Dance is one of the oldest and most accessible forms of art, digital photography is one of the newest of the arts.
The meeting of these two worlds of art can produce tons of fun as well as memorable and cherished images. The best cameras for dance photography will allow you to access the joys of being involved in both arts.
Dance is an art that can be practiced by professionals with a lot of training, and it can also be enjoyed by anyone simply wanting to have some fun.
Dance schools for youths are currently very popular. These blend the joy of dancing with some general and specific training.
Dance photography is similar in that it can be accomplished by professionals with sophisticated equipment and techniques or done by anyone with a desire to record what they enjoy, even with simple to use the equipment.
Whether a pro or an enthusiast, the best cameras for dance photography will let you capture great images of great memories.
5 Best Cameras For Dance Photography + Reviews In 2023
1. Canon EOS 80D DSLR Camera with EF-S 18-55mm Review
Kicking off my list definitely has got to be the Canon 80D which is considered one the best DSLR’s on the market for both video and photography.
Plus, it also comes with a wide range of lenses which means we can get close to the action when capturing dance or ballet.
Many photographers would consider this camera a prosumer-level camera. In other words, a camera that professionals would be comfortable using due to its advanced features and high quality.
Firstly, is the camera itself. An APS-C format 24.2MP sensor provides outstanding image quality as well as very good low light performance with an extended ISO of 25600.
Canon APS-C sensors have a 1.6X crop factor compared to Full Frame, slightly different than the more common 1.5X crop factor of APS-C sensors in other camera brands.
Coupled with the fine image processor used by Canon digital cameras, this sensor provides RAW files with loads of information that can be used by a post-processing program to get the most out of the scene.
Additionally, other features of the camera include a vari-angle LCD viewscreen, allowing for many different shooting angles.
This feature is especially useful for shooting over the heads of a crowd blocking your view, or for comfortably holding the camera while shooting video footage. The viewscreen also has touchscreen controls for some basic camera functions.
Autofocus is fast and accurate, employing 45 cross-type focus points, and dual pixel CMOS AF during live view mode. Any video recording has to be done in live view mode.
Well, we mentioned video several times already, this camera has amazing video quality and capability for a camera in this price range.
Full 180 HD 60p is available, as well as several lower resolution recording formats. Manual audio control is available, as are jacks for external microphones and headphones.
In the world of attractively priced APS-C format digital cameras, the Canon EOS 80D has some of the best video capability around.
The two lenses in this kit are basic kit lenses. In other words, they are optically excellent, but maybe somewhat slower focusing, have a slower maximum aperture and do not have as rugged a build as more professionally-oriented lenses.
The good news is, kit lenses like this are amazingly affordable for how sharp they are.
First up is the 18-55mm lens, covering from wide-angle to very slight telephoto, making it a good general purpose lens. It is very compact, but rather slow at the tele end, only f/5.6.
For more telephoto, the 55-250mm lens is a versatile range. It is also a slow f/5.6 at maximum telephoto. Both lenses have image stabilization built in.
Combining the high quality of the sensor and lenses, the excellent low light capability, advanced autofocus, and exceptional video performance, this kit qualifies as one of the best cameras for dance photography.
2. Nikon Coolpix B500 Wi-Fi Digital Camera Review
A bridge camera is a good choice for the best cameras for dance photography. If you want really good-quality images and video but have a lower budget than a typical DSLR kit, the features, quality, and ease of use of bridge cameras make them very attractive.
Coolpix B500 from Nikon is just such a camera. Sensor size is comparable to most point and shoot style cameras, a 1/2.3″ 16MP digital sensor.
This offers good low light ability and excellent image sharpness. Low light abilities will not equal the larger sensor cameras but keeping the resolution to 16MP helps out.
Furthermore, packing too much image resolution into a small sensor negatively impacts low light performance. Nikon’s choice here is a good mix.
The lens is a 40X zoom which works out to the 35mm full-frame equivalent of 22.5-900mm. That’s quite a reach! From very wide-angle to extreme telephoto with close focus ability.
However, the maximum aperture at the long end of the zoom is fairly slow, but that helps keeps size and cost reasonable. Vibration reduction image stabilization enables shake-free extreme zooming, to a point.
Viewing is done with a 3” tilting viewscreen. It’s very nice and bright, but an eye-level EVF would be nice to have. Some find it difficult to hold steady at maximum while using a viewscreen.
It’s basically a posture thing. You simply can’t be as steady hand holding a long lens several inches from your face as you can with practiced eye level hand-holding technique.
Equally important, it also has a very high-quality video mode. Full 1080p with some special modes added in like fast motion.
Plus, it has a small built-in flash for still photography, but no mount for adding light for video or a more powerful flash. It has a slave feature for adding extra flash, which is unusual for a camera this small and inexpensive.
