Skip to main content

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 (opens in new tab), one of the best professional cameras (opens in new tab), 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 (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab), which was the same camera used to take President Barack Obama's second portrait – his first was shot on the Canon 5D Mark II (opens in new tab) (thanks to Petapixel (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab) by Pete Souza (one of over 1.8 million photos he took of the former President, as he revealed in our interview (opens in new tab)), while Biden and Harris were both photographed using the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 G Master (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab) (a 35mm, 50mm and 135mm), Schultz uses three bodies and four lenses (opens in new tab) – 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 (opens in new tab). "The Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM (opens in new tab), 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 (opens in new tab)… we wonder if he'll be tempted to switch!

Read more: 

Sony A9 II review (opens in new tab)
Best 85mm lenses (opens in new tab)
Best lens for portraits (opens in new tab)
Best Sony cameras
(opens in new tab)Best Sony lenses (opens in new tab)

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a magazine and web journalist and started working in the photographic industry in 2014 (as an assistant to Damian McGillicuddy, who succeeded 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. This has led him to being a go-to expert for camera and lens reviews, photographic and lighting tutorials, as well as industry analysis, news and rumors for publications such as Digital Camera Magazine (opens in new tab)PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine (opens in new tab)N-Photo: The Nikon Magazine (opens in new tab)Digital Photographer (opens in new tab) and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and demonstrations at The Photography Show (opens in new tab). An Olympus and Canon shooter, he has a wealth of knowledge on cameras of all makes – and a fondness for vintage lenses and instant cameras.