We’d take these cameras over a cell phone any day

Wouldn’t you know it. I write and rewrite this blog piece, shine it up real nice, and then right before publishing I find something I absolutely have to include.

The always excellent Photography for Real Estate blog have just posed a question very relevant to today’s topic: are cell phone cameras suitable for real estate photography?

As Larry from PFRE points out, however, cell phones are most unsuitable for interior photos as they lack both a wide-angle lens and the ability to generate enough light. You are, on the whole, better off using a professional real estate photographer.

Long before YouTube, and even before the written word, mankind relied on pictures to pass down its story to future generations. While the telling of history through the years has evolved greatly, what hasn’t changed is the importance of pictures in explaining where we’ve come from.

Ancient Egyptians drew on walls. European history was often retold through paintings and drawings. The photograph didn’t come along until 1822, and it wasn’t until 1888 that Kodak’s handheld camera made photography accessible to the public.

Once a recorder of history, Kodak has now become history. They have, as blogged in April, filed for bankruptcy and are now in the process of flogging off its photography division.

Kodak may have gone out of fashion, but photos are more popular than ever. Instagram, the golden boy of the photo app world, grew from 16 million unique visitors to 22 million between June and July.

With the rise of Instagram and nearly half of us owning a smartphone, anyone can be an amateur photographer.

Sometimes, though, phones just aren’t up to the job – and that’s when you need to go old school and use an actual camera. Evolution may have passed Kodak by, but many other entrepreneurs have picked up the slack.

Here are some of the latest innovations:

Incy wincy cameras

Your smartphone makes for a convenient compact camera, as opposed to a big bulky thing that won’t fit in a normal pocket. When you see something amazing to photograph, however, your phone won’t always do the scene justice.

Tiny Nikon Coolpix camera

This camera will. Measuring 77x51x17 millimetres, and weighing in at just 96 grams (including battery), the Nikon Coolpix S01 will fit easily into any nook and cranny. You can leave your keys and pens in the same pocket without fear, as this camera comes with a scratch-resistant body. But you don’t, so empty your pockets before bedtime or you’ll stab yourself. You’re welcome.

Anyway, the best thing about this camera is that its tiny frame still has room for a 3x wide-angle zoom and 10.10 megapixel resolution – more than the iPhone 4S and its 8 Megapixels, and far more than my phone’s 3.2mp. For such a wee thing, it sure packs a lot of punch.

Cardboard cameras

IKEA, the chain store that can furnish your entire home in approximately 16 seconds for just $4.99 (give or take), has extended their ‘keep it simple’ philosophy to the camera industry.

Those lucky recipients now own a camera made almost entirely out of cardboard. With a zoom feature, a built-in USB connector, and the capacity to hold 40 photos at a time, it could get completely soaked in the rain and still perform better than my camera phone.

Check out this neat little video on how it works:

Gingerbread cameras

Introducing the 16 megapixel Nikon Coolpix S800c. No, you can’t eat it, but you can connect directly to the Google Play store and all its photo-friendly apps as this camera runs on Android 2.3 Gingerbread. From this photo you’d barely even know it’s a camera.

Nikon s800c camera Android Gingerbread

Seems the only thing you can’t do with this camera is make calls, so at least it has one thing in common with my phone.

Crystal camera… bookends

Perfect for the photographers and bookworms in your life. A tribute to the Canon 7D, these beautiful bookends are completely handcrafted out of premium grade crystal. You can’t take photos with this, but no doubt one day some brilliant nutter will create a fully functional crystal camera.

Camera bookends fancy.com crystal

Fancy is worthy of its own blog piece. A little like Pinterest, only deliberately more commercialised, it is host to an abundance of innovative and gorgeous products I never knew I needed. But I really do. Honest. Perhaps I’ll hold onto my old phone a little longer.

crystal camera bookends fancy.com

The public appetite for visual stimulation is ever growing. Photos will, one way or another, be around forever. Smartphones are getting better at taking these, but the camera continue to evolve and stay ahead – and a good camera is still best for capturing those moments truly worth keeping.

Eleven awesome photos of Auckland’s skyline

Auckland NZ Sky Tower waterfront fireworks

Happy birthday, Sky Tower.

This lanky Auckland landmark turned 15 years old this month. It’s very tall for its age; at 328 metres it was, for a while, the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere. Like many other 15 year olds it craves popularity – and with 300,000 visitors a year it’s certainly not missing out on that.

