Hasselblad has released the world’s first mirrorless medium format camera along with two lenses. It weighs 725 grams, has a 50MP sensor with 14 stops of dynamic range, and it will sell for $9000 for the body only. In general, the larger the sensor the better the image, and this is why many professionals, especially the higher professionals, shoot with medium format. That is not to say that medium format is a requirement to shoot good images, and full frame cameras are certainly more versatile. But there is just something about the medium format aesthetic that is very hard to get with a full frame camera.
We aren’t in complete agreement with this reviewer. It’s true that Canon’s tend to just work and they have good color science, but Canon has not done anything interesting for too long and Sony (and Nikon who uses some Sony sensors) just have the advantage in terms of dynamic range and image quality. That said, this camera is good enough to produce great images and the skill of the photographer is far more important than today’s tools which are generally more than good enough.
You can read Mike’s review here.
First the Nikon D5 was released, and now Canon’s EOS-1D X Mark II. These are both great cameras that will set you back $6000. With their very fast frame-rates, improved autofocus and their low-light abilities, these are great cameras for shooting runway photography or any other darkly lit venue where your subject is moving around a lot.
These two new cameras are both 20 megapixels each. You could buy a Canon 6D or a Nikon D610 and have a full frame camera at only a quarter of the price. And you will have the same or more megapixels. A lot of fashion photography involves a model standing still(ish) and following direction. The 6D or D610 are more than enough for that scenario.
Alternatively you can buy a Nikon D5500 or Canon T6i and still have more megapixels than either of the $6000 cameras.
Obviously the more expensive cameras have advantages but in good lighting, with a decent lens, and in the hands of a competent photographer it becomes really hard to tell images apart on modern sensors which are mostly all good.
We understand gear lust you can worry about having the best gear when you’re making too much money from your photography. But in the meanwhile learning the art and skill of photography is far better than sinking money into camera bodies whose value can drop quickly. And for fashion photography in particular we have one of the strongest use cases to prefer megapixels. More megapixels is better for print, and a lot of fashion photography is destined for print. For this reason we prefer the Nikon D810 (36 megapixels) and the Canon 5Ds (50 megapixels) or even the Sony A7r II (42 megapixels) over the D5 or 1D X II. Remember too, and we will explain this in a later post, to get double the megapixels of about 20 you will need around 80 megapixels.
November and December usually mean discounts on cameras and lenses. January usually means an end to those discounts. Camera makers want to get good numbers for the years end.
On the Nikon side of things, the sensors in the current bodies are great but they are mostly based on several year old sensors. An update is due soon. First we will see the Nikon D5 come out (it may be announced as soon as next month), and then some of its new features will trickle down to a D810 replacement. The D610 and D750 will be replaced or possibly amalgamated into a new model. If you need a Nikon camera right now then it’s a good time to buy because of the discounts. But if you can wait your patience might be rewarded with the next generation of sensors. It could be a while after the D5 is released that another new model is released. If what you have is good enough to last you a year or more we wouldn’t rush.
On the Canon side of things it’s a bit different. The 5DS and 5DSR have only been available for half a year. If you want a high resolution Canon body then your choice is easy. Some people are holding out for the Canon 5D Mark IV. It has been rumored that the Mark IV will have better dynamic range and color sensitivity. But it won’t have the 50 megapixels of the 5DS line. The price may not be that much less than the 5DS. So unless there is something else really compelling about the Mark IV you would probably do better grabbing a 5DS series camera now. In fashion photography photographs get printed frequently and megapixels matter for print quality. There may be a Canon 6D Mark II coming as well. But we are guessing that for most people the Canon 6D, 5D Mark III and to some extent even the Canon 5D Mark II should hold them over unless Canon’s done something really special with these upcoming cameras. Then there’s the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II. It will be expensive, and probably have great auto-focus, frame rates, and low light abilities. But again it won’t have the 50 megapixels of the 5DS line. The people who need the 1D series know who they are.
For Sony, the A7r II is an interesting option. It’s not where we want it to be yet for being a professional tool, but it can make some amazing images (more megapixels than the Nikon D810 and more dynamic range than the Canon 5DS series). And it’s small. Given that the A7r II has only been out for a matter of months, it’s an acceptable time to buy, but make sure you do your homework and you truly understand the limitations of this camera. It’s not as fast or as efficient as a dSLR yet. But if you can work with its limitations it will definitely work for many kinds of fashion photography.
Micro-Four-Thirds (Panasonic and Olympus)
What about the micro-four-thirds cameras by Olympus and Panasonic? There have been some good discounts lately. We see these systems as complementary to but a not a replacement for full-frame systems. Although if you’re just starting off any camera will do and it’s far more important to learn the skill and the art than to obsess about gear.
Fuji makes beautiful lenses and their cameras have gotten very close to being what we want yet never all the way there. We will let our readers make up their own minds about Fuji.
As always remember that the person behind the camera is far more important than the camera. A good photographer can produce outstanding results with cheap equipment, even more so in the last few years as the sensors used in digital cameras have gotten quite good all around.
Many people praised the Zeiss Otus 85mm for being one of the best lenses, if not the best lens, available for full frame digital cameras. And for $4,500 you would expect it to be quite good. I rented it but did not like it for portrait and fashion photography. There was just too much contrast. It’s an amazing lens for many other purposes.
The Zeiss Milvus 85mm is $1,800, available in Canon and Nikon mounts (can be adapted to Sony) and is manual focus like the Otus lens. For portrait and fashion shots this has become my favorite lens. It has a special quality to its rendering that I’m addicted to. The contrast is just right and the bokeh is supreme. It’s big, heavy, and hard to focus on Canon and Nikon cameras. But if you’re pushing the limits this is the lens you want. Otherwise go for something with auto-focus. It’s like they took the Otus but modified it into a portrait lens. Great for the studio where you have time and lots of control.
The Sony A7R II is expensive and has many shortcomings despite being much improved over the first A7R. For many types of photography it wouldn’t be my first choice. But for most fashion and portraiture shoots it’s more than adequate. It’s small, has amazing image quality (42-megapixels) and has some great lenses available for it (like the expensive but wonderful Zeiss Batis 85mm). Especially with travel restrictions getting smaller and lighter it’s much easier to carry this camera and a few lenses than the equivalent Nikon D810 or Canon 5DSR.
As an added bonus this camera shoots 4K video and lets you adapt older and unique lenses for use.
The Nikon D5500 can currently be had for $700. It’s an excellent camera with great image quality, dynamic range, features, and a small size for its class. It’s not full frame but its images keep up pretty well with full frame. I use this camera when I need to go small and light and as a back-up but many would be well served with it as their main camera.
We like to see affordable cameras that can produce great images and the D5500 meets that criteria. Lenses are a better investment than cameras so we recommend buying a cheap as camera as makes sense. When you’re getting paid for your photographs then you can worry about having the best of the best.
Grab a 35mm and a 50mm to go with this camera and you have two decent portrait lenses to shoot with.