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The Best Camera for Real Estate Photos?

by on October 05, 2016
in Cameras and Photography, Reader Q&A, Cameras, Blog :: 9 comments

Q: I have been doing some research looking for the best P&S digital camera with wide angle range for shooting interior photos for my real estate business. It will be in low light situations, but would like to be able to incorporate as much of a room in one shot without having to sync photos together.

Want to stay in the $300 range and want something compact that I can carry around easily. Any suggestions?

- Jacki

A: Real Estate photos can really test the limits of a camera. You'll want wide-angle, for shooting both interior shots and the exterior of the house and surrounding property. At the same time, a strong zoom will come in handy for capturing architectural details (or defects) along the upper stories and roofline. Lighting is also a challenge, as you know, since house interior lighting is rarely set up with a photo shoot in mind.

The best solution is a solid DSLR or ILC with wide-angle and zoom lenses, plus a specialized lighting kit. But all that gear can easily run you well over $1,000 and gets pretty bulky to carry around.

Fortunately, "super-zoom" point-and-shoots will do almost as good a job as a DSLR for far less money. And they'll fit in your bag.

My previous recommendation was the Panasonic DMC-FZ70. It has a super wide-angle lens (20mm equivalent) and an incredible 60x optical zoom (1200mm equivalent). The FZ70 also has a fast f2.8 lens and optical image stabilization that will help out quite a bit in poor lighting. Its 16MP sensor will provide more than enough resolution should you need to crop your images later. And for around $320 on Amazon, it was a deal any real estate agent would appreciate. Unfortunately, the FZ70 was discontinued and is now difficult to find, even on Amazon.

In re-researching the options, I've found it hard to find a camera I like as much, especially in the $300 range. Camera manufacturers have been ceding the lower-price point space to smartphones, focusing on the more profitable enthusiast and professional market. However, there are a couple of options out that will give real estate agents far more flexibility and image quality than a smartphone, at a still manageable price.

Panasonic Lumix FX300My top pick would be the Panasonic Lumix FZ300. It has a 25-600mm (24x zoom) that, while not up to the FZ70's range, should be more than acceptable for your indoor and outdoor shots. And its 12MP sensor has a constant f2.8 aperture across the entire zoom range. What this means in practice is excellent low-light handling whether you're shooting wide angle or full zoom. Twelve megapixels may seem like a downgrade from the 16MP FZ70, but picture quality is about much more than megapixels. That excellent low-light handling combined with upgraded image processing, autofocus and image stabilization will results in crisp, clear images with more than enough resolution for real estate listings or sales sheets.

The FZ300 also shoots 4K video, so you can do super-high resolution home walk throughs or panorama shots that will look fantastic on the latest 4K TVs (and future-proof you as 4K becomes standard in all TVs and computer monitors).

Other standout features of the FZ300 are its electronic viewfinder (in addition to the rear articulating LCD) for composing shots, and it is splashproof and dustproof so you can take it to those dusty construction sites without worry.

At $498 on Amazon, you get a lot for the money with the FZ300.

Nikon Coolpix B500If you want to keep it around $300, your choices are limited. However, the Nikon Coolpix B500 offers a nice set of features for only $257 on Amazon. It has a 40x optical zoom lens (22.5–900mm equivalent) at f/3.0-6.5 and a 16MP sensor. More zoom and megapixels than the Panasonic, but less capable in low light, especially when zoomed. It shoots 1080p (but not 4K) video, and lacks the Panasonic's electronic viewfinder. The Nikon B500 takes AA batteries so you can always carry an extra set in your car's glove compartment and not worry about a dead battery when you get to your location.

- Suzanne

[Note: Updated 10/5/16 with new recommendations]



Discussion loading

B500 vs DMC-FZ70

From Dave Bishop on January 15, 2017 :: 11:37 am

Hello, thank you for this article. I need to shoot some indoor real estate photos and can’t spend $$$$ on new equipment.

I have found both of these cameras for the same price on Amazon. I am wondering which would take a wider photo in very small rooms? This is my primary concern as the rooms I will be shooting are pretty small.

The Lumix is a 20mm which should be wider?

