The Best Cameras for Watch Photography

Fact: your smartphone has a fantastic camera. It’s highly capable of making the photos that you want. Believe it or not, many folks shoot images with their smartphones and then send the images to retouching agencies to be worked on. But if you want to make beautiful images of your watch that speak to people in a love language that only watch enthusiasts understand, you’ve come to the right place. It’s a badge of honor not to need to work on an image in post-production. To do that, you’ll need to embrace a dedicated camera.

Truth be told, your lighting is the most important thing in watch photography. Peruse the r/watches subreddit, and you’ll see tons of wrist shots. The angles are perfect: facing the camera, first-person, and slightly angled away from the light source to soften the effects. So why get a dedicated camera? It starts with lens selection, and we then grab our divers watches and plunge into features like image stabilization, film simulations, Real-Time LUT, artistic effects, pixel quality, optical quality, etc. Truly, if you tried to time my explanation of how each feature benefits you on a chronograph, the watch wouldn’t be able to measure it accurately.

If you’re in the northern hemisphere, we think that working with south-facing light is best overall. Try to find a window or a spot with southern-light. I mean, plants love it because it’s consistent. When there’s a cloudy day, it’s also appropriately soft yet strong enough to bring out the gorgeous textures in a Grand Seiko Snowflake. Of course, you could also make your own light – and in that case we’d typically reach for strobes or flashes over constant lighting or LEDs. There’s something about the moment when a flash fires. It’s almost like it’s saying “abracadabra” and suddenly something appears on the back of the camera that neither you nor the camera could’ve seen otherwise. 

A further note: all the cameras that we’re talking about here have weather-resistance. That’s different from being waterproof or weather-proof. They’ll be able to take some abuse, but they can’t withstand being run underwater like a 3 BAR watch can. For that, we’d recommend reaching for a camera with an IP Durability rating like the Leica SL line or OM System’s higher end options. We don’t think most photographers will need this feature though – and so the level of weather-resistance that we’re talking about will do everything a watch photographer needs. 

The Good Stuff

These days, there aren’t really any really solid cameras that we’d recommend new under the $1,000 price point. For the same money, you can get a higher-end camera used and in great condition. So why try to cheap yourself out of nice features that wouldn’t make it into lower-priced cameras? Grab yourself one of these cameras and a macro lens of some sort to get really close in and detailed. Otherwise, consider a zoom lens that offers lots of versatility.

Canon EOS R7


Of any APS-C camera on the market, the Canon EOS R7 ($1,499) is probably the best option you can reach for when doing watch photography. It boasts a 32.5MP APS-C sensor. Because it’s APS-C, that means that it’s going to be very detailed compared to a full-frame sensor of the same megapixel count. That’s only a part of what makes the camera so great for watch photography. Using an adapter, you can also mount a bunch of old Canon EF lenses on this camera and use it with off-camera flash. Of course, you can also reach for Canon’s own lineup of RF lenses. That specifically means that you can use a ton of old macro lenses that Canon offers, or new ones. They’ve got a great 35mm f1.8 Macro IS and so much more. There are also in-camera creative modes for something more unique. If you’re a fan of vintage camera ads, then you might also want to find Canon styles online like those from Thomas Fransson that make the images emulate the look of film. I mean, those 1980s Casio ads were a vibe for sure. 

Panasonic LUMIX S5 II

The LUMIX S5 II ($2,496) boasts a pretty incredible amount of features. First off, it’s got around 24MP on the full-frame sensor. It’s also Leica L-mount, and that means that there are a ton of lenses from Panasonic, Leica, Sigma, and more available. This camera specifically also has a great feature called AF Scope – which magnifies an area to get really specific about where you want to focus the lens. It’s a slower process, but your watch isn’t moving anywhere as fast as time is. What also makes this camera very unique is the addition of a feature called Real Time LUT. This lets you take looks from cinematic movies and add them to the stills you’re shooting. It’s incredible – I regularly use the look of Kodak Portra 800 because it’s so unique. Otherwise, try Ektachrome 100. 

The High End

On the higher end of cameras for watch photography, you can find a bunch of other options. Now, these are just our favorites. Candidly, at this level, no one is making a bad camera these days. They’re all varying degrees of more than good enough for most people. The ones we’re choosing here have more megapixels. While that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re better cameras, they surely do offer a unique level of color depth, dynamic range, and inherent beauty to the images.

Sony a7c R

We’re choosing this camera (at a retail price of $2,998) over its bigger brother, the Sony a7r V, because it’s so incredibly compact and capable. They’re more or less the same cameras – but one is smaller and practically begs to be worn around your neck or chest the way a watch begs to cling to your wrist. It boasts a full-frame sensor of around 60MP and gives photographers access to the largest library of lenses for mirrorless cameras. We recommend using the touchscreen specifically here along with a strobe and some of the various macro lenses that are offered to the Sony E mount. What makes Sony so unique is their adherence to a clinically perfect aesthetic. This camera might produce images that lack some of the unique character of its competitors, but that might be preferable to some photographers, and is what Sony excels at. 

Fujifilm GFX 100S II

Last on the list is the big daddy grandfather clock equivalent of a camera: the Fuji GFX 100S II ($7,499). This camera boasts around 100MP and access to some of the most beautiful lenses you can get your hands on. This camera is medium format, which means a larger sensor than full-frame. And even then, it’s only medium format digital – which is still smaller than medium format film photography. Part of what makes this camera so unique is the way that light is rendered with medium format. It’s a million times more beautiful than it is with full-frame. Fujifilm’s cameras also have access to film simulations, which render the look of classic film. This is a much-beloved camera system for photographers who are a fan of slower working processes. 

And in our eyes, it’s the blooming jasmine amongst the orchids on a moonlit night. As I type that, it sounds almost like the inspiration for a Grand Seiko dial – and that’s the energy you’d embrace here.

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Chris is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer, a website dedicated to photography that seeks to bridge the gap between art and tech.