6 Best Cameras For Family Photography (…and 3 to avoid)

Whether you’re looking for a way to capture better family photos or looking to start your own family portrait business, having the right camera can make a big difference.

My top pick, and the one that I use in my family photography business is the Nikon Z8. This camera lets you shoot anything with speed and ease and the image quality and color rendition is second to none.

But depending on exactly what kind of family photography you are shooting as well as your budget, there are other options that might be better.

For a full breakdown and additional picks based on your specific needs, keep reading.

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Top Pick

1. Nikon Z8

Exceptional image quality, handling, ergonomics, and versatility. This camera is perfect for family photos and virtually anything else.

The Nikon Z8 is arguably one of the best mirrorless cameras on the market today. It combines a 45.7 megapixel sensor with fast shooting frame rates and one of the best autofocus systems to make it an amazing camera for shooting family portraits and other kinds of family photos.

Z8 Tech Specifications

  • Lens Mount: Nikon Z
  • Megapixels: 45.7
  • Sensor Size: Full-Frame (35.9 x 23.9mm) stacked CMOS
  • Sensitivity Range: ISO 64 to 25,600 (expands to 32 to 102,400)
  • Monitor: 3.2-inch vertical and horizontal tilting, 2.088m dots
  • Max Shutter Speed: 1/32,000 sec.
  • Continuous shooting speed: 30fps (with single point AF)
  • Buffer: 1000+ frames (when shooting only to XQD/CF Express)
  • Stabilization: 5-axis in body
  • Viewfinder: EVF 3.69m dots, 100% coverage, .8x magnification
  • Max video resolution: 8K up to 30p, 4K up to 120p (no crop)
  • Memory Card: 2 slots (1 XQD/CFexpress and 1 SD/SDHC/SDXC UHS-II)
  • Dimensions: (W x H x D): 144 x 118.5 x 83 mm / 5.7 x 4.7 x 3.3″ inches
  • Weight (battery incl.): 910g / 32.1oz

The first thing we’ll talk about is the sensor. For most landscape photographers, this is the msot important consideration. The Z8 has the same 45.7 MP “stacked” BSI CMOS type sensor and has a native sensitivity of ISO 64-256,000, with expansion to ISO 32-102,400.

I’ve found that the 45 megapixel size is a great balance between high resolution and manageable file sizes. There are cameras out there that give you over 60 megapixels and similar specs, but there’s not much noticeable gain when you go from 45 to 60.

The Z8 has excellent color fidelity that is comparable to the top full frame cameras at this price range such as the Sony A7RV.

When it comes to dynamic range, the Z8 similarly compares well with other cameras in this class. You’ll get about 14 stops of dynamic range at the base ISO of 64.

What really makes the Z8 stand out above all of the other competition is that it really doesn’t have any weaknesses.

Most of you probably use your camera for a number of things even if you mostly shoot landscapes and when it comes to versatility, it’s hard to beat the Z8.

It’s right up there with the best landscape cameras like the Sony A7RV but it also handles action wildlife shots as well as any full frame camera out there. So you can head out into the field to shoot landscapes and still have the ability to capture landscapes as well.

A full-frame sensor means higher quality images compared to the crop-sensor cameras on this list as well as much better performance in low light situations. This camera uses a back-side illuminated (BSI) sensor to deliver great quality in low light.


2. Sony a7R IV

Top notch autofocus and 61 megapixels make this a beast for shooting people and families.

The Sony A7R IV is the 4rd generation of their high resolution Mirrorless camera line.

It has more resolution and a lower price than the Nikon Z8 above but it has a slower frame rate and is less versatile overall. So if all you’re doing is shooting family portraits and want high resolution, then this is a great option.

One of the biggest benefits to buying into the Sony mirrorless system is that they have what many consider to be the industry leading autofocus system.

One of the best features of Sony mirrorless cameras is their eye autofocus capability. This is a feature that will identify the eye of a person (as long as they are close enough) and focus right in on the eye itself. In most cases, it can even distinguish between the eyeball and eyelashes.

Any portrait photographer will tell you that the key to a sharp image is nailing focus right on the eyes (and sometimes if the person is close to the camera you can narrow that down even more to focusing on the eye closes to the lens).

Their eye AF setting is perfect for shooting portraits and will ensure your subject’s eyes are in perfect focus. Nikon and Canon also have this feature but Sony has been doing it longer and seems to be just a touch better (but not by much).

As the fourth version of the A7R model, this camera has made some important improvements over its predecessors. One of the most important for you is probably the battery life. Earlier mirrorless cameras by Sony went through batteries fast. You’ll still need a couple backups for a day of shooting, but they have improved significantly.

