So, you’re wondering what are the best lenses for food photography? This is a great question and can really vary per photographer. I have experience shooting with Nikon (DSLR), FujiFilm (Mirrorless) as well as my iPhone camera and I definitely play favorites with the lenses I use. This post shares my favorite lenses for DSLR, Mirrorless and the iPhone, so let’s dive in!
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Understanding Camera Lenses
Before we dive into food photography lenses, there are a couple of common questions that come up when it comes to understanding the differences between lenses:
- What do the lens numbers mean?
- What’s the difference between a zoom lens and a prime lens?
1. What Do The Lens Numbers Mean?
The lens numbers tell you the focal length and the maximum (widest) aperture you can get at that focal length. The