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What DSLR Lens Should I Use For Food Photography

Choosing the right lens for your photography is vital, but it can also be hard to choose what to go for with so much choice on the market.

Getting the wrong lens for your needs can be a costly mistake – read this article so you can pick the right lens for you.

(In this guide we have only included suggestions for Canon and Nikon DSLRs)

If you just want the summary of the recommendations, check out the table below and click on the links to check the current price and availability on Amazon.

Which Canon lens is best for food photography?

Best Food Photography Lenses for Canon

Details & Close UpsBudgetVersatility
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM MacroCanon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM LensCanon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM
Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro VC USDCanon EF 24-105mm F4L IS II USM
** Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM
Best lenses for food photography for Canon DSLR’s

**Please note that this lens is only to be used only on Canon cameras with a crop sensor.

What is the best Nikon lens for food photography?

Best Food Photography Lenses for Nikon

Details & Close UpsBudgetVersatility
Nikon AF-S VR Micro NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED LensNikon AF FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8DNikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED
Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro VC USDSigma 24-105mm F4.0
Nikon AF-S FX Micro-NIKKOR 2177 60mm f/2.8G ED
Best lenses for food photography for Nikon DSLR’s

Crop Sensor or Full Frame Camera?

A lot of buying guides for lenses will ignore the fact that the type of camera makes a big difference in your decision.

Before you buy ANY lenses you need to first know if you are using a crop sensor or full frame camera.

In short, a crop sensor camera has a smaller sensor and this causes a crop on the image so the image seems more zoomed in. This means that a lens on a cropped sensor camera will be more cropped in than if it was on a full frame camera. 

To find out how much a lens is zoomed in on a crop sensor camera you need to know its crop factor. Discovering this is easy and to check whether your camera is a crop sensor or full frame camera, you can check the camera’s manual or do a quick Google search. 

We won’t go into all the details now, but check out the following article if you want more information: 

Whether you happen to use a full frame or a crop sensor camera we will recommend some lenses under the following categories:

  • Best Lens for Details and Close Ups
  • Best Budget Lens
  • Best For Versatility

Best Lenses for Details and Close Ups – Get a Macro With A Long Focal Length

For close ups, you want a well built prime lens with a long focal length. Here when we say long we mean anything that is around 80mm and above.

Picking up a macro/micro lens for food photography is a smart move here.

Macro and Micro lenses do the same thing; it is just a change in terminology between different camera brands. They are used for close up photography because they have shorter minimum focusing distances and show things on a 1:1 ratio.

This is important for food photography because a lot of the time you will be shooting in studios or restaurants where you are fairly close to the subject.

Since longer focal lengths are used in food photography often and longer focal lengths tend to have longer minimum focusing distances, the macro function becomes very useful. 

Full Frame: Buy a prime lens with a focal length between 80mm-105mm

For close ups, you need a long focal length so on a full frame you want to go for 80mm and above up to about 100mm. The perspective on these lenses make the background seem more compressed and you can really crop into the details like condensation droplets.

Most food photographers will get a 100mm-105mm prime lens at some point for their kit.

A great thing about this focal length is also that you won’t get any distortion in shapes and the focal length is really flattering for other types of photographic work such as portraits.

The reason you don’t just keep going higher to something like a 400mm is because as a food photographer you will be pretty much shooting indoors all the time. With something like a 400mm lens you might have to stand outside the room to even get the subject in the frame properly!

Take your pick from the following based on your camera brand and click through to check the price on Amazon:

Canon:

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro

Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro VC USD

Nikon:

Nikon AF-S VR Micro NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED Lens

Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro VC USD

For Crop Sensor: 60mm Prime Macro

The reason we recommend a 60mm macro for crop sensors is because of the crop factor.

Remember that crop factor will make the equivalent focal length longer on the lens so a 60mm ends up looking more in the range of 90mm-100mm.

Like we mentioned before the macro ability is great to use on close ups especially in studios for those shots where you want to get really close to the subject.

Canon:

Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM

Nikon:

Nikon AF-S FX Micro-NIKKOR 2177 60mm f/2.8G ED

Best Budget Lens – 50mm The Prime Nifty Fifty

If you are short on cash and just want one lens which is great value then the 50mm lens is going to be your best bet. This applies whether you have a crop sensor camera or a full frame camera.

The focal length makes it so that there isn’t much distortion and it also works great for portrait shots or street photography if you are into that too. 

The nifty fifty also will have a pretty good f-stop capability as they can normally open up to about f/1.8. This is a massive upgrade from a kit lens, and even ignoring the aperture capabilities the optical quality of a 50mm focal length on a nifty fifty will be better than the optical quality of a 50mm on a kit lens.

By far this is the best value for money lens you can buy if you are a beginner and/or on a budget.

We recommend the nifty fifty as the best budget lens whether you are on a full frame or a crop sensor camera.

You just have to take into account that on a full frame you will get a wider field of view so things like flat lays might be easier, but on a crop sensor it may be better for closer up shots of your subject as the equivalent focal length becomes closer to that of an 80mm lens.

Canon:

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens

Nikon:

Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8D

Best For Versatility – Zoom Lens 24-70mm or 24-105mm

If you want something that is versatile and can cover various focal lengths then a high quality zoom lens will be your go to. They let you cover various focal lengths using one lens so you can change up your shot in an instant. 

For this category we have recommended a 24-70mm f2.8 as the best option with the 24-105mm f4 as a secondary cheaper option.

The wider focal length range makes it easier to take really large flat lays or big scenes compared to a 50mm. At the same time you have the ability to use the 70mm focal length for more close up shots. You can do all of this while still being able to use the 50mm focal length as it is within the focal length range. 

Even though prime lenses tend to have better aperture capabilities, if you have the money for a decent 24-70mm lens you can use it in a wide variety of circumstances to achieve fantastic images. 

Plus you won’t need to open your aperture all the way up to f1.8 anyways because you will want enough depth of field that the right amount of your subject is in focus.

These lenses are a lot more pricey than 50mm primes, but they can be perfect for the photographer who loves to shoot more than just food as it can lend itself to other types of photography too.

Also great for the person who doesn’t like switching lenses around too much as it covers enough focal length range.

You can use them on both full frame and crop sensor as you can account for the crop factor by going to a lower focal length. Of course on a crop sensor the minimum and maximum focal lengths do change. Just make sure the lens you buy is compatible with your camera.

The 24-105mm f4 is a good option if you definitely want a decent zoom lens, but can’t afford the 24-70 f2.8 yet.

Remember that the smaller maximum aperture means that you have more limits on how shallow you can make your depth of field for the purpose of background blur. Also in low light situations you can’t open your aperture as wide so you will need to compensate with ISO/ shutter speed, but in a studio you can normally remedy by using lighting or a tripod for extended shutter speed.

Canon:

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM

Canon LENS EF 24-105mm F4L IS II USM

Nikon:

Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED

Sigma 24-105mm F4.0


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