This is an update to an older post on the same subject. Digital cameras have changed over the 2 years since I last posted on this. But, although digital cameras have changed, one thing has not. We still need wide angle lenses on digital cameras for real estate photography.
First we need to discuss how lenses are specified. Lenses are specified in millimeters, but since it is dependent on the size of the sensor, we need a standard in order to compare lenses. The most commonly used one is 35mm equivalent, which means we are converting the mm numbers as if they were on a 35mm film camera. Using this standard allows us to compare different lenses on the same scale. An example of this is as follows: A Canon Digital Rebel Kit lens is rated as an 18mm-55mm lens. In 35mm equivalents, this is approximately 29mm-88mm, since the Digital Rebel is a 1.6x crop system. Point and shoot cameras have a higher crop factor. An example of this is a 5.4mm - 16.2mm, which is about 28mm - 84mm.
The rest of this post will be specified in 35mm equivalent ratings.
So, how wide is wide enough? I am recommending 24mm (in 35mm equivalent) as the minimum wide angle needed. This rules out about 80% of the digital cameras out there, unless you add a wide angle adapter. Why 24mm? If you look at the photo below, you can see that at 35mm, you can't tell the size of the room much. Going to 28mm helps just a little.
Moving to 24mm shows much more of the room and gives people a better sense of the size of the room. Optimally, 20mm is probably the best to use, but there are no point and shoots out there with 20mm lenses. A DSLR camera such as a Canon Digital Rebel can take a lens that goes to 20mm. I use a 16mm - 35mm (it's called the canon 10mm -22mm ) lens on my Canon 40D.
If 24mm is better, 20 is optimal, what about 16mm? Here's an example at 16mm. In this example, the far edges (left and right) have what's known as perspective distortion. Couches will stretch out in a funky way. End tables will be magically lengthend. It's actually too wide.
In summing up, here is an overall guide to what is seen by the camera at various focal lengths. I shot the same photo at different focal lengths, and then at 16mm. I was able to then overlay what each of the different focal lengths represent onto this one photo. I occasionally teach a class on how to take better photos for listings to other agents, and this is one example that I use.
(photo various mm)
As far as cameras go, a DSLR is the best. A Canon Digital Rebel XTi with a 10-22 mm lens would work great. IF you are looking for point and shoot, there are a handful of cameras that have 24mm lenses. Both Canon and Nikon don't have many models that have 24mm. Panasonic has several. One such camera is the Panasonic DMX-FX500. It's about $200 at amazon.
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