If you’re looking for the best camera for wedding photography, this complete guide has you covered. There are lots of excellent cameras on the market today, and almost all of them are professionally capable! But, which ones are actually the best cameras for wedding photography does indeed depend on a few specific factors.
This article will not just recommend a few good cameras, but also, it will help you understand what type of camera you are shopping for overall so that you will always make the best purchase possible. So, let’s dive in!
Things To Consider And Look For In The Best Camera For Wedding Photography
Wedding photography can be hard on your equipment, so a full-time professional needs gear that they can depend on. This has just as much to do with the performance of the gear itself, including certain features, as it has to do with simply, well, not breaking! With that in mind, let’s briefly discuss…
One of the main things that a wedding photographer will be concerned with, of course, is image quality. You need a camera that delivers excellent image quality so that even in harsh bright sun, you have ample dynamic range to photograph a white dress next to a black tuxedo!
Plus, you need great image quality at higher ISOs in extremely dark lighting. Having said that, many wedding photographers will find that although image quality itself is important, they don’t need an excessive number of megapixels, and “just” 20-30 will do just fine!
Autofocus is definitely one of the most important features for most wedding photographers, because of how active everything is. So many parts of a wedding can happen in dim lighting, and some moments, such as a reception dance floor, can be nearly pitch-dark!
The camera’s frames-per-second (FPS) is not as important as other things. In fact, most cameras these days have more than enough FPS for wedding photography, and we usually set the drive mode to something less than its maximum speed!
However, there are other things related to speed that are still important, such as the overall responsiveness of the camera, the buffer, etc. Especially with mirrorless cameras, it is very important to have a “fast” viewfinder, that is, one with a high refresh rate. Otherwise, you’re literally missing the peak of a moment by the time you see it in the viewfinder.
It should go without saying that if you’re a working professional, and especially if you are capturing memories of some of the happiest moments in your clients’ lives, then you need dependable, sturdy gear that will stand the test of time. Thankfully, most “serious” camera bodies these days are made of mostly metal frames, and have full weather sealing. Simply take good care of your camera gear, and you should be able to get at least 5 years of heavy use out of it.
Automatic Backup (Dual Card Slots)
This is a very simple rule: in our studio, we only use cameras with dual card slots, and we record raw images to both cards at once. This creates in-the-field redundancy, plus, it allows us to create an off-site backup as soon as we leave a venue, by simply sending different memory cards home with the lead and second photographers.
For anyone getting paid to take pictures, not just wedding photographers, we honestly believe this is a must-have feature. In fact, we would rather have two SD card slots than one single ultra-fast memory card slot!
This may not be something all wedding photographers care about, however, it’s important to mention. Here’s the deal: there’s a huge difference between an 8-hour wedding day and a 16-hour wedding day. Or, what if you have to photograph two 10-your wedding days back-to-back?
Either way, on Monday you’ll wish (or be thankful) that your cameras and lenses were as lightweight as possible. Our studio in particular does a lot of cultural ceremonies, so this has always been a consideration.
Wedding and portrait photographers in particular would be downright irresponsible if they chose a camera body without considering which lenses were available for it! However, it is true that basically every brand now has its own workhorse professional lens lineup, such as a 24-70mm f/2.8 and 70-200mm f/2.8, or an abundance of fast prime lenses. The good news is, they’re all excellent! The bad news is, the name-brand lenses are always very expensive, sometimes costing even more than some of the camera bodies we are about to recommend!
Therefore, you absolutely must consider your budget for lenses, and/or which brands offer the widest range of options.
Wireless Flash Availability/Compatibility
One very important accessory for wedding photography is, of course, flash. Many wedding photographers work with flash, both on-camera and off-camera. It can be useful for both candid moments and posed portraits!
Therefore, when picking whichever is the best camera for wedding photography, for you, be sure to check which flashes are compatible with that camera, and how much they cost. Even within the same brand names, some of the newest cameras may not be fully compatible with older flashes, and some of the newest flashes may not be compatible with slightly older cameras, either!
Price & Value
Last but not least, this is very important. Your camera gear may be “just a business expense”, however, every business should have a budget! Thankfully, today’s mid-priced cameras are highly professional. We recommend expecting to invest between $2,000 and $3,000.
Also, keep in mind that as paid professionals, capturing our clients’ once-in-a-lifetime memories, we highly recommend owning a backup camera! So, either double that number, or hold onto whichever camera you may already own, instead of selling it or trading it in to help pay for one of these cameras. You need a backup!