Conversely, while the typical teenager is prone to losing their rag at the slightest provocation, the Sky Tower was built to withstand 200 km/hr winds, an 8.0 earthquake and – as we were reminded a couple of days ago – the odd bit of lightning.

Check out the Sky Tower’s official website (it’s waayyy too cool for Bebo) for more crazy but true facts.

For many of us, it’s hard to imagine the Auckland skyline without that giant church spire/hypodermic needle, as it has been described at various times. So this NZ Herald piece with pre and post 1997 shots of the city was a bit of an eye opener.

Knowing our Open2view team takes photographs for love as well as money, I thought I’d see if they had any interesting Sky Tower and other Auckland pictures stored away. As always, they delivered – and my inbox was soon filled with shots of Auckland in a wide variety of moods.

Because I’m the only one with this blog’s password, here’s a selection of my favourites. Click a pic for a better view and more information.

While you’re here, learn more about the Open2view photographers who took these shots:

Dallas Meeking
Chris Botha
Tim Whittaker
Mike Taylor

Open2view on The Block

Hands up who has been watching The Block NZ? Good, now put your hands down because this is a blog and we can’t see you.

The Block NZ is the kiwi version of the popular renovation-reality series. Four couples compete over nine weeks to fix a run down house in an upmarket suburb – in this case, 74-80 Anzac Street in lovely Takapuna. The houses are smashed up, fixed up, and then auctioned off in a special live episode. The winners are the couple whose house scores the highest price over reserve.

According to the ratings a huge number of people knew all of that already. Last Wednesday The Block NZ was viewed by an audience of 414,990, making it the third most watched show that evening.

The social media universe lights up every Wednesday and Thursday with comments and debate over who’s doing the best job and who deserves to win. Is it quirky engaged couple Rachel and Tyson? Teen sweethearts Ginny and Rhys? Super-creative siblings Libby and Ben? Or perhaps sporty DIYers Sarah and Richard?

One thing we do know for sure: you really can’t have a real estate show without Open2view.

Real estate photography is serious business. Here’s Open2view’s David Deane inside one of The Block houses.

We were very pleased to have been contracted by Bayleys to take the photos for all four houses – and because we’re nice guys, we’ve given all the houses the ‘Featured Property’ treatment.  You can check out the houses now on our website:

Rachel & Tyson – 74 Anzac St

Sarah & Richard – 76 Anzac St

Libby & Ben – 78 Anzac St

Ginny & Rhys – 80 Anzac St

Keep checking these links as the series continues and more photos become available – this is a spoiler free zone!

TV3 has also announced the dates for The Block open homes. Thousands of people, from potential buyers to the plain curious, are expected to walk through the properties on 25 August and 1 September. The contestants will no doubt be praying for a sunny, mud-free day.

For those of you who can’t make it, the Open2view experience is the next best thing to being there. We don’t just take photos; The Block houses all have walkthroughs tours and interactive floor plans, providing a unique and user-friendly perspective of each house.

The beauty of all this is you don’t have to be a reality TV star to get such treatment. These, along with our twilight shots, elevated pole photography and videos, are services we provide to everyone for a competitive price. On top of all that, we then list your house on our own, very popular, website.

If you’re thinking of selling, check out our services site and tell your agent why you want one of our professionals on the job. You may also want to remind them that throughout August and September we are offering half price pole photography in participating areas.

You may not have the benefits of 400,000 people checking out your house on telly every week, but we will make your house look like a star, and we’ll get it seen.

All the contestants’ houses will be auctioned off live on TV3 on 6 September. Good luck to all. Like much of the country, we’ll be watching closely!

July’s Property Report in short

Olympic rings London 2012

House prices are barely rising, so no need to pawn off any rings just yet.

With Realestate.co.nz’s head guru Alistair Helm out of the country last week, there has been much thumb twiddling while waiting for their NZ Property Report to be released. Once it was, I tried squeezing so many Mars and Olympic puns into it Tongariro tried to end the pain and blow itself up.

Sorry. But hey, don’t say we didn’t warn you.

So here’s a quick pun-free look at the always excellent NZ Property Report and other bits of real estate data for July.

The big news was the number of new listings. While there were fewer than last month, the 9411 new houses on the market represents a 5% jump on this time last year. This led to an increase from 29.8 weeks of inventory to 31, still well below the long-term average of 40. Winter is the quietest time of year for the real estate market, but the call for more listings has been ongoing and sellers are responding – and that’s good news for house buyers.

