Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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I own a small estate agency and I am looking to buy a bridge camera or a low spec DSLR up to £300.

The widest (35mm equiv) lens I can find on a bridge camera is 22.5mm (from Nikon L810 which gets bad reviews) with most coming in at 24mm.

Does anyone know of a camera (needs to look professional) that will photograph rooms well with stock lens and flash.

At the moment best I can find is Canon SX40 with its 24 mill lens. Can I get a slave flash for it?

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Some P&S cameras allow you to put wide angle converters on the lends, be it a design feature of the camera, or a cheap screw on filter. Might be good to get a good quality camera then a screw on wide angle conveter –  Dreamager Sep 4 '12 at 14:27
    
The differenece between a crop and a full frame sensor also makes a huge difference to the result - you need a full frame sensor –  Clara Onager Sep 5 '12 at 8:08
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In that case I'd suggest thinking about stopping and trying something else. You really need a specialised setup to get those 'estate agent' shots that make tiny places look spacious. –  Clara Onager Sep 5 '12 at 15:59
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It will break your budget a bit, but I would get something like a Canon 40D(used) and the Canon 10-22mm lens. Also - you aren't going to be able to really do indoor estate photography well using only on camera flash. It is all about the lighting! –  dpollitt Sep 5 '12 at 16:28
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@ClaraOnager - Then raise your budget. We've given you all the options which you consider affordable. If you want quality, you have to pay for it and if real-estate is anything like it is here in Canada, it will be paid for on the first sale. –  Itai Sep 6 '12 at 12:00

5 Answers 5

I'm an estate agent and use a Nikon P500 bridge camera. It has a 22.5mm lens and I love it as I can add daylight etc. It cost me around £300 and it has been replaced by the P510 (not the same wide angle lens) but it's not been out for too long so you should be able to get a second hand one very cheaply.

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Thanks, my P500 has just arrived and it gives very good results with it's flash indoors on a wide angle. –  Ian Jan 16 '13 at 21:27

I'm sorry to say but I think that with the budget constraint given you won't be able to find a camera that provides what you want.

To get those 'estate agent' shots that make a gloomy flat look like as spacious as a well lit warehouse you really neeed a specialised wide angle set up. I've only seen it done well with full frame DSLRs and very wide lenses.

So it's down to a compromise at some point. You might be able to pick up an older full frame DSLR on ebay if you're lucky.

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I think an entry level DSLR and a lens like the Canon 10-22mm will do just fine. Pickup a tripod and you are set for under $1000 or so. –  dpollitt Sep 5 '12 at 16:26
    
Yes but even with a generous exchange rate the budget constraint is $500... –  Clara Onager Sep 6 '12 at 7:40
    
I was speaking to the point you made about estate shots only being done well with full frame DSLRs. I agree the budget does not allow for a DSLR + $700 lens, but I am saying that a full frame camera is not the only way to achieve good results. Good quality real estate shots can certainly be achieved with a 10-22mm lens on an APS-C sensor, and with proper lighting. No full frame sensor is necessary. –  dpollitt Sep 6 '12 at 16:44

Another option might be to use any camera you want, take numerous pictures of the room, and finally stitch them together with a panorama stitching tool such as the open source (free) Hugin.

That way you don't need a super wide angle lens! I do this all the time. I'll try to find a good example and post it up tonight when I get home.

Update
Here is an example of using Hugin to stitch together several photos to make a "wide angle" photo. Although this image is of a large indoor space, the same concept should work for indoor rooms. It might be worth a shot if you already have a camera and the software is free:
One of the 5 images used
enter image description here

to generate this "wide angle" photo.
enter image description here

Props to anyone who knows where this is!

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Having a little experience with this, shooting several shots to stitch together doesn't work well for estate agents as the result still looks a bit 'off' and they need it to look 'natural' –  Clara Onager Sep 5 '12 at 8:07
    
Indoor quarters are the hardest to do as panoramas but awesome results are possible using a specialized panoramic head. Some of those alone exceed your budget though but are quite essential to get a perfect stitch. –  Itai Sep 5 '12 at 16:27
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That would be the galleria Umberto I, in Naples. So many people mistake it for the galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan. –  Berzemus Sep 6 '12 at 8:58
    
@Berzemus, You got it! –  Onlyjus Sep 6 '12 at 11:41
    
The photo you are referring probably are the Milan Gallery. I have never been there but they say it is stunning. Luis –  user13807 Nov 30 '12 at 20:03

24mm is ultra-wide but you are right, there are now a few cameras with 22.xmm lens which is slightly wider. You also want to use an add-on flash, so what you are looking for is a ultra-wide-angle camera with a hot-shoe.

As you can see from the search link, there are 12 such models, you will have to see which one fits your budget. The Fuji X-S1 is probably your best bet and delivers good image quality compared to its peers. It also looks really professional since its as big as a DSLR.

As was pointed out, the X-S1 is slightly above your budget. The model just below it which also has a beautiful 24mm ultra-wide mechanical lens is the Fuji HS30 EXR. It does accept conversion 58mm filters (or bigger via a step-up ring) too if you want to go wider without stitching.

The other option is to go to the used market and get yourself a DSLR and ultra-wide or fisheye lens. Any will do for your purpose, so it is more of a matter of availability and at what price you will find one.

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I think the £300 budget is going to rule out the X-S1, despite it being a lovely camera. –  Philip Kendall Sep 4 '12 at 22:22
    
Oh.. underestimated the exchange rate. Seems like its £377 ($599) here. Hopefully not that bad of the stretch but the Fuji HS30 EXR should fall within that budget and is quite good too, very similar in terms of features, only lower in quality. –  Itai Sep 5 '12 at 0:36
    
You also underestimated the amount by which Europeans get screwed by manufacturers on electronic goods - the best price for the X-S1 in the UK is around £475 ($750). –  Philip Kendall Sep 5 '12 at 5:44

You can buy after market "wide angle adapters" which fit on the filter threads of many cameras. Some camera manufacturers offer these for their own cameras. While the quality is seldom stunningly good, one of these may very well be good enough for your purpose.

Here's a few examples:

Examples of claimed high quality versions for a range of camera brands

Discussion of wir=de angle adaptors for video cameras - useful

Video - DIY $5 fisheye - notr quite what you want but may give you some ideas.

Discussion - Nikon version and others with examples

Fuji press release for one of their versions

Two Olympus wideangle and one MAcro converter with sample photos

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Just a note that plenty of these are not very wide. In particular, the Fuji widens to an equivalent of 28mm which is more narrow than built-in ultra-wide lenses (24mm mostly and some 22.x) of most recent bridge cameras. –  Itai Sep 5 '12 at 16:24

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