Take your art to the next level & find out what cameras professional photographers shoot with

Today, I thought I would guide you in your quest to becoming the next big thing in photography and share the cameras that professional photographers use, and which ones some of the most famous photographers capture their medium with.

What are the best cameras for a professional photographer? That’s a question with many different answers! If you’re a commercial, travel, landscape or fashion photographer you’ll probably go for high resolution over high continuous shooting speeds. If you’re a sports photographer, it’s shooting speed and autofocus above all else. There are of course many forms of photography (and cameras!) out there, so today I’m just going to ‘focus’ on the types of cameras that a commercial or fashion photographer in London might use. There is a wealth of choice out there in the photography market and it can be a total minefield for beginners choosing what’s right for them, even as a professional it can be hard to keep up with all the advances in the technology! So I thought I would start off with the basics, what types of professional cameras are there?

The Different Types of Professional Cameras

Compact Cameras

Also known as a point-and-shoot camera. A compact camera is an inexpensive entry-level camera for the amateur photographer.

These cameras are small and lightweight, and they tend to be smaller as they don’t have an optical viewfinder. They are the most user-friendly of all the types of camera options. You frame your subject and press the button. The camera does all the work. It assesses the scene and determines a correct exposure. An example would be the Canon IXUS 185
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Zoom Compact Camera

Compact zoom cameras have a more powerful zoom lens than the point and shoot above. This means a much greater magnification ability.

They offer automatic exposure settings and most also offer manual options plus HD recording. These types of cameras do not offer interchangeable lenses. This is due to the nature of the enhanced zoom function. The zoom ranges from 28-300 mm.

Most models offer at least 12 megapixels. This is excellent for your personal images. As with other compact cameras, these types of cameras are not suitable for professional photographers. But this is the next stage up, we’re nearly at professional level!

Advanced Compact Cameras

These types of cameras are for the more experienced hobbyists, the type of camera your rich uncle shoots his luxurious holiday slideshows with! They’re for photographers who want more control over their photos compared to a regular compact camera.

Advanced compact cameras come with manual exposure mode and manual focusing. These features put them a cut above regular compact cameras. They will allow you to take much higher-resolution pictures than your smartphone can provide. But they’re still small and compact, the Sony RX10 IV is a good example.
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DSLRs – Digital Single Lens Reflex

Digital SLRs are for serious amateurs and professionals alike. They are larger and heavier than compact cameras. The cameras professional photographers mostly use are DSLRs.

Their design and function comes from film cameras. The higher-end models have a full-frame sensor and the lenses are interchangeable on DSLRs and these lenses range in quality. Most manufacturers produce a lenses line for amateur photographers, and then a much more expensive line aimed at professional photographers. An example here is Canon’s L-series.

DSLRs offer a wide variety of manual settings and creative controls but you can also take images in Automatic mode, so don’t get scared! The shutter speeds can reach much faster ranges than the cameras above and have a better low-light capability. The Canon EOS 4000D DSLR is a gorgeous example!
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Compact Mirrorless Cameras

They say that mirrorless cameras are the camera for the professional photographer of the future. They offer most of the features of a DSLR camera. But they are smaller, lighter, and generally less expensive!

The name ‘mirrorless’ comes from the lack of an internal mirror that reflects light onto the sensor. The light that comes in through the lens goes straight to the sensor. This then transmits the information it captures on to the LCD screen. Many professional photographers are switching over to mirrorless cameras already, or they’re using them as an alternative to their usual DSLRs while travelling for example.

You can change lenses on these cameras, and they have a lot of features for creative control. Some models offer facial recognition and have focus points in every part of the frame. This is excellent if you’re a budding wedding photographer! Most offer high resolution, video and also WiFi capability – meaning you can control your camera from a distance with your phone! The Sony Alpha 7 is a really popular version.
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So Tory, what type of camera would a professional photographer use?

The short answer is probably a DSLR. Its reliable, sturdy and upgradable with a huge host of lenses on the market suitable for every style of photography. Whatever camera brand you choose, look for a 35mm format DSLR for the best results on a fashion photography shoot. One of the most popular cameras for fashion photographers in London is the Nikon D850 due to its amazing blend of resolution, speed, performance and image quality – its perfect for capturing every pose and movement on a shoot.
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Other options are looking for second hand cameras too, take a look at the dedicated camera marketplaces like MPB or Camera World.

What Cameras do Famous Photographers Use

The truly great professional photographers don’t need a lot of expensive equipment or fancy cameras to be exceptional. That being said, it doesn’t hurt…. Here’s some of the great’s in the photography industry and the cameras they used.

Annie Leibovitz

Known Cameras: too many to list but they include the Canon 5D Mark II, Hasselblad with a Phase One back, Nikon D810, and Minolta SRT-101

No list of famous photographers would be complete without Annie Leibovitz, a true great and one of my hero’s. She was the first woman to be named chief photographer of Rolling Stone and went on to work for both Vogue and Elle. Using her distinctive, playful style of portrait photography, she’s captured both the personage and personalities of Queen Elizabeth II, Liberace, John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Johnny Cash, and countless others.

Here are my favourite images by Annie featuring Lady Gaga and Gigi Hadid:

Dorothea Lange

Known Camera: Graflex Series DSLR

Over the course of her career, Dorothea Lange photographed the devastating effects of the Great Depression, the lives of share croppers, migrant workers and eventually, Japanese American internment camps. To this day, her work remains emblematic of a particularly tumultuous era in American politics.

Here is the iconic portrait ‘Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California (1936)

Steven Meisel

Known Camera: Canon 1ds Mark II

Having photographed every single cover of Italian Vogue from 1988 to today as well as every Prada campaign since 2004, Steven Meisel is one of today’s most important and prolific fashion photographers. He is best known for his controversial fashion editorials, like the one of model’s in a mental institute for Italian Vogue, but his portfolio also includes commercial images for clients like Barneys New York, Perry Ellis, Valentino, Versace, and the Gap. He is also the one behind Madonna’s 1984 album cover, ‘Like a Virgin’. Try getting that tune out of your head now!

My favourite campaign by Steven Meisel for Moschino

Mario Testino

Known Camera: 100MP Hasselblad H6D

Mario Testino is one of the most influential & famous fashion photographers. Testino often captures celebrities in casually glamorous environments and his career skyrocketed in 1997 when he photographed Princess Diana for a cover of Vanity Fair. With a sharp and vibrant style, his works include a mix of cultural and commercial for the likes of Burberry, Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana, as well as fashion magazines such as Vogue. The title of this post is ‘What Cameras Do Professional Photographers Use?’, well, this professional uses a Hasselbrand, the crème da la crème of cameras and Testino’s in particular would have cost over £20,000 but some models can be more than double that! This is a brand to work your way up to!


The sentiment you should take away from this post is that an amazing camera does not make you a famous photographer! Unique ideas, creativity and talent are just as important! Start with a small purchase, hone your craft and when you’ve outgrown your point and shoot, move on up to the next level.

I hope this has helped you to understand photography equipment and the types of cameras professional photographers use. If you think of a camera that should have been featured send me an email here