Budget Pick

3. Canon R50

Affordable, great feature set, and simple to use makes this a great option for amateur photographers that want better family photos.

The Canon EOS R50 is the perfect Canon camera for parents looking for an upgrade from their phone to take better family photos. It’s affordable, has a great feature set, is simple to use, and allows you to build up an RF system lens collection to match your skills as you improve.

Canon EOS R50 Tech Specifications

  • Lens Mount: Canon RF
  • Megapixels: 24.2
  • Sensor Size: APS-C (1.6x crop) CMOS
  • ISO Range: 100-32,000 (exp to 51,200)
  • AF Points: Dual Pixel CMOS AF II (100% coverage)
  • Continuous shooting speed: 12fps (15fps w/ electronic shutter)
  • Stabilization: None
  • Viewfinder: EVF, 2.36m dots, 60fps refresh rate, 0.95x magnification
  • LCD: Fully Articulated 3-inch touch screen, 1.62m dots
  • Max video resolution: 4K video up to 30p (no crop)
  • Memory Card: 1 slot (SD/SDHC/SDXC UHS-I)
  • Dimensions: (W x H x D): 116 x 86 x 69 mm (4.57 x 3.39 x 2.72″)
  • Weight: 375g

The R50 is the camera I would recommend to beginners because it’s a great entry point to the Canon Mirrorless RF system. I wouldn’t buy a DSLR anymore because all of Canon’s newest gear is going to be part of the mirrorless system.

But it’s not the top pick just because it’s a mirrorless camera.

The R50 does a great job of combining a small and lightweight body with some solid ergonomics that Canon DSLR users will be used to. It’s basically a scaled-down version of a bigger Canon camera (which is a good thing).

But there’s more than just the small and well made body that makes this perfect for beginners.

It also has all the features that a beginner would need.

It has the same Dual Pixel CMOS AF II focusing system as the high-end Canon cameras. That means game changing features like eye autofocus for people and animals. If you’ve never shot a portrait with eye AF then you’ll be amazed how easy it is to get the eyes in sharp focus.

This camera will allow you to try a wide range of photography (depending on which lenses you pair with it of course) so you can figure out what you love shooting.

Crop Sensor Pick

4. Nikon Z50

Nikon’s first crop-sensor mirrorless camera has excellent image quality, great ergonomics, and durable build quality.

Nikon cameras are known for their great ergonomics and build quality and that has carried over to their first-generation crop sensor mirrorless camera. The Nikon Z50 would make an excellent addition to any family’s household.

In fact, it made our list of the Best Mirrorless Cameras Under $1000.

Just to get this out of the way…I know that the overall top pick above is also a mirrorless camera as well. But I can’t put the same camera in this category, so I wanted to give you a second option.

For what its worth, even though I use a D850 for my professional work, this is the camera that I have with for everyday family photos.

The image quality of the Nikon Z50 is right up there with almost any crop-sensor camera. It has a 20.9 MP sensor, which is good, but not great. I would have liked it better with 24MP, but it comes pretty close. It also handles low light about as well as any crop sensor camera out there from any brand.

The Z50 also has Nikon’s Z Mount. This is the largest mount among the big manufacturers as well as the closest to the sensor. While the mount may look giant next to the crop sensor in this camera, there are a few major advantages.

First, the close proximity to the sensor (that’s called flange distance) as well as the large opening means that Nikon (and other lens manufacturers) have more options open to them when creating lenses. That allows them to develop smaller lenses for cameras like the Z50 but also super-fast full frame lenses like the new Noct 50mm f/0.95. So you can get this camera knowing that you’re ready for future lens technology.

On top of the specs you can read about, Nikon gives a lot of attention to the way their images are processed in the camera and the result is among the best in color rendition and overall quality. That is Nikon’s secret recipe that you can’t really see in a spec sheet.

There are a few downsides though and these are the reasons why the Sony a6500 got the top spot.

The Nikon Z50 lacks image stabilization built into the body. That means that you won’t get any image stabilization if you use the adapter with older lenses that don’t have it. But many of the Z mount lenses do have image stabilization built in.

DSLR Budget Pick

5. Nikon D5600

Excellent image quality and affordable price make this a great option for those that want great family photos without investing in a pro camera.

I normally do not recommend anyone buying into a new camera system invest in a DSLR. Mirrorless cameras are a much better option as camera manufacturers are no longer developing new lenses for their DSLR lineup.

