Before buying a DSLR, give serious consideration to a Canon mirrorless camera. Our Best Canon General-Purpose Mirrorless Camera recommendations page has these suggestions.
While a simple portrait session can be rescheduled, weddings and similar events are big deals with huge effort and costs put into them and they cannot be repeated. These events will go on regardless of the photographer and any issues the photographer encounters. Since the photographer is obligated to deliver high-grade and highly-anticipated images from the event, issues must be avoided (quality gear) or dealt with immediately (redundant gear).
Redundancy is very important for wedding and event photographers and a basic redundancy practice is to utilize dual memory card slots for simultaneous image storage with availability of a backup immediately ready to go off site. This of course requires a camera with that capability. Wireless file transfer is another option for immediate image backup.
Redundant cameras should be considered mandatory for important events. While the primary and backup event cameras do not have to be the same model, the backup camera must be reliable and capable enough to become the primary camera if necessary. Having all cameras being functionally similar avoids acclimation issues when switching between models.
It is somewhat difficult to understand camera reliability while shopping as most cameras seem to always reliably work. But, higher-end models typically have greater durability. The shutter is one of the most-moving camera parts and the shutter durability rating provides a glimpse into what that feature's life expectancy may be. Events can generate very high image volumes, quickly surpassing the shutter durability ratings of lower-end cameras. Shutters can be replaced but having a camera out of service is a risk exposure and there is a cost to the repair, at least partially offsetting the cost of buying a better camera initially.
A magnesium alloy frame reflects on a camera's intended use and while weather sealing may be not an expected need for photographing weddings and events, it may be needed – even indoors sometimes (ever spill a drink while a camera is hanging from your neck?).
Printing large means high resolution is important. With portraits being often output in large size (especially wedding and sports portraits), no camera has too much resolution. While the lower-end current models may have very adequate resolution for most needs, being able to print larger can make a get-the-job difference.
People events are often low light and that means high ISO performance is highly valuable. Full frame imaging sensors rule in this regard.
Wedding and event photographers should purchase the best quality gear they can afford. That advice also applies to portrait photographers, though portrait photography often has less time sensitivity and the camera requirements can often be relaxed in this case. Most cameras can capture good portraits (check out the general purpose camera recommendations), but the ones below remain the best choices.
1. Canon EOS R3
The Ultimate Professional Canon Camera, Incredibly High-Performing
When getting the shot is imperative, the extreme EOS R3 is the camera to pick up.
While the R3's 24 MP resolution is not high for a full-frame camera, the quality of those pixels is so high that it outperforms higher resolution models. Also, the R3 otherwise outperforms all other models.
The 30 fps continuous shooting rate is sure to catch the perfect moment and the large, blackout-free, high-speed refresh viewfinder ensures that action is perfectly framed. An out of focus image is of no value, and to that regard, the R3's incredible Eye-Tracking and subject detection AF ensures that your perfectly timed and framed shot is also perfectly focused.
This professional-grade camera is sure to put a smile on your face every time you pick it up and again when you review the results. If there is action involved, this is a camera I want in my hands.
2. Canon EOS R5
Phenomenal Camera, Outstanding AF System, Up-To-20 FPS, Ultra-High Resolution
With the R5, Canon brought their much-loved 5-series to the EOS R-series mirrorless interchangeable lens camera lineup. The success of these models was reflected in inventory levels, with these cameras continuously backordered for about half a year.
The EOS R5 features the best image quality available in a Canon camera combined with impressive overall performance, including outstanding AF performance (including Eye AF) and a continuous shooting rate reaching 20 fps. The R5 is a game-changer. A pair of R5 bodies are my primary cameras, and I like nothing better.
3. Canon EOS R6
Most of EOS R5 Features with Lower Resolution (Imaging Sensor and EVF) and Price
The R6 brings us most of the R5 features for a lower price. Also lowered is the resolution of the imaging sensor and the electronic viewfinder. While low in comparisons, the 20 megapixel resolution is adequate for a large percentage of uses.
3. Canon EOS R
Great Value, Full-Frame Imaging Sensor
Canon's first mirrorless full-frame interchangeable lens camera delivered big, and it is now a great value.
Just as important as the camera are the lenses used on it. The Canon Portrait Lens Recommendations and Canon Wedding Lens Recommendations will help you select the right lens for your portrait, wedding, and event cameras.
Return to the Camera Recommendations.
If you insist on acquiring a DSLR model, here are the ultimate Canon DSLR cameras:
The ultimate Professional Canon Camera
When you need the fastest, most rugged, most dependable and most feature-filled camera Canon makes, this is the one you want. The 1D X II is trusted by those photographing the Olympics, the Super Bowl, the Pope and (put any other major event here) and I trust it will perform amazingly well for you also. This camera is not small, light or inexpensive, but when getting the image matters greatly, this is most often the chosen model.
High Resolution, Great Technology, Superb Overall Camera Choice
If high resolution is needed along with all of the other important portrait and event features, this camera is a great choice. Canon's original 5-series cameras, initially bringing us an affordable full frame body and later disrupting the video marketplace with an extraordinary quality:price ratio, were huge hits. The 5D Mark IV builds on those initial qualities and brings many incredible new ones including Dual Pixel CMOS AF (with Movie Servo AF) and 4k video. Don't worry, still photographers have plenty to drool over with this camera including excellent dynamic range, a solid frame rate, very high resolution and of course, the awesome Canon color you love.
Affordable Full Frame Camera with the Latest Technology
The Canon EOS 5D-series made full frame imaging sensor-format cameras affordable and the Canon EOS 6D-series models took that affordability to another level. For a moderate price, the 6D-series cameras deliver full frame image quality greatness and, in addition to having the most-needed features, the 6D Mark II brings many of the latest technologies with it. Unfortunately, dual memory card slots is not a feature of the 6D Mark II, making it a less ideal choice as the primary camera for weddings.
A Really Good Camera at a Modest Price
When you want a really good camera but do not want to pay the price for a full frame model, the 90D is probably the right option for your portrait needs. The size of this camera makes it easy to handle and the bright, large viewfinder is very nice to look through. The 90D's overall great performance and huge feature set make it the ideal choice for a huge number of people. However, like the 6D Mark II,the 90D does not feature dual memory cards lots.
As mentioned before, the lens is at least as important as the camera. The Canon DSLR Portrait Lens Recommendations and Canon DSLR Wedding Lens Recommendations will guide you to the right lens for your portrait, wedding, and event cameras.
Return to the Camera Recommendations.