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The Portrait and Wedding Photographers Tool Kit // Part 2 : Camera Selection

Alright! It’s been a few weeks since the first part of this series! If you didn’t get a chance yet check out Part 1 where I go over lens selection for portrait and wedding photography. In this article I’m going to be going over a few possible camera options.

The first thing that I want to mention is that if you currently own an SLR camera DO NOT immediately go and sell your camera in order to purchase one of the cameras here. Just because I perhaps don’t mention your camera in this article doesn’t mean it isn’t suitable for portrait or wedding photography. You may just want to keep this article in mind for future purchase, or upgrades.

Second I’m going to try to make this article as future-proof as possible, a difficult task considering the constantly changing camera market, but hopefully you’ll get a better idea of what to look for as cameras change.

Canon vs. Nikon

Let’s just open up that can of worms right away.

I think the more realistic battle would be Canon & Nikon vs. Everyone Else.

Lauren and I shoot Canon, but I honestly don’t have that strong a preference for one or the other. If I were to choose today I would likely go with Nikon (mainly because they feel better in my hands!).

But really, both make great cameras. Some years one manufacturer is on top in terms of features, and the next year things change. Prices are generally close. It’s not a big deal.

So, if you’re looking for a DSLR you’ll likely end up going with either Canon or Nikon.

Of course other manufacturers exist (Sony, Pentax, Olympus) but they currently occupy such a small market share comparatively that if you’re looking to make long term investments (like lenses) then the wisest decision is going with a manufacturer who dominates the market (at least in my opinion).

The camera bodies you choose will be outdated within a few years, but the lenses you choose will last a lot longer. Consider them investments, and pick a company that is stable, and will still support those lenses in a decade.

What and Why?

For wedding and portrait photography a camera that works beautifully is the Canon 5D mk II.

I would say that right now it’s sitting on top of the market for wedding and portrait photography mainly for it’s resolution (21mp) as well as it’s ability to capture 1080p video and it’s low price point (~$2500). Nikon will surely respond with similar features and prices – it’s just a matter of time.

5DMKII.jpg

Awesome Things About This Camera:

  1. Hi-res files – There is plenty of room to crop images as you please!
  2. High ISO – High ISO files look amazing (especially when shot in RAW and processed using Lightroom 3). This really expands low light shooting possibilites.
  3. Full Frame sensor – When we started shooting full frame with the original 5D we saw a huge leap in the quality of our photography. Images just looked crisper, the depth of field was shallower, and the shooting experience (looking through the larger viewfinder) was much better. Check out this article for a look at different sensor sizes and how it affects the image
  4. Video – It’s pretty amazing to have a high resolution video camera capable of using all of your different lenses. Check out this article on using HDSLR video to create moving portraits.
  5. Size – Lauren loves using a camera without an attached battery grip. It makes the camera lighter, less imposing, and less noticeable.
  6. Price – ~$2500 is cheap for a camera with this feature set

Not-So Awesome Things About This Camera:

  1. Build quality – It feels a bit cheap (ergonomics, and buttons). Canon could take a few cues from Nikon on this front.
  2. Auto focus – Feels sluggish at times.
  3. Frames per second (fps) – This is the biggest downfall of this camera. When we’re shooting a family or couple we need to be capturing those split second expressions. That is critical. This camera falls short with its maximum speed of 3.9 fps.

If you’re looking for a relatively equivalent Nikon camera then you would be looking at the Nikon D700. It doesn’t have the same huge sensor (It’s only 12mp), or video (which you may not even use) but it does have better build quality, better autofocus, and faster fps (It states 5fps, but I believe you can actually get around 8 fps by manually pressing the shutter release instead of holding the shutter down. Weird hack).

How low can you go?

You don’t need a Canon 5D mk II to start making great photos! While I think it’s the best option for professional wedding and portrait photographers, if you’re just starting out you’ll probably want to ease into it. Gear is expensive!

Not to worry, there are a couple options to get you going:

Canon: The Rebel T2i is Canon’s entry level dSLR. I’ll let you just follow that link, but rest assured that this is an insanely feature full camera for it’s price point.

If you’re looking for the next step up I would suggest the Canon 7D.

These cameras have similar features. I would say the biggest difference is the actual size of the camera. The 7D is a larger, more pro feeling camera. The 7D also features two dedicated adjustment wheels which makes it easier to control both aperture and shutter speed when shooting in manual.

Nikon: For Nikon the equivalent cameras would be the D5000 for an entry level and the D300s for the more pro entry level. Nikon also has the D90 which sits in between entry and semi pro.

How pro can you go?

When it comes to wedding and portrait photography you can go big. Really big.

