This article was updated in December 2023 with contributions from Ana Mireles and Jaymes Dempsey.
Are you looking for the best camera for portrait photography, but you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the options? You’ve come to the right place.
You can capture a portrait with any camera, of course – but if you’re planning to buy your first serious camera or you want to upgrade your gear for portrait shooting, you’ll want to pick out your next model carefully. Happily, this list features plenty of options worth considering.
I’ve included some top-notch professional models, but you should bear in mind that the best cameras for portraiture aren’t necessarily the most expensive; hence, you’ll also find some entry-level cameras and budget-conscious recommendations.
So without further ado, let’s get started!
1. Canon EOS R5
If you’re a professional looking to embrace mirrorless technology, then the Canon EOS R5 is a great pick, assuming you can afford the price.
The EOS R5 packs a 45-megapixel full-frame sensor designed for professional photography. For those who like to make action portraits, you get up to 12 fps continuous shooting via the mechanical shutter, and this jumps to 20 fps continuous shooting when using the electronic shutter. The autofocus has Eye/Face/Head recognition, and its 1053 AF zones use 100% of the AF area to ensure the sharpest images.
For maximum flexibility, the EOS R5 has up to 8 stops of shake correction; that way you can shoot handheld portraits even in low light. It also has dual memory card slots, an optional battery grip, the ability to voice-tag photos and videos, and many other features that make it the perfect companion for your photoshoots. And – for those who like to work outdoors – it’s weather, drip, and dust sealed.
2. Nikon Z6 II
If you’re a fan of mirrorless technology but don’t want to shell out for the Canon EOS R5, consider the Z6 II, one of Nikon’s most impressive full-frame mirrorless cameras. While its 24 MP sensor can’t compete with the R5’s high-megapixel capabilities, the Z6 II is packed full of features, including a beautiful 3.69M-dot electronic viewfinder that offers a top-notch shooting experience.
Portrait shooters will appreciate the solid subject-tracking autofocus, which is especially handy when working in faster-paced shooting scenarios (though it’s also highly convenient for more conventional portrait sessions, too). The Z6 II also boasts outstanding image quality, and its low-light performance is spectacular, making it perfect for nighttime and indoor photoshoots. The in-body image stabilization is also a major benefit if you like to shoot handheld in darker scenarios.
While the Z6 II doesn’t come cheap, it’s not obscenely expensive, either, making it a good pick for serious hobbyists and up-and-coming professionals.
3. Nikon Z5
I’ve long admired Nikon’s full-frame offerings, and the Z5 is no exception. Priced under $1000, it’s an attractive option for those wanting to make the jump from APS-C to full-frame. The 24 MP sensor delivers high-quality images across various portrait scenarios, and I’m a fan of the Z5’s viewfinder, which boasts a 3.6M-dot resolution that outshines the Canon EOS RP’s EVF (on this list below!) for a more immersive and realistic shooting experience.
What’s more, the Z5 comes with in-body image stabilization and dual card slots – features often found in higher-end models. For photographers who frequently shoot in low-light conditions, the IBIS will be particularly helpful, while the dual-card slots are essential for redundancy when working with clients.
While the Z5’s 4.5 FPS continuous shooting speed isn’t the fastest, it’s more than sufficient for most portrait sessions. And its compact design is a huge plus for those who prefer a lighter kit and also makes it ideal for on-the-go as well as candid portraits. The Nikon Z5 is a well-rounded camera, offering the benefits of full-frame photography without the hefty price tag; ultimately, it’s a smart choice for portrait hobbyists looking to step up their game.
4. Canon EOS RP
For those ready to delve into full-frame portrait shooting without leaping into the deep end of the price pool, the Canon EOS RP is another solid pick. Priced around $900, body only, it’s an excellent entry point into the world of full-frame photography, even if it struggles to go toe-to-toe with the Nikon Z5 (above).
Despite its age, the EOS RP’s image quality remains impressive; with its 26 MP sensor, you can expect your portraits to be rich in detail, giving you the flexibility to print your work in large formats without losing any of the fine texture that makes a portrait come alive.
