BEST CAMERA FOR FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY

FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY

Spoiler alert, my friends… there isn’t a best camera for food photography. Photography is about the artist, not the camera. But, this is definitely a popular topic of discussion amongst food photographers because we like to nerd out from time to time. The truth is there are several great cameras on the market and the technology is constantly changing to offer some pretty cool features. In my experience, my lenses make a bigger impact on my food images than my camera body does. However, lenses and cameras do work together, so there are definitely certain things to keep in mind when selecting a camera for food photography. I’m going the share my thoughts on some of the Nikon cameras that I have worked with, along with some specific features to keep in mind when choosing a camera for food photography.

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best camera for food photography

Best Camera For Food Photography

NIKON D750

This is the camera that I currently use for most of my photo shoots and I have absolutely loved working with it. Is it the best camera? Maybe not, but for me it has been the best camera I’ve used so far in my career. I bought the D750 a few years ago when my camera requirements were different than they are now, but this camera still works beautifully with my camera expectations today. I haven’t upgraded my camera yet, because I decided to invest in more high quality lenses instead.

Here’s why I bought the D750:

1) FULL FRAME (FX)

I wanted a full frame camera (FX) instead of a cropped sensor (DX) camera. I require a full frame camera as a professional food photographer because I own a variety of gorgeous FX lenses and I don’t want any cropping or vignetting to occur with my shots. Working with full frame cameras is still a requirement for me today.

2) ISO CAPABILITIES

A lot of food photographers will tell you that ISO capabilities aren’t important in food photography. And, it’s true… the lower the ISO the better for your food images. BUT, because of my growth as a photographer, I wanted to talk about this feature a little more.

Whether or not higher ISO capabilities is something to consider really depends on how you’re shooting your images.

Are you holding your camera or are you using a tripod? Do you have a studio space with gorgeous lighting to work with or are you shooting at different locations where the lighting is unpredictable? Do you use artificial lights or natural light?

Here’s why higher ISO capabilities was important to me a few years ago:

At the time, I was shooting with a lot more restaurants and I was a natural light shooter. Some restaurants had awesome natural light pouring in, but a lot of others didn’t. Since I wasn’t using a tripod or artificial lighting, I wanted a camera that could handle a higher ISO setting without adding “noise” to my images. Noise is a slightly grainy effect that happens when cameras are set at a higher ISO. The D750 allowed me to use an ISO of 4,000 before seeing any noise in my images, which at the time was a big selling point for me.

Because of how I shoot now, I no longer need to consider high ISO capabilities when considering a camera for food photography. I shoot with tripods and artificial lighting on a regular basis, so my ISO is always set nice and low. But, if you’re a photographer who is holding your camera and working in unpredictable lighting situations, high ISO capabilities might be something to consider.

3) DUAL MEMORY CARD SLOTS

Dual card slots basically means you are able to use two SD memory cards in your camera at the same time. I HIGHLY recommend having this feature on your camera to ensure the safety of your images when you’re not shooting tethered. This just ensures that if one memory card goes cray cray, your images are safely backed up on the second memory card. This feature still applies for me today when considering a camera.

5) BUDGET FRIENDLY

Although FX cameras are more expensive than DX cameras, the D750 was on the lower end of expensive in comparison to other FX cameras. I was also considering the Nikon D810 before I purchased the Nikon D750. I rented both cameras from borrowlenses.com to test them out and didn’t see any major differences with my images. Budget ended up being the deciding factor for me at the time, which allowed me to invest in some badass FX lenses.

NIKON D750 SPECS:
Cost: $1,500
Image Sensor Format: FX
Megapixels: 24.3
Sensor Size: 35.9mm x 24mm
ISO: 100 – 12,800 (Lo 50 & Hi1 – 25,600 & Hi2 – 51,200)
AF Focal Points: 51
FPS: 6.5 Frames per Second
Video: Full HD: 24-60 fps / HD: 1280 x 720 50 & 60 fps
Built-in WiFi

 

best camera for food photography

Other Popular Cameras

NIKON D850

This is the next Nikon camera that is on my wishlist. My main reason is as I grow more into video, this camera is a beast offering the latest technology that I want to learn. It’s also within the Nikon family so I can use the variety of FX lenses that I already own and love. The clarity that the D850 can offer (for both stills and video) is spot on and 153 focal points to work with sounds like a dream. I can continue to produce beautiful work with my D750, but when I’m ready to upgrade, the D850 is the camera I have my eye on.

