I've been searching for that one right camera for real estate for few years. I spent couple thousand $s in this search and I think I finally settled on the One. Ultimately it was a search for camera but I was really searching for the right virtual tour solution. A picture says a thousand words so I wanted my photos to captivate the buyers and impress the sellers.
My journey began when I attended real estate photo class taught by Frank L (great ActiveRain contributor). Here's the summary of my journey.
First Camera - Kodak V570
This was the camera of choice for me when I started to take real estate photography seriously. It has the 23mm wide angle feature which allowed me to capture more in one photo than regular point and shoot cameras. I paid about $200.
Unfortunately my Kodak broke right after the warranty expired. Since Kodak stopped this product line, I had look for another camera because I didn't want to pay $400 on Amazon and so I settled for Panasonic Lumix TZ5.
Second Camera - Panasonic Lumix TZ5
While this is a great travel camera, I don't think it's best for real estate. It does have 28mm wide angel. I sort of bought this out of impulse and sort of regret it. At lease it has great video capability. I guess it's eBay time.
Third Camera - Canon EOS Digital 300D Rebel DSLR SLR
Wanting to improve photos for my sellers and buyers (online album), I decided that it was time to invest in a SLR camera. I'm glad I did. I bought this camera on eBay from Frank and bought a 10mm-20mm wide angle lens. I couldn't be happier. Now I can actually fit the entire powder room in one photo! I ended up spending about $1,000 in lens, camera bag, flash and this camera. One drawback was that it was sort of cumbersome taking a big camera with me when showing homes.
Fourth and Perhaps Final Camera
At Keller Williams annual conference in Orlando in Feb 2009, I discovered Previste. The friendly rep showed me a demo and I was sold! Because it was sold out, I had to wait 2 weeks to get my shipment. I got it yesterday and so far I'm impressed. The camera kit costs around $150 according to their website. For $150, you get the following:
- 7 mega pixel camera. I will point that it's light and feel a bit cheap.
- Previsite fish bowl lens.
- Recharger and 2 rechargeable batteries and 2 conventional batteries. Rechargeable batteries are 2500mAh.
- Camera cover.
- 3 cables.
- 1 GB SD memory card.
- Sturdy camera kit case. I was pleasantly surprised.
Keep in mind that there's a monthly subscription. That's how they really make money. It says it's $29.99/mo but you get unlimited virtual tours.
Basically you put that magnetic fish bowl lens on the camera and you point and shoot. Click here for a demo that I did.
Why do I like Previsite?
- It's easy! Point, shoot and upload.
- No stiching multiple photos.
- Cost effective. If you have a lot of listings, this can save you money in the long run.
- Effective use of floor plans. You can actually upload floor plans and indicate where you took the shots. I was tempted to use MouseOnHouse.com for a while but I think Previsite solution is much more effective. In MouseOnHouse.com, you just see regular photo whereas you see pretty much the whole room with Previsite.
Like most virtual tours, Previsite provides maps, syndication, brochure printing, etc.. Currently, I use ListingDomain.com service for my virtual tours. I think I pay around $50 per tour/website. Here's an example of the virtual tour that I do for my sellers.
Whenever I have a listing, I have to take 2 sets of photos. One for the virtual tour and one for the MLS. Because the images are taken with fishbowl lens, photos are distorted. So here's the exterior photo with the fishbowl lens.
I can't use this on MLS. I know some agents do but I would take another photo without the lens. It's a hassle but I think I can deal with it. Maybe, I'll take regular photos with my SLR camera. Perhaps Previsite will provide an easy one click solution to convert to normal photo for MLS.
Update on 3/9/09
The above issue I addressed is no longer an issue.. Previsite provides a feature where you can download non-distorted photo". Here's an example of the same photo that I downloaded using their feature. Not bad. Sorry, I should of thoroughly tested Previsite before I posted this blog. I actually got a call from Previsite rep telling that there was a feature. So thank you Katya!
The other issue is the learning curve. From playing with it, I think it wont' be too bad. I think I know what to do now.
Final issue I have is that since I've been using ListingDomain.com, I'm no longer able to get domain and text riders for my listings. I guess I can have it custom ordered from a local sign company but that would be a hassle. What I mean is that when I do a virtual tour from ListingDomain.com, I get to use a unique domain name like 123MainStreet.com or PurcellvilleHome.com. Honestly, websites are there to just impress the sellers. At least for now, Previsite doesn't provide this feature. I hope they will like ListingDomain.com does.
I love what this camera can do. I love the fact that a buyer can see in one photo what one sees in multiple photos stitched. I think this is clearly a value added service to both sellers and buyers. Once I actually list few homes, I'll provide an update. But for now, I like this camera.
The rep that I met in Orlando is Katya. Her number is 646-291-2343 and her email is kbruen "at" previsite.com. I think she says that I get a month or so free for each referral so you can mention my name. :) She is very, very helpful.
Update on 3/7/09 9:15 EST
One thing I don't like is the fact that when I have to take the SD card out, the batteries pop out as well. It's a little annoying. The other options is to just connect the camera to computer and download the photos this way.