Some of the other features that work well for dance photography are Wi-Fi, 80X digital zoom, and being able to use common, easy-to-find AA batteries.
3. Canon EOS M50 Mirrorless Camera Body Review
One of the hottest current topics in digital photography is all the new full-frame mirrorless cameras, some with completely new lens mounts.
What seems to get overlooked sometimes is the continued availability of very high-quality mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras in the smaller formats of APS-C and MFT.
In fact, mirrorless in these smaller formats offers relatively small and lightweight cameras and lenses.
Canon’s EOS M50 is one of those smaller format mirrorless cameras that offer big quality with a relatively small size. Its APS-C sized sensor has 24.1MP with a maximum ISO of 25600.
Since this is a mirrorless camera, the lens mount is different than the standard EOS EF mount. This is because of the different flange to sensor distance since there is no mirror box in this type of camera.
While this doesn’t necessarily lead to smaller lenses in larger formats, APS-C cameras and lenses, generally are somewhat smaller and lighter than DSLR lenses.
The EOS M50 is slightly smaller than the EOS APS-C model DSLRs, except for maybe the SL-1. Though small, it isn’t tiny and hard to hold properly.
It even has a very generous handgrip. The two kit lenses are also very nicely sized, rather lightweight, and match up well to the M50.
Regular EF mount can also be used by means of the EF to EF-M mount adapter from Canon. Various other mount adapters are available from 3rd party manufacturers for using other lens mount systems on this camera.
That means you are able to use some classic lenses on this camera, sometimes with a few limitations as to features and function.
It may not be a big deal for most photographers likely to buy into this system to be able to use legacy lenses, but for the videographers who choose this camera, it means using special lenses for a specific look and feel.
Videography interested photographers should really look closely at this camera system. Many mirrorless cameras of various formats are superb tools for recording video.
The way I see it, a mirrorless is always in live view mode anyway, which is what is needed for videography, so it’s not surprising to see lower-priced consumer-level mirrorless cameras with great video specs and performance.
4. Nikon D5600 24.2 MP DSLR Camera + AF-P DX 18-55mm Review
Nikon makes a camera for every level of photography. In the APS-C format DSLR camera range, Nikon has a full-fledged professional line, a slightly lower-end prosumer or light professional line, a high-end consumer or enthusiast level, and an entry-level.
However, all of them have outstanding sensors and image processors, it’s the features and ruggedness that change from one line to the other.
The D5600 is in the high-level consumer or enthusiast range, having more features and capabilities than entry-level Nikon DSLRs, but still slightly below the upper lines in regards to ruggedness and certain pro-level features.
At the heart of this camera is the 24.2MP APS-C sensor with a 1.5X crop factor compared to the full-frame 35mm. Nikon’s image processing engine is super quick and delivers amazingly deep information and very high image quality.
A fully articulated viewscreen makes it convenient to use in high or low-level positions, as well as making any video mount system easy to set up and use.
Furthermore, the lens mount is the Nikon F mount but with electronic contacts for lens controls such as focus and f/stop.
Other F mount lenses may be able to physically fit on the camera (but not all F mt lenses, check the compatibility charts on various websites), but many lenses will not have full functionality on the 5600 in regards to autofocus or exposure control.
Even though it’s not specifically a pro model camera, the 5600 has the image quality of higher-priced cameras from Nikon and many very useful features for advanced photography, making it one of the best cameras for ballet photography.
Lenses included in this kit are the 18-55mm and 70-300mm kit lenses. As with the Canon kit lenses detailed above, the Nikon kit lenses have outstanding optical quality but are slower focusing, slower f/stop, and less rugged build than professional level Nikon and Nikkor lenses.
The lenses are pretty slow in the maximum aperture at their long end, but when used properly, you generally won’t be able to tell a different image quality than higher-level lens choices.
Additionally, video features and quality are also high with this compact DSLR camera, making it an excellent choice for general photography as well as one of the best cameras for dance photography.
5. Sony a7R III Mirrorless Camera: 42.4MP Full-Frame Review
This camera is a fully professional level camera in full-frame 35mm digital format. It’s also an interchangeable lens mirrorless camera.
The price of this camera and lens kit reflects its professional status, costing as much as all the other cameras in this list put together.
Sony created quite a stir when they introduced their full-frame mirrorless cameras. The big deal was their small size.
Going back a few decades to 35mm SLR film cameras, it is very much like the reaction there was to cameras like the Olympus OM-1, Nikon FE, and Pentax MX when compared to the Canon F1, Nikon F2AS, and Minolta XK cameras.
If you are a professional photographer needing the absolute best camera and lens combo for dance photography, it would be hard to go wrong with this rig.