Best Cameras For Wedding Photography
You’ll notice that this list is made up of mainly full-frame mirrorless cameras from Sony, Nikon, and Canon. Obviously, there are many more cameras that are capable of photographing a wedding,
Sony A7 IV
The Sony A7 IV is one of the most well-rounded cameras on the market today. It offers a 33-megapixel sensor, 10 frames per second, (FPS), and one of the best autofocus systems around. Furthermore, its sensor-based stabilization offers up to 5.5 stops of shake reduction, and the dual card slots offer instant backup.
The list goes on: this camera is weather-sealed, and offers one of the best battery life ratings in our own real-world experience. The viewfinder and touchscreen are adequate, though not flagship level. Honestly, though, we have to circle back to something we only briefly mentioned: autofocus. Sony’s autofocus system, and especially the Real-Time Tracking AF, is just the best. We love it for low-light portraits, active scenes, and especially the more complex, “almost impossible” situations such as a crowded, high-energy, pitch-dark dance floor. This camera just gets the job done!
One of the biggest reasons we give the top spot to this camera, however, has to do with its mount. Sony’s E-mount is the oldest mirrorless mount, and there are far more lenses available for it than any other mount. Whether you want big, expensive, exotic flagship lenses, or you’re looking to go the more affordable route (but you still want f/2.8 zooms and/or f/1.4 primes) …the Sony E-mount simply has the most diverse lens arsenal around.
Canon EOS R6II
Canon’s EOS R6 II is one of their newest full-frame mirrorless cameras, and it has one of the most capable autofocus systems Canon offers. Even though the R6 II is priced at a respectable $2,499, the AF system is partially handed down from the $5,999 Canon EOS R3. Other professional features include dual card slots and full weather sealing.
With a 24-megapixel sensor, the Canon R6 II is in that sweet spot of resolution for those wedding photographers who do a lot of large, long events such as Hindu weddings or other cultural events.
One of the most impressive features, though, is the Canon stabilization system. With the in-body image stabilizer alone, the Canon R6 II achieves (up to) an impressive 7 stops of shake reduction. Furthermore, when combined with lenses that also offer optical stabilization, this number is increased to 8 stops! For wedding photography in particular when low-light work is very common, this is an incredible feature.
The Nikon Z6 II is almost equally ideal for wedding photography and portraiture. It is a favorite among photographers who simply appreciate the ergonomics and handling of a well-built camera, as Nikon has always made some of the most intuitive yet capable cameras on the market.
Another great benefit to the mirrorless Nikon Z mount is that they (by teaming up with Tamron) have a unique offering: a complete set of exotic, high-end flagship f/2.8 zooms, and a soon-to-be-complete set of very affordable, lightweight f/2.8 zooms as well.
The same thing goes for Nikon’s impressive prime lenses: They offer not only exotic lenses such as a 50mm and 85mm f/1.2, but also, incredibly sharp, flagship-level f/1.8 primes that are very lightweight and compact. So, if you’re either budget- or weight-conscious, Nikon’s offering is potentially your best bet. Oh, and this is the most affordable body we are recommending, at under $2,000!
Best Cameras For Wedding Photography AND Portrait Photography
Maybe you don’t just do wedding photography, but you also photograph portraits, whether candid family portraits. or fashion models & editorial work. If so, you definitely must consider a camera that is very similar to the above cameras in every way except one thing: resolution.
These next 3 cameras are indeed very similar, if not physically identical, to their same-brand siblings. However, they all have nearly double the resolution, or more! They may not be the optimal, best cameras for wedding photography, but they’re still truly excellent.
The significant boost to resolution will also be incredibly useful for making very large prints to hang on clients walls in their homes, or for ad campaigns for large corporations.
Canon EOS R5
The Canon EOS R5 is probably one of the most commonly seen professional cameras for photographers who do both wedding and portrait photography. Not just because the camera itself is so capable, but also, because of one of the things we mentioned earlier: lens selection. Canon’s RF-mount L-series full-frame mirrorless lenses are truly incredible. Whether you prefer zooms or primes, Canon probably has the ultimate portrait & event lens for you, such as the Canon RF 50mm f/1.2, or the Canon RF 28-70mm f/2.
Make no mistake, though: these lenses are the very definition of “exotic”; they’re large, heavy, and expensive. The results speak for themselves, though!
Nikon Z7 II
This camera is indeed virtually identical to the Z6 II, except for what the different sensor provides. Not only does it bump the megapixel count up to 45MP, but also, that added resolution offers a slight improvement in the overall performance of the autofocus, since AF is an on-sensor function now with mirrorless cameras.
One of the great things about Nikon cameras is their diversity of raw file types, too. Of course you can use the Nikon Z7 II for portraits and commercial work with 14-bit lossless NEF files; but then, if you have a 16-hour wedding and you know you’re likely to capture many thousands of photos in a single day, you can switch to 12-bit compressed NEF, and save nearly 50% on space on your memory cards! Meanwhile, no matter what, the image quality from this sensor is truly stunning, especially in good lighting with the ISO set to its native 64.
