Best Camera for Portraits | 2023

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This guide is here to help you find the best camera for portraits. Creating stunning pictures of people is a richly rewarding art, but there are a few things you need to factor in when buying kit for it. A good portrait camera and lens combination will have different qualities than one for, say, landscapes, architecture, motorsport racing or wildlife.

Here are the key things you’ll need to think about when choosing a camera for portraits.

Sensor size - Larger sensors have many advantages in terms of image quality, delivering better dynamic range and high-ISO performance. What’s especially interesting for portrait shooters though is that a larger sensor allows for a narrower depth of field, meaning you can more effectively isolate a pin-sharp subject against a blurred background. However, larger sensors also come in more expensive cameras, so it’s a matter of weighing your needs against your budget.

Resolution - Quite simply the number of pixels on a sensor. Ideally, for portraiture you want a fair few megapixels to play with, particularly if part of your process or business is going to be offering prints of your images. Big megapixel counts deliver more detailed images, but also require your focusing to be dead-on, and your lenses to be as sharp as possible. Speaking of which…

Lens selection - Getting the right lens is of critical importance in portrait shooting, as you need a generous maximum aperture to create an image with a sharp main subject and an artfully blurred background. This means you generally need to opt for an interchangeable-lens camera, as compacts won’t have big enough apertures, and also means you need to think carefully about the lens options you’ll have available, which we’ve kept in mind when making our choices for this guide. You can see our dedicated guide to the best lenses for portraiture here [link].

Eye AF - In portraiture, focusing sharply on the eyes is critical for successful pictures. Your autofocus and burst rates don’t need to be as mind-blowingly fast as they do for wildlife and sports photography, but with that said, having a camera that can accurately pick out and keep focus on a person’s eyes will make your life a lot easier.

With all that said, let’s count off the best cameras for portraits you can buy in 2023…

Best Mirrorless camera for portraits

With high-resolution sensors, class-leading stabilisation and the next generation of autofocus, the best mirrorless cameras are an ideal choice for portrait shooting. Whether you go with a full-frame sensor or a more affordable model with a smaller size of sensor, you’ll be spoiled for choice. Sony is currently the market leader in terms of raw megapixels, thanks to its top-of-the-line A7R cameras and their 61MP chips, but don’t count out rival manufacturers like Canon and Fujifilm. We’ve included a broad selection to give you plenty to think about.

When buying a mirrorless camera, you also want to think about the lens system you’re buying into. Sony arguably has an advantage in full-frame mirrorless terms simply because its system has been around longer than many others. However, Canon and Nikon allow DSLR lenses to be adapted to their mirrorless cameras with full functionality, opening up a wealth of possibilities. And while Fujifilm X doesn’t have as many lenses as other systems, it has something of a speciality in ultra-sharp, large-aperture prime lenses that are perfect for portraiture. So, let’s look at the options. 

Sony A7R V Digital Camera Body

£3,999.00 View

Pros:

  • Stunning 61MP back-illuminated sensor
  • Subject-detection autofocus
  • Huge range of sharp FE primes

Cons:

  • No resolution upgrade over A7R IVA
  • Sensor demands the very best lenses

The latest in Sony’s high-resolution A7R mirrorless series, the Sony A7R V gives you 61 megapixels to play with on a back-illuminated full-frame sensor. Now, granted, this was also true of the previous camera in the series, the Sony A7R IVA, so what’s new with this edition?

Sony has outfitted this newer mirrorless camera with new processing engines that make its operation faster and more powerful than ever. Crucially, these enable the use of the hot-ticket camera feature of the last couple of years – AI-powered subject-detect focusing and exposure systems. The A7R V can recognise human shapes, faces and eyes with incredible reliability, and track humans in a variety of poses and positions. It can find eyes even when they’re barely visible, and you can dial into the settings to focus on eyes and nothing else, if you want. 

For portraiture, the Sony A7R V is a dream – as was the A7R IVA. So if you can live without next-gen autofocus and want to save some cash, the older camera is definitely worth consideration too. 

Canon EOS R5 Digital Camera Body

Free 3LT Tripod worth £300

£3,799.00 inc. Cashback View

Pros:

  • Class-leading image quality
  • Sophisticated in-body image stabilisation
  • Huge range of EF and RF lenses

Cons:

  • Not many for stills…
  • … though video is limited

The Canon EOS R5 is still arguably the finest stills camera the firm has yet produced. Its full-frame 45MP sensor produces dazzling images, full of detail and punching with rich colours. Powered by a processor inherited from the pro-spec EOS 1D X Mark III DSLR, the EOS R5 delivers fast speeds and excellent autofocusing in a variety of situations – the Eye AF in particular will be of interest to portrait photographers, and it is impressively accurate and tenacious.

