Best Cameras for Real Estate Photography: What You Need to Know
The Real Estate Best Camera and Lens Combinations for Capturing Stunning Images
When it comes to real estate photography, having great photos of the properties you’re selling is essential.
In this article, we’ll discuss what we believe are the best cameras for real estate photography and why we selected these models. We’ll also look at some of the differences between cameras that are better suited for video versus still photos, and we’ll provide information about what you can get for various price ranges.
There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing the best camera for your needs. First, you’ll need to decide if you need a camera that’s better suited for video, still photos, or both. Second, you’ll need to determine your budget, what features you can afford, and what additional equipment you’ll need such as lenses, tripods, gimbals, lights, or microphones. Third, you’ll need to determine your skill level with photography, and how much time you want to spend learning to use a new camera. Finally, you’ll need to consider in your decision which lenses are available and appropriate for the cameras that meet your criteria.
In this blog post, we’ll discuss the different options available and help you choose the best camera for your business. So whether you’re just starting out in real estate photography or are looking to upgrade your current setup, read on for our recommendations!
No matter what your budget or skill level is, there’s a real estate photography camera out there for you!
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For Amateur Photographers
High quality mobile phone cameras with depth of field and image stabilization are a great way to go – no extra costs, no need to carry anything extra with you, and easy to get clear shots. Also, many phones have settings where you can record 4K video and upload at full resolution. If you need good, but not the highest end professional photos and videos, or if you don’t want to spend a lot of money or time to learn how to use professional camera, this is certainly an easy and budget friendly option since many people already have a smart phone.
For Professional Photographers
Professional real estate photographers typically shoot quite a lot of photos, and therefore may go through camera bodies more quickly because of the high shutter count, unlike nature photographers who may have to wait for hours or even days in order to get that perfect shot. If you plan to purchase a used camera, keep in mind you’ll need to check the shutter count. Also, ask the seller if the camera was used for videos or not, since videos do not increase the shutter count, but do create heat that affects the camera’s components over time.
Just because there are newer features out every year, that doesn’t mean you need to purchase the latest and greatest model, or upgrade every time a new feature is added. Digital cameras from the past few years are still likely to be quite good, so you can save some money buying one that isn’t the very latest.
The choice between body (examples: lightweight or compact) and lens types (examples: mount type, cost, stabilizers, speed, purpose, etc.) may weigh more on your decision that which camera is newest. Quality can be about the same between the good brands these days, and there are plenty of great options out on the market right now.
- 2 card slots are a bonus but not imperative.
- Aim for about 24 MP – this is optimal for cropping images while also providing high enough quality to print larger photos.
The megapixel count is the total number of pixels on the sensor (active and inactive). The effective megapixel count is the number of pixels that are actually used to create the image.
Event though it’s a frequently used marketing tool by manufacturers, cameras with more megapixels don’t always take better photos – there are other contributing factors such as the size of the sensor. A larger sensor will result in more light and higher quality images, for example. But a larger number of megapixels will allow you to enlarge your photos without sacrificing quality.
When selecting how many minimum megapixels to choose, consider the intended use of your photos, such as web images, video tours, or printed fliers. In my humble opinion beginners would be better served by spending more time on composition and mastering basic photography skills, rather than spending more money on the highest end camera.
Some loose guidelines:
- Website and social media sharing: 12 MP and up
- Print: 12-24 MP and up (25-50 MP for large prints)
Other things to consider:
There’s not really a need in real estate photography when taking still photos to be shooting fast like you would in sports, so spending money for a faster camera is overkill.
Full-Frame Isn’t Necessary
A full-frame sensor provides better details, depth of field, and dynamic range, but isn’t necessary for real estate photography. You can take professional photos with a crop sensor also, especially if you take time to improve your skills by setting up the shots well, making sure to use appropriate lighting, and spending a little time touching them up in Photoshop or another photo editing program.
