner, more color correct and sharper. Plus using the tiltable LCD has made it physically easier to take photographs, with the additional benefit of the LCD showing me exactly what the sensor is seeing. I know what the photo is going to look like before the shutter is released. I also like the focus peaking capability as I can easily determine what is in focus. Finally, because of all that my post processing time is shorter, by at least 30%.

    But this camera was a big investment. My RE agents did notice an improvement, but they were happy before. This change was made more for me wanting the latest/greatest technology, than a need to meet my client's expectations. But for me, I'm very glad I made that investment.

  7. Full Frame vs Crop frame...Geeez, it ain't going to make a bit of difference for real estate photography! Your images are not going to be enlarged more than the equivalent of an 8x10 print if that. The fact is, look at the images that are used for the MLS and websites. The images are reproduced to 72 dpi after they have been converted from RAW to JPEG and SRGB and probably less than 800 x 600 pixels. By the time the MLS or others get done with your photos, 9 chances out of 10 they are going to look like crap anyway. You are not publishing to Architectural Digest or shooting cover photos, or double page spreads for playboy!
    Next, the camera doesn't matter either, it's the glass that counts, period. If you put a Coke bottle on a $25,000 camera body the photos are going to look like hell. However, if you put a top of the line lens on a $200 DSLR you'll get beautiful images. Go to DxOmark and do your research there for lenses and camera bodies. There are OEM lenses that sell for $1,200 that you can buy under a different brand that test better and cost 1/2 the price.
    Don't get sold on Canon. They are good at marketing, but their cameras for the last couple of years fall far short of the Nikon with the same specs and if you insist a few dollars cheaper too. I was married to the Canon brand since the 70's or before, but switched to Nikon when the D800 came out and haven't looked back. I would have gone to Sony and the A7R but the lack of lens selection put me off. Do you want to know how two cameras compare? Go to DxOMark and look them up. They are probably the best "Real" testing outfit out there and you can rely on their test results...they are not emotional, but scientific, and don't rave about what they like or dislike, like some dildos on YouTube.
    Full frame or crop frame....for regular real estate photography it doesn't make a difference. If you want a great Camera at an affordable price check out the Nikon D750 as it blows the equivalent Canon out of the water! The Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 is super for real estate and tack sharp and in reality probably the only lens you need to shoot residential real estate. If you need something longer try the Nikon 50mm F/1.8d (not the G or the 1.4 they cost more and are not as good) for just over $100.00 the quality of the images will blow you away. Even the Sony A7 or A7R are superior to Canon and a good $500 - $1,000 cheaper! Unfortunately, Sony has a fantastic camera but it was like if GM came out with a new super Cadillac and told you, "Oh, we'll have an engine for it coming out over the coming year." However, with that said their A6000 Mirror-less with interchangeable lenses (APS C) and equipped the the kit 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 (24-75mm full frame equivalent) at $698 (B&H) will keep you shooting residential real estate till the cows come home, and give you enough quality in the images that you'll love it!
    Oh, but canon has great low light capability! Hog wash, you don't need it! and it isn't that superior to others. Your not shooting weddings in a dark chapel by candle light, or black cats in a coal mine, you shoot everything on a tri-pod and you can go as high as ISO 3200 and your realtor won't know the difference...I guarantee it.
    Crop Frame vs Full Frame? It ain't gonna matter!

  8. We have two Canon 6D cameras. We use them almost every single day. They are robust cameras that capture beautiful colors. Our lens of choice is a Canon 17-40. For an L-Series professional lens it is a good match of quality and price. This is a nice combination. If you were to buy a 5D and a 16-35 2.8 you would spend considerably more money.

  9. What is overlooked here is with a full frame camera your 17-35mm will be a true 17-35mm. With a cropped camera it will be somewhere around a 25-52mm. So I argue that it will make a huge difference especially in a small tight room. More expensive yes, but worth the coin.

  10. I would think full frame would really help in tight situations to get the most view of a room possible. Especially smaller rooms like bathrooms. I'm saving up for a full frame right now.

  11. It pains me to say this, but I'm surprised by some of the advice that's been given out in the comments... especially when one of the pros starts bashing brands, then claims it doesn't matter, yet his portfolio looks like it was shot on something worse than a toy camera.

    Sorry, just had to call it.

  12. On a positive note...

    It's my opinion that there's little difference on the equipment and gear front when it comes to providing top notch RE photos.

    Case in point, I can't tell the difference in my own RE shots once processed and delivered. Doesn't matter if it was a crop or full frame. Doesn't matter if it was an $800 or 2500 lens. It's me that takes the photos.

    Anything shot raw for RE should turn out beautifully. If the photo is bad, it's not my gear or software that failed, it's me.

  13. If you are shooting just middle class RE, a FF camera is not going to add anything to your business. If your clientele are representing multi-million dollar homes and creating large high end prints or books, you may need to upgrade. A backup body and top of the line glass makes more sense. Having the backup body is huge safety net if something goes wrong with your primary. The best lenses make more of a difference in image quality than the latest body.

    Auto races are sometimes won not by the team with the fastest car, but by the team that had one more set of good tires.

  14. I just bought the D5200 because of the low price, articulating screen and in camera HDR. My next upgrade will most likely be to a D750. My 18-55 kit lens isn't going to cut it so I'm in the market for a wide angle lens that will work with DX or FX that's 10-24mm, or something close to that. This way if I get the D750 I can still use the D5200 as a backup and will have a super-wide for the D750. At least that's my thinking.

  15. @JenD
    A FF camera won't get you wider than a crop sensor, it's more about the lens. For instance, a 10mm wide angle lens on a crop sensor camera is identical to a 16mm FF sensor lens. Both will capture the same amount of space in a tight area. I used to use a T1i/T3i w/ a 10-20mm Sigma for real estate and it was plenty enough wide for any room. Now I have a 6D w/ a 16-35mm and it's identical in how wide it can go to the 10mm. Crop sensor are good for people looking to save money on lenses and get further reach with their lenses typically IMO.

  16. I shoot on a crop sensor. While I am not 100% crazy about the idea of not upgrading for a while, I have pretty solidly decided that I am going to put off going full frame, and but a really heavy light or two instead (N-Flash, Einstein or a Profoto B1). I just don't see full frame doing much for me at this point, with my clientele, but I need more power pretty much every time out. I just think light trumps the latest sensor ten times over, I just don't even think it's close. Put (good) light on a scene and a 10 year old sensor image is going to look amazing.

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