New Wide-Angle Cameras See the Big Picture

Thanks to a selection of new wide-angle digital cameras, you no longer need to worry about how you’re going to capture that entire room in your tiny camera frame.

September 1, 2007

No matter what angle you try, or how far you step back, fitting the image of a whole home or room into a single camera shot can be a challenge. Yet great photos of your listings in full form are becoming more and more essential to your virtual tours and marketing. What can you do?

One solution is to use “stitching software” that comes bundled many digital cameras; the software combines two or more images into one seamless panorama for a broader perspective. Another approach is to add wide-angle capability to a standard lens.

Or, you can simply go shopping for a new digital camera — a good option if you’re in the market for an upgrade. There’s a growing selection of wide-angle lens digital cameras that will allow you to capture the whole interior or exterior in just one click, without stepping so far back that the details get lost in the picture.

Why Go Wide?

A few years ago, a wide-angle digital camera was a specialty item. Your choices were minimal and prices were high. That’s all changed with advances in digital imaging technology, the soaring popularity of digital cameras, and vendors’ desire to expand their market share to serve the needs of more consumers.

Today you’ll find plenty of choices, regardless of your budget. In fact, the vast selection may seem overwhelming.

To narrow your search, decide whether you want a digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) or a compact camera. DSLR is for the serious photographer who wants creative control and the most options. The camera body can be mounted with a variety of interchangeable lenses, including one for wide-angle photography. A complete package of body and lenses can easily cost $1,000.

For most real estate professionals, a compact digital camera is the more practical purchase. These cameras are known for their point-and-shoot simplicity, automated features, and intelligent software that lets you easily take good pictures. Plus, they’re self-contained and less bulky than a DSLR, with most models small enough to conveniently slip into a purse or pocket.

In addition to their wide-angle lenses, common features include high megapixel (MP) ratings — in other words, better image resolutions for crisper photos — image stabilization for steadier shots, enhanced video record capabilities, more powerful optical zoom lenses for close-ups, and larger LCD screens to make it easier to review your photos on site.

A Look at Your Options

For an idea of what’s on the market, here’s a sampling of the latest wide-angle solutions being offered by some popular camera makers. With the abundance of options, and more affordable prices, you’ll never have to settle for a partial-room photo again.

Eastman Kodak

There’s now an upgraded version of EasyShare V570, which brought new attention to the wide-angle category last year. The EasyShare 7MP V705 features a dual lens system that lets users switch off between a 23mm wide-angle or standard 3X optical zoom lens, depending on the subject. Price: $349

Fujifilm

For a budget-friendly, wide-angle solution, check out the new Finepix F480. Ultra-compact, this camera is roughly the size of a deck of cards, yet features a 4X 28mm-112mm lens, 2.7-inch LCD, and 8.2MP image sensor. Price: $179.95

For roughly twice the price, Fujifilm offers a more versatile solution in the new FinePix s8000fd. Similar in design to an SLR, but more compact, it has an 18X optical zoom lens with a range from 27mm to 486mm, making it a versatile system for wide-angle and telephoto photography. This camera also has an 8MP sensor, 2.5-inch LCD monitor and an electronic viewfinder. Price: $399.95

Olympus

This fall Olympus is launching its version of an 8MP 18X zoom camera with the SP 560 Ultra Zoom. Its 18X lens operates in the same wide-angle-to-telephoto range as the Fuji camera. A feature called “shadow adjustment technology” automatically compensates for difficult lighting situations to ensure none of the details get lost in dark areas of a photo. Price: $499

At a fraction of the cost, the company’s other wide-angle solution, also debuting this fall, is the FE-290 compact. Despite its slim design this camera has a 28mm wide-angle 4X zoom lens and a large three-inch LCD monitor. Price: $249.99

Pentax

The Optio Z10 includes wide-angle capabilities and features a 10MP image sensor, a 7X optical zoom lens, and 2.5 image sensor. A “digital wide function” feature automatically combines two pictures into one image, equivalent to what would be captured with a 28mm lens. Price: $249.99

Panasonic

Panasonic's latest compact solution for wide-angle photography is the Lumix DMC-FX100, released this summer. The camera boasts a Leica 28mm 3.6X optical zoom lens with a truly high resolution 12.2MP image sensor for capturing highly detailed photos. This model also has 27MB of internal memory and a 2.5-inch LCD. Price: $399

RealPIX Camera

This is a new camera developed exclusively for real estate professionals who are looking for a simple solution for capturing and uploading wide-angle photos to the Web. The RealPIX has a 22mm fixed-focus wide-angle lens, high powered wide-angle flash, and internal memory for capturing up to 400 JPEG pictures at 640x480 pixel resolution. Price: $299

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