Spoiler alert, friends… there isn’t a best camera for food photography. There are a lot of amazing cameras on the market that would be a wonderful camera for food photography. Depending on the type of images you want to shoot, there are different types of features to consider before making your purchase. In this post, I’m going to walk you through different types of cameras, features to consider when choosing a camera and the cameras that I use and love. Let’s dive in!
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What Is The Best Camera For Food Photography
There are a lot of really great cameras on the market, so it can be really hard to choose the best camera for food photography. The first step to choosing the best camera for food photography is to figure out your budget. You do NOT need the most expensive camera on the market to take great food pictures.
The next step is to think about what type of images you want to shoot.
- What do you want to take pictures of?
- Will you want to take action shots?
- Will you want to experiment with video?
- Will the images be used digitally or for print?
- If you want to print your images, what size do you want to print?
- Do you plan to shoot with natural light or will you use artificial lights?
Thinking through these things will help guide you towards the right camera for you, your images and your budget.
Types Of Cameras
There are different types of cameras to consider for food photography and the ones I get asked about the most are the following:
- DSLR CAMERAS
- MIRRORLESS CAMERAS
- iPHONE CAMERAS
Let’s look at the pros and cons of each.
DSLR cameras will teach you everything you need to know about how to use a camera as long as you take the time to learn how to use it. Below are some pros and cons to DSLR cameras.
- Fully customizable settings
- Larger sensors
- High resolution output
- Ability to switch out different lenses
- Wide variety of brands and models
- Great for video
- Heavier and more bulky to carry around
- More expensive
Mirrorless cameras are more compact DSLR’s. I love these little cameras and definitely recommend checking them out. They don’t have a mirror inside of the camera body which makes them smaller and more lightweight than a DSLR. They also take absolutely stunning images and video. And, much like a DSLR, you will need to take the time to learn how to adjust the settings so you can take more control over your images.
- Electronic viewfinder with touch screen
- Lightweight, easy to carry around
- Easy operation and controls
- Great for stills and video
- Shorter battery life
- Less lenses & accessories to choose from
A lot of people ask if the iPhone is a good camera to use for food photography and my answer is YES. While I do believe using a DSLR or mirrorless camera is the best approach when it comes to learning how to operate a camera, you can definitely take beautiful food images with your iPhone. It’s just a matter of learning some tips and tricks and of course, practicing. 😉
- The iPhone cameras are awesome
- You already have an iPhone
- There are lots of accessories to help you
- If you want to learn more about aperture, shutter speed and ISO, you’re better off getting a DSLR or Mirrorless camera to help you.
The iPhone cameras are great, so I’ve created some separate posts that focus on using the iPhone for photography. Be sure to check them out if you want some pro iPhone photography insider tips. 😉
READ MORE ABOUT: IPHONE PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS
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READ MORE ABOUT: THE BEST TRIPOD FOR YOUR IPHONE
Camera Features To Consider
Now that you’re considering different types of cameras, it’s important to think about the features you might need from your camera. When thinking about food photography in particular, let’s look at some features that I recommend looking into.
1. Sensor Size
Whether you’re considering a DSLR or Mirrorless camera, you’ll want to consider the sensor size. The sensor in your camera is what captures light to help you create the image. The larger the sensor, the better quality image you’ll get. There are a variety of sensor sizes to take into consideration. DSLR’s offer full frame and cropped sensors and mirrorless offer APS-C.
The more megapixels, the better the image quality, right? This is technically true, but the real question is what will you be doing with your images?
You don’t necessarily need a camera with the highest megapixels, because unless you’re printing large-scale images, you really don’t need to worry about this too much.
Web images are required to be 72dpi, which is a nice low resolution allowing them to load quickly while maintaining their quality. You don’t need a camera with all the megapixels for images that are mainly posted online.
If you are printing your images, however, the image resolution will need to be at least 300dpi for a high quality printed image.
So, how does print size translate to megapixels?
