Camera JPG Portrait Shootout

Straight out of Camera Shootout

Which camera is the best for skin tones? Does it vary from skin tone to skin tone? Does it vary in different lighting conditions?

In 2019 I decided to put this to the test. I bought cameras from (almost) all of the major camera manufacturers and photographed a number of different models with different skin tones, in studio and natural lighting conditions.

These are entirely subjective tests.

The Photos

In the following grids, each camera manufacturer is on a single line. All of the photos are straight out of the camera using various color profiles. (Standard, Portrait, etc.)

The goal is for you to choose the line whose skin tones you prefer the most. This is entirely subjective.

Each poll opens in a new tab, close the tab to come back to this page. If you want you can vote from multiple devices.

Models presented in alphabetical order.

Anastasia

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Vote Anastasia (opens in new tab)

Jewelz

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Vote Jewelz (Studio) (opens in new tab)

Jewelz Natural Light

(Row A is missing intentionally)

enter image description here

Vote Jewelz (Natural Light) (opens in new tab)

Tatiana

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Vote Tatiana (Studio) (opens in new tab)

Tatiana Natural Light

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Vote Tatiana (Natural Light) (opens in new tab)

Yesenia

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(Sadly row F is over exposed.)

Vote Yesenia (opens in new tab)

Methodology

Cameras were set to factory default prior to shooting.

I use the zone system rather than ETTR for exposure. That is - I expose for the amount of light hitting the subject and not the subject itself.

All models were told to show up without makeup.

This is my general process for setting up cameras for photos & the equipment I used.

I own an Alien Bee ARB800 Ring Flash and for this photo it is the only light source for studio photos.

I set the camera to base ISO and to a relatively moderate aperture (around f/5.6) and set the flash output with a Lastolite grey card so that the resulting back-of-the-camera histogram is in the middle. I then set the white balance in camera using either a WhiBal or an ExpoDisc.

I then take photos using the various color modes on the camera. If the camera allows for in-camera RAW editing, then I set the different color modes after the fact.

When I switch between cameras, I use the aperture to dial in an exposure again using the Lastolite grey card to within 1/3 stop from center - I try not to change the flash intensity if I don't have to just to keep as few variables as possible.

All cameras were shot with the best lens I owned for that camera and were made by that camera manufacturer, with the exception of Sony, which I photographed with a Leica 90mm Summicron. (I don't own any Sony native lenses.)

For the natural light photos, I took them in a room that has good natural light, set the white balance to a Whibal card and set the exposure to a Lastolite grey card.

Cameras

Here are the answers for the most complete sets of rows sometimes images are missing, but it should be easy to guess which.

Please do not click until you've voted.

Camera List (opens in new tab)

The Shirley Project

Kodak used a model named Shirley to test their new film emulsions. If they made Shirley look good, it made people look good. The problem is, Shirley was white.

The resulting image became known as the Shirley Card.

It wasn't until the 1970's when chocolate and furniture makers started complaining that their products looked flat and boring that they started incorporating more models into their tests and developing film emulsions to make people with a wide variety of skin tones look good.

This is, in part, an exploration of whether or not this still holds true in the digital age. In-camera color profiles have opinions, and those opinions may impact people with different skin tones differently.

Voting Results

Results Summary

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Final Thoughts

The differences and similarities between cameras is striking.

I'm a long time Nikon shooter and I love their colors for natural light - but now I see why I went away from them for studio work.

The difference between Standard and Portrait for Nikon and Canon seems to be "make things pink".

Fuji's X-Pro2 is interesting - it seems as you go through the color profiles from Provia to Astia to Pro Neg Hi to Classic Chrome, they turn down, specifically the warmer saturation (the photos get less orange).

In fact a lot of the shift from standard to portrait involves how much saturation they include, and that affects darker skin tones more than lighter skin tones.

The differences between the X-Pro1 and X-Pro2 are striking.

I am quite fond of Canon colors, and interestingly Olympus colors. Though the iEnhance mode was horrible on Jewelz under studio lighting (which is why I didn't include it.) I think iEnhance is more meant for landscape or something.

Some cameras are better geared towards studio photography than others. Olympus in particular doesn't have a histogram that helps me estimate where middle grey is. The Sony A7 makes it difficult to do in-camera white balance with strobes (a deficiency that has been addressed in later models).

Some people just shoot RAW and don't care about camera JPGs - personally if the camera can get me closer to something I like, I'm all for it. Less work for me before handing over files to a client.

Final Survey

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If you have a moment, please take this 4 question survey to provide feedback on this project.

Social media

Me

https://www.instagram.com/sodiumstudio/

Models

https://www.instagram.com/vershinina.anastasia/

https://www.instagram.com/_jewelz.alize/

https://www.instagram.com/tatulyatay/

https://www.instagram.com/yesenialinares/

Discussion

Discussion Thread Fuji Astia Comparison with voting

Author

mark

I came here to chew gum and talk photography.