NIKON D850 SPECS:
Cost: $2,999
Image Sensor Format: FX (Full Frame)
Sensor Size: 35.9mm x 23.9mm
Megapixels: 45.7
ISO: 64 – 25,600
AF Focal Points: 153
FPS: 7 Frames per Second
Video: 4k, Full HD, HD, Slow Motion
Built-in WiFi

 

best camera for food photography

NIKON Df 

I have rented the Nikon Df a few times, because it’s super fun to use and produces beautiful images. If you like the “old school” dials and look, it’s hard not to be curious about this camera. The Df is one of the more controversial cameras on the market, though. The price would make you think it offers what all the other FX cameras offer, but it doesn’t. There’s no video capabilities, no dual memory card slots and it only has 39 AF focal points, which is what most beginner-level DSLR’s offer. These reasons alone have kept me from purchasing it, but I can say that the Df is a fun camera to play with.

NIKON Df SPECS:
Cost: $2,749
Image Sensor Format: FX (Full Frame)
Sensor Size: 36mm x 23.9mm
Megapixels: 16.2
ISO: 100 – 12,800 (Lo 50 & Hi1 Boost – 204,800)
AF Focal Points: 39
FPS: 5.5 Frames per Second

 

NIKON D7100 (Cropped Sensor)

NIKON D7100 (Cropped Sensor)

This is a DX camera that I bought before officially upgrading to full frame cameras. I was ready to upgrade from my beginner-level DSLR, but the FX cameras were still out of my price range at the time. The functionality really isn’t very different to learn in comparison to my first camera, but the features become more advanced as you upgrade camera models. The D7100 was a fun “next step” from my first camera.

TIP: A great, affordable lens to use with your DX or FX camera is the 50mm 1.8. Just make sure the lens is compatible with your camera brand.

NIKON D7100 SPECS:
Cost: $900
Image Sensor Format: DX (Cropped Sensor)
Sensor Size: 23.5mm x 15.6mm
Megapixels: 24.1
ISO: 100 – 6,400 (Hi1 – 12,800 / Hi2 – 25,600)
AF Focal Points: 51
FPS: 6 Frames per Second
Video: Full HD, HD

 

NIKON D5500 (Cropped Sensor)

NIKON D5500 (Cropped Sensor)

My first DSLR was the Nikon D3100, but they don’t make that camera model anymore. My family surprised me with this camera, so I can’t say that I had my eye on it for a reason. The Nikon D5500 is comparable to the D3100 and is a great starter camera if you’re new to photography. It’s a great camera to start with because it’s affordable and easy to use so you can master shooting in Manual mode. After I learned how to shoot in Manual mode, I had a big breakthrough with my photography. I started seeing the limitations of the beginner-model features, which helped me know what to look for in my next camera.

Read More About: Getting Started in Food Photography

NIKON D5500 SPECS:
Cost: $700
Image Sensor Format: DX (Cropped Sensor)
Sensor Size: 23.5mm x 15.6mm
Megapixels: 24.2
ISO: 100 – 25,600
AF Focal Points: 39
FPS: 5 Frames per Second
Video: Full HD, HD, VGA

 

best camera for food photography

How To Choose A Camera For Food Photography

Now, that I’ve shared some thoughts on a handful of Nikon cameras that I’ve worked with, I want to note that there are a lot of different brands to consider and they’re all awesome. No matter what camera brand you go with, here are some things to keep in mind when considering a camera for food photography.

IMAGE SENSOR SIZE

DSLR’s have image sensors that are either cropped or full frame, so you’ll want to decide which you’ll want to work with. Keep in mind that this decision will affect the type of lenses you work with as well, because lenses are built for cropped sensors or full frame cameras.

