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White House ditches Canon for Sony: Biden and Harris portraits shot on A9 II

Joe Biden Kamala Harris
(Image credit: The White House / Adam Schultz)

The White House has released the official portraits of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris – and in so doing, it has also ditched Canon for Sony. 

The Presidential portraits were shot on the Sony A9 II, one of the best professional cameras, marking a significant change for The White House; not only were these the first White House portraits shot on Sony, they were also the first White House portraits shot on mirrorless cameras instead of DSLRs.

• Read more: DSLRs vs mirrorless cameras

The previous two presidents were photographed using the trusty Canon EOS 5D series. President Donald Trump's portrait was believed to have been shot on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III, which was the same camera used to take President Barack Obama's second portrait – his first was shot on the Canon 5D Mark II (thanks to Petapixel for the tip).

Regardless of the brand and technology used, the preferred focal length for Presidential portraits is the same: the classic 85mm lens. 

Obama's second shot was captured on the Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L by Pete Souza (one of over 1.8 million photos he took of the former President, as he revealed in our interview), while Biden and Harris were both photographed using the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 G Master by Chief Official White House Photographer Adam Schultz.

Interestingly, this is the only prime lens that Shultz routinely shoots with. Unlike Souza, who shot Obama's presidency using two bodies and three primes (a 35mm, 50mm and 135mm), Schultz uses three bodies and four lenses – and three of those are zooms. 

"I have three Sony A9 II bodies, about twelve batteries, and four lenses," Schultz said in an interview with DP Review. "The Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM, the FE 24-105mm F4 G OSS, which is mostly a backup, then the FE 85mm F1.4 GM, which is a great lens, and the FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS."

If Schultz sold one of his A9 IIs and that 85mm f/1.4, he could afford a Sony A1… we wonder if he'll be tempted to switch!

Read more: 

Sony A9 II review
Best 85mm lenses
Best lens for portraits
Best Sony cameras
Best Sony lenses

The editor of Digital Camera World, James started working in the photographic industry in 2014 as an assistant to Damian McGillicuddy – successor to David Bailey as Principal Photographer for Olympus. In this time he shot for clients as diverse as Aston Martin Racing, Elinchrom and L'Oréal, in addition to shooting campaigns and product testing for Olympus, and providing training for professionals. An Olympus and Canon user, James was previously technique editor on PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine.