The Best Camera For Headshots?
Is There Such a Camera?
Let me start this discussion with a simple clarification – there is no single camera that produces the best headshots ever.
It is always a combination of
- the camera,
- the lens you choose to shoot with,
- your shooting aperture and the distance between the subject and the background.
All of that combines to produce the best headshots. So, squarely giving credit to a camera regardless if it is rated as the best camera for headshots would be incorrect.
I would prefer to choose the lens first as that is where the magic happens. But the camera is of course also high on that list of tools. This discussion, though, is about the camera.
So, without further ado, let’s find out the candidates for the best camera for headshots.
The Choices We Have
Now, there are many cameras out on the market that make great headshots. Your smartphone is easily one of the best cameras for headshots, provided you know how to use it. Apart from that, you can choose to use a mirrorless, a point & shoot or even the tried and tested DSLR. The choice will depend entirely on you and the parameters that I had detailed above. Let’s look at them.
The Lens You Use
The choice of your camera would depend on the lens you plan on using. In any case, you wouldn’t want to shoot with a wide angle lens.
A wide angle lens is one that has a small focal length. The angle of view of such lenses is big. They capture a lot of the scene beyond just the head and the shoulders. If you attempt to make a tighter composition, you will have to step forward, and in doing so, you bring into play barrel distortion. This is something that is common with wide angle lenses.
Thus, a longer focal length is the ideal solution for better headshots. A longer focal length allows you to create a tighter composition (of the head and the shoulder of the subject) without distorting the facial features.
The need to use a longer focal length is this – longer focal length ensures that the subject’s face appears perfectly proportioned. A wide angle lens, for example, will stretch the facial features, particularly in the fringes of the frame. This would make the person’s ears appear weird.
The ideal portrait length is between 70-105 mm when shooting on a full-frame camera. I am referring to digital cameras of course when I say that. A full-frame camera is one that has a sensor size that is the same as 35mm film. On the other hand with an APS-C (crop sensor) camera you can safely use a smaller focal length with comparable results.’
Another thing to consider is the size of the frame/sensor. If the sensor is small, a wide angle lens will also be suitable for good headshots. If the sensor is big, you need a longer focal length lens to get the same effect.
With a Nikon camera that ‘crop factor’ is 1.5x. The same on Canon systems is 1.6x. That means a 70mm lens will become a 105mm when shooting with a Nikon APS-C system. With a Canon APS-C system, the 70mm will become the 35mm format equivalent of 112mm.
1. The Canon EOS 80D
The Canon EOS 80D is a great all-around camera. It shoots everything from portraits to weddings to landscapes and even videos. But what it does best is probably shoot great headshots.
The 80D is a crop sensor camera and going by the nature of these cameras the effective focal length of the lens you use becomes slightly longer. This forces you to shoot from a distance.
- 45-point all cross-type AF system* allows for superb autofocus when shooting with the optical viewfinder and focusing area selection modes.
- Intelligent Viewfinder with approximately 100% viewfinder coverage.
- 24.2 Megapixel (APS-C) CMOS sensor helps provide impressive, high-resolution results.
- Improved Dual Pixel CMOS AF helps you shoot video with smooth, fast and accurate autofocus, and stills with instant and precise autofocus.
A crop camera sensor is a great tool for headshots. There are a couple of more suggestions in the same category…
2. The Nikon D7200
- 24.2 MP DX-format CMOS image sensor
- No Optical Low-Pass Filter (OLPF)
- 51 point autofocus system
- 6 frames per second (fps) shooting capacity
- EXPEED 4 image processing; ISO Sensitivity: ISO 100 - 25,600
The Nikon D7200 is the latest and the greatest in the D7xxx category and is an incredible camera. It has a 24.2-megapixel DX-format sensor with no optical low-pass filter.
Plus, it has a Multi-CAM 3500 II XD 51-point AF sensor with 15-cross type sensors. In a studio environment with lights on probably you wouldn’t always need so many cross sensors, but it's nice to have especially when working with smoother complexions.
3. The Canon EOS 7D
The EOS 7D (Mark II) is a much-improved camera which serves the dual purpose of a fast action camera as well as a versatile studio shooter.
The 7D has an incredible ten fps continuous shooting speed. You would be wondering why I need a fast continuous shooting speed anyways? Many time the difference between a great shot and a missed moment is that one or two frames.