A cropped sensor is smaller so you don’t capture as much of the image, whereas full frame will give you the full image. A lot of beginner and intermediate DSLR’s will have cropped sensors, which makes them lightweight and more affordable. Full frame DSLR’s are more advanced and come at a higher price point.

Camera brands have different ways of labeling a cropped sensor vs. a full frame camera. For example, Nikon’s cropped sensor cameras are labeled DX, whereas Nikon’s full frame sensor cameras are labeled FX. Canon’s cropped sensor cameras are EF-S, whereas Canon’s full frame cameras are labeled EF.

I started with Nikon DX cameras and later moved into FX cameras for my food photography. As a professional photographer, I prefer FX lenses over DX lenses. Because of this, upgrading to full frame cameras made the most sense for me to produce higher quality images.

Read More About: Getting Started in Food Photography

MEGAPIXELS

You don’t necessarily need a camera with the most megapixels, but because this is a popular feature that camera companies love to promote, I wanted to clear up a little misconception. The thought is, the more megapixels, the better the image quality. This is technically true, but the real question to ask yourself is what will you be doing with your food images?

If you are going to be posting images to the web (like on your website or blog), chances are you won’t see a difference in image quality since web images are set to a low resolution of 72dpi.

If you are printing your images, the resolution will need to be set to 300dpi for clarity. So, how does this translate to megapixels? For example, if you are printing an image that’s 8×10 at 300dpi, that would mean that your camera would need to have at least 8 megapixels to print this size clearly. Most DSLR cameras have at least 24 megapixels now, which is well within a clear print range. So, do you really need a camera that has 45 megapixels vs. 24 megapixels?

AF FOCAL POINTS

The number of auto focus points a camera offers is important, because the more options you have, the more flexibility you have with different compositions. Food isn’t always centered in the middle of the image. Sometimes the composition requires the food to be positioned in the bottom right of the image and you’ll want to be sure you can select the focal point in the area that the food is located. Manual focus is also an option, but most people don’t trust their eye to get the focus just right.

ABILITY TO SHOOT RAW

You’ll want to be sure that your DSLR can shoot RAW images. Most DSLR cameras will allow you to shoot RAW, which you will choose in your camera’s menu settings.

RAW means you get all of the information from the image you captured which allows for full editing capabilities. JPG is a compressed format of your image which means, you won’t get all the information for the image you captured and won’t have a full range of editing capabilities.

ISO

A lot of camera companies will also talk about the ISO range on their cameras. But, with food photography the lower the ISO, the better. Low ISO means less noise in your images. The higher the ISO, the more noise you’ll see in your image.

Each camera starts showing noise at different settings. For example, the D750 ISO could be set as high as 4,000 before I started seeing noise in my images. Whereas with the D7100, the ISO started showing noise at 1,600 or 2,000.

Whether or not higher ISO capabilities will matter to you in food photography really depends on how you are shooting your food images. If you are holding your camera and shooting in low light, a higher ISO capability in a camera is something to consider. If you are using a tripod and controlling your light, a higher ISO capability probably isn’t important.

FRAMES PER SECOND

I’m not always just shooting food sitting still on a plate. Sometimes I’m trying to capture the movement of food or drinks, like a splash or a gooey egg yolk drip. When trying to capture movement, photographers will often use Continuous mode on their camera. This mode allows you take several shots with one click of the shutter. The frames per second is what you want to look for when shooting in Continuous mode. The more shots you can get per second, the better your chances are to capture a delicious movement shot.

ABILITY TO SHOOT TETHERED

As a food photographer, I am constantly shooting tethered. This means that my camera is hooked up to my computer so I can see my images on a larger screen as I shoot rather than looking at the small LCD screen on the back of the camera. Being able to shoot tethered helps you catch details that you could easily miss on the smaller screen and allows you make adjustments to capture the final image faster.

Good luck in your research in finding your best camera for food photography. Remember, that it really doesn’t matter what kind of camera you have. As long as you can execute your creative vision, that’s all that matters. If you have any questions, comment below or send me a message.

Happy Shooting!

Read More About: My Current Gear for Food Photography

This post contains affiliate links which means if you click or make a purchase through my site, I might make a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only promote products that I actually use and support. 

All images ©Regan Baroni 2020.

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