Which are the Best Cameras for Real Estate Photography?
Real estate photography is a demanding genre in the photography industry. It is extremely dependent on the gear. The right camera, the right lens and expertise in lighting and post-processing techniques; everything matters. You don’t capture great real estate photos. You make them. And to do that you have to have superb knowledge of the gear and the process. In this discussion, however, we are limited by the scope of finding the best cameras for real estate photography. However we shall touch base on a few aspects of shooting real estate photography in general.
What is the Right Sensor for Shooting Real Estate?
You can shoot with any sensor size, as there is no restriction whatsoever. But a larger sensor size and specifically a 35mm sensor is the optimum choice for several reasons.
First, a 35mm sensor allows you to take full advantage of any wide angle lens that you might be using. This is considering, however, that the lens is designed for a 35mm camera. Second, a larger sensor (35mm in this case) will allow you to get a better exposure in low light situations. This is because it has a lot more light pixels (mostly) and more importantly, the individual pixel sizes are much bigger which ensures more light intake capacities.
But the thing about larger sensors is that they are more expensive to manufacture. An entry level 35mm DSLR like the 6D Mark II costs around $1200, nearly double the price of an entry level crop sensor DSLR like the Rebel T5i complete and that too with a kit lens.
Choosing the Right Lens
The right lens plays an integral part in the process of image making. Wide angle lenses are my favorite and the favorite of a lot of photographers when it comes to shooting real estate photography. A wide angle lens captures a wider field of view and that in itself is the essence of real estate photography, large perspectives that captures a lot of the scene in front, or in this case the property and it's interior. But just using a wide angle lens will not do. In order to maximize the advantage you have to use a larger sensor as well.
Low Light Performance
Regardless of the camera that you choose, it should offer great low light performance. Basically, you need a low noise signature and great dynamic range when shooting in low light. Low noise signature will assist in pushing the shadows when post-processing your images and that will prevent the image from getting noisy. Good low light performance also include good dynamic range for those occasions when you have to shoot in high ISO.
One more subtle thing to note and this is something you wouldn’t recognize until you start shooting with your camera – is the dynamic range. And I am not only referring to dynamic range when shooting in low light but also at high ISO. High ISO dynamic range is no doubt important. In most cases, however, as you would be shooting a stationary subject and from a tripod, you wouldn’t know the difference, because you can easily drag the shutter while using a low ISO. This will be needed when shooting hand-held.
Another thing you need is the ability to capture an image with a low noise threshold. Let's say that you are shooting indoors and your shot features both the indoors and the view outdoors. Sure you would be thinking in terms of Photoshop to balance the exposure in post. But that can only be achieved if your camera has a good dynamic range. To the extent that the camera is practically noise-free, regardless of how much you push the shadows in post.
Sensor sharpness isn’t just a single isolated problem that can be solved just by snapping your fingers. The problem itself is a mixture of several individual issues, which may or may not happen at the same time.
One of them is hand movements at the time of recording the image. Unfortunately, a lot of photographers blame the sensor for their own mistake. They forget to switch on image stabilization or choose the incorrect image stabilization option and then blame the sensor for the lack of sensor sharpness.
Sometimes there may be an issue with the lens' focusing elements. It may be back or front focusing. The result will be an out of focus soft image. But it is hard to tell until and unless you test your lens for this issue.
Older sensors came with what is known as an Optical Low Pass Filter (OLPF). The purpose of this filter is to suppress moiré or the false color effect that was so common in older cameras. You would know this by the weird circular patterns and or colors when shooting cloth or fine pattern and those sort of things.
An OLPF uses tiny optical quartz which have been fused together and then placed in front of the sensor to reduce this effect. Almost all cameras had these up until a few years ago when manufacturers started experimenting by removing the OLPF. If your camera has OLPF you might experience some image softness. The lack of OLPF is somewhat of an advantage when it comes to shooting real estate photography. You will get a higher image sharpness, especially if you shoot on a tripod.
So, without further ado, here are the best cameras for real estate photography.
7 Best Cameras for Real Estate in 2018
- Sony Alpha a7S II at $2,398.00 (55 Reviews)
- Sony Alpha a7R III starting from $3,198.00 (12 Reviews)
- Nikon D850 at $3,296.95 (52 Reviews)
- Sony alpha a9 at $4,498.00 (29 Reviews)
- Our Pick: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV at $3,199.00 (127 Reviews)
- Nikon D5 at $6,496.95 (38 Reviews)
- Canon EOS-1D X Mark II at $5,499.00 (37 Reviews)
Arguably the best low light camera, the Sony alpha a7S II is a full-frame mirrorless interchangeable lens camera with a sensor resolution of 12.2 megapixel. The sensor is paired with a BIONZ X image processor. The native ISO range of the camera is 100 – 102400. Together the camera produces results that gives it the title of the best low light camera.
