I run into this question a lot. People ask what is the best lens for food photography? Is there a right answer? Well, it all depends.
Like any photography situation or application there are a variety of ways to approach the subject. No one lens is the right answer to any situation or subject. Its up to the artist behind the lens to determine what they want the view to see in the final image.
For landscapes you can go with wide angles to show more of a vast landscape or move in close to a rock or log in the foreground to create an exaggerated sense of scale. Or you can zoom in on distant mountain peak to isolate a single element of the scene.
Same with wildlife. You can zoom in with a big bazooka lens to document the subject up close or you can go wide and show the animal in its environment.
Food photography also has a range of applications. You might show the chef at work in the kitchen, make the viewer’s mouth water with a plate shot or go in super close to show the texture of a strawberry.
A variety of lens can be used but if I were to choose one lens to get started in food photography, it would be the one recommended to me by Andrew Scrivani, the NY Times columnist, commercial photographer and stylist. He does most of his work with the Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro.
And I also shoot most of my food photography with this lens. Its not the newest, fastest or most exciting lens. It hunts for focus and has a plastic build quality but it is sharp, in a great focal range for food photography and is inexpensive. You can pick one up for about $300.
User feedback – “I use this mostly for food photography, and it’s a great lens. I originally used a 50mm f/1.8, but when it developed a defect in focusing, went for this macro lens version. Sometimes I miss the really low f-stops, but overall, I like it. It functions well as a non-macro lens as well. Somewhat slow to switch from close to far, and a little noisy, but nothing that’s really bothersome.”
The macro give you the ability to get really close to your food and can uncover detail that would otherwise be impossible to detect by the naked eye. Ideal for shooting extremely minute subjects such as insects or the petals of a small flower, the lens offers a nine-element design and a floating optical system that focuses down from infinity to one-half life size (0.5x). It also functions beautifully as a general-purpose normal lens.
And should you want to focus down to life size (1:1), you can add an optional Life Size Converter EF to increase the working distance–a valuable feature in close-up shooting. The Canon Life Size Converter EF sells for around $280 street price and is made especially for the Canon 50mm macro.
User feedback – “This item was primarily designed for the Canon EOS 50mm f2.5 Macro 1:2 lens. This adapter allows you to amp your lens to a 1:1 or twice the image resolution. (Image resolution is the detail an image holds. The term applies to raster digital images, film images, and other types of images. Higher resolution means more image detail.) Be sure to add it to your lens before than mounting it to the camera so that your electronics are properly compensated for during metering. You will loose a f-stop or or two using this adapter.”
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