A great portrait is the result of a 'conversation' between the photographer and their subject. Having great skills as a photographer is a must for nice portraits, but so is having the right camera and lens! In this article, I will share my views on the best Sony camera for portraits.
I am Ali G, a professional photographer based in Hong Kong. Not only have I shot portraits for a living, but I also run many photography workshops and tours, teaching students how to master the skills of taking impressive portraits and headshots.
I love Sony cameras for the innovative technology, the stunning photo quality, and overall performance. I believe that the Sony a7III should be considered as the best overall Sony camera for portraits.
It comes with an impressive eye auto-focusing function, superb image stabilization, and great hand-held size. This is a camera suitable for portraits and general photography as well.
Sony has a set of interchangeable lens mirrorless cameras, and I have selected both full-frame and cropped sensor models for you to choose from.
Sounds good? Keep reading!
- Sony a7III (Best overall)
- Sony Alpha 1 (Best performance)
- Sony a7R II (Best high resolution)
- Sony Alpha a6400 (Best budget pick)
4 Best Sony Cameras for Portraits
- Key features: 24-MP full-frame Exmor R BSI CMOS sensor, BIONZ X image processor, a 693-point hybrid AF system
- Special feature for portraits: Excellent Eye-AF available in AF-S and AF-C modes
- Image Stabilization: 5-axis SteadyShot image stabilization system built-in
- Best for: Overall
The Sony a7III is one of the best all-around camera systems from the Sony stable. It is loaded with features for portrait photography. This is a 24-MP sensor with backside illumination technology and is paired with a BIONZ X image processor. Needless to say that this camera is a capable shooter in low-light situations.
With no less than 693 phase-detection AF points paired with 425 contrast-detection AF points this hybrid AF system covers 93% of the frame. The camera offers excellent subject tracking, ideal for portraits especially when the subject is moving about.
Eye-AF feature is also available which means you can capture very sharp eyes in your portrait compositions. Eye-AF feature is available in both AF-S and AF-C mode.
For your information AF-S suggests Single-shot autofocusing, where the camera will acquire focus only for one shot. For the next shot, the camera will try to re-acquire focus.
AF-C means that the camera will acquire focus and then continue to track and lock focus for as long as the shutter button is pressed down. The second option is usually used when you are shooting in burst mode for moving subjects or sports photography (continuous shooting mode).
With a 5-axis SteadyShot image stabilization system, the a7III is a wonderful camera to work hand-held. This is one of the best cameras for shooting portraits and all types of general photography.
- Key features: 50-MP full-frame Exmor RS BSI CMOS sensor, BIONZ XR image processor, the 759-point hybrid AF system
- Special feature for portraits: Real-time Eye AF that is tailor-made for eye tracking in humans, animals and even comes with a dedicated bird mode
- Image Stabilization: 5-axis SteadyShot image stabilization system is built-in
- Best for: Performance
Arguably the greatest autofocus system in the world and a behemoth when it comes to what Sony has been able to achieve in a compact body. It features a 50-MP sensor resolution using Exmor RS BSI CMOS technology.
The stacked architecture produces superb results in low light with stunning dynamic range even at ridiculously high ISO numbers (native ISO goes up to 32,000!).
With the 50-MP sensor resolution, you can shoot wide and then crop big time and still be able to capture a lot of detail. This is the sort of camera that you can use to shoot a portrait image even with a wide-angle lens. Just place the subject right in the middle of the frame and crop out everything else in post-processing.
All of Sony’s best mirrorless system cameras come with a 5-axis SteadyShot image stabilization system that enhances the hand-held shooting abilities of the camera. The Alpha 1, being the flagship Sony camera, is no exception.
- Key features: 42-MP full-frame Exmor R BSI CMOS sensor, BIONZ X image processor, 399-point AF system, hybrid AF with 25 contrast-detect AF points
- Special feature for portraits: Eye-AF, superior resolution for a large amount of details
- Image Stabilization: 5-axis SteadyShot image stabilization system built-in, improved weather sealing
- Best for: High resolution
The Sony a7R II is a high-resolution full-frame mirrorless camera. The Exmor BSI CMOS sensor offers a resolution of 42-MP, paired with the sensor is a BIONZ X image processing engine.