The only thing that works against this fantastic camera is the low resolution of the sensor. At 12.2 megapixels it is capable of producing images that are 4240 x 2832 pixels only. So you won't be able to make very large prints if that is what you intend to do. For that you need one of the other a7 series cameras (to be discussed below).
Sony has integrated a 5-axis sensor shift type image stabilization. Though you may not be shooting hand-held it is an extra feature and will interest someone who is not a professional and may be more likely to shoot hand-held.
Finally, the rear LCD screen has a resolution of 1228,800 dots and gives 100% frame coverage. The screen can tilt and swivel but does not flip out. This means you can shoot from waist high with the screen tilted up, but does not allow you too many other options.
- Full-frame camera with 5-axis image stabilization
- Fast and effective, enhanced Fast Hybrid AF
- 12.2 megapixels 10 35mm full-frame Exmor CMOS sensor Lens Compatibility - Sony E-mount lenses
- BIONZ X image processing engine
- High 50Mbps bit-rate XAVC S format recording of Full HD movies
The Sony Alpha a7R III is a 42 megapixel full-frame EXMOR R BSI CMOS sensor powered mirrorless interchangeable lens camera with a BIONZ X image processor. It features a BSI sensor design. Native ISO range of the camera is 100 – 32000.
The 42 megapixel sensor produces large stunning images of the size 7952 x 5304 pixels. This is the sort of sensor you would need to print large images or to make tight crops from a full-frame capture without losing out on detail.
Body based image stabilization ensures that the camera comes with a 5-axis sensor shift type shake compensation mechanism. This would be handy when shooting hand-held.
The rear of the camera is dominated by a 3″touchscreen which can tilt. The resolution on the screen is 1440,000 pixels. It has 100% frame coverage.
The Sony Alpha a7R III is capable of shooting at an ISO range of 100 – 3200 with Auto ISO capability. In the extended mode, the camera shoots between 50 and 102400. High ISO shooting is required when you are shooting outdoors in low light. For example when shooting a property at the blue hour (right before it gets completely dark) to get a nice image with the lights turned on. It helps that the sensor has a BSI design.
- 42.4 MP back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS sensor with gapless on-chip lens design
- New front-end LSI and updated BIONZ X processing-engine for maximum processing speed
- Advanced Hybrid AF system with 399 focal-plan phase-detection AF points cover 68% of the image Plane and 425 contrast AF points covering 47% of the image area
- 10 fps with continuous and accurate AF/AE in either mechanical or silent shudder mode
- Dual SD media card Slots
The Nikon D850 is a fantastic all round camera with incredible features. If you are looking for a full-frame high resolution camera without having to break your back, then the D850 is the camera that you should be looking at.
The 45.7 megapixel BSI sensor is capable of producing images of the size 8256 x 5504. That is large enough for a 27″ x 19″ print easily with pixels to spare. You probably would never have to print this big. Plus, the fact that the D850 does not have an optical low pass filter means you will get better (and sharper) details than other sensors.
Something that needs a mention about the BSI sensor bit. Though the D850 has a higher number of pixels, and apparently the BSI design does seem to be a good idea to reduce noise and produce cleaner images. Nikon mentions that the large sensor area did not warrant the use of BSI. Because there wouldn’t be a major improvement in the low light shooting scenarios. Instead the BSI architecture has been done to add extra wiring which ensures faster pixel readout and an improvement in the buffer and overall speed of image making.
The D850 uses an 180,000-pixel RGB sensor to assess the ambient brightness, contrast and other aspects in the scene. The native ISO of the D850 is 64 – 25600. Plus, the fact that the sensor uses a BSI architecture ensures great quality in low light. In good light this camera outdoes most other DSLR systems. A feature on the D850 which you will love if you are interested in these sort of things is the 8K time-lapse feature. You will also enjoy the built-in focus stacking feature which will ensure that you can shoot specialized images with large depth of field. Both the above two features will come in handy in when shooting real estate photography.
- Nikon-designed back-side illuminated (BSI) full-frame image sensor with no optical low-pass filter
- 45.7 megapixels of extraordinary resolution, outstanding dynamic range and virtually no risk of moiré
- Up to 9 fps1 continuous shooting at full resolution with full AF performance
- 8K2 and 4K time-lapse movies with new levels of sharpness and detail
- Tilting touchscreen, Focus Shift shooting mode, outstanding battery performance and much more
The Sony alpha a9 is the third Sony mirrorless camera on this list. The reason I am interested mainly in Sony's mirrorless systems as the best cameras for real estate photography is because these systems offer you the option to know what the exposure is going to be like even before you press the shutter button. The magic of the live-view window.
When shooting real estate interior shots, in dimly lit areas, and even when shooting outdoors (such as the blue hour), a reliable live-view image with 100% frame coverage helps to get the perfect composition. It takes the guesswork out of the equation.
The Sony alpha a9 is powered by a full-frame 24.2megapixel EXMOR RS Stacked CMOS sensor. A lot of acronyms but this is basically a camera that thrives in low light situations. Plus, it is a full-frame sensor meaning it captures a larger slice of the scene in front. The Sony alpha a9 is thus one of the best cameras for real estate photography.
