Sony a7 Portraits: Beginner Full-Frame Camera For Portrait Photography

Sony a7 Mirroress Camera

The first TFP portrait session I ever did was with the Sony a7 mirrorless camera and the Sony Zeiss 55mm f1.8 lens.

This combination was light weight, very easy to handle and gave me some amazing portraits of my good friend Kayla.

The shoot was a small collaboration at a local park. The natural light that day was perfect for capturing some great portraits with my Sony a7.

Sony a7 Portrait with Kayla Natural Light Park Shoot v6
Shot on Sony a7 Camera | Sony 55mm Zeiss f1.8 | ISO 50 | 1/250sec | @f3.2 | Natural Light

I reached out to Kayla because I wanted to do some simple portraits and test out my new Sony gear.

Kayla agreed, and joined me at a local park across the street from my home and this is pretty much how I started loving portrait photography.

Why Choose The Sony a7 Mirrorless Camera

After doing tons of research on cameras, I knew I wanted to try a mirrorless camera and Sony was quickly becoming a leader in that space at the time.

I didn’t know much about photography, but I knew I wanted a full frame camera so I searched for the best deals possible.

Sony a7 Portrait with Kayla Natural Light Park Shoot v11
Shot on Sony a7 Camera | Sony 55mm Zeiss f1.8 | ISO 50 | 1/400sec | @f2.2 | Natural Light

I originally looked at the Sony a6000 crop sensor mirrorless camera because of the price, but I ended up getting suckered into purchasing the Sony a7 from a local Best Buy.

Little did I know it was the perfect camera for me as a beginner.

It had some great features including:

  • 24 megapixel full-frame sensor
  • Great styling in a small camera body
  • Face detection for portraits
  • Sony 28-70 kit lens came with body
  • Full HD Video capturing capabilities
  • Wi-Fi connection and image transfer to my iPhone
  • Tilting screen for low angled shots

I didn’t understand all the other technical specs from the box, but I knew these stood out to me the most.

I was a new photographer looking for a new camera, and the salesman sold me on it! Also, it was the last unit he had in stock and they were trying to get rid of it.

Sony a7 Portrait with Kayla Natural Light Park Shoot v8
Shot on Sony a7 Camera | Sony 55mm Zeiss f1.8 | ISO 50 | 1/250sec | @f3.2 | Natural Light

Sony a7 Portrait Lens: Sony 55mm f1.8 Zeiss Lens

The first lens I purchased was the Sony Zeiss FE 55mm f1.8 lens. After tons of research on beginner lenses, I knew I wanted to invest in better glass than the kit lens.

Sony 55mm f1.8 portrait lens
Sony 55mm f1.8 Zeiss Lens

At the time, the only other lens I had was the Sony FE 28-70 kit lens that came packaged with the camera.

I remember wanting an 85mm lens for portraits, but there was no option on the market. The closest was the Sony 90mm macro lens.

The lineup for Sony was pretty limited at the time, but it continually grew over time.

I shot with my Sony 55mm prime lens for over a year before I looked at other lenses. I rented a few zooms like the Sony 24-70mm f4, but I liked the bokeh I got from shooting with primes.

Sony a7 Portrait with Kayla Natural Light Park Shoot v9
Shot on Sony a7 Camera | Sony 55mm Zeiss f1.8 | ISO 50 | 1/250sec | @f3.2 | Natural Light

What I like about the Sony a7 Camera

The Sony a7 has a light full-frame body and allowed me to have my camera with me all the time that first year.

The Sony 55mm f1.8 was a small lens, so this combo made it into so many places without drawing too much attention.

The image quality has been superb, and the RAW files allow me to do lots of post editing with Photoshop and Lightroom.

RAW is my preferred format and I often transfer JPGs during my shoot for behind-the-scenes social posting and more.

I now have a small battery grip from Meke on the camera, and this really helps with portrait orientation.

I can customize many of the buttons and dials to my liking, which makes things fast for shooting.

Sony a7 Portrait with Kayla Natural Light Park Shoot v4

Shot on Sony a7 Camera | Sony 55mm Zeiss f1.8 | ISO 100 | 1/400sec | @f1.8 | Natural Light

Shooting Portraits with the Sony a7 Mirrorless Camera

The Sony a7 is a pretty lightweight camera and can be used to shoot one-handed if you wanted to.