The EOS R5 also introduced an effective in-body image stabilisation system to the world of Canon full-frame, and it provides highly effective compensation for slow shutter speeds when light levels get low. It can work in tandem with both RF and EF lenses (the latter via an adapter) to enhance the effect still further. For stills, there are very few reasons not to love the EOS R5 – but if you’re also planning to shoot video, you may want to take its infamous recording time limits into account.

Fujifilm X-T5 Digital Camera Body - Black

£1,609.00 inc. Cashback View

Pros:

  • Sublime JPEG quality
  • Excellent portrait lens options
  • Top-class handling

Cons:

  • You’ll get a shallower depth of field on full-frame
  • … that’s about it!

The Fujifilm X-T5 is a class-act all-around, and an ideal choice for portrait photography. Its considerable resolution bump to 40MP, compared to 26.1MP on the X-T4, makes it a compelling choice for portrait photographers, and it’s a wonderful camera to use thanks to the system’s resolutely analogue-style handling. Dials on the top plate and aperture rings on the lenses? Yes please.

Images from the X-T5 look absolutely gorgeous. You get exceptional quality in RAW at most settings, of course, though if you prefer to shoot in JPEG and take advantage of the creative Film Simulation modes, the X-T5 is great for that too. Its autofocus system is an AI-powered subject-detect system, and while it’s not as powerful as those you’ll find on the likes of Sony and Canon, it’s more than enough for portrait shooting.

There aren’t many flaws to this camera as far as portraits are concerned. Full-frame sensors will give you shallower depth of field, but let’s not get carried away– APS-C gives you plenty, and the superb selection of large-aperture lenses for X-mount more than makes up for it.

Best DSLR for Portraits

DSLRs make for excellent portrait cameras. Even though they are typically a little heavier than mirrorless cameras, their deep handgrips often make them easier to operate one-handed, which can be useful if you’re exploring creative shooting angles. Many photographers simply can’t do without the immediacy of an optical viewfinder that a DSLR provides. Others appreciate their extended battery life, with CIPA ratings often running into the thousands of shots per charge (and CIPA ratings are conservative estimates).

There are good DSLRs for portraits at all levels, whether you want a high-end pro-spec camera, or something that’s pitched and priced a little more towards enthusiasts. Another advantage of DSLRs, especially those by Canon and Nikon, is that they use lens mounts that span across decades of photographic history. So as well as the newest, fastest lenses, you can also explore the world of vintage analogue lenses to give your portraits an altogether different feel.

Nikon D850 Digital SLR Camera Body

Save £250, was £3249

£2,499.00 View

Pros:

  • Terrific image quality and detail
  • Extended battery life
  • In-camera batch RAW processing

Cons:

  • Quite big and heavy
  • AF suffers in Live View

Best DSLR ever made? You could find no shortage of photographers who’d argue that case. The Nikon D850 is a workhorse camera that just shoots and shoots, and does so in glorious 45.7MP detail thanks to its full-frame back-illuminated sensor. All the classic advantages of DSLRs are present and correct – the D850 has a weather-sealed body, enviable battery life and a big, beautiful viewfinder. There are plenty of other useful features too, including dual card slots – one for XQD/CFExpress, one for SD UHS-II. But more than that, it’s a camera that just feels great to use – one you can trust to nail the shot, time and again. Being able to batch-process RAW files in-camera is handy too.

It’s not a light camera, and if you’re using it handheld for an extended shoot, you’ll be keenly aware of the weight. Also, be aware that the AF speed does suffer if you’re using Live View with the LCD rather than composing in the viewfinder. 

Canon EOS 90D Digital SLR Camera Body

£1,149.00 View

Pros:

  • Generous 32MP resolution
  • Highly accurate metering sensor
  • Excellent optical viewfinder

Cons:

  • Only one card slot
  • Quality drops sharply beyond ISO 1600

A highly effective argument for the continuing relevance of enthusiast DSLRs, the Canon EOS 90D is a solid choice for portrait shooters who don’t quite have the budget for a pro-spec camera. Its APS-C sensor boasts a resolution of 32.5MP – a cut above most cameras at this level, which tend to hover around the 24MP mark. Thanks to its 220,000-pixel RGB +IR metering sensor, the Canon EOS 90D has an impressive ability to nail accurate exposures in all manner of different lighting conditions, and DSLR enthusiasts will also appreciate its optical viewfinder, which is a textbook example of the type. 