- 20.2 MP CMOS sensor and ISO 100-16000
- High speed continuous shooting up to 10.0 fps
- 65-point all cross-type AF system
- Stunning Full HD video with Custom Movie Servo AF (speed and sensitivity)
- Dual Pixel CMOS AF enables you to shoot video like a camcorder
Entry level cameras get stuck at 5-6 frames per second. The 7D with the extra few frames captures all those micro-expressions giving you a larger number of images to choose from. Plus, it has a 65 point all cross-type AF system which ensures that you can capture anything focusing anywhere on the frame.
To be honest, a full-frame DSLR is not an absolute requirement for shooting headshots. But a full-frame camera allows you to take advantage of the shallow depth of field that these sensors are capable of producing.
4. The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV is a full-frame camera that sports a 30.4 megapixel CMOS sensor. A large sensor with a lot of resolution means you can get a lot of detail in your head and shoulder shots. Plus, the camera has seven fps continuous shooting speed and a 61-point high-density reticular AF system.
It also has Canon’s fantastic dual-pixel CMOS AF system which ensures that the camera can work with as much agility in the live-view mode as in viewfinder mode.
- 30.4 MP full-frame CMOS sensor for versatile shooting
- Up to 7.0 frames per second continuous shooting speed
- 61-point AF system with 41 cross-points for expanded vertical coverage
- ISO range 100-32000 with 50-102400 expansion
- 4K video recording at 30p or 24p and in-camera still frame grab of 8.8MP images
5. Nikon D810
Another full-frame option that works as a great headshot camera is the Nikon D810. It is a 36.3-megapixel full-frame camera with a no optical low pass filter and is powered by Nikon’s EXPEED 4 image processing engine.
The thing I like about the D810 is its snappy auto-focusing, even in a room with nothing but fluorescent light bulbs.
- 36.3 MP FX-format CMOS sensor without an Optical Low Pass Filter (OLPF)
- 30% faster EXPEED 4 image processing engine
- 51-point AF system and 3D Color Matrix metering III with a 91,000-pixel RGB sensor
- ISO 64-12,800 expandable to 51,200
- Featuring a new RAW Small Size option, which produces 16MP images with much smaller file sizes
Its auto-focusing is powered by the Multi-CAM 3500 FX 51-point AF sensor system. Plus, it has what Nikon calls the Group AF system. Five AF points group together to form one and a snappier auto-focusing performance. Continuous shooting speed of 5 fps (in FX mode) is ok.
6. Sony Alpha a7R II
Among mirrorless options, I would prefer to talk about the Sony Alpha a7R II. This 42-megapixel behemoth is a mouthwatering proposition for anybody who wants to shoot headshots and portraits, and for that matter anything else.
There are some people who would shy away from using a high-resolution camera, stating this is completely needless. I believe megapixels in the case of a full-frame sensor isn't bad. It is good! You get a lot of detail, and details can never be bad unless you want a smooth baby-faced image.
- World's first Full-frame back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS sensor-42.4MP, 5-axis in-body image stabilization optimized for 42.4MP full-frame, 4K movie recording with full pixel readout and no pixel binning
- 2.4-million dot XGA OLED Tru-Finder w/ ZEISS T* coating, Simple connectivity to smartphones via Wi-Fi and NFC w/ camera apps, Fast focal plane phase-detection AF realized with A-mount lenses
- Shutter vibration suppression, first curtain shutter, and silent shutter, Resolution meets sensitivity 42.4MP up to ISO 102,400 / 4K up to 25,600, Durable, reliable and ergonomically enhanced for professional use
- Fast Hybrid AF with 399 focal plane phase-detection AF points
- Lens Compatibility: Sony Full Frame E-mount lenses
The Sony Alpha a7R II has 42 megapixels of resolution. Plus, it is powered by Sony’s highly acclaimed BIONZ X image processing engine. Additionally, it comes with a 5-axis steady-shot (Sony’s nomenclature for image stabilization) technology. This makes all lenses that are compatible with the camera automatically stabilized.
Plus, the Alpha a7R II has a Reduced-Vibration shutter design. Mirrorless cameras are in anyways quite dampened when compared to DSLR cameras. But the Alpha a7R II has a particularly shake-free shutter.
That should produce sharper images. The Sony Alpha a7R II is a prime candidate for the title of the best camera for headshots.
Join Our Newsletter & Get a Free eBook
10 Most Common Photography Mistakes & How to Avoid Them!
Wanderlust at heart and a shutterbug who loves to document his travels via his lenses; his two passions compliment each other perfectly.
He has been writing for over 6 years now, which unsurprisingly, revolve mostly around his two favorite pursuits.