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One of the most popular questions I receive is what type of camera and lenses I use or recommend. Obviously it depends on your budget and needs, but after quite a bit of research in the past few years, I’ve come up with this list to help you in making the right decision. Don’t let the many options confuse you; just read everything through as I tried to make it as clear as possible.
Since I only have experience with Canon, this is the brand I‘ll mostly recommend. My brother owns a Nikon camera, so I’ve experimented with it as well, but still have a preference towards Canon.
Zoom lenses vs prime lenses
For my food photography, I prefer prime lenses over zoom lenses. Prime lenses cannot zoom in and out, but they have a few other advantages such as their high quality (many times better than zoom lenses), lower weight, and lower cost. Since food is still and nonmoving, zooming in and out is not a necessity for me since I can manually move the camera or tripod closer or farther away when needed.
Zoom lenses are great if you prefer keeping your gear to a minimum and want a more versatile lens that will suit you for not just shooting food, but also for travel or shooting people or events.
Canon EOS 70D – This is my current camera and almost all of my photos were shot using it. I purchased it after a lot of research, and I’m glad I did. It has some amazing features that other cameras don’t, such as:
- You can tilt and swivel the screen for more flexibility.
- It produces very high quality images.
- It has a touch screen, which is my favorite feature.
- It has a WiFi feature that lets you control the camera from your computer or mobile phone, and makes it easy to copy your photos from your camera remotely (no USB cable needed).
- As a bonus, this camera is known for its excellent video quality.
Note – If you decide to purchase this camera, know that for a modest investment (compared to other lenses) you can add a 18-135mm zoom lens (You can add that option when you purchase online). It’s a great value if you want a versatile lens for taking all-purpose photos. I usually recommend buying the body only, but for the cost I think it’s worth it. It’s my husband’s go-to lens for travel and daily photos. However, if you intend on buying another lens for general purposes, there’s no need to purchase this one as well.
Update: Canon 80D is a newer version of the Canon 70D, check it out here.
Canon 5D Mark IV (body only) – I don’t own this camera just yet, but I have borrowed it before and have had time to experiment with it. Its sharpness, colors, and overall quality are simply amazing, but it does come with a price. This camera is going to be my next investment, although honestly, I will miss my current one.
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 – Probably the best lens you can get for such a cheap price. I’d easily recommend it for any beginner.
Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 – This classic food photography lens is my favorite, and it has a reasonable price. It’s great for low-light situations, and I love its bokeh and the soft, dreamy look it gives to my photos compared to the 50mm f/1.8. Its small aperture allows for a shallow depth of field; that is, it helps the primary item you’re shooting to be in focus while all the background has a beautiful blurry effect.
Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L – If you’re very serious about your photography and want nothing less than the best, then this is the lens for you. The L in the name indicates that this is one of the quality lenses by Canon. With that said, it’s not cheap, so I suggest first purchasing one of the two lenses above and working on your photography skills before upgrading. Also, be sure to keep your specific needs in mind—if you just want to take beautiful photos for your blog, you may not need the very best lens on the market.
I use my macro lens for close-ups and tack-sharp images. If you like to shoot close to the food, then you should definitely consider investing in a macro lens. Nevertheless, I don’t recommend it as the primary lens for your photos; its best use is as a now-and-then lens for special photos.
Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L
Both of these lenses are amazing. The 100mm is part of Canon’s L luxury series and is the best of the best. With the 60mm, you’ll need to get really close to the food, but if you don’t have a problem with that, then I highly recommend it since it’s priced at half that of the 100mm.
You can read about my preference for prime lenses over zoom lenses above, but if you do decide on a zoom lens, I’d recommend one of these two:
Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 IS L – This high quality lens is both cheaper and lighter than my second suggestion. It’s part of Canon’s L series and has an IS (image stabilization) feature, which is great if you don’t like using a tripod.
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II – This monstrous lens is very likely to be recommended by most food photographers, and for good reason. Its performance is outstanding in many ways, and the small aperture (2.8) produces a nice quality background blur that’s especially good for food photography.
A lot of you have asked me about my tripod after you saw my photo on Instagram. I’m using this Manfrotto tripod, which is by far the best one I’ve had. It’s very high quality, super sturdy, and has a horizontal column so you can shoot at 90 degree angle. This is the head I’m using with it, which is sold separately, and it’s perfect because its handles move to any angle. Trust me, if you’re serious about photography, this is worth every penny.
Advice and common questions:
- If you’re just starting out, I suggest investing more in great lenses than a camera body. Camera bodies are pricey and you won’t necessarily need all of their features. Besides, a high quality lens can have an amazing effect on your photos, even if you don’t own the ‘best’ camera.
- The same thing goes for lenses, though. Don’t invest in the most expensive ones right off the bat, especially before you know where this journey will take you. Start with one affordable lens to dip your toes into the water, then upgrade when the right time comes.
- If you’d ask me to choose just one (pretty affordable) lens to recommend to you, I’d say the 50mm f/1.4. I love its soft bokeh, sharpness, and that I can use it in low-light situations. If this lens is not on your budget, go for the 50mm f/1.8.
- If all of the above options are still too pricey for your budget, I’d recommend starting with the Canon Rebel, which is a great camera for its price.
- Remember that even with the highest quality equipment, without practice and learning about the basics, it will be hard to take great photos. I can’t stress this one enough. If I may do some self-marketing, I wrote a book about food photography and styling, and you can find all the information about it here.