One thing to be aware of is that the EOS 90D only finds room for a single card slot. This isn’t an absolute deal-breaker for portrait shoots, where it’s relatively easy to swap cards, but all the same, you may want to invest in a high-capacity SD card to avoid breaking the flow of shoots too regularly. 

Best Medium Format Camera for Portraits

Large-sensor medium format cameras are tricky to master – but they have the potential to produce absolutely stunning portraiture. The big megapixel counts require pitch-perfect focusing and absolute rock-steady camera work (you’ll want a tripod at your disposal), while the large sensors deliver a distinctive look with unparalleled depth and dynamic range. For creating dazzling shallow depth of field, with the main subject absolutely pin-sharp and the background beautifully defocused with sublime bokeh, a medium format camera is the best option on the table.

It used to be the case that medium format cameras were so big and expensive that only a small niche of photographers had any interest in them. However, the game has changed thanks to Fujifilm and Hasselblad. Nowadays, medium format cameras are much more affordable than they used to be, and portable enough to be used hand-held.

Medium format is a fantastic choice for portraits. Here are our favourite options.

Hasselblad X2D 100C Medium Format Digital Camera Body

£7,369.00 View

Pros:

  • New standard of 100MP imaging
  • Near-perfect ergonomics
  • 1TB of built-in storage

Cons:

  • No video

A brand new release that has turned plenty of heads, the Hasselblad X2D 100C is a class-leading medium format camera. That “100” in the name refers to its 100MP sensor, just as it does in the Fujifilm GFX series, and having all that detail at your disposal makes you feel, frankly, godlike. You have to crop into images to an absurd degree before noticing any pixelation at all, and this gives you enormous compositional flexibility. The autofocus is excellent, with 896 phase-detection points at your disposal, and you’ll probably find yourself engaging with the stabilisation system quite frequently if you shoot hand-held. Suddenly, slower shutter speeds become possible, and you don’t have to worry quite so much about all those pixels.

The ergonomics of the camera are just right – it feels fantastic to use. Plus, while 100MP files will eat through data, it provides 1TB of internal storage as well as the CFExpress card slot, giving you a bit more breathing room. 

Fujifilm GFX 50S II Medium Format Camera Body

£2,799.00 View

Pros:

  • Sensor design boosts apparent sharpness
  • AF upgraded with Eye Detection
  • Not too physically heavy, considering

Cons:

  • GFX 100S better shows off the system’s capabilities

The Fujifilm GFX 50S II uses a 51.4MP sensor with a clever, specialised design that maximises the sharpness of images. The trick is in small, on-sensor light-collecting microlenses, which increase the gap between adjacent pixels, and in turn, boost the light resolution of each individual pixel. If that all went over your head – don’t worry. The upshot is that images taken on the GFX 50S II look sharper than ever, making it a perfect choice for portraits. 

This isn’t the only aspect of the camera that Fujifilm has paid close attention to. The relatively lightweight design and mirrorless-style handling that made the GFX series famous is all present and correct here, with effective stabilisation that makes the camera more useable hand-held. While Fujifilm does have a 100MP option in the form of the GFX 100S – which will arguably better show off the capabilities of GFX lenses – the GFX 50S II is an outstanding camera in its own right that will deliver sublime portraits in the right hands. 

Best Budget Camera for Portraits

Portrait photography isn’t just for those with deep pockets. While we’ve seen plenty of high-end professional portrait cameras in this guide, there are also plenty of options for those who have comparatively little to spend – and you don’t just have to restrict yourself to point-and-shoots. Since lens choice is so important in portrait photography, we’ve picked out a selection of interchangeable-lens cameras that will produce stunning portraits without breaking the bank.

Working to a budget is all about being smart within your limitations and maximising the amount you get for your money. While the cameras we’ve listed here can all be bought new, we’d also recommend checking out our constantly changing selection of Used cameras, as this is the best way to pick up a professional-spec camera without having to pay professional prices. 

For now though, let’s look at the best budget cameras for portraits – to shoot perfect pictures of people without spending a fortune.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV Digital Camera Body - Silver

£649.00 View

Pros:

  • Effective 5-axis stabilisation
  • Loads of Micro Four Thirds lenses
  • Quick, precise autofocus

Cons:

  • Small MFT sensor
  • A little plasticky

One of the best beginner mirrorless cameras around, the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV is a clever and stylish little camera that ticks a lot of boxes for portrait shooters. For one, it is part of the Micro Four Thirds system, meaning you have absolutely loads of lenses to choose from, including plenty of fantastic large-aperture short telephotos that hit the portraiture sweet spot. What’s more, the E-M10 Mark IV has a stellar stabilisation system that makes it easier to use slower shutter speeds without incurring image blur.

