Portrait photographer kits compared – Fujifilm medium format vs Sony vs Canon RF

Written by Gary on June 21st, 2019

This short little blog post is a quick comparison of camera-lens kits for under $AU10,000 for the professional portrait photographer wanting a 85mm field of view lens and lots of megapixels.

Fujifilm GF 50R with 110mm f/2 lens

For THE BEST image quality under $AU10,000, this is the combo for you!

This 50mp weathersealed medium format rangefinder with a 0.79x crop factor that is not too heavy in itself mated with a very nice albeit heavy portrait lens with lovely bokeh and sharp wide open.

You can pick this kit up at the moment in Australia discounted to $AU9,850 and it will weigh 775g for the camera plus 1010g for the lens giving a total of 1.8kg. The lens gives the equivalent 35mm full frame effect of a 86mm f/1.6 lens which is perfect for portraiture.

The main downsides apart from cost and weight are that the closest focus is 0.9m, flash sync is only 1/125th sec, mechanical shutter only gets to 1/4000th sec, and the camera does not have PDAF or image stabilisation. The AF can be a bit slow and noisy compared to full frame peers and will not track the eye as well as the others in this post.

Sony a7RIII with Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM

This 45mp 35mm full frame camera is the smallest of the group and has the best Eye tracking AF and the best image stabilisation of the full frame cameras. This is the most popular combination for pros using mirrorless kits for the portraiture or fashion work.

You can pick this kit up in Australia at the moment for $AU5,290 and it will weigh 657g for the camera and 820g for the lens making it 1.5kg although for a lens of that weight you will probably need to add a camera grip as this camera is too small (see my earlier blog).

This will give you slightly narrower DOF than the Fuji 110mm and slightly closer focus at 0.85m and of course you get the IBIS, more silent and faster AF.

If you don’t need 45mp, you could save around $AU750 and get the 24mp Sony a7III instead. You could buy 3rd party lenses instead but Eye AF tracking may not be as effective.

For the budget minded, one could resort to the much older 24mp Sony a7II for $AU1450 which has image stabilisation but the Eye AF is no where as good as the version III cameras, and mate that with a Sony 85mm f/1.8 at $AU880, making the kit $AU2330.

Panasonic S full frame cameras

At present Panasonic do not have a wide aperture portrait prime lens, and you would need to resort to the Leica 90mm f/2 or Sigma ART 85mm f/1.4 and there may be compatibility issues that still need addressing as it is early days.

There are no budget level cameras as yet.

Nikon Z7 full frame camera

Nikon are yet to produce a native wide aperture portrait prime lens although a 85mm f/1.8 is due to be announced this year, but professionals will be waiting eagerly for a f/1.4 or f/1.2 pro lens.

Reports suggest that when used with the 105mm f/1.4 dSLR lens, the Eye AF focuses on the eye lashes instead of the iris – but I am sure Nikon will sort this out soon as they are early days in their technology.

There are no budget level cameras as yet.

Canon R with Canon RF 85mm f/1.2 lens

For those after the narrowest DOF, this could eventually be the killer combo when Canon releases a pro full frame mirrorless camera and by all accounts this lens is far better than the old Canon EF 85mm f/1.2 lenses for dSLRs.

This combo will be available for around $AU5,000 (lens is not yet available) and will weigh 580g for camera and 1200g for lens making it 1.6kg, and again it would benefit from a camera grip. Close focus is 0.85m.

The Canon R has reasonable Eye tracking AF but unfortunately no image stabilisation in camera or in the lens, the camera is not weathersealed and is only 30mp and does not feature the functions pros would want – hence they will be hanging out for a higher resolution professional camera, and preferably one with IBIS.

The budget entry level alternative is the Canon RP with EF adapter for $AU1775 and a legacy Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 lens for $AU500 making the budget kit $AU2225 but no weathersealing, no image stabilisation, and only 5fps burst.

Olympus OM-D E-M1II with Olympus 45mm f/1.2 lens

I have added this in here, because many will value lower cost, lower size, lower weight, better weathersealing, better image stabilisation, and faster burst rates and smaller file sizes than any of the above while the DOF is perfect for most portraiture but won’t get you quite as narrow a DOF as it equates to 90mm f/2.4 and this may not suffice for the pros for full length body shots.

This kit can be bought in Australia at present for $AU2,700 and will weigh 574g for the camera and 410g for the lens making it a nicely balanced kit at just under 1kg. The lens will also focus much closer than the above at 0.5m.

The downsides are up to 1-2EV less narrow DOF, 1-2EV worse image noise at higher ISO (although most pros prefer to shoot portraits at f/2.4 with their 85mm lenses to ensure they get nose to ear in focus, and as this is achieved at f/1.2 on the Olympus, the Olympus can shoot 2 stops lower ISO which negates much of the full frame advantage), and only 20mp 12 bit file sizes, and the Eye tracking is not quite as good as the Sony.

