2012 Digital Cameras: Specs That Matter
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2012 Digital Cameras: Specs That Matter
In real estate, your camera is a critical element of one of the most important marketing tools you have: the online tour. It should be able to travel with you anywhere and thus be able to take a beating. One of the first things to consider is the camera body. A plastic case can break when dropped; metal is much more durable.
As far as image quality goes, even inexpensive cameras’ sensors now boast sizes of 10 MP or better. That’s sufficient for all your needs. The MP rating shouldn’t matter unless you are buying a high-end system.
More critical is the lens. You need a wide-angle lens to comfortably fit an entire house or room in one shot. Fortunately, even basic point-and-shoot cameras boast a wide-angle zoom. Wide-angle lenses are described by the camera’s focal length, with numbers like 28 mm or lower. Compact cameras are described by “28 mm-equivalent,” which tells you how it compares to a full-sized model.
Another useful feature for photo tours is a camera’s panorama mode. Many models automatically combine several images into one dramatic picture much wider than you can capture otherwise. Some have a “sweep” panorama mode, allowing you to click the shutter as you move the camera while internal software builds a view as wide as 360 degrees.
One other thing to be aware of is the two types of zoom: optical and digital. Concentrate on the optical zoom, as it indicates the actual power of the lens. An extended range zoom, 10X or better, gives you more options for highlighting the details of a home.
Since you can use the same camera for photos and video, one feature you’ll want is the ability to use the zoom while recording. Some, but not all, cameras allow this. If you use video tours, consider this a must.
As far as video quality goes, all cameras now capture HD video, but differ in how it’s defined. On some models it’s 720p, the lower HD standard, which still looks great on the Web and smaller HDTV sets. If you plan on playing tours on large HDTV panels, look for the higher 1080p HD standard.
On most cameras, an LCD monitor serves as your viewfinder for setting up shots, reviewing, and editing. On models with a touchscreen LCD, it’s also where you control the camera. The bigger and brighter the monitor, the better. A tilt or swivel monitor may be a convenient step-up feature. Some may want to spend more for the few cameras with a dedicated viewfinder, in addition to the monitor on back.
Another special feature to consider is GPS tagging of photos, available on only a handful of models. If you map and manage many listings, this makes it easier to populate the map and be mindful of which pictures go with which house.
A more common feature is the ability to transfer pictures wirelessly from the camera to your computer via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, eliminating the need for cables. Some models even streamline the process of moving pictures to Facebook or YouTube.
A built-in flash is a standard feature, but it typically isn’t powerful enough to illuminate an entire room. Low-light sensitivity, and software features to pull the details from dimly lit settings, are selling points of some more expensive cameras. If you’re serious about shooting inside, also consider models with a hot shoe or support for an auxiliary flash.
All cameras have an automatic mode that adjust settings for you and a range of scene settings whose default settings may help you avoid bad shots. If you’re serious about photography, you’ll also want the option of manual setting controls, whether shooting photos or video. For the most creative control, your top choices remain either a DSLR or the new interchangeable-lens compact systems.
Today’s cameras all capture great photos and video. Deciding on the right camera comes down to how involved you want to be in the process. With two exceptions, all the manufacturers included in the chart offer full lines of cameras from basic to high-end. Visit their Web sites for a better idea of all your options in your price range.