However, it really isn’t necessary. Cameras like the 5DMKII can handle all the challenges of a wedding and then some. You will definitely be reaching deep into your pockets to produce the money necessary for these work horse cameras.

There are, of course, advantages to th
e more expensive cameras.

What you’ll end up with is better build quality, faster frames per second, better autofocus, and a larger camera.

Those are all great things, but can be overkill for portraits and weddings. These cameras are more suited to landscape, sports, commercial and fashion photography.

Canon: The 1D mk IV is Canon’s pro sports shooter solution (10 fps! + 1.3x sensor). The 1Ds mk III is currently Canon’s flagship camera, look for it to be updated by the end of the summer.

Nikon: The D3S is Nikon’s pro sports camera, and the D3X is their flagship camera.

The four above cameras are in the $5000-$7500 range. Yikes! That’s a hefty price-tag, but if you can afford, by all means. You’ll enjoy it :)

What else?

You can refer to Part 1 of this series for links to review sites and places you can rent gear from to try out. Trying before you buy is always a good idea, especialy when you’ll dealing with such a large investment.

This post was limited to digital SLRs because I think they work out the best for wedding and portrait photography.

Digital provides a versatility that is advantageous for professional people photography. But that doesn’t mean that your options are limited to just digital SLRs.

Now more than ever is the perfect time to experiment with film (35mm, medium format, and large format), micro 4/3s, camera phones, anything that can take a photo!

While digital will always be necessary, finding a mixture will help you stay creative and have fun!

Back in time!

To the future!

Rob Lim

Hi there, I’m Rob! I’m a photographer and head ninja here at Photography Concentrate. I love all things photography: shooting, teaching and always learning more! If I’m not reading up on the latest photography news, or studying a technique, I’m probably reading a book or planning our next adventure!

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Discussion

29 Comments // Leave a comment

  1. Good article! Something else to mention . . . if you're just starting out, I'd recommend picking up an used or refurb model. I bought a Canon 40D first without knowing what I was buying and payed over a grand (which was good for the time). I ended up buying a refurb Canon Rebel xti as a backup for less than $350, and to be honest, I shoot with it more! The 40D is the better camera and has much better build quality, but the xti gives it a run for it's money and is smaller / lighter. I could have saved the money for a full frame camera or a nice L lens. :)

  2. Michael Messing says:

    The 7D has one other big advantage over the Rebel: it has a much more advanced focusing system. Outside of the 1D series cameras, the 7D is the only Canon body that has a better focusing system. All the rest (Rebel series, 60D, 5D) use pretty much the same 9-point focusing system.

  3. Hi Rob and Lauren,

    First of all, thank you so much for all of your advice and explainations that are always so clear and to the point. I keep going back to reading various articles once in a while to remind me or to re-inspire me. It is a scary time for me as I am about to launch my photography full time in a new country (I am originally from France and after spending time in the UK and Dubai, i have relocated in Asia). I own a Canon 60D which I love, I am still at crop frame but hopefully I will be successful enough to be able to afford full frame at some point! I was just curious to know what your take was on 60D as I value very much your experience and opinions. In regards to lenses, I have at the moment a canon 50mm f/1.8 which I use a lot for portraits and a tamron 18-250 mm which I have used for portraits as well and has given me some really good shots. I do get frustrated at times with the lack of sharpness so I do look forward to using more prime lenses and a full frame camera when time allows.
    Thank you for your feedback and your posts, keep it up!
    Caroline.

    • Hey Caroline! Glad to hear you’re enjoying the site :) I haven’t personally used a 60D so I can’t comment on it extensively but it looks like a great camera. We started out with 10D’s, 20D’s, 30D’s, and 40D’s – so we’ve worked through that lineup quite a bit. Those cameras served us well! They we’re easy to control, and produced great quality results.

      I’ve eyed the 60D recently for it’s tilt-able screen which looks great for video use. It’s also quite reasonably priced for the features it offers.

      For the longterm though you’ll probably want to keep a full frame camera in mind (as you build a collection of lenses).

      • Hi Rob, thanks for your reply. The tilt screen has actually served me to get some great shots as well in situations where it was impossible to be “behind” the camera as such! You can get some interesting perspectives!

        Advice taken on the camera and lenses. Thanks!

  4. This is so helpful. Thank you. I am going to open a studio soon and I was wondering which type of camera to buy but now you have me thinking. I have a D90 now but I need a full frame I can tell the difference when i am framing. I also hate how whenever I take the pictures it looks right in my viewfinder but there is more background then I saw in the view finder then when I view the image. Does having a full frame help with this?