The EOS RP is relatively compact for a full-frame camera, a trait that is highly valued by portrait photographers who often find themselves in cramped shooting environments. This camera also opens up a world of possibilities with Canons’ extensive lens lineup; plenty of EF and RF lenses offer sharpness as well as ultra-wide maximum apertures – a key ingredient for that dreamy, blurred background effect in portraits. When I first got my hands on the EOS RP, its ergonomics were a pleasant surprise; it just feels right in your hands. The viewfinder isn’t as high resolution as I’d like, but it does a decent job, and for casual portrait enthusiasts looking to delve deeper into the craft, the EOS RP strikes a perfect balance between price, performance, and portability.
5. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
If you prefer DSLRs to mirrorless cameras, then my top portrait recommendation is the EOS 5D Mark IV, a camera that – despite its age – produces consistently outstanding photos. The 5D Mark IV is a professional full-frame camera packing a well-designed 30-megapixel sensor, and as a result, images feature great color depth and dynamic range, even at high ISOs.
Its AF tracking and AF face detection ensure that you get the sharpest images for both still portraits and action shots, and even if you miss focus by a few millimeters, the Dual Pixel RAW technology allows you to shift the focus in post-processing. For example, if you get the eyelashes sharp instead of the eye, you can make a few adjustments, and – voila! – the eye appears sharp. Another perk of the Dual Pixel RAW tech is the ability to adjust the bokeh in the background for a more pleasing effect.
The camera has a robust build and environmental sealing, which makes it perfect for outdoor portrait sessions. Just remember that it’s not water, dust, or freeze-proof.
The battery life is around four hours, so you won’t need to worry about interrupting your creative flow. And the 5D Mark IV also features two memory card slots, essential for professionals who need on-the-spot backups of their work.
6. Nikon Z50
This 20.9-megapixel entry-level mirrorless camera was designed as a transition model for creators who generally work with a smartphone, but don’t let that fool you; the Z50 is an outstanding portrait photography camera, especially for beginners and intermediate shooters.
The Z50 is easy to use and the interface is very intuitive, plus the 3.2-inch screen flips 180 degrees. You can use the SnapBridge app for fast photo sharing on social media. The Nikon Z50 has 20 creative modes, including fun effects, to spice up your portraits.
The Z50 performs best with Nikon Z-mount DX lenses, but it’s compatible with all Nikon Z lenses, and you can also adapt Nikon F-mount lenses with zero loss in quality for an even greater range of choices.
The 209 autofocus points cover over 80% of the sensor (both vertically and horizontally), while the eye detection allows you to nail focus consistently. And the Z50 focuses down to -4 EV, so you can shoot long after the sun has set.
7. Sony a7 IV
The Sony a7 IV is a top-notch full-frame camera packing a 33-megapixel sensor, BIONZ XR processing engine, and advanced autofocus technology; in other words, it’s equipped with some of Sony’s latest and greatest features, and is one of the best all-around mirrorless cameras on the market today, as well as the best Sony camera for portrait photography.
The sensor retains fine details and achieves a smooth gradation even at high-ISO settings. And it features a 15-stop dynamic range that will give you excellent-quality portraits even in the most challenging lighting.
The AF/AE tracking with 759 phase-detection AF points covers 94% of the image area. The a7 IV also features Real-Time Eye AF for moving subjects, so you’ll never have to worry about missing the focus on your subject’s eyes.
Sony developed two external flashes to pair with the a7 IV that are perfect for portrait photography: the HVL-F46RM and the HVL-F60RM2. In conjunction with the camera’s face-detection technology, these flashes measure the necessary amount of light and do automatic correction of white balance.
The HVL-F60RM2 also has a rotating head feature called Quick Shift Bounce for flexible positioning when you’re bouncing the flash for soft-lit portraits.
8. Canon EOS R50
If you’re dipping your toes into the world of portrait photography and are on the lookout for a camera that balances features and affordability, the Canon EOS R50 might just be your perfect match.