Are these true 20mm not like my Nikon D40 18mm lenses that come with the camera body? Or is it just worth buying the cheapest wide angle lens for the DSLR for $450 to get a wider view?

Thanks for your help

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The Lumix will be wider.

From Josh Kirschner on January 17, 2017 :: 10:59 am

The lens stats listed are “35mm equivalent” ranges, so 20mm on the FZ-70 will be wider than 22mm on the Nikon. You obviously get more flexibility in lenses by using a DSLR. If you already have a DSLR, you may just want to pick up a used wide-angle lens. If not, buying the DSLR and various lenses you will need will run you far more than the point-and-shoots above.

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Lumix 20mm

From Dave Bishop on January 17, 2017 :: 11:59 am

Hi Josh, thanks for your reply. My situation is based on a single client needing some real estate photos for 3 or 4 rental units. I doubt they will be able to offset the cost for a DSLR wide angle lens. I found this article and these cameras ($250 each) are $150 to $350+ less than a new lens which wouldn’t be an option at that price.

Is the lumix a true 20mm with no multiplier like a full frame DSLR would be? I believe that is what you mean by “35mm equivalent” correct?

My Nikon D5100 with the 18mm is actually a 28.8mm with multiplier of 1.6x from what I gathered. I also read that at these lower numbers the difference between say 20mm and 29mm is pretty large. I am a complete camera neophyte though.

Thanks again

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It is an "effective" 20mm lens

From Josh Kirschner on February 06, 2017 :: 10:23 am

Hi,

Sorry I didn’t see your comment earlier. The Lumix offers a 20mm “equivalent” lens. That is, it is the same effect you would have using a 20mm lens on a full-frame DSLR (thoughit is described as “35mm film equivalent”).

Your Nikon D5100 has an APS-C sensor (not full frame). So yes, it has a multiplier, too, when describing lens equivalents. The 18-55mm lenes that comes with the kit is the 35mm equivalent of an 18mm lens, not the true size.

Best,
Josh

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Cheap wide angle option

From Dave Bishop on January 17, 2017 :: 12:03 pm

Hi again, is there any other suggestions for my client? The cheapest WA lens I could find for my
D40 or D5100 was $440.

I am open to any suggestions.

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Bought the camera

From Ricky Lee on February 05, 2017 :: 8:11 pm

Hi I followed the advise and purchased a LUMIX FZ300. Do I need to purchase an extra lens to shoot wide angle pictures? What settings to set in order to shoot beautiful real estate photos both indoor and outdoor? Thanks

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No extra lens necessary (or possible)

From Josh Kirschner on February 06, 2017 :: 11:21 am

The Lumix FZ300 is a fixed lens camera. The lens isn’t removable or exchangeable. That’s why the range of the lens is so important for point-and-shoots. There are adapters you can buy for the FZ300 that will allow you to attach other lenses, but this is a pretty specialized use and if that’s what you need, you might be better off going with a DSLR or ILC camera (at significantly higher cost).

It’s hard to tell you what settings to use, since it depends heavily on what you’re trying to capture and your specific lighting conditions. We have general photo tips in this article which will help you with composition: http://www.techlicious.com/tip/composition-tips-for-taking-better-photos/. You’ll also want to get to know your HDR settings to get proper interior lighting when you have bright windows in the background, for example. And the other thing you should pay attention to is your white balance settings as you encounter a mix of incandescent, CFL and natural lighting in your various shots. Tweaking the white balance will prevent the photos from appearing to blue or yellow (you can fix this later in Photoshop, but may be easier for you to get it right up front).

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Panasonic DMC-FZ70

From Dave Bishop on February 06, 2017 :: 10:28 am

I just got my Panasonic DMC-FZ70 and the pictures are very blurry. Not sure if I got a defective one or what.

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Check focus settings?

From Josh Kirschner on February 06, 2017 :: 11:27 am

It could be as simple an issue as your focus settings. Make sure it’s not in manual focus mode and play around with the auto settings to see if that makes a difference. If everything is truly blurry (not just a focus problem) could be something wrong with the camera and you may want to send it back. Is the blurriness in the final photos or just when viewing on the rear lcd screen of the camera?

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