Nowhere is this more needed than those eternally heated markets, Auckland and Canterbury. With just 19 and 18 weeks inventory respectively, they remain strong sellers’ markets. Auckland had 10% more listings last month than July 2011 – and yet inventory is still 25% down for the same period. Expert diagnosis: people really like living in Auckland.

Meantime, the asking price rose just 0.8% to $429,181. Sitting well above the national mean is Auckland (up 3% to $574,932) and Central Otago/Lakes (down 2.1% to $505, 294). Canterbury only rose 0.9%, but this was still enough to hit a new record of $393,433.

So what does the immediate future hold for house prices? Likely more of the same. With inflation low, and the exchange rate high, the Reserve Bank has no appetite to raise the Official Cash Rate. Dominick Stephens of Westpac, taking over goatee duties from Bernard Hickey, reckons we may have to wait until at least July 2013 for that.

Our Aussie counterparts yesterday left their cash rate at 3.5%, following four drops since November. Simply, there is no clamour in our region for a raise.

Banks are therefore not particularly bothered about putting up mortgage rates; in fact, on Monday, Westpac dropped theirs to 4.99% for those with more than 20% to deposit.

So while they say it’s a sellers’ market – and they’d be right – there is still plenty in there to keep buyers interested. And interested they are. Before anyone tells you there’s a bubble, however, consider this: mortgage debt, according to the Reserve Bank, increased just 1.8% in the year to June (click on ‘Historical data’ in that link). Compare this with the big boom of last decade, where we regularly saw annual increases of between 15-17 percent, and you can see people are now being far more sensible about taking on more debt.

Whether you’re thinking of buying or selling, it’s not a bad time to be in the market. So let your Curiosity get the better of you, give your local agent or broker a ring, rove around those Open Homes and go for gold. Sorry.

Flashback: Our 2010 Mahé Drysdale interview

Wow, not a bad weekend to be a New Zealander right? First we had Hamish Bond and Eric Murray continue their amazing four year unbeaten streak, then Mahé Drysdale won the gold medal he so richly deserved four years earlier. 

Back in 2010, when Open2view used to publish a flash magazine, we interviewed Mahé about that heroic effort in Beijing, his training techniques and much more. And after last Friday, we thought it’d be pertinent to reproduce it here for you all to see. Words by Helene Ravlich, and photos by Jason Tregurtha.

Well done to all our Olympic athletes. Call us greedy, but here’s hoping for even more success before the Games are over!

Mahe Drysdale rowing

31 year old rowing champion Alexander Mahé Drysdale is one of our most loved athletes, and was the undisputed star of the Beijing Olympics after pushing through illness to compete  – and place – in the Men’s Single Scull.

Born in Melbourne, Australia, he began rowing at university at the age of 18. He gave up rowing to concentrate on his studies, but began again after watching New Zealander Rob Waddell win gold at the 2000 Olympic Games.

The lanky athlete began competing at the World Cup level in 2002, rowing in the New Zealand coxless four. After the 2004 Olympic Games, in which his New Zealand crew finished fifth in the final, Drysdale switched to the single scull, winning the 2005 World Championships in Japan, despite having broken two vertebrae in a crash with a water skier earlier in the year.

Fast forward to the Beijing Olympics and Drysdale was once again competing against all odds, suffering a severe gastrointestinal infection in the week before his final that saw him off form and place third in the race. He was carried into a waiting ambulance, clearly suffering from his illness. The whole of New Zealand was behind the incredible competitor, and stood proud as he returned to the podium to collect his bronze.

We find out a little about what makes the athlete tick, talking to him after another long day out on the water.

Where are you living at the moment?

I’m in Cambridge at the moment, the whole New Zealand Rowing team is based here.


So where you live is determined by your training needs?

Yeah, I’ve been here for nine years now, and pretty much full time. I still consider Tauranga home, but at the moment I’d say I’m very much a Cambridge sort of person!


What are you working towards at the moment?

Obviously the big goal is the 2012 Olympics, but this year we’ve got the World Rowing Champs here in New Zealand so we’re fully focused on – and training towards – that at the moment.


For a non athlete, the thought of thinking as far ahead as 2012 just seems insane! Does that way of thinking just come naturally to you now?