Be Aware of Issues with “Gray Market” Gear
Try to avoid purchasing a gray market camera, which is one sold through an unauthorized distribution channel. Gray market products are from legitimate manufacturers, not counterfeits, but there are many reasons to still avoid them, which we will discuss below.
Here is the official definition from the US Supreme Court:
“[A] gray market good is a foreign-manufactured good, bearing a valid United States trademark, that is imported without the consent of the U.S trademark holder.” K Mart Corp. v. Cartier, Inc., 486 U.S. 281, 285 (1988).
Many cameras are cheaper if you purchase the same model this way, but they may be much harder to get repaired, or not have the same warranty, if any. Also, some insurance companies will not insure gray market equipment, so be sure to do your research on this issue before you make a big purchase. Some manufacturers refuse to service gray market cameras at all, such as Nikon USA who refuses to repair any gray market products through their authorized repair shops, and has cut off supplies and parts to non-authorized repair shops.
Another important consideration is that products headed for the U.S. through official channels must meet certain quality standards, such as FCC, UL standards. Some products may still meet the standards but have not been certified. A few hundred dollar difference in the purchase price could cost a lot more in the long run.
Note: This is also important to note when purchasing any other electronic devices for your home or business as well, as they can present a fire hazard if they don’t meet the required standards. So be wary of just selecting the cheapest option without checking for important quality assurances.
Consider Used Gear
Gear prices drop every year, so if you don’t need the latest and greatest, you can get an excellent camera that’s a few years old, and you can find some really good used lenses and camera bodies. When buying used, it’s best to purchase from a reputable reseller or from a seller that accepts returns. If you purchase from a seller on eBay or another marketplace, be sure that seller has excellent reviews and don’t be afraid to ask questions about what you’re buying.
Here are some things to think about when buying used gear:
1) Ask the seller why they are selling, and if they don’t have an immediate, reasonable answer, (like they’re upgrading equipment or they stopped needing it), then it may be best not to purchase from that seller. Of course people don’t always tell the truth, but this will at least weed out some of the less reputable sellers.
2) Camera body considerations:
- Shutter Count (Caveat: Ask if the camera was used for video, because cameras used for video may have a low shutter count but have endured a lot of heat during use that could start to break down the components.)
- Body condition (Does it look like it’s been beaten up or well cared for?)
- Are the screws silver or black? (Silver screws could indicate it has been repaired or opened because the black paint will come off the screws if it’s opened – this could also void any remaining warranty.)
- Is the sensor clean and free of scratches?
3) Lens considerations:
- Mold or fungus (A little dust doesn’t have to be a deal breaker, but larger clumps may require professional cleaning.)
- Lots of scratches and dents on the casing (A few scratches are fine, but if it looks pretty really worn then it hasn’t likely been well cared for.)
- Are there scratches on the lens?
- Take test shots if you’re purchasing a lens in person to examine the focus and to listen for any strange noises such as crackling.
You can get lens adaptors for many types of lenses, so you don’t have to be married to a certain ecosystem of camera. (But keep in mind that adaptors may affect the lens’ ability to utilize electronic aperture control.)
Lenses last longer than bodies, but while lenses may last a lot longer when stored properly and well cared for, they still don’t last forever. Those with motors inside start to search longer. Sometimes you can get them fixed, but they eventually wear out. Even with primes which last a very long time, you may encounter mount obsolescence for older lenses on newer bodies.
Be sure to purchase high quality SD cards so you have less chance of a card failing. This is not an area to skimp on price, or you could lose all of your work after a shoot. If you’re shooting video, opt for the fastest card you can comfortably afford.
My Personal Favorite:
I’ll start with my personal favorite camera set up since it’s a medium price point camera, lightweight body and its easy to use. It also includes image stabilization, has affordable lens options, and takes great quality photos and videos. I’m not a professional photographer, but I do need to be able to shoot excellent photos and create captivating, high quality videos for my real estate business.