  5. i want to get a camera, am new to the shooting business andiwas advised to get a nikon d3200. i have read about it, but i still need an expert opinion. i will be going into fashion photography, not exactly on a huge scale. so what is your advise tome

  6. Hi Rob,

    Thanks for the article. As i am new and just venturing out in the world of professional photography, could you suggest which camera family i should go for Pro DSLR Canon or Nikon. As you are aware that photography involves a lot of investment and its wise that i chose a good body, and build a array of lenses to go with it. I am focusing on Wildlife as well as potrait photography for the time being. Hopefully one day i would be shooting for Vogue, Nat Geo etc. Your able advice and guidance is requested.

  7. Hi Rob.
    I want to buy a new DSLR Please tell which DSLR Brand is best Nikon or Canon because i have never experience before any DSLR…! what you think about Nikon D600 and Canon 7D which one is better…My Budget is about $2,000.
    Thanks you. :)

    • Rob Lim says:

      Hi Talha!

      I think both Canon and Nikon make great cameras. We use Canon just because we started out with them and now have so much invested in the lenses and gear.

      For $2000 you should consider a full frame camera like the Canon 6D or Nikon D600

  8. Rita Carvalho says:

    Hi Rob,

    is Canon 6D a good camera for Portrait Photography and Events? I’m just starting out and still thinking what is the best option to purchase, but from what I’ve been reading, this seems to be a very good camera.

    Thanks,
    Rita C.

    • Hi Rita!

      We’ve been using the 6D exclusively for the past 6 months and love it! It’s Canon’s most affordable full frame camera and performs excellently. It doesn’t have the additional autofocus points, fast frames per second, or weather sealing that the 5D3 has, but it’s also a lot cheaper. I think it’s a great option for portrait photography and events!

  9. Hi Rob
    I am looking for a camera that takes great portraits and video. My budget is around 1000, and what is the best lens that goes with it under this price?

    • Hi Yasser!

      Thanks for your question. You could check out the 60D with 18-135mm IS lens. That will be a good combo for video. Then for a great starter lens for portraits you could pick up a 50mm f/1.8.

      I should mentioned that almost any camera can be used to take great video and portraits at this point. The above suggestions are probably the best options to fit your price range. You could save some cash by buying used, or looking at the Canon rebel series of cameras (which are still dSLR cameras).

  10. Hi Rob,

    I want to buy a Camera for Wedding Photography with faster shutter speed and great zoom.

    My budget is around 15-20K INR.

    Please suggest me a good one with some good features.

    Thanks,
    Rizwan

  11. Hi Rob,

    Thanks for all the info! Very useful! I have my T3i for a couple of years and am planning on the next one… :D
    I try clicking on the “HDSLR video to create moving portraits” article but it’s not available anymore… :(
    Do you suggest another video about it?
    Thanks again!! :D

  12. Thanks for these tips:-) I currently own a Canon EOS 550D and a 60D. The lenses that I have include a 18-55mm IS, 70-300mm IS and a 100mm macro 2.8L
    I really want to get into portrait and wedding photography and was wondering which lens you would recommend. I am (sadly) on a budget:-(

  13. Nikon D610 or D800 ? Thankyou.

  14. HI rob,
    I’m brand new at this photography thing, i really am falling in love with it and its time for me to buy a camera. I tend to do more portraits, head shots and dance photos, But it would also might be nice to grow into something like shooting a wedding so I’m looking for a camera that has fast autofocus, something where the f stop remains the same on the zoom, probably a 85-100mm lens. Anything you could perhaps recommend? I was looking at the EOS 70D or the 6D. What do you think?-Zach

  15. Sollte ich lieber eine Sony Kamera kaufen, oder keine Marken Kamera?

  16. Hi , im a film person I guess so what would be a decent film slr to start with? I have a fujica stx1 that works great but what is one you might recommend?

  17. Currently own a d5100. Any inputs what this camera is good for and or capable with?

  18. M confused. M confused between Nikon d5200 and canon 60d. I have query tat how is Nikon dslr’s auto focus compared to canon dslr’s? Please help me!! N tell something about Nikon d5200.

  19. SARTAJ HUSSAIN says:

    Hello Rob Lim!
    Which Nikon DSLR camera is comparable with Canon EOS 600D? Should i prefer Nikon D3200 on Canon EOS 600D? Please guide me. I’m bit confused what camera should be selected…!

  20. Which one would you recommend between D7100 & 70D for Portrait and Wedding Photography ? Since it’ll be my first mid-range camera, I’ll also be buying my own lenses, so I’ll have to stick with that brand. (I used both of them and felt comfortable with both of them, reason why looking for pro advise)

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