Of course, the Micro Four Thirds system does also mean a smaller sensor than full-frame or APS-C. This does impact depth of field in images, as well as dynamic range, and can be restrictive in low light. It’s certainly not a deal-breaker – plenty of photographers have created dazzling portraits with Micro Four Thirds. You just have to be aware of what you’re working with, and get to know the camera.

Pros:

  • Very lightweight
  • Autofocus impresses
  • Useful 4K Photo modes

Cons:

  • 16MP resolution is a little low
  • Quite a slim handgrip

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX80 is also a Micro Four Thirds camera, meaning it shares a lot of the same advantages and drawbacks of the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV above. So what’s different about the GX80? This slimline, travel-friendly mirrorless camera has a few interesting features, including Panasonic’s famous 4K Photo modes. These allow you to extract 8MP stills from 4K footage, effectively giving yourself a 30fps burst mode. If you don’t need that much resolution, then it’s a fun new approach to portrait photography that can yield interesting results.

With a slimline design, the Lumix GX80 lacks the kind of deep handgrip that makes DSLRs and bigger mirrorless cameras easy to operate one-handed – though its textured surfaces do help you keep a secure hold on the body. Like the E-M10 IV, the Lumix GX80 also has a sophisticated stabilisation system, helping you keep images sharp at slower shutter speeds.

Canon EOS 250D Digital SLR Camera Body - Black

£659.00 View

Pros:

  • Beginner-friendly features
  • APS-C sensor
  • Vari-angle touchscreen

Cons:

  • You’ll quickly want to upgrade from the kit lens

Canon’s EOS 250D is one of the best beginner DSLRs you can buy, and is great for making your first in-roads into portrait shooting. With an APS-C sensor, it provides a significant upgrade in image quality over a smartphone, and it’s also packed with plenty of helpful guide modes to help new users get up to speed. A vari-angle touchscreen is also a nice inclusion, making it easier for the user to experiment with different angles for creative portraiture.

Like many beginner cameras, the EOS 250D comes bundled with a kit lens, in this case the 18-55mm IS STM, which is not a brilliant option for portraits due to its restricted maximum aperture. If you want a budget-friendly alternative or upgrade, the Canon EF 50mm f1.8 STM is an excellent choice. The crop factor of APS-C means it will deliver an equivalent focal length of around 80mm – ideal for portraiture. 

FAQs

What is portrait photography?

Portrait photography is a type of photography that focuses on capturing images of individuals or groups of people. It can be shot in a variety of styles, ranging from traditional, formal poses to more candid, spontaneous shots.

What equipment do I need for portrait photography?

A camera and a wide aperture lens. This combination will help you capture a shallow depth of field that is essential for portrait photography. A tripod and lighting equipment, such as soft boxes, reflectors, and strobes, can also greatly enhance the quality of your portraits.

What is the best time of day to shoot portraits?

The best time to shoot portraits is during the “golden hour”, which is the hour before sunset or the hour after sunrise. During this time, the light is warm, soft, and diffused, which creates a flattering and natural-looking environment for your subjects.

How do I pose my subjects?

Posing your subjects depends on their comfort level, the mood you want to convey, and the setting. A good starting point is to have them stand or sit with their shoulders back, chin slightly raised, and eyes looking directly into the camera. From there, you can have them lean, turn, or move in different directions to create variety and interest.

Do I need lighting to take portraits?

While it can be beneficial, you can take excellent portraits without it. However, if you do use lights, the key is to find the right balance of light and shadow to create depth and texture. You can use a single light source, such as a strobe, to create a dramatic look, or multiple light sources, such as soft boxes and reflectors, to create a more balanced and natural look.

What are the most common mistakes in portrait photography?

The most common mistakes in portrait photography include shooting with too much contrast, using too much flash, or not paying attention to the background. It’s also important to effectively communicate with your subjects, otherwise, it can lead to unflattering and unnatural-looking portraits.

How did we decide?

Our in-house photography experts, store staff and partners all work collaboratively to pour over these guides. The cameras and equipment recommended in our guides are based on their personal opinion, empirical experience and of course, feedback from our customers.

We way up price, features, quality and the all-important 'je ne sais quoi' to make sure we recommend products that will delight and inspire. 

If you would like more advice on any purchase our contact centre staff are here to help. Alternatively, you can reach us via email or social media

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