At a recent wedding, a guest asked me what’s the best camera to use for wedding photography. He seemed surprised when I replied it didn’t really matter and the person behind the camera is the biggest part of the equation. He saw I was using a Canon and then produced a Nikon D7200 and said you probably wouldn’t be interested in this then. I explained it was a good camera and capable of great results. My first dSLR camera was a Nikon D70. I seriously lusted after the Nikon D300 and D300s when they were released. The fact is, the Nikon D7200 trumps them both. If I could’ve had a Nikon D7200 to replace my Nikon D70 I would have considered myself the luckiest wedding photographer in the world.
But technology has moved on and we’re now living in the time of the 35mm sensor (often referred to as full frame this is a marketing term). The benefit of 35mm sensors is that they allow me to capture images at a higher ISO with less noise being introduced into the image. But the advantage has gotten much smaller. Crop sensor technology has caught up in leaps and bounds. The software available to process raw images files keeps getting better. High ISO images processed in DxOPhotoLab using the “Prime” noise reduction is spectacular!
I was reading a blog post recently that suggested that a real pro would never use a crop sensor. This bold statement was apparently from a pro photographer. Absolute nonsense. Firstly, there hasn’t always been 35mm sensors. There are thousands of stunning wedding images from a Nikon D70 or a Canon 40D out there on the internet. When the first affordable 35mm camera was released, the Canon 5D there was a jump in image quality certainly. But the crop sensor cameras have caught up now with improved technology and firmware. The advantage is no longer that different, today it’s quite small.
At the time of writing this post a Nikon D7200 costs £664. A Nikon D750 is £1349. Twice the price for a small gain if you go to extreme ISOs. I’ve not needed to go over 6400 ISO for a long time now. As this level the image noise cleans up nicely. Noise is a problem that really doesn’t exist as badly as we see at 100% n screen. I challenge you to take a shot at 6400 ISO in low light and tungsten lighting (let’s make this hard} and print it at 18 x 12 without any editing. A jpg image straight out of camera. I bet you’ll be surprised at the result. I did that with my Olympus EM-1 when I first bought it. The print came back. It was clear. If you read through the photography forums you would think that was impossible.
So do you need a 35mm sensor or can you use a crop sensor camera? Can you use a micro four thirds sensor (I know pros who use them extremely well). The answer is yes to all three. The perfect camera doesn’t exist. But just like everything in photography there’s always a trade off. I’ve personally used Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Olympus and Fuji to photograph weddings professionally. I love cameras. They all worked.
The only thing you have to have as a professional wedding photographer is redundancy is case anything stops working. So two cameras. Two flashes, you get the idea.
Having a Nikon D5 will not make you a great wedding photographer. Nor will using a crop sensor camera make you a bad one. It will certainly not make you any less professional.
The term professional camera (Nikon D5, Canon 1D X MK2) isn’t about the ability of the person using it. It’s about the longevity and build quality body. I’ve never had any camera I’ve own fail on me. But I always had another camera with me and a third body in the boot of car, just in case.
So how does this help you choose which DSLR to buy for wedding photography?
No one can give you the right answer to that. No matter what camera is in your hand, it will not change how you capture and photograph a wedding. If you use a Canon 1DX or a Nikon D7000 your photographs will be the same. How the camera feels in your hand is a better guide to which one to buy. The only constant in the ability to photograph a wedding is you, the person behind the camera. Don’t follow anything anyone else does. Find your own path and make it yours. Just because “Joe Bloggs” uses a 35mm and 85mm prime to photograph a wedding, doesn’t mean you should. You might prefer using zoom lenses.
The best advice as to which dSLR you could consider:
You don’t need to buy Nikon or Canon. However, there’s a huge amount of camera equipment out there for these two makes and anything new developed gets released for these two manufacturers first. Fuji, Olympus, Pentax, Panasonic and Sony make just as good cameras. Go and handle the camera you intend to buy and see how it fits in your hand, make sure it feel comfortable. If you live in Norwich you’re lucky. Pop to WEX on the ring road and you can handle any camera you want there. They will allow you to take some shots with their display cameras that you can view and edit at home.
What you need to consider is the cameras ability to reliably auto focus in lower light and have good high ISO ability to 3200/6400 ISO. A Nikon D7200 is great at 6400 ISO. In fact virtually any camera made today can do that.
Purchase the best camera you can afford. You don’t have to buy new. There are huge savings to be made from people who buy the best camera in the world, don’t use them and then sell them again having hardly used them (check out my Canon 40D).
Secondly buy the best lenses you can afford. They will last longer than any camera. I recommend buying the makers own lenses, they just always work better and hold their value longer.
Just make sure you have at least two of everything for redundancy. The day you only have one camera with you at a wedding will be the day it fails.
Lastly, the best advice which will save you thousands of pounds is this:
Once you have purchased into a system don’t be tempted to sell it all and go and buy the competitors cameras and lenses instead. You will lose lots of money!
There is a caveat to that statement however.
If the weight of your equipment is causing problems to your health then by all means move to a smaller lighter system if you need to. The weight of all this equipment is huge! I know lots of photographers with bad backs who go home in pain at the end of a twelve hour wedding day.
Each camera company will leap frog each other over time, there’ll be no clear winner, no matter what anyone says. No matter what pro you admire, buying the camera they use will not make you capture a wedding like them.
The Wedding Photography Camera Challenge
The following photographs were captured with a:
Canon 5D Mk2 (35mm)
Canon 6D (35mm)
Canon 50D (crop)
Nikon D700 (35mm)
Nikon D750 (35mm)
Nikon D810 (35mm)
Fuji X-T1 (crop)
Olympus EM-1 (Micro 4/3)
Olympus EM-1 Mk2 (Micro 4/3)
Pentax K5 Mark II (crop)
So a mixture of 35mm sensor, APS-C and micro four thirds. Can you tell which is which? If I didn’t know, I might guess two right.
Can you honestly tell the difference? If you say you can’t as you need to zoom in to 100% and see a full resolution image, well you’ve missed the point.
If wedding photographers were using the Nikon and Canon cameras back in 2004 and produced great wedding photographs with those cameras, you most certainly can with what you have available today. You make the image, not the camera.
Page last updated: 27 Nov 2018