The Alpha a9 uses a hybrid auto-focusing mechanism that includes 693 phase detection points and 25 contrast detection points. The phase detection points cover 93% of the frame. Overall the system is capable of focusing at a minimum ambient lighting situation of -3EV. However, tests in low light shows that the system is not ISO invariant.
Low light shots shot at a relatively low ISO (100) when pushed up 4, 5 or even 6 EV shows a dramatic amount of specs. This impacts the low light dynamic range of the camera. However, overall results are better than a lot of other DSLRs. This is not a deal breaker though as there are many ways of removing this noise.
- World's first Full-frame stacked CMOS sensor w/ integrated memory
- World's first blackout-free continuous shooting up to 20 fps
- Silent, vibration-free, anti-distortion shutter up to 1/32,000 sec.
- 693 Phase Detection AF points over 93% frame coverage
- Cont. view blackout free OLED Tru-Finder w/ 100% frame coverage
Cannot overlook this camera in the mix of things. The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV is built around a 30.4 megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor and a DIGIC 6+ image processor. Native ISO capability of the camera is 100 – 32000. Being a full-frame sensor means it captures a larger slice of the scene in front and more light compared to a similar resolution crop camera.
The large high resolution sensor produces images of the size 6720 x 4480 pixels. Perfect for large prints or crops just in case you need them later on.
A feature on the 5D Mark IV is its ability to pull 8.8 megapixel pulls from the DCI 4K clips that it can shoot. Though 8.8 megapixel isn’t a very high resolution, but just in case you were shooting videos and some of the pictures were very good, you have that option in hand.
The system also features dual pixel RAW technology. This is a slightly confusing term as some people will think that they can adjust focusing after the shot has been made just like a light field camera. It does not do that.
- 30.4 MP full-frame CMOS sensor for versatile shooting
- Up to 7.0 frames per second continuous shooting speed
- 61-point AF system with 41 cross-points for expanded vertical coverage
- ISO range 100-32000 with 50-102400 expansion
- 4K video recording at 30p or 24p and in-camera still frame grab of 8.8MP images
There is very little that you cannot do with the Nikon D5. This beast of a camera is designed for the future. It is built around a 20.8 megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor and Nikon's EXPEED 5 image processor. The camera has a native ISO range of 100 – 102400. It comes with both 14-bit RAW and 12-bit RAW S format support.
Thanks to the fact that the camera has a relatively ‘smaller' resolution and large sensor means it has a lower noise signature, cleaner images and better dynamic range in low light photography. The auto-focusing system is powered by a Multi-CAM 20K system that features a total of 153 phase detection points including 99 cross-type points. Plus, the system uses an intelligent Scene Recognition System and the 3D Color Matrix metering III technology that uses an 180,000 pixel RGB sensor for metering and evaluation of the different aspects of the scene.
- 20.8MP FX-Format CMOS Sensor
- EXPEED 5 Image Processor
- 3.2" 2.36m-Dot Touchscreen LCD Monitor
- 4K UHD Video Recording at 30 fps
- Multi-CAM 20K 153-Point AF System
Just like the Nikon D5, which is the current flagship in their line-up, the EOS-1D X Mark II is the current flagship in the Canon lineup. Just like the Nikon the Canon is an excellent all-round camera. There is very little that you cannot do using the 1D X Mark II.
The 1D X Mark II is built around a 20.2 megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor and dual DIGIC 6+ image processing engine. The sensor uses a gapless design which produces excellent image quality for the purpose. The sensor resolution is large enough to produce 5472 x 3648 pixel images. Native ISO range of the camera is 100 to 51200.
The 1D X Mark II shoots DCI 4K videos. You can also grab 8.8 megapixel stills out of the footages you record. Just like the 5D Mark IV that we discussed above. Not great for large prints but will do just as good if you are only sharing them online or making 5 x 7″ prints.
- Fastest shooting EOS-1D, capable of up to 14 fps full-resolution RAW or JPEG, and up to 16 fps in Live View mode with new Dual DIGIC 6+ Image Processors
- Achieves a maximum burst rate of up to 170 RAWs in continuous shooting at up to 16 fps, and 4K movies using CFast cards in the new CFast 2.0 slot
- Improved AF performance through 61-point, wide area AF system with 41 cross-type points, improved center point focusing sensitivity to -3 EV and compatibility down to f/8
- Accurate subject tracking for stills and video with new EOS Intelligent Tracking and Recognition AF with 360,000-pixel metering sensor
- 4K video (4096 x 2160) up to 60 fps (59.94), with an 8.8-Megapixel still frame grab in camera. Full 1080p HD capture up to 120 fps for slow motion
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Wanderlust at heart and a shutterbug who loves to document his travels via his lenses; his two passions compliment each other perfectly.
He has been writing for over 7 years now, which unsurprisingly, revolve mostly around his two favorite pursuits.
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