Mirrorless Cameras For Boudoir Photography

Uncategorized Oct 09, 2020

My mirrorless love story

It was the summer of 2019 and I had just finished teaching a boudoir workshop. I like editing photos within a day of taking them, so I uploaded my images to my computer and went to work. I had been a Canon guy since I first decided to make photography my career. I started with the Olympus E-520, but soon moved to the Canon 5d mkii and I felt like a real pro. You know the feeling... Walking up on a shoot with a huge, expensive looking camera, and L series lenses to go with it. The mkiii came out and I used that until the mkiv came out. I had ZERO reason to switch from the Canon full frame lineup, especially considering the cost of a platform switch (lenses + batteries + camera body). 

After I finished editing this shoot I noticed that the eyes weren't as sharp as I wanted them, and I had just calibrated my lenses that week. I did some test shooting with all of my lenses and they were all pretty sharp, but something still didn't feel quite right. So I went down to my local camera shop to ask if they could help me figure this out.

I showed them the photos on my laptop (Macbook Pro with the Retina display) and he couldn't see a problem. Turns out, I just had higher expectations and this sharpness of my images had never really bothered me before. Don't get me wrong, my photos were sharp, and I was proud to stand behind my work. And my clients loved what I did. But what was better than the Canon 5d mkiv or the Nikon D850?

The guy behind the counter hands me a new camera and tells me to take a photo of him. It's a small camera body with a prime 50mm. It's set at f/1.8. I take the photo as requested and that was the shot that changed my world. He grabs the camera and zooms all the  way in on the eyes... holy s***! I could have performed surgery with it, it was so sharp!

It was the Nikon Z7. 

I bought it that same week, with the 50mm f/1.8 and the 17-30 f/4, because I shoot really wide for my commercial work. I haven't looked back since. 

6 months later, I'm in an office shooting 300 head shots, tethered to my laptop, and I zoom in on one shot to see my clear reflection in the person's eye. I shot at f/1.8 and I could see MY OWN REFLECTION in his eye! That's madness. And that is all with the auto face-finder. I didn't select the focus point manually.

Why I love shooting mirrorless

Size matters... My camera feels like it's half the weight of my old 5d and the lenses are considerably smaller. My arms don't get tired after a day of shooting. That lends to longevity and injury prevention. I'm pretty fit, but I'm still human. My camera bag no longer hurts my shoulder after carrying it around all day. And since I travel a lot, that's a big deal. It's also easier to hold still with a 70-200mm lens on there, so your focus will be sharper.

The auto focus system is my favorite part. It is so good at tracking your subjects eyes and nailing the focus, I have no reason to ever choose a focus point again. Why do I love this so much? I can hold my camera up, frame my shot, and stay engaged with my subject. I never have to cover my face with my camera. You know those clients who are just the most natural, confident, comfortable clients, then you lift up the camera and they go all rigid on you? That has stopped because I don't have to break our engagement. Game changer!

The new memory cards are lighting fast. The files are huge compared to the old Canon RAW files, but it doesn't matter because of the read/write speeds of the XQD cards. This new technology is also more reliable and durable than SD or CF cards. I do same day sales with my clients. 90 minutes after their boudoir shoot ends, they are looking at 75-100 edited images in their IPS. That used to take longer with my old slower cards.

The lenses are new technology. Rather than reworking the old lenses from the DSLR lines, Nikon started over and designed new lenses specifically for the mirrorless body. They are smaller, lighter, and fast. I shoot primarily at f/1.8 and I have zero issues with soft focus, missed focus, or missing a shot because the autofocus was too slow.

Which mirrorless camera do I use?

I love my Nikon Z7. You can also get the newer Nikon Z7 II  I haven't used the Canon or Sony mirrorless so I can't compare the user experience. And since none of the companies are giving me gear, or paying me to review their products at this point, I can only make recommendations based on my own experience. The reasons I listed above are pretty darn compelling though.

Which lenses do you need?

I have almost always shot primes. They are sharper and better in low light than zoom lenses. And a 35mm or 50mm prime are PERFECT for shooting boudoir. The new S lenses that are specifically made for the new mirrorless bodies are phenomenal. If you do want a zoom lens, I suggest the 24-70 and 70-200, both S series lenses. I use a 70-200 for closeup detail shots, and the wider angle primes for everything else. 90% of my images are taken with the 50mm.

Here are the lenses I recommend (from the official retailers).

35mm f/1.8 S

50mm f/1.8 S

24-70mm f/2.8 S

70-200 f/2.8 VR S

What kind of accessories do you need?

I like to pack light, so I just carry 2 memory cards, 2 batteries, and a card reader. I bring a tether cable if I'm shooting headshots, but that's the exception. I also have the FTZ adapter so I could use the F mount 70-200 lens. The S series  70-200 is just newly released, so I've been using the AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II (such long names!). I'll be using the S series lens from now on though.

Here are those accessories on Amazon (from the official retailers)

32GB XQD Memory Cards

XQD Card Reader

FTZ Adapter for F mount Nikon Lenses

Extra Battery for Z7 Camera

Conclusion

A camera is a tool for a job. Each different camera system, and lens lineup has strengths and weaknesses, and there is no one best anything. You now know all the reasons I love using my Nikon mirrorless setup. If Sony or Canon are a better fit for you, that's great! As long as we have fun and our clients are happy, that's the important part. 

Disclaimer: I do receive a commission if you purchase anything from the product links on this page. It will always be my policy to never recommend ANY product or service I don't fully support and use myself. I became and affiliate because I was already recommending this gear to so many photographers. 

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