It’s a setup that’s perfect for an entry or mid-level real estate photographer who is just building up their client list and doesn’t want to spend too long learning how to use the camera. It’s also great if you need both still photos and videos, because it produces some beautiful video tours without a huge price tag, I’m a huge fan! (The LUMIX GH4 is also a great camera and even less expensive since it’s older.)
For full-time professional photographers, you may not find this camera to be sufficient. But it’s worked very well for me without breaking the bank – especially for gorgeous, smooth, and vibrant videos. It’s consistently helped sell and rent apartments, houses, and buildings, and that’s the point, after all!
Camera familiarity, settings, and handling skills will make a difference, so be sure to take time to practice when you get your camera. There are many great YouTube videos that will help you choose the best settings for your intended purposes.
You can view a demo reel using the exact camera, gimbal stabilizer, and lens combo listed below for video work at the link below. (The aerial shots were filmed with a DJI Mavic.)
If you’re just starting out but want high quality, professional images, a setup like this should be more than sufficient. Then you can build up your business and skills before spending more.
NOTE: I use my equipment primarily for video tours, but if you throw in a decent tripod you’re all set for both stills and videos! Manfrotto tripods are excellent for smooth pans and solid construction, but you definitely don’t need to spend that much right out of the gate.
My personal choice for best real estate camera based on price, ease of use, and image quality:
Panasonic LUMIX GH5 4K Digital Camera
20.3 Megapixel Mirrorless Camera with Digital Live MOS Sensor, 5-Axis Dual I.S. 2.0, 4K 4:2:2 10-Bit Video, Full-Size HDMI Out, 3.2-Inch LCD, DC-GH5 (Black)
Another reason I love this camera is that I’m able to hold it on a gimbal for longer since it’s fairly lightweight compared to many others.
Here’s my setup when I use it for video tours with a 3-Axis stabilizer and a lightweight, fast lens. Smaller gimbals would probably also be fine, but this one produces gorgeous, smooth motion for real estate tours as well as other event videos:
DJI Ronin-M Gimbal Stabilizer
Panasonic LUMIX G Lens, 25mm, F1.7 ASPH, Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds, H-H025K (USA Black)
Below are additional camera options highly recommended
by other real estate photographers:
Professional Hybrid Camera for Interior and Exterior Photos and Videos (Full Frame):
Sony Alpha 7 IV Full-frame Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera – Medium Expensive $$$
The Sony Alpha 7 IV full-frame mirrorless interchangeable lens camera.
It’s a powerful professional camera that features the next generation BIONZ XR Processor, 759-point fast hybrid AF, real-time eye AF, and 5-axis SteadyShot image stabilization.
With its 33MP full-frame Exmor R back-illuminated CMOS sensor, 8x more powerful BIONZ XR image processing engine, up to 4K 60p 10-bit 4:2:2 with full pixel readout in all recording formats, 7K oversampling full-frame 4K 30p 10-bit 4:2:2 w/ no pixel binning, and beautiful S-Cinetone color profile, it’s a fantastic camera for real estate photography.
Great for hybrid photo and video creators which is handy for real estate
Flip out screen
33 Megapixels is big enough but not too big that it slows down workflow
S-CinetoneTM for real estate videos with accurate tone and great dynamic range.
Exmor R (check this) backlit
33 MP (has a caveat/asterisk) full-frame back-illuminated CMOS image sensor
BIONZ XR image processor
4K 60p (has an asterisk) / FHD 120p
Wide ISO sensitivity range expandable to ISO 50-204800
Full pixel readout without binning in 4K, and 7K oversampling (3958×7032), although shooting 7K is not needed for real estate photography, so you may want to select 4K as a more practical setting for your workflow and your clients’ needs.
Does have occasional issues that need servicing with significant use.
Two other well recommended professional real estate
still photography cameras for those with bigger budgets:
Pentax 645Z Medium Format Digital SLR Camera
51 Megapixel, 3 FPS, Full HD Movies – Very Expensive $$$$
Sony Alpha 1 Full-frame Interchangeable Lens Mirrorless Camera (Body Only)
50 Megapixel, Full Frame – Very Expensive $$$$