It always seems like quite a long time when you first start thinking about it, but now we’re just two years away, which for an athlete is not a huge amount of time. It seems to go pretty quickly and it’s how I’ve always focused. Every year I think about the Olympics and work out what I have to achieve that year to get closer to the goal. I’ve always made commitments four years in advance as far back as I can remember, and when I came home from Beijing I wasn’t ready to row again until I’d made that four year commitment.


How much down time did you have following the Beijing Olympics?

It was about four months, Beijing was August and I didn’t seriously start rowing again until the middle of January. It took that much time for me to decide whether or not I’d go to London and work out if I was 100 per cent committed to going out and training again. You can’t do it half arsed, it has to be 100 per cent or not at all in this game. The break was for the best but at the time it was sort of a weird time for me because as an athlete with a four year goal, you know what you’re doing every day for the next four years, and suddenly I had nothing planned.

Mahe Drysdale on Lake Karapiro

So you must find it hard to get out of training mode?

Absolutely, after the Olympics I realised that I didn’t know what has happening tomorrow or the day after, and that took some getting used to.


So what did you do?

I kept pretty busy. I was overseas for a while visiting family and doing a few races just for fun, I took care of a lot of sponsors’ commitments and speaking around the country. I still did a bit of training here and there, but took it at my own pace. It wasn’t like I was sitting at home the whole time!


Do you have a job outside training?

No, I’m a full time athlete now so that’s all I do, and it’s definitely improved for us in the last few years. When I first started in the sport there was not a cent available to live on, but now we’re fairly well funded thanks to the work of SPARC (Sport & Recreation New Zealand).

Is it a good or a bad thing do you think, the fact that in New Zealand athletes don’t get multi million dollar sponsorship deals like some overseas do? Do you think it keeps you humble?

Yes, I really think it does. I don’t know what it would be like to earn that much money, but I think that either way, if you want to succeed in sport you’ve got to be doing it for the right reasons. That’s one thing we’ve got in rowing, because you’re never going to be suddenly really rich you’re doing it because you love it. If I wasn’t paid a cent I’d be doing the same thing, but when it’s your time to leave the sport I guess it’s easier to walk away when you’re not motivated by money.

Would you recommend that young athletes travel overseas to train and compete, or do we have a solid programme they can go through in New Zealand now?

It really depends on your sport. In terms of rowing, what we have in New Zealand is World Class at the moment. If you have people ahead of you in your sport that are living in the same country as you are then it’s definitely not a bad thing to stay there, but if you’re the best in New Zealand in your sport then I think it’s a good idea to leave. If your competition is overseas you’ve got to get out there and train to be better than them. When I decided to change to Single Sculling I went overseas and sought out the best people I could find because we didn’t have anyone here I could really compare myself to. I didn’t want to just be the best in New Zealand but the best in the world, so I needed to track them down. Now in New Zealand the Single Scull is full of world champions, so we’ve achieved a lot.


You’ve worked through injury and illness to compete at the best of your ability – does that just come with the territory of being an athlete?

I think so, we’re prone to having illness and injury as it’s just part of competing at the level we do. I think it’s just a matter of going out there and giving it your best on the day, no matter how you’re feeling. You don’t get a second chance, you have to front up on the day.


So do you spend as much time training your mind for competition as you do your body?

The mind is a massive part of sport, mentally is often where the race is won and lost. You’ll be lined up against six individuals who are pretty similar to you physically, so your mind can give you that edge. I’m lucky that I’m a competitive person naturally, so I don’t have to try in that area as much as some people do.


You won the Halberg Award in 2006, how did that feel?

It was pretty cool, awards aren’t the reason I am in this sport but obviously it’s really nice to be recognised as the premier sports person in your country. It’s a pretty big honour.


Does it spur you on as an athlete, that you are being celebrated for your success by people all over the country?

Yeah, it definitely helps and reminds you take the time to reflect back on what you’ve achieved and to celebrate that success. After the Olympics I was blown away when I realised how many people were there behind me – having a support team of four million is pretty amazing. It breaks up the monotony of training when you’re at an awards dinner too, but the next morning you’re back out on the water and have swapped your penguin suit for lycra!


What do you do to relax?

I’m actually pretty good at it, I’m great at just chilling out. I take my dog to the beach, hang out with friends and play golf. You have to keep balance in your life. Rowing dictates it and controls it, so when you’re doing that you really appreciate time to yourself.