Appraisers have a lot on their plate, and technology is moving at a pace like never before. You may not have time to do the research to stay ahead of the curve. Don’t worry, IADA has your back. This is the first in a series of articles on the technology of our industry, where we’ve done the research for you. First up: Digital Cameras. Is your equipment lowering the quality of your work? This article will tell you everything you need to know – or skip to the bottom for the IADA 2020 Camera Purchase Guide.
Your smartphone camera may be satisfactory, but does it reach the standards of excellence you stand for as a professional? High quality cameras have never been cheaper or easier to operate. Some readers may remember the expense and hassle of using a film camera, and I’m sure we’re all glad to see that in the rear view mirror. But did your upgrades stop at just going digital? How many new features have been rolled out since the last time you bought a camera? The answer may surprise you – your choice in equipment may be lowering the quality of your work.
The majority of appraisers, adjusters, and shop estimators use cheap point-and-shoot (PAS) or smartphone cameras. Why not? They’re cheap or built into a device everyone already has. Digital cameras have never been cheaper, more powerful, and more plentiful. But these cheap, on-hand devices are not the best solution for the claims and appraisal process for many reasons:
- Size: In addition to being easier to hang on to,
larger cameras have inherent advantages over the miniature technology found in
smartphones and low-end PAS cameras.
- Focal length and depth of field: some things just can’t be miniaturized. These characteristics are inherent to the hardware of the camera – the distance between lens and image sensor, etc – and they are huge factors in image clarity and quality.
- Zoom – small cameras have greatly inferior zoom capabilities. Smartphone cameras don’t have a zoom lens at all and generally just zoom in on the image digitally.
- Focus – larger cameras have room for stabilizers and other specialized hardware that enables superior focus and a greater range of focus.
- Storage space: If you are using a smartphone or card-less PAS, your pictures are constantly competing for space with everything else on your device. A larger device can accept SD cards and even have larger internal storage.
- Battery life: Larger devices have superior battery life leading to less time charging. Some models offer interchangeable batteries, so there’s no down time if your batteries die in the field.
- Better adaptability: Appraisers have to take photos in many different environments, including dark garages, rainstorms, blindingly bright fields of snow. A higher grade camera is robust enough to better adapt to these environments. For example: a larger camera aperture allows more light in, adapting far better to dark environments.
- Advanced features:
- Wireless capability: Many modern cameras can automatically connect to other devices and upload pictures, saving you the time and trouble of changing and keeping track of SD cards or manually uploading pictures.
- Hazard resistance: Some models feature factory waterproofing (or optional waterproof cases), shock-resistance, drop resistance, and freeze resistance. Depending on your climate, some of these options are utterly essential but a waterproof backup is a necessity for any appraiser who isn’t in the desert.
- Swivel view screen: Also known as an articulating screen. Not as high tech as some other features, but absolutely essential for appraisers – the camera view screen can move and rotate independently of the camera, allowing you to see into difficult spots without shooting blindly.
- Low-light compensation
The quick summary? If you want to be fully equipped for the job, you should have the right tools. And high quality cameras don’t have to cost an arm and a leg. To help you make the best choice in purchasing the right camera, IADA has compiled the following list of recommendations ranking by price, features, and reputation.
The IADA recommendation: Appraisers should keep and maintain a modern camera with superior zoom, focus, light adapting capabilities, and a swivel view screen in addition to any other advanced features that are desired. In addition, it is recommended to keep a backup camera on hand at all times – this backup is the ideal candidate for situational features like waterproofing.
Below is the IADA Digital Camera Recommendation Guide. Click to to view in a new window or download for viewing convenience.