A Panasonic Micro Four Thirds alternative to this kit is the Panasonic G9 + Panasonic 42.5mm f/1.2 lens.

A budget entry level kit into this system with image stabilisation and Eye detect AF would be the Olympus OM-D E-M10 III with tiny, light Olympus 45mm f/1.8 lens which would come in well under $AU1000 but you don’t get weathersealing, AF with moving subjects and the DOF equates to 90mm f/3.6 which is a reasonable compromise for the price

A nice APS-C cropped sensor alternative is the 26mp Fujifilm X-T3 camera with a Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2 R APD which gives 84mm f/1.8 equivalence and has an apodization filter to produce nicer bokeh but at a cost of 1EV light transmission. Unfortunately this kit requires an optional hand grip and will not give you image stabilisation (you would need the Fuji X-H1 camera for this but the AF is not as good and only covers 37% of the image area and it is 140g heavier). The XT-3 kit will cost you around $AU3000 on discount and will weigh 489g for the camera and 405g for the lens totaling 0.9kg.

  Fuji 50R Sony a7RIII Canon R Fuji XT-3 Olympus E-M1 II
megapixels and sensor crop 50mp, 0.79x 45mp, 1x 30mp, 1x 26mp, 1.5x 20mp, 2x
portrait lens Fuji GFX 110mm f/2 Sony FE 85mm f/1.4GM Canon RF 85mm f/1.2 Fuji 56mm f/1.2 APD Olympus 45mm f/1.2
lens DOF equivalence 35mm full frame 86mm f/1.6 85mm f/1.4 85mm f/1.2 84mm f/1.8 90mm f/2.4
kit price $AU discounted June 2019 $AU9850 $AU5290 $AU5000 $AU3000 $AU2700
kit weight 1.8kg 1.5kg+grip 1.6kg+grip 0.9kg+grip 1kg
kit weight balance camera:lens 775g:1050g 657g:820g 580g:1200g 489g:405g 574g:410g
lens length (cm)     117mm 70mm 85mm
weather sealing very good very good only lens very good excellent
image stabilisation none 4-5EV none none 5EV
closest focus 0.9m 0.85m 0.85m 0.7m 0.5m
low light image noise at f/2.4 in 35mm DOF terms better than FF FF standard FF standard but no IS FF standard as can use ISO 1 EV lower but no IS FF standard as can use ISO 2 EV lower
low light image noise at f/1.4 in 35mm DOF terms only f/1.6 possible but better than FF FF standard FF standard but no IS FF standard as ISO 1 EV lower but no IS 85mm f/1.4 DOF not possible unless focus closer
ergonomic grip ? optional extra optional extra optional extra built-in
Eye AF tracking only for stationary subjects class leading good reasonable reasonable
AF point image coverage only 117pts 68% nearly 100% 91% x 94% 80%?
Flash x-sync 1/125th sec 1/250th sec 1/200th sec 1/250th sec 1/250th sec
Burst rate with C-AF 3fps 10fps 5fps (3fps tracking!) 11fps mech; 20fps electronic 10fps mech; 18fps electronic
Swivel screen No Tilt only Yes 3 axis tilt only Yes
pro 70-200mm f/2.8 lens No Yes Coming f/4 eq. lens only f/4 eq. lens only (Four Thirds)
80-300mm travel lens No 24-240mm f/3.5-6.5 24-240mm f/4-6.3 IS coming 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 Yes compact 40-150mm f/2.8 Pro
Budget entry level options none Sony a7II, Sony 85mm f/1.8 $AU2330 Canon RP, EF 85mm f/1.8 $AU2225 none with Eye AF but Fuji XE-3 has Face Detect and with Fuji 50mm f/2 comes to $AU1300 discounted E-M10III with Oly 45mm f/1.8 under $AU1000, jacket pocketable
Other features rangefinder style, 16bit large high quality files; USB-C charging; Bluetooth; 100mp camera option; mech. shutter only to 1/4000th sec; poor flash sync USB-C charging; Bluetooth; 1080 60p video; USB-C charging; Bluetooth 4K 60p video but cropped; USB-C charging; Bluetooth MF clutch, HiRes mode, unique night modes, excellent sports C-AF, in-camera focus range limiter, 3yr old model – oldest in the comparison, due for upgrade

As mentioned in previous blog posts, choice of camera is always a compromise between price, weight, size, image quality and feature set – there are no perfect cameras to suit all needs perfectly.

Oh, and here is a challenge – can you work out which camera took which portrait image – Fuji Medium Format vs Full Frame vs Fuji APS-C vs Micro Four Thirds – see here. These all have the same field of view and DOF – so the viewer can concentrate on dynamic range, etc – I must say I find it very difficult to tell them all apart. The results of viewer polls also showed that viewers were not able to consistently tell them apart either!


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