If you are looking for a new camera, you will definitely study one or the other camera test on the Internet. Or you can go to the electronics store and get advice. Or you ask the specialist salesperson in a dedicated photo store. Last option: You ask a friend with photo experience. In my photography workshops for real estate professionals, I sometimes hear incredible stories about how my attendees got their cameras.
It is so sad, that in most cases the optimal equipment is not recommended. Because very few tipsters have an idea of the special requirements for the exotic real estate photography sector. They don’t see the following dilemma: Real estate professionals are not photography experts, but they still need equipment that is adapted to their needs and the harsh shooting conditions in order to produce strong real estate photos.
No Real Camera Test
There are very different sources to find out about the right equipment. Not all of them promise to be a camera test.
Influencers – often Miss the Target
Many technology influencers on online social channels love pile up a lot of data from the camera manual, pack them in undoubtedly beautiful words and images and call this a camera test. But this is not a real hands-on test, it is at most a camera review. Even a comparison with older cameras of the same brand or with models from other manufacturers doesn’t make it any better.
This does not help real estate professionals at all, because they usually can’t interpret the meaning of individual technical parameters correctly. Or do you know about Bayer pattern, fps or 4-2-2? For most people it is even hard to evaluate the number of megapixels, because in our case MORE does not always mean BETTER.
Electronics Megastore – Hard to Hit this Target Group
Many sales people in the major electronics stores are very well educated to serve a general audience. Laypeople and amateurs in particular benefit from the improved training of these employees. They can be sure to find a suitable camera quickly.
However, very few are prepared for the niche discipline of real estate photography, so that their recommendations do not always hit the mark. One can certainly not expect that there was a special camera test here.
In addition, these stores often have quite tempting offers with older cameras in conjunction with lenses that are not suitable for real estate photography. They may lead to impulse purchases, which in the end do not bring the desired savings effect at all, due to the wrong package composition. Real estate professionals are simply not the right target group for this.
Professional Retailers – Often too Careful
It is not so different in specialized photo stores. Of course, the employees are much better trained and often an excellent partner at eye level for photo professionals. Many of them take professional photos themselves and produce strong images – but mostly not in our special genre.
I’ve spoken to a lot of real estate professionals, who weren’t sure if the equipment does really fit. All the care in the sales process obviously led to the fact that the salespeople did not trust the photographic laypersons to get the desired results with really special equipment.
Friends – Not a Reliable Source
And finally there are friends who impress with their beautiful shots of vacation, family, leisure time and hobbies. Of course, you trust them best, because you can ask them embarrassing questions without shyness.
Unfortunately, very few of them have ever photographed architecture for commercial purposes. So they only report what they have already heard elsewhere. Or they are fanboys of a certain photo brand or type of camera which are not ideally suited to the demands of photographing buildings. But some of them are also photo nerds who only get their little pieces of art from ordinary photos through intensive image processing. For the business and efficient use of real estate photos, however, such a procedure would be unproductive.
Camera Test – This is Important for Real Estate Pros
If you finally do find a real test, you will often find answers to questions that are irrelevant to real estate photography.
If, on the other hand, you ask a real estate professional what they want for their photo equipment, the first answers are:
- Light weight
- Transport-friendly size
- Moderate price
Image Quality Must be Focused in a Camera Test
In addition, other fundamental questions arise during a camera test for real estate photography. First and foremost, it’s about image quality. But also convenient operation and follow-up expenses for top photos are important.
What you know ss a real estate professional: In many interior shots, either the windows are completely blown out or the shaded areas appear without details. Even professional cameras are inferior to human eyesight when it comes to the spectrum of brightness captured in the image. With affordable cameras of reputable brands, this area comprises about half of our eyesight. So the camera concentrates either only on the light, the dark or the middle tones in the picture, but never on the entire spectrum. Important details are therefore lost in at least one of the areas.
So you're looking for a camera that will handle this problem as best as possible. Unfortunately, these are often cameras with large image sensors. These are usually bigger, heavier need more powerful lenses and have a higher price tag.
The fact is: Small cameras take poorer images because they often have image sensors with very small light-sensitive elements. However, the larger these pixels, the better the image quality (more on this in a moment). For this you need sensors with a larger area. And these, in turn, can only be accommodated in larger and heavier camera housings. At the same time, the dimensions and weight of the lenses required also grow.
The image quality of real estate photos depends in particular on a low level of image noise. The image noise is reduced when the individual pixels have more space on a larger sensor surface. So we either don't need that many megapixels or a larger sensor - preferably both.
It is true that every new brand camera can now be set, so that the background noise is almost invisible by itself. But the intensive image processing, required to save details even in the brightest and darkest parts of the image (see previous question) in real estate photos, will reinforce the base noise to an enormous extent. Cameras with a large image sensor are again the better choice.
The achievable image sharpness has a further influence on the image quality. It is primarily dependend on an excellent lens. Here, too, large, top-quality lenses obviously stand in the way of the desire for small size and low weight.
This includes, for example, an ultra-wide-angle lens to capture normal-sized rooms in one frame. In addition, you need a wireless remote control option (extra product or smartphone) to prevent the camera from taking shaky pictures with longer exposure times. This also avoids the photographer to appear in the picture when photographing reflective surfaces.
Cameras with complicated system menus and unclear command names as well as control buttons and wheels that are too easy or difficult to use are counterproductive.
The person making the recommendation should have worked with the equipment him- or herself, to give real proof of its advantages or disadvantages. It is also good if there is the possibility of a practical comparison in order to find the more suitable system.
You have to be brave now: There are no acceptable real estate photos that have not been optimized on the computer after the shoot. Here, however, it is important that the camera delivers an image quality that helps to keep the retouching workflow very lean. With the system taught in my photo workshops, the participants need less than 2 minutes for a perfectly corrected photo.
If you want to present your property in a video, you will find sufficient quality in all current systems. If the influencers in camera tests mess around with the frame rate, the resolution or the flat profile - do not worry: This affects video productions in the high-end sector. This should be left to professionals anyway. The existing equipment of current cameras is definitely sufficient for impressive online videos.
Additional costs must be taken into account when purchasing. For example, there are new systems with extremely fast, but also expensive XQD memory cards, the price of which can quickly exceed that of a branded SD card by 10 times.
If you buy a camera with 60 or more megapixels, you usually have to replace your own memory architecture or even the entire computer system because of the huge image files in order to enable a smooth workflow.
The nice thing about the big camera brands is that they have very well-developed systems with a high degree of intra-brand compatibility. If you want to switch to a different brand of camera, you also have to replace system accessories. If the end result is a significantly better image quality, a more efficient way of working and, in the end, convenience is reduced due to smaller sizes and weights, this is definitely worth a change.
My Recommendation After my Own Camera Test
I have tested the following equipment and can recommend every single item. This set offers a good compromise between portability and excellent image quality.