Buying a new camera can be a daunting task. There are countless options and variables, and if you don’t know what you’re looking for it’s easy to end up with something expensive and unsuited to your needs. If you’re looking to buy a camera for real estate photography, this guide will help outline the key factors you’ll need to look out for: the type of camera, the specs, features and extras. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll be able to confidently choose the right camera for your needs.
- How to understand the important specs for real estate photography.
- The most important features to consider when purchasing a camera.
- The types of cameras available and their pros and cons.
- Some of our favourite real estate photography camersas.
Understanding Camera Specs: What’s Important for Real Estate Photography?
When you’re photographing house interiors and exteriors, there are a few things you’ll almost certainly need: enough light, a lens that is capable of capturing as much as possible, and a tripod or monopod (or good image stabilization and a steady hand). You’ll also need to perfect your art, of course. To do this, you’ll need a firm grasp of some main principles of photography.
Aperture refers to how wide a lens will open and subsequently how much light will enter the sensor. In general terms, a wider maximum aperture is better (and usually more expensive). A wider aperture will help you capture more information and is ideal for when light is scarce, or there is a big contrast in light (such as a dimly lit room with bright window lighting). Aperture is measured in f/ stops and the lower number the wider the shutter is open. For example, f/2.8 is wider than f/16. For real estate photography, you’ll ideally want something capable of at least f/4. This should be sufficient to deal with potentially low light situations.
Light is the dominant factor in photography, and ISO is a measure of how sensitive a camera’s sensor is to the available light. The higher the ISO, and therefore sensitivity, the more your camera can capture in low-light. It comes at a cost though; higher ISOs often create image noise that makes an image seem grainy. A lower ISO means it takes longer to capture an image, so if your target is moving or you’re holding the camera, the longer time will result in motion blur. For real estate photography, you can keep the ISO at a native 100 or 200 (depending on the camera) so long as the camera is mounted on a tripod.
3. Shutter Speed
Shutter speed determines how long the camera’s sensor is open and exposed to light. The slower the shutter speed, the longer the shutter is open and vice versa. A slower shutter speed can also create motion blur, particularly if you’re shooting a moving subject. In real estate photography, your subject is static, meaning you can use a slower shutter to compensate for a lack of light. Don’t forget though, if you’re shooting from the hand, a slower shutter speed will accentuate every tiny movement you make.
Overall, you’ll need to correctly balance aperture, ISO and shutter speed in order to take the best possible photos of your subject. Don’t be afraid to adjust settings until you have the perfect set up for the lighting and room you’re photographing.
Important Features: What to Look for When Choosing a Real Estate Photography Camera
The lens will determine a great deal about your photographs. Two key considerations for real estate photography will be the focal length and aperture, and the lens of your camera will determine this. Ideally you want a wide angle lens that fits as much in the frame as possible (without distortion, so a fisheye lens isn’t ideal). Modern ‘point-and-shoot’ super-zoom cameras may be useful here, as they’re capable of some huge focal length ranges, although a mirrorless or DSLR will have a wider option of interchangeable lenses. Most real estate photographers will use a maximum aperture range of around f/4-f/5.6 so look for something that has that kind of range. In terms of field of view, a wide angle lens with a focal length of 14mm on a full frame or 10-12mm on a crop frame should be sufficient.
Although the lens determines how much light enters, it is the size of the sensor that determines how detailed the images you capture will be. A small sensor will usually squeeze more pixels in an area which can cause more interference on the image produced. This is particularly relevant when lighting isn’t straight forward, such as in real estate photography. A camera with a full-frame sensor can be expensive, whereas a DSLR with an APS-C sensor or four-thirds sensor can be much more affordable. A smartphone sensor is even smaller, and runs the risk of producing lower-quality images in low-light settings.
3. Image Processor
Processors on modern digital cameras are pretty magnificent. They can control many aspects of photography, including aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. However, it can also introduce an extra degree of noise into your images. For best results, try and shoot in RAW format as this best captures lighting details and is helpful for post-processing.
Types of Cameras for Real Estate Photography
Depending on your budget there are a few options available for you when it comes to buying a camera for real estate photography. To help you better understand, we’ve outlined the pros and cons of each, below:
1. Smartphone Camera
- A smartphone camera is likely something you already own. High-end smartphones like the latest iPhones and Samsung devices have cameras that are capable of taking some fairly decent quality images.
- It’s extremely convenient to carry around with you, and you don’t need any additional equipment such as a flash or tripod.
- The sensors on smartphones are pretty small and subsequently the image quality just doesn’t compare to a mirrorless or DSLR.
- A high-end phone is no small investment, particularly if you’re only in it for the camera.
2. Super-Zoom Point-and-Shoot Camera
- Although point-and-shoot cameras sound amateurish, some of the better ones can take good-quality images. The super-zoom refers to often huge optical zooms that can in effect be wide angle to telephoto ranges.
- Again, they’re convenient and compact so you can carry one with minimum fuss.
- Similar to smartphone cameras, the sensors generally tend to be fairly small on the run of the mill compacts. Image quality still won’t compare to even a crop-frame DSLR.
- To buy a point-and-shoot that will produce good quality images for real estate photography, you’re going to need to spend a lot, and might be better getting a mirrorless or DSLR.
- You can’t change out the lens to something better suited to photographing real estate.
3. Mirrorless Camera
- A mirrorless camera will give a huge step up in image quality compared to a smartphone or point a shoot.
- Lenses can be swapped, making it far more versatile.
- Compared to a bigger, bulkier DSLR, a mirrorless is usually a lot lighter, compact and stylish.
- Even an entry level mirrorless is going to set you back a fair amount. If you’re working to a tight budget you may not be able to afford one.
- There’s a lot more manual work and technical knowledge needed to produce great photographs.
4. DSLR Camera
- A DSLR will give you the best results for real estate photography. Either an APS-C or full-frame will produce stunningly detailed and sharp images.
- There’s a huge variety available depending on your needs and budget, and an equally huge variety of lenses to perfectly accompany your choice.
- Once again, the price may be off-putting for the beginner. A good DSLR will cost a lot, although the quality often justifies this.
- They’re bulky and heavy, particularly with a choice of lenses, a tripod, and flash to accompany them.
Brands and Manufacturers
If you’ve read this far you probably know a fair amount about what you need to get started with real estate photography. The last thing you need to do is to choose a brand of camera. Here are some of the top brands for each type we’ve mentioned so far:
1. Smartphone Cameras
Although we’d not really recommend a smartphone if you’re serious about getting into real estate photography, these high-end models are probably the best out there:
- Apple iPhone range.
- Samsung Galaxy range.
2. Super Zoom Point-and-Shoot Cameras
As mentioned above, a point-and-shoot wouldn’t be our top choice of camera for photographing real estate, but some top cameras in this range are:
- Panasonic Lumix FZ300.
- Nikon Coolpix B700.
- Panasonic Lumix DC-FZ80.
3. Mirrorless Cameras
We’re a big fan of the relatively new mirrorless systems. They’re versatile and produce good-quality images. They’re becoming ever more popular even with professionals. Our favourites are:
- Fujifilm X-T2.
- Panasonic Lumix GH5.
- Fujifilm X-T10.
4. DSLR Cameras
You can’t go far wrong with a DSLR when it comes to real estate photography. Their quality speaks for itself and they’re still the top choice for the professional photographer. Here are our top picks:
- Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.
- Nikon D750.
- Pentax K-1.
- Canon Rebel T6i.