Again, I have the Meke battery grip which allows for 2 batteries to supply power to the camera.

The additional grip doesn’t add much weight and makes it easier to shoot in portrait orientation.

I shoot mostly in single shot mode. I have a custom button set for single spot focus and I use my control wheel on the back of the camera to set the point over my subjects face.

I will get about 80-90% shots in focus, with a few being blurry because my model was moving and my shutter speed was not fast enough to keep up.

Sony a7 Portrait with Kayla Natural Light Park Shoot v1
Shot on Sony a7 Camera | Sony 55mm Zeiss f1.8 | ISO 50 | 1/400sec | @f1.8 | Natural Light

Is the Sony a7 good for new photographers?

YES! I truly believe it’s a great starter camera for many new photographers looking for a full frame starter camera.

I always recommend renting a few camera bodies first and trying out a few systems before making a purchase.

I tried the Canon 6D DSLR but just didn’t like the size of the camera. I also tried a Fuji camera as well, but again I kept going back to Sony.

Is the Sony a7 camera good for portraits?

In my opinion this camera is really good for portraits of subjects that are not going to be moving very much. The tracking and autofocus is fast, but works best with still subjects.

There is no IBIS in the camera, so keep this in mind when setting your shutter speeds.

You will want a high enough shutter to catch your subjects motion. It can be done.  I have gotten some great portraits with this camera and have done well with my simple natural light setups.

Sony a7 Portrait with Kayla Natural Light Park Shoot v2
Shot on Sony a7 Camera | Sony 55mm Zeiss f1.8 | ISO 50 | 1/400sec | @f1.8 | Natural Light

What I didn’t like about the Sony a7

I only have two real complaints about the Sony a7. First, the battery life does not last long when shooting all day.

You will need multiple batteries for this camera if you have long shoots.

Also, the eye autofocus can’t be used in continuous AF mode.

You can only use this on the Single shot mode to be effective. It’s not a deal breaker but I would love to see this updated.

Sony a7 Portrait Lenses for beginners

The Sony 55mm f1.8 is a perfect lens in my opinion for beginners. It allows for me to get some close up shots without crazy distortion, but I can also take a few steps back and get some great environmental shots with my models.

Here is a list of lenses I would consider getting for the Sony a7 mirrorless camera:

  • Sony Zeiss 35mm f1.4 Lens
  • Sony Zeiss 55mm f1.8 Lens
  • Sony 85mm f1.4 G Master Lens
  • Zeiss Batis 85mm f1.8 Lens
  • Sony 90mm f2.8 Macro Lens
  • Sony 24-70mm f2.8 G Master Lens
  • Sony 70-200mm f2.8 G Master Lens
Sony a7 Portrait with Kayla Natural Light Park Shoot v7
Shot on Sony a7 Camera | Sony 55mm Zeiss f1.8 | ISO 50 | 1/250sec | @f3.2 | Natural Light
Sony a7 Portrait with Kayla Natural Light Park Shoot v5
Shot on Sony a7 Camera | Sony 55mm Zeiss f1.8 | ISO 50 | 1/250sec | @f3.2 | Natural Light
Sony a7 Portrait with Kayla Natural Light Park Shoot v3
Shot on Sony a7 Camera | Sony 55mm Zeiss f1.8 | ISO 100 | 1/400sec | @f1.8 | Natural Light
Sony a7 Portrait with Kayla Natural Light Park Shoot v10
Shot on Sony a7 Camera | Sony 55mm Zeiss f1.8 | ISO 50 | 1/400sec | @f2.2 | Natural Light

Conclusion on Sony a7

As of this article, you can purchase a used Sony a7 for around $900 or less which is not bad at all for a full frame camera.

There are now more lens options to choose from so get out and start shooting.

***(Article updated September 2020)

Author - Jason The Creative
My goal is not to be best portrait photographer. It’s to enjoy the journey and have some fun learning. Welcome to my photography blog on portraits, Sony gear and more.

If your interested, check out my portfolio at dallasportraits.com. I hope you learn something and leave being inspired to grab your camera and go out and shoot. Instagram.com/jasonthecreative


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