Sony A7R V
Sony’s megapixel monster jumps up to a whopping 61MP, again nearly double that of the Sony A7 IV. This is a bit much for weddings, though, so we honestly can’t recommend this camera as highly as any of the others if the majority of your work is weddings. The Sony A7R V is more of a camera for those who do mostly portraits, and just a couple/few weddings from time to time. (And, just be warned, you’ll want quite a few 256GB memory cards to get through a longer wedding!)
The main reason we do recommend this camera so highly to portrait photographers is this: It has the next-generation autofocus system from Sony, which includes its own dedicated CPU for AI-based subject detection and tracking, which takes “focus points stick like glue to your subject’s face” to a whole new level.
Should You Use A Flagship Mirrorless Camera For Wedding Photography?
Of course, none of the above cameras are actually top-tier flagship cameras from each brand. In fact, we honestly believe that wedding photographers can do just fine with a camera in the $2,000-$3,000 range.
Having said that, what if you actually like the full-size flagship camera style, with the built-in vertical grip, and the handful of other flagship features and performance? Well, you’d better save up quite a lot of money, (and still have a backup camera!) but here are our top recommendations:
The Nikon Z9 is Nikon’s current flagship champion, and it costs almost $5,500. It contains the most capable autofocus system that Nikon offers, though, and its tracking capabilities truly are impressive.
There is no mechanical shutter in the Z9, so all of your photos, with or without flash, can be totally silent. (Most all other cameras require you to switch to mechanical shutter when using flash.)
Sony’s A1 is their flagship, and coming in at almost $6,500 it is the most expensive camera on this list. Oddly enough, however, it does not have a built-in vertical grip, as all flagship Nikon/Canon cameras have had, so you’ll have to get an accessory vertical grip if that’s the user experience you’re looking for.
The Sony A1 offers 50 megapixels, and some truly incredible
Sony A9 II
Due to the fact that Sony’s A1 doesn’t have a vertical grip, we’re going to mention the previous “flagship champion in Sony’s lineup, the Sony A9 II. Honestly? This is a better camera in almost every way for high-volume wedding photographers, with its modest 24-megapixel sensor. It still includes the impressive AF tracking that we’ve come to appreciate from Sony, though, and at almost $4,500 it is both the least expensive flagship and also more expensive than the other cameras on this list.
Canon EOS R3
Canon’s EOS R3 is a full-body pro flagship camera, with Canon’s own highest-performance autofocus system. Its sensor has 24 megapixels, again making it potentially perfect for high-volume work, though maybe not as perfect for high-end portraiture or other high-resolution needs.
Simply put, the type of photographer who would appreciate and enjoy the Canon EOS R3 the most is likely an action sports or wildlife photographer, (hobbyist or pro) …who maybe also happens to photograph large events as well. Is it necessary for wedding photography, though? No, definitely not.
Best DSLR For Wedding Photography
Lest we forget, DSLRs dominated the professional wedding (and portrait) photography industry for a decade or more. Their latest generations are highly capable, and if you prefer to see an optical viewfinder when you raise a camera to your eye, such cameras will continue to stand the test of time.
With that being said, we do appreciate mirrorless cameras for certain features which are particularly useful to wedding photographers, such as in-body stabilization for low-light hand-held photos, and face/eye detection autofocus that makes working with shallow depth of field a breeze. So, we only recommend the following cameras if you truly are interested in the DSLR experience.
The Nikon D780 is one of the best (and currently, one of the “last”) DSLRs ever made. Honestly? It’s hard to improve on, so we can see it as a professional camera for many more years, too.
The body is nearly indestructible, the image quality is stunning, and the autofocus is one of the best AF systems offered by DSLRs.
Canon 5D mk IV
Canon’s 5D mk IV is their own semi-flagship camera and many wedding photographers paid (or still pay) their bills with it and its predecessors. Again, you get incredible image quality, a rugged body, and a solid autofocus system.
Having said that, any wedding photographer who has used an EOS R5 or an EOS R6 II and gotten used to its excellent face-detection will likely notice a difference in the number of perfectly in-focus keepers when going back to a camera like the 5D-series. Technology has, in fact, come a very long way in a short amount of time.
Conclusion | Best Camera For Wedding Photography
Simply put, any of these cameras would be excellent for wedding photography, however, some are even more perfect for the job than others. We don’t necessarily recommend buying a giant flagship body, because quite honestly you could buy two $2,500 cameras and maybe even have money left for a lens!
As wedding photographers, it is important to be ready to work literally from sunrise to sunset in some cases, and things like portability and battery life will play a big role.
With that in mind, please feel free to leave a comment below with your thoughts!