Autofocusing on the a7R II is powered by a hybrid AF system comprised of 399 Phase-detect points and 25 Contrast Detect points. The PDAF points cover about 45% of the frame. The camera features an Eye-AF system that can detect a subject’s eye in the frame and prioritize that in the frame. The system is not the fastest in the business but it does a good job of keeping the eye closest to the camera in focus.
5-axis SteadyShot image stabilization is also built-in, which is a great feature to have for those hand-held shots. Quite often, photographers prefer to shoot portraits by hand-holding the camera rather than using a tripod.
Even if they do use a tripod for the most parts for some shots, they will take the camera off their tripod and shoot hand-held for certain images. Image stabilization comes in handy in these situations.
Of course, inbuilt image stabilization (IBIS) comes in handy in more than just portrait photography situations. Even photographing nature and wildlife means you need a steady camera because you can’t always set up a tripod.
Those who love to shoot a majority of their work outdoors, such as landscapes using natural light, will always worry about their gear staying safe in different weather conditions. The Sony a7R II has improved weather sealing, which is a bonus for all content creators!
- Key features: 24.2-MP APS-C Exmor CMOS sensor, BIONZ X image processor, a 425-point hybrid AF system
- Special feature for portraits: Real-time Eye AF with tracking
- Image Stabilization: 5-axis SteadyShot image stabilization system built-in
- Best for: Budget pick
Powered by a 24.2-MP APS-C CMOS Exmor sensor and paired with a BIONZ X image processor, the Alpha a6400 is a formidable camera.
This is an APS-C camera which means the crop factor will come into play when you mount a lens onto it. Sony’s APS-C camera systems have a crop factor of 1.5x. This means the focal length of any compatible lens you mount on this camera will effectively become 1.5x its actual focal length.
Regarding the autofocusing capabilities of this camera, the a6400 has Sony’s Real-time Eye-AF and Real-time AF tracking features. These are both very useful when shooting a moving subject, whether portraits of adults, babies or even your pets!
With the hybrid AF system, the a6400 can shoot at 11 fps continuous shooting speed.
Best Sony Camera for Portraits - What to Consider?
One of the reasons for this article is because Sony has made huge strides in technology and making the photographer’s job a bit easier.
Portrait photography has a simple recipe: the right light, the right lens, and a great camera! You can do a lot with just this. You could have the most amazing subject but if they are in poor light, then nothing else really matters.
There are hundreds and thousands of exquisite examples of portrait photography using nothing but simple equipment and just one light. In many cases, just the ambient light is all that a photographer needs to make a beautiful compositional statement.
Thus, artificial lights are never a mandatory requirement for portrait photography. However, having a good camera which can handle low or poor lighting conditions is important if you often find yourself in challenging conditions.
That said, the sensor size inside a camera will make a difference at times. Always buy a camera that you can grow into, never one that you already know all the bells and whistles.
Apart from that, a high-resolution camera captures a lot of detail. So, if you ever want to crop out portions of your composition and focus on something specific then you will need a high-resolution camera.
Here are some commonly asked questions related to the best Sony cameras for portraits.
Which Sony lens is best for portrait photography?
I highly recommend Sony FE 85mm F/1.4GM lens for portrait, it produces a very sharp image with impressive bokeh. I would consider it as 'the' sony lens for portraits. The
Sony - E 50mm F1.8 OSS Portrait Lens would be my second choice for portraits because it is a nifty fifty lens (a lens offering the closest focal length to what our eyes see).
Do professional photographers use Sony?
Yes, a lot of professional photographers use Sony, especially those who film a lot of videos. Sony mirrorless cameras are light weight, come with excellent image stabilization, and can produce very high-quality photos as well.
At the end of the day, it’s not just about the camera, it’s about the photographer’s skills and experience as well.
Can I use a Sony lens on a Canon camera?
Yes, you can, but you will need to use a lens adapter, just make sure you purchase a compatible one.
I have listed my top recommendations regarding the best Sony camera for portraits and my top pick is the Sony a7III.
It is a powerful camera loaded with many features, comes with impressive auto-focusing functions, low-light shooting capability and image stability. Considering all the functions it offers, this is a pretty compact and lightweight camera.
Check on the other recommended cameras and you can easily pick one matching your needs the most. Now, let’s go and shoot some beautiful portraits!
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A big thanks to Phottix for the professional lighting equipment provided to Ali G Studios.
The cover photo is © Ali Ghorbani and Ali G Studios
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