That being said, the Nikon D5600 is an even less expensive option than the “budget recommendation above” and it has a very good image sensor and many features that you may find useful.

So if you want to stick with the traditional DSLR camera, then the D5600 is going to let you create some high-quality images and is a great value for the money. This camera is a DSLR camera like the budget option above, but its certainly an upgrade.

The screen on the D5600 flips out to the side and rotates around. That means that you can see it from behind the camera and above or below, but you can also flip it around 180 degrees to see the screen when the camera is facing you.

This is very helpful for shooting selfies or setting the camera on a tripod and shooting video of yourself.

Even though Nikon isn’t really developing new lenses for its DSLR mount, have a tremendous lens lineup including the Nikon lenses and third party lenses. You’ll have plenty of choices if you want to upgrade the glass.

Compact Option

6. Sony a6500

A small and affordable but powerful mirrorless option for getting beautiful family photos.

Sony was one of the first major manufacturers to jump into mirrorless cameras and that move paid off huge as they quickly got up to the level of Canon and Nikon as far as camera sales.

The Sony a6500 is a great camera that will improve your family photos and also let you expand into more advanced photography if you choose to.

This camera has image stabilization built into the camera itself. That means that when shooting still subjects, you can use a slower shutter speed and still have the image come out sharp. It also means that you can shoot video handheld and the camera will compensate for a lot of the camera shake giving you much less jittery video.

The Sony a6500 does fall a little short when it comes to weather sealing though. That means you have to be a little more careful about taking it out in rain, near the ocean, or in dusty conditions. The more expensive a6600 has better weather sealing.

The main reason I didn’t choose the newer a6600 is the price. At about $400-500 more than the a6500, the added features (while impressive) aren’t necessary for most family photography and you would probably be better off with the Nikon Z50 above.

Point and Shoot

6. Sony RX100 VI

The Sony RX100VI is at the top of the point and shoot list for anyoen that doesn’t want an interchangable lens camera.

While point and shoots are slowly being replaced by cell phone cameras, a high-quality point and shoot camera can be just as good as an interchangeable lens camera in many situations and much more compact. The Sony RX100VI is at the top of this narrow field of exceptional point and shoots that are still worth it.

This camera may seem a little pricey for a “point and shoot” but it really deserves to be compared to the other interchangeable lens cameras on this list because of its capabilities. In fact, this is one of the only point and shoot cameras that is worth buying.

If you don’t want to step up to this price range for a point and shoot, then you’ll probably be better off just sticking with your cell phone or checking out the budget-friendly DSLR above.

First, let’s talk about the image quality and the sensor on this camera. It is a 1-inch sensor which is smaller than the crop-sensor cameras here and much smaller than the full-frame Sony A7III below. Compared to the full-frame camera, this camera has a crop factor of 2.7.

But Sony’s listed 24-200mm focal length is the full-frame equivalent. The actual physical focal length of the lens is 8.8-74mm, so rest assured you are getting the actual 24-200mm field of view and don’t have to worry about the crop factor.

In general, a larger sensor will give you better image quality and perform better in low light. So if you plan on taking a lot of photos in low light situations then this may not be the best option.

That being said, everything else about this camera is pretty great. It has an aperture of f/2.8-4.5 and a zoom range of 24-200mm. So you’ll be able to get the shot you want in a wide variety of situations. It’s this zoom range that really sets it apart from any cell phone camera.

If you’ve ever tried shooting your kids game with your iPhone only to realize that they are a tiny spot in a super-wide photo, then you’ll see a massive difference with this zoom.

Keep in mind that the lens on this camera is fixed, which means you can’t swap it out like you can on every other camera here. That plus the smaller sensor is why Sony is able to make this camera so small.

It does come with image stabilization which is very helpful when shooting at the 200mm end of the zoom range or when shooting video at any focal length. Speaking of video, you can shoot 4k video with this camera as well.

3 Cameras To Avoid

Canon 6D Mark II

The Canon 6D Mark II is an excellent full frame DSLR full frame camera.

I’m not listing it here because it’s a bad camera. Many professional family photographers use this camera with great success.

But if you’re choosing to invest in a new camera today, I wouldn’t recommend getting an expensive DSLR like this.

Canon (and the other major manufacturers) aren’t investing into building their DSLR lens lineup anymore, so all the new lenses will all be a part of their mirrorless systems.

Fujifilm X-T5

Here’s another example of a popular good quality camera that I wouldn’t recommend because of the camera system, not the camera itself.

The camera itself is pretty decent if you like the retro styling and controls.