For example, if you are printing an image that’s 8 inches x 10 inches at 300dpi, that would mean your camera would need to have at least 8 megapixels to print the image clearly. Most cameras have at least 24 megapixels now, which is well within a clear print range.
So, unless you’re planning to do large scale printing of your images, you probably don’t need a camera with the most megapixels.
3. Focus Points
The number of focus points a camera offers is important to know, because the more options you have, the more flexibility you have with different focal points in your 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 or left of the image and you’ll want the flexibility to move your focal point easily without limitation.
4. Ability To Shoot RAW
You’ll want to be sure that your DSLR or mirrorless can shoot RAW images. Most cameras (including your iPhone) will allow you to shoot raw images now, which is pretty cool.
RAW means you are getting all of the information from the image you captured which allows for full editing capabilities of that image.
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 the full range of editing capabilities.
ISO is your camera’s sensitivity to light. A higher ISO setting will give you more light sensitivity, but could potentially add noise in your image. A lower ISO will give you less light sensitivity and no noise in your images.
“Noise” is a grainy effect in your images caused from using a higher ISO setting. Cameras will start showing noise at different settings depending on how advanced the camera is. The more advanced the camera, the higher you can go with your ISO without seeing noise. The beginner-level cameras start showing noise at much lower ISO settings.
For example, the more advanced Nikon D750 doesn’t show noise in images until the ISO is around 10,000, which is pretty awesome for low light shooting. Whereas a less advanced camera like the Nikon D7100, the ISO started showing noise at around 2000.
With food photography the lower the ISO, the better, so should ISO even be something to consider?
Whether or not you’ll want a camera with higher ISO capabilities depends on how you are shooting your images.
If you are shooting in low light and holding your camera, a higher ISO capability is definitely something to consider. If you use a tripod and shoot with artificial lights or have a lot of natural light to work with on set, a higher ISO capability may not be as important.
6. Frames Per Second
In food photography, sometimes you might want to capture movement like a splash or a pour. When trying to capture movement, photographers will use Continuous Mode on their camera. This mode allows you take several shots with one click, similar to “burst mode” with your iPhone.
The frames per second is important when you shoot in Continuous mode. The more shots you can get per second, the better your chances are to capture that perfect moment in the movement.
7. Ability To Shoot Tethered
As a food photographer, I shoot tethered a lot for my client projects. Tethered means that my camera is hooked up to my computer so I can see the images on a larger screen as I shoot. Being able to see the images on my large computer screen helps me correct any issues with the image much easier and quicker. It’s very easy to miss details when reviewing images on the small LCD screen on the back of your camera.
8. Dual SD Card Slots
When I’m not shooting tethered, I have more peace of mind when I can have two SD cards in my camera. I always use the second card as a backup just in case the other card goes a little cray cray.
9. Video Capabilities
Video is becoming more and more popular, even among photographers. It’s important to look into video capabilities if this is something you may want to learn down the road.
TIP: CHECK OUT LENSRENTALS.COM
As a professional food photographer, I know all too well that purchasing a camera is a big deal. If you’re really unsure about what camera to buy or are stuck between some options, I highly recommend renting first! It’s a great option to ensure you’re comfortable with the investment.
Lensrentals.com is a great resource for renting photography gear, lighting and accessories. I actually use them when I’m not necessarily looking to buy, but when I need something specific for a client project. It’s super convenient to rent when you need to, so remember that renting is always an option before purchasing.
Nikon Cameras for Food Photography
I started off as a Nikon photographer, so I wanted to share my two favorite Nikon cameras.
I currently own the Nikon D750 and absolutely love it. There were several factors I considered before purchasing this camera that I’m sharing below.
1) IMAGE SENSOR/FULL FRAME (FX)
I knew I wanted a full frame camera (FX) and the D750 is a full frame camera.
2) ISO CAPABILITIES
A lot of food photographers will tell you that ISO capabilities aren’t important in food photography, but like I mentioned earlier, it really depends on how you’re shooting.
