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.
Related Post: Using Telephoto Lenses for Landscape Photography
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.
Crop sensor cameras use the central part of the image coming through a lens, and that is why it appears as if you are using a longer focal length.
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.
Related Post: Review of the Canon 80D
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.
- The EOS 80D camera’s Intelligent Viewfinder helps bring the thrill of SLR photography with each use
- The Intelligent Viewfinder displays AF points and AF mode, has a grid display, a horizontal electronic level, plus numerous...
- For next level AF operation, the EOS 80D camera has a wide area, 45 point, all cross type AF system with low luminance...
- The 242 Megapixel (APS C) CMOS sensor captures high resolution images and has refined individual pixels that enable high ISO...
- Use the EOS Utility Webcam Beta Software (Mac and Windows) to turn your compatible Canon camera into a high-quality webcam
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
- Built in Wi-Fi and Near Field Communication (NFC) for instant sharing
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.
Related Post: Canon EOS 80D vs. EOS 7D II
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.
- New 30.4 Megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor for versatile shooting in nearly any light, with ISO range 100-32000; expandable up...
- 4K Motion JPEG video (DCI cinema-type 4096 x 2160) at 30p or 24p; in- camera still frame grab of 4K 8.8-Megapixel images;...
- Superb Dual Pixel CMOS AF for responsive and smooth AF during video or live view shooting; LCD monitor has full touch-screen...
- Excellent performance - up to 7.0 fps continuous shooting speed with high-performance DIGIC 6+ Image Processor for improved...
- Use the EOS Utility Webcam Beta Software (Mac and Windows) to turn your Canon camera into a high-quality webcam, or do the...
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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 percent faster Expeed 4 image processing engine. Shutter speed: 1/8000 to 30 sec
- 51point AF system and 3D color matrix metering III with a 91,000 pixel RGB sensor
- ISO 6412,800 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.
Related Post: Best Full-Frame Portrait Lenses
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 5-axis in-body image stabilization optimized for 42.4MP full-frame, 4K movie recording with full...
- 2.4-million dot XGA OLED Tru-Finder w/ZEISS T- coating, connectivity to smartphones via Wi-Fi and NFC w/camera apps, Fast...
- Shutter vibration suppression, curtain shutter, silent shutter, Resolution meets sensitivity 42.4MP up to ISO 102,400/4K up...
- Fast Hybrid AF with 399 focal plane phase-detection AF points and sensor is 35 mm full-frame (35.9 x 24.0 mm), Exmor R CMOS...
- Inside box: Rechargeable Battery NP-FW50; Cable Protector; AC Adapter AC-UUD11; Battery Charger BC-VW1; Shoulder strap; Body...
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.
Rajib is an avid travel photographer and an overall shutterbug. He loves to test and review new photography gear. He has been writing about cameras and lenses for over 10 years now. You can consider him as your “master guide” here at PhotoWorkout.
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