Which Camera to Buy for Wedding Photography
At a wedding, a guest once asked me, which was 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 variable. He saw I was using a Canon camera and then produced a Nikon D7200 from under the table. He then said “you probably wouldn’t be interested in this then”. I explained it was a good camera and very capable. My first dSLR camera was a Nikon D70. In comparison to the D7200, it was a dinosaur. I seriously lusted after the Nikon D300 and then the D300s when released. The fact is, the Nikon D7200 would trump them both in image quality, just not the build.
Camera Technology Moves Forwards
Technology has moved on at a fast pace. We’re now living in the time of the 35mm camera sensor, referred to as full frame, this is a marketing term. Being “full” it must be good, right? The benefit of 35mm sensors is that they allow images to be captured at higher ISO’s with less digital noise. Secondly, they can have a higher dynamic range (depending on age). Lastly, a slightly shallower depth of field. But the advantages have gotten much smaller in relation to the first two. Crop (APC) sensor technology has caught up in February 2020. Not equally but close.
I don’t really want to get into the whole lens and crop factor aspects. It’s been done to death! Invariably bigger senses mean higher costs and bigger lenses than smaller sensors (mostly).
The software available to process raw images files keeps getting better. High ISO RAW images processed in DxO PhotoLab 3 using the “Prime” noise reduction is spectacular!
Ignore the Armchair Photographers on Forums?
I was reading a photography forum post recently, when will I learn! It suggested that a real professional wedding photographer would never use a crop sensor camera. This bold statement was apparently from a full time wedding photographer. They didn’t have a single wedding photograph to back that statement up. This is total rubbish. Firstly, there hasn’t always been 35mm digital sensors to use in cameras. Yet there are thousands of stunning wedding images from a Nikon D70 or a Canon 30D out there. How can that be?
At the time of writing this a Nikon D7500 costs £939. A Nikon D780 is £2199. 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 digital noise cleans up nicely. Noise is a problem that really doesn’t exist as badly as we think. It may look noisy zoomed in at 100% on your monitor.
I challenge you to take a shot at 6400 ISO in low light and tungsten lighting. Get printed at 18 x 12 without any editing. A jpeg straight out of camera. I bet you’ll be surprised at the result. I did that with my Olympus EM-1. The print came back. It was clear. If you read through the forums you would think that was impossible!
So do you need a 35mm sensor to be a wedding photographer. No!
Can you use a crop sensor camera or a micro43 sensor and be a successful wedding photographer. Yes.
I’ve personally used Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax and Fuji systems to photograph weddings professionally. They all worked.
The One Thing You Must Have
The only thing you must have have as a professional wedding photographer is redundancy in case any thing stops working. So two cameras. Two flashes, you get the idea.
Having a Nikon D6 won’t make you a great wedding photographer. Nor will using a crop sensor camera make you a bad one. It’ll certainly not make you any less professional!
So how does all this help you choose which camera to buy for wedding photography?
No one can give you the right answer to that. Whatever camera you have will not change what you photograph at wedding. What you capture is down to experience and instinct. If you use a Canon 1DX Mk3 or a Nikon D7000 the photographs you take 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 the well known “Joe Bloggs Photography” uses 35 and 85 primes to photograph weddings, doesn’t mean you should! You might prefer using zoom lenses.
The Best Advice (In My Opinion)
You don’t need to buy Nikon or Canon. However, there’s a huge amount of camera equipment out there for these two makes. Anything newly developed gets released for these two manufacturers first. Fuji, Olympus, Pentax and Sony make just as good cameras. Go and handle them and see how they fit in your hand, make sure they feel comfortable. If you live in Norwich, Norfolk you’re lucky. Pop to WEX on the ring road. You can handle any camera you want there. Take a memory card. They’ll allow you to take some shots with their display cameras that you can view at home. Just to be clear, I’ve no affiliation or links with WEX. They’re just my local camera shop.
What you do need to consider is the cameras ability to reliably auto focus and have good high ISO ability to 3200/6400 ISO. A Nikon D7200 is great at 6400 ISO and focuses well.
Purchase the best camera you can afford. You don’t have to buy new. There’s huge savings to be made from people who like to buy the best cameras but they never use them. They then exchange them for the next best camera released.
Buy the best lenses you can afford. They’ll last much longer than any camera. I recommend buying the makers own lenses, they just work better and hold their value longer.
This will save you thousands of pounds!
Once you’ve purchased into a system don’t be tempted to sell it all and go and buy the competitors cameras and lenses instead. You’ll lose lots of money!
Each camera company will leap frog each other over time, there’ll never be a clear winner, no matter what anyone says.
dSLR or Mirrorless
At the time of writing this post and if this was my choice again, I would buy mirrorless today. Camera companies are investing huge amounts of money into research and development of these types. Mirrorless cameras are going to get better and better. If it were me, I’d buy (not in any order of preference) Fujifilm (APC), Canon (35mm), Nikon (35mm) or Sony (35mm). In my opinion they would be the best business case choices to make today. Which one of those would be down to your preference.
Wedding Photography Shoot Out
The fifteen wedding photographs in this post were all taken by me at reals weddings in Norfolk. Can you tell the sensor size from each image. Can you tell them apart?
1 – Olympus E-M1 Micro43
2 – Olympus E-M5 Mk2 Micro43
3 – Olympus E-M1 Micro43
4 – Fuji X-Pro1 APC
5 – Canon 6D 35mm
6 – Canon 50D APC
7 – Fuji X-E2 APC
8 – Nikon D700 35mm
9 – Canon 5D Mk2 35mm
10 – Olympus E-M1 Micro43
11 – Nikon D750 35mm
12 – Nikon D750 35mm
13 – Fuji X-T1 APC
14 – Canon 50D APC
15 – Olympus E-M1 Micro43
The Secret to Being a Successful Wedding Photographer
If you really want to be a successful wedding photographer, the secret to your success is simply this. Marketing and business skills. No one cares what camera you use. On a list of what’s important to be a successful wedding photographer, the camera you use doesn’t even appear.
If you come across anyone who’s a really strong opinion, telling you what equipment you need, remember this. It’s just their preference. It’s not a fact.
Customers will book you for the images you take. Not the camera you take them with.
Post last updated 06/02/2020