When I bought the D750, I was shooting with a lot of restaurants and used natural light. I was also holding my camera instead of using a tripod. Some restaurants had awesome natural light pouring in, but some didn’t.
This meant I needed a camera that could handle a higher ISO setting without adding too much “noise” (or grain) to my images. This is why ISO was important to me back then and why I chose to buy the D750. It allowed me to keep my shutter speed at a safe setting to avoid camera shake. And, it allowed me to bump up my ISO nice and high to let in more light without adding noise in my images.
If you’re a photographer who is holding your camera and working with natural light, higher ISO capabilities are definitely something to consider.
3) DUAL MEMORY CARD SLOTS
Dual memory card slots is a feature that’s really important to me for when I’m not shooting tethered. It ensures that my images are safely backed up on not one, but two memory cards.
4) 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 considering. I was considering the Nikon D810 before I purchased the Nikon D750. I rented both cameras from lensrentals.com to test them out and didn’t see any major differences with my images. So, ultimately, budget ended up being the deciding factor for me at the time, which allowed me to invest in some extra fancy FX lenses.
SPECS FOR NIKON D750
- 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
The Nikon D850 is an awesome FX camera that I rent for a variety of commercial client projects. Normally, I can use my D750 for a lot of my client projects, but I rent this camera when my clients need large-format printing capabilities.
My D750 will produce beautiful images for printing, but it can’t produce images for large-scale printing with only 24.3 megapixels. It runs the risk of effecting the print quality at larger sizes.
The D850 has 45.7 megapixels, which is perfect for my client’s printing needs.
SPECS FOR NIKON D850
- 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
FujiFilm Cameras for Food Photography
I also own a couple of mirrorless FujiFilm cameras that I want to share with you.
My very first camera was a Nikon DSLR and I’ve loved shooting with the Nikon brand for several years. However, there comes a time when photographers might want to switch things up.
When that time came for me, I was incredibly curious about the FujiFilm cameras. They’re much smaller cameras, lightweight and easy for me to take on location. I am all about simplifying where I can. 😉
The main reason I started with the XT3 was because I was still in “photography-only” mode… meaning, I wasn’t shooting video yet. I was debating buying the XT4 at this time as well, but from my research, the XT4 was more expensive and the main features that were different from the XT3 were more beneficial for someone shooting video.
I ultimately decided to go with the more affordable XT3 and so I could also get a decent lens for it. Keep in mind that switching camera models will require you to get new lenses that fit your camera model, so it can be a bit of an investment.
SPECS FOR FUJIFILM XT3
- Image Sensor Format: APS-C
- Megapixels: 26
- ISO: 51,000
- X-Mount Camera
- Dual Memory Card Slots
- Video 4k, Full HD
- Tilt Screen Only (No flip screen)
Can you guess why I decided to get the XT4 later? Yep, I started getting more and more into video.
I did attempt video with the XT3 and it worked well for a while, but the main reason I decided to upgrade to the XT4 for my video work is because it has IBIS.
IBIS stands for In Body Image Stabilization, meaning that your video footage is going to be sooooooo much smoother than the XT3.
One way I tried to troubleshoot getting smoother footage with the XT3 was getting a Ronin Gimbal. I also got lenses that include OIS, which stands for Optical Image Stabilization. This basically means your lens has image stabilization built into it.
Both of these options helped a lot, but ended up getting the XT4 too, so I now use that for my video work and use my XT3 for my photography work.
SPECS FOR FUJIFILM XT4
- Image Sensor Format: APS-C
- Megapixels: 26
- ISO: 51,000
- X-Mount Camera
- Dual Memory Card Slots
- Video 4k, Full HD, IBIS
- Dedicated Video Switch
- Flip Screen
I hope this post helped shed some light on different camera features and what to look for when choosing the best camera for food photography. Good luck in your search and reach out with questions anytime!
READ MORE ABOUT: THE BEST LENSES FOR FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY
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All images ©Regan Baroni 2020.