Priced under $700, it’s the most budget-friendly option on our list, yet it’s packed with features that punch well above its weight class. The 24 MP APS-C sensor, although not as impressive as Canon’s full-frame offerings, delivers more than satisfactory performance, especially in challenging lighting conditions. Whether you’re shooting indoors, in the shade, or at night, the R50 will ensure your portraits come out looking professional (assuming you know how to operate it well, of course!).
One of the standout features of the EOS R50 is its autofocus system, which offers excellent face and eye tracking to keep your subjects sharp even when they’re moving. This is a game-changer for anyone who likes to capture dynamic portraits, where a slight movement can mean the difference between a good shot and a complete failure.
And for those who value convenience, the fully articulating screen and the decent electronic viewfinder make composing shots a breeze, plus you get a compact design that’s ideal for photographers who are always on the move. Whether you’re capturing candid street portraits or posed studio shots, the R50 is versatile enough to handle it all, making it a top camera for beginners eager to explore the art of portraiture.
9. Fujifilm X-T5
The Fujifilm X-T5 is the perfect solution if you want to complement your portrait photography with behind-the-scenes footage or commercial video – or if you want an all-around incredible portrait camera with a retro feel. The X-T5 offers an array of classic shooting dials so you can adjust exposure compensation, shutter speed, and more on the fly, and it looks amazing, so it’s a great pick for fashion-conscious photographers.
The X-T5 also boasts a 15 fps burst mode, which is certainly speedy enough for those split-second action images. You also get fast focusing with 425 AF points and a great shooting experience thanks to a beautiful 3.69M-dot electronic viewfinder. Also, if you’d like to make outdoor portraits, the Fujifilm X-T5 is dust and moisture-proof, so you won’t have to worry when working on beaches, in forests, or even on mountainsides.
Finally, don’t overlook Fujifilm’s 85 years of experience in color technology. This makes for accurate and vivid colors, and you also get plenty of film simulation modes in case you want to recreate some classic looks.
10. Nikon Z7 II
For the portrait photographer who demands the utmost in detail and performance, the Nikon Z7 II is a compelling – if expensive – choice. This camera is a dream for those deeply invested in the Nikon Z-mount ecosystem, especially for those aiming to capture portraits with stunning clarity and detail.
Priced around $3000, it’s a significant investment, but what you get in return is a high-resolution marvel, capable of delivering an impressive 45 MP. This means your portraits will not only be rich in detail but also offer the flexibility for large-scale prints or extensive cropping without any compromise in quality.
One of the Z7 II’s key strengths is its ability to handle high ISOs with minimal noise, making it a robust tool for low-light portrait photography. And the in-body image stabilization is another feature that adds to its versatility; it’s particularly valuable for those capturing portraits in challenging lighting conditions where slower shutter speeds are necessary.
Professional and semi-professional photographers will appreciate the dual card slots, which offer redundancy for paid shoots. While it’s significantly more expensive than its sibling, the Z6 II, the Z7 II is worth it for those who require ultra-high-resolution files.
11. Canon 6D Mark II
If you’re looking to upgrade to a full-frame DSLR but you’re not ready to graduate to a professional model, the Canon 6D Mark II is the perfect entry-level DSLR camera for portrait photography. It features a high-quality 26-megapixel sensor and good noise performance at higher ISO values, even if it’s not on the same level as the top cameras on today’s market.
The 6D Mark II packs Dual Pixel AF with 45 cross-type AF points so you can ensure sharp images, even when your subject is in motion. And thanks to 6.5 fps continuous shooting, you can capture the occasional action shot.
The AF does struggle a little in low-light situations, but you can solve this with Live View. To play back your photos or shoot in Live View, use the 3-inch flip-screen with a vari-angle touchscreen.
The 6D Mark II body is lightweight, plus the camera is dust and water-resistant. So feel free to take it with you for some outdoor portrait photoshoots in any weather conditions. The grip is also quite comfortable.