But there are a couple drawbacks to the Fuji system.

First, they don’t have any full-frame options, only crop sensor cameras like the X-T5 and much more expensive and larger medium format cameras.

Second, as of the time of writing this article, Fuji RAW files don’t always work that well with Adobe Lightroom. So if you use that software, then you might not be getting the best results.

Nikon D750 or D850

I’ve spent years shooting family portraits with these two cameras and the results have always been great.

But I’m putting them on this list for the same reason as the Canon above. There’s just really no good reason to buy an expensive DSLR currently. You would be far better off investing in a Nikon mirrorless camera than one of these.

In fact, while I still own my D850, it’s become a backup at this point to the new (and very impressive Nikon Z8)

What You Should Look For When Choosing A Camera For Family Photography

If you’re reading this then you’re not necessarily looking for the perfect camera…you want a camera that will work great as a family camera. One that you can have with you for pictures of the kids and other family members.

So rather than just give you a list of the best of the best, you can see above I tried to focus on features that would be useful for your needs. Here are the factors that weighed most heavily in making those picks…

Ease Of Use

Your camera is no good to you if it’s too complicate to learn.

If you want to capture those great family moments then you need to be able to grab your camera quick and get the photo. So a camera that is easy to use and get results with is essential.

Pro-level cameras can create incredible images but they also carry with them a bit of a learning curve. They are amazing tools IF you take the time to learn how to use them.

But if you are looking for a camera that is ideal for family photography like vacations, birthdays, and everyday candid photos, then some of the mid-level cameras (like most of the options on this page) are ideal. These models tend to be smaller and more user friendly than their bigger more powerful pro level cousins.

Image Quality

Any decent camera will be an investment, so you want to make sure that you’re getting high quality images from the camera. After all, if you want just average quality images, you can just use your cell phone.

Generally speaking, larger sensors on cameras will produce higher quality images, but they are also more expensive. Many pro-level cameras, like the one on this list, are often “full-frame” sensors. That means the sensor is approximately the same size as a frame of 35mm film.

The next step down in size is often referred to as a “crop sensor.” Crop sensors are a great middle-ground of good image quality while also being more compact and affordable. That’s why most of the cameras on this list are crop sensor cameras.

One of the biggest benefits of a full-frame sensor is the ability to get high-quality images in low-light situations. This can be especially helpful if you think you’ll be shooting a lot indoors where you can’t use a flash or shooting indoor sports.


Family photography can cover a lot of different genres of photography. You’ll end up shooting portraits, sports, travel, indoor events, and probably even some landscape photos.

Cameras with interchangeable lenses make it very easy to adapt to all these different situations.

You can start off with a lens that covers commonly used focal lengths such as 35mm and 50mm and then add more lenses in the future as your budget allows.

Build Quality

You want to make sure you get a camera that lasts, especially since you are going to invest a good chunk of money on the camera.

Some cameras are just more rugged overall. At some point, you are going to drop the camera or bump it into something…especially when there are kids involved.

An important feature to look for in a camera is weather sealing. This helps the camera resist the elements. This doesn’t mean the camera is waterproof, just that it can be resistant to things like a splash of water, light rain, sand, or dust.

Video Capability

Everyone loves to shoot and watch home movies. Unless they are someone else’s home movies, then you just sit and pretend it’s interesting.

But having a camera that can handle video shooting in addition to still photography is a great benefit to most families. Sure, you can use your phone for most video shooting duties nowadays, but for those special moments, that little extra bit of quality really makes a big difference.

Also, dedicated cameras do a MUCH better job shooting video in lower light situations (like singing happy birthday when the only lights on are the candles on the cake). So in choosing the cameras above, I made sure to consider their ability to shoot quality videos.

DSLR or Mirrorless For Family Photography?

If you’ve spent any amount of time researching new cameras, then you’ve probably noticed that there is a big deal being made between mirrorless and DSLR cameras.

The truth is that most of the hype is marketing. Mirrorless cameras are just DSLR cameras with the internal mirror removed. The mirror is what allows you to look into the viewfinder and view your frame through the lens. With a mirrorless camera you simply use the rear LCD screen or a tiny screen in the viewfinder to see through the lens.

A major benefit of mirrorless cameras is that you can see a preview of the exposure exactly how it will turn out when you take the picture. So you can make adjustments and see them in real time.

This makes learning to use the camera much faster and easier. That’s why most of the cameras on this list are mirrorless models.

Mirrorless cameras are also generally smaller and lighter than DSLRs, which is helpful when you want a camera to have with you on a regular basis during family activities.

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