A full-frame format 42.4MP is one of the best sensors on the market and the 70-200mm f/2.8 lens is almost perfect in optical quality, very fast (focus and f-stop), and extremely well built and rugged.
Of course, what will cause the most concern for the average photographer is the very high price of these marvelous tools. You do get what you pay for, though. This camera is fantastic, the lens is superb.
Being a mirrorless camera, there is a multitude of mount adapters allowing almost any lens ever made for a 35mm SLR to fit and function on this camera.
This camera will produce the highest resolution of any of the cameras on this list of best cameras for dance photography.
The file sizes are huge, so processing time will also take longer. For the ultimate in image and video quality, it’s worth the costs and effort.
Best camera settings for dance photography
While it’s difficult to come up with a one size fits all set of exposure settings for dance photography, we can offer some advice on useful general guidelines.
- High ISO – In order to get fast shutter speeds in low light, we need to raise one of the other sides of the exposure triangle. Something to watch out for is high noise levels. Digital noise looks like fast film grain and can degrade image quality.
- Fast Shutter speed – In order to stop action, a fast shutter speed is necessary. You will have to balance that out with a wider open lens aperture which will limit focus depth, but that is often desirable as well.
- Limited area continuous AF – Keeping the AF area broad will cause many cameras to hunt back and forth on focus. Continuous AF instead of single-shot gives slightly better focus performance with action situations, especially in lower light levels.
- RAW instead of JPEG – While recording image files as JPEGs will enable faster writing speeds to your memory cards, RAW gives you more information to process. This can really be beneficial when shooting in difficult lighting conditions.
How to capture stunning dance photography
- Freeze the action – Dance photography is very much like sports photography. Most of the time, we will be attempting to get a clear, sharp image of the action. This often means capturing the decisive moment, tripping the shutter at the peak of the action.
- Correct focus – Besides the action stopping, making sure the subject is properly focused is pretty basic to getting a good dance photo. Modern cameras have excellent autofocus capabilities. Professional photographers in all genres have benefitted from advances in autofocus advances, and many of these features are in current lower-cost cameras marketed to consumers at various levels of expertise in photography.
- Proper lighting – In the context of dance photography, proper lighting can also mean being able to expose correctly the existing lighting. A flash unit might be distracting to the dancers or others in the audience. If you are able to use flash, it needs to be a fairly powerful one, the camera’s built-in flash won’t help out much.
- Posing – During the number itself, you won’t have control over subject posing, only your own camera placement. When taking a portrait of a dancer or dance group, you may be able to direct them into poses that highlight their ability and gracefulness.
- Shoot video, too – Since most of the current digital cameras on the market include excellent video capabilities, take advantage of those features by also recording video of parts of the dancing. It doesn’t need to be the entire number as though we’re filming for SYTYCD, just some fun highlights. Social media makes it easy to share short video streams.
How I found the best cameras for dance photography
- Sensor – Larger sensors generally give better performance than small sensors. There is a point for many consumers where increased prices don’t give enough real benefit for their type of photography. So, we are glad there are multiple sensor sizes, each with its own specific advantages. Keep in mind also that different size sensors have specific lenses optimized for them.
- Lenses – Interchangeable lenses are preferred by many photo enthusiasts since they allow for a wide variety of choices. If the camera has a built-in zoom lens, having a fast aperture and a good telephoto range is desirable.
- Low light performance – Everything else being equal, a larger sensor will have better low light performance. Metering accuracy also applies here, because you don’t want to spend all your time figuring exposure when the action is happening.
- Video quality – Many consumer-level cameras have video capability, but the video performance is not on the same level as the still photography specs. Manufacturers do this to keep costs down. If high-quality video is an important consideration for you, be sure to look at the cameras with better video specs.
- Moveable viewscreen – Some entry-level cameras have a viewscreen that’s fixed, others may have a tilting screen. A fully articulated screen is nice, but that is usually reserved for slightly better, more expensive cameras. A tilting or articulated viewscreen allows for shooting from different positions, such as overhead or ground level.
- Autofocus speed and accuracy – Since dance is much like a sport, rapid and accurate focusing is essential to getting sharp, usable images. The best cameras for dance photography will have superb autofocus.
The lighting at a dance recital or competition might be tricky to deal with. A spotlight on a dark stage can fool exposure calculations, but there are methods that can be used to compensate.
One method is to meter the bright spotlit area only and set the exposure manually. Another method is exposure compensation in automatic modes.
A fast shutter speed is often the choice for action-stopping but a powerful flash unit can also be used.
Of course, sometimes we can creatively show movement by purposefully blurring the motion, which can also result in great images. But a clear sharp image is a nice way to highlight the person behind the dancing.