The 6D Mark II has an EF mount, so you can pair it with a wide range of lenses that are perfect for portraiture. To top it off, you also get built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS.
12. Sony a6700
The Sony a6700 is the latest powerhouse in Sony’s APS-C lineup and is tailored for a range of subjects, including portrait photography. Priced at about $1400 (body only), it sits on the higher end of the APS-C market, but it justifies its price with a slew of advanced features.
The a6700’s autofocus system is nothing short of outstanding; it locks onto eyes with incredible speed and accuracy, a boon for portrait photographers who work with dynamic subjects such as dancers. The in-body image stabilization is another highlight, enabling you to shoot handheld in low light and still achieve sharp, clear images – a feature that’s particularly useful for natural light portraits.
The 26 MP sensor performs exceptionally well in low-light conditions, ensuring that your indoor photoshoots are never compromised. While it’s a significant investment, especially for an APS-C camera, its capabilities make it a worthwhile upgrade for intermediate photographers who are ready to move beyond entry-level gear. And its speed and performance make it ideal for those looking to capture more than just posed portraits, so it’s a great choice for photographers looking to delve into more dynamic people photography.
13. Canon EOS R10
If you’re looking for a great crop-sensor camera for portrait photography – one that’s more high-end than the Canon EOS R50 (above) won’t break the bank – the Canon EOS R10 is a great choice. The cropped sensor keeps this model in the prosumer or enthusiast category, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t an excellent camera. For some types of portraits – for example, couples or family sessions – you can absolutely do professional work.
The R10 is still on the newer side, which means it takes advantage of Canon’s more recent technology, including a fantastic 24 MP sensor that captures beautiful images. Autofocus is also impressive; you get 651 focus points plus a host of AF modes, including a powerful face-detection option that’s perfect for keeping subjects in sharp focus even when shooting in tough conditions.
And dance portrait photographers will love the 15 FPS continuous shooting speeds, which will ensure you can capture even the most fleeting moment. Ergonomics are great, too, thanks to a fully articulating LCD (great for low-angle shots) and a solid-quality electronic viewfinder.
One of the biggest benefits of the EOS R10 is the access it affords to Canon’s amazing RF-mount lens lineup, which includes plenty of amazing portrait glass. Bonus: Since the camera is so cheap, you’ll have some extra money to splurge on wide-aperture lenses!
14. Sony a7C
The Sony a7C is a small and light full-frame camera, perfect for casual portraits, candid shooting, and even some street portraiture. Its 24.2-megapixel sensor packs a 15-stop dynamic range and supports 16-bit processing and 14-bit RAW output.
The body allows for interchangeable lenses, although you’ll often find it sold in a bundle with a 28-60mm f/4-f/5.6 lens – not a bad deal for beginner portrait shooters, thanks to the lens’s high-quality images at all focal lengths. It also has a minimum focusing distance of 0.99 feet (0.3 meters) to 1.48 feet (0.45 meters) for detail shots of eyes, hands, and more.
The autofocus uses Real-Time Tracking, Eye AF, and features a whopping 693 phase-detection points, which cover 93% of the image area, along with 425 contrast-detection points for extreme accuracy even when capturing portraits with busy backgrounds.
15. Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III is a 20-megapixel Micro Four Thirds camera, and thanks to a compact and lightweight design, it’s perfect to carry with you wherever you go.
Because of its weather-sealing, you can use the E-M5 Mark III for outdoor portraiture and action shots. However, for long hours of use, you might want to get an external grip; the body is relatively thin and not especially comfortable to hold.
The E-M5 Mark III is the first model in this series to have on-sensor phase-detect autofocus with face and eye detection, which makes it a great choice for enthusiasts or beginner photographers interested in portrait shooting. And while the camera only offers 20 megapixels, you can use the High-Resolution mode to capture 50 MP JPEGs or 80 MP RAW files.
And you get plenty more features and creative options, including Pro Capture, which registers up to 14 high-resolution shots with a half-press of the shutter button. That way, when you press the button all the way down, you get a handful of shots taken before your finger fully hammers the shutter (you can choose the best shot later on!).
While designed for sports photography, Pro Capture is great for working with non-professional models, in case they close their eyes or tense up at the sound of the shutter.
How to choose the right portrait photography camera
Selecting a camera for portrait photography doesn’t have to be an overwhelming task, but it’s essential to keep in mind several key factors that will influence your purchase decision, such as:
At the core of portrait photography is image quality. Ideally, a camera for this genre should offer a minimum of 20 megapixels, which ensures ample detail for enlargements and prints. More significant than the megapixel count, however, is the sensor size. Full-frame sensors excel in low-light conditions and provide a shallower depth of field effect, crucial for achieving that dreamy background blur prized in portraiture. That said, while full-frame cameras are often regarded as the gold standard for portraits, APS-C cameras are also capable performers, especially when paired with a lens that has a wide maximum aperture.
In addition to sensor size and resolution, in-body image stabilization (IBIS) is a feature worth considering. IBIS allows you to handhold your camera at slower shutter speeds without sacrificing sharpness and is an invaluable asset when working with natural light.
The importance of a reliable and accurate autofocus system in portrait photography cannot be overstated. When working with a shallow depth of field – common in portrait work – the margin for error is minimal; a slight mistake can lead to the eyes being out of focus, turning a potentially stunning portrait into a missed opportunity. Hence, it’s crucial to select a camera with a capable autofocusing system.
Features like Eye AF are especially helpful here. Eye AF technology identifies and locks focus on the subject’s eyes, ensuring critical sharpness where it matters most. This feature becomes even more vital when photographing moving subjects or working in dynamic environments where focusing can be challenging.
Ergonomics often get neglected, but comfort in handling can significantly impact your shooting experience, and by extension, the quality of your images. Key ergonomic factors include the design of the camera grip, which should feel secure and comfortable in your hands, and the LCD screen design. A fully articulating or tilting LCD screen offers greater compositional freedom, particularly in challenging shooting angles.
Another aspect to consider is the viewfinder. A high-resolution electronic viewfinder (EVF) or a nice optical viewfinder can greatly enhance your shooting experience, providing a more accurate and immersive view of your subject. While shooting with the LCD screen is always an option, a quality viewfinder offers a more direct connection with your subject, which is often essential for portrait work.
In portrait photography, the choice of lenses is as critical as the camera body. The best portrait lenses typically feature ultra-wide maximum apertures, such as f/2.8, f/1.8, or even wider. These apertures allow for a shallower depth of field so you can highlight your subject against a smoothly blurred background. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that the camera system you choose supports a wide range of high-quality portrait lenses.
Fortunately, most major camera brands offer an extensive selection of lenses suitable for portrait work. However, it’s still important to verify that your chosen camera is compatible with the lenses you intend to use, especially if you’re looking for specific focal lengths or apertures.
Last, price is an inevitable consideration in the camera selection process. While higher-priced cameras often come with advanced features, it’s important to balance your budget with your actual photography needs. Cameras under $1000, like the Canon EOS R50, are capable of producing stunning portraits and shouldn’t be overlooked!
Additionally, the most expensive camera isn’t always the best choice for every photographer. Assess your specific needs, such as the kind of portraits you intend to shoot and whether you plan to make large prints. In many cases, a camera with a moderately high-resolution sensor will suffice, and investing in a high-resolution model may only result in unnecessarily large files without a useful gain in image quality. Remember, a significant portion of your budget should also be allocated to lenses and other essential accessories, which are equally important in the art of portrait photography.
The best camera for portrait photography: final words
As you can see, there are many wonderful portrait cameras – but you need to pick the one that’s right for your needs.
So ask yourself: Do I want a mirrorless camera or a DSLR? What type of sensor do I want? From there, you can start to narrow down your choices depending on your style, the type of portraiture you like, and personal preference.
Now over to you:
Which portrait photography camera is your favorite? Which do you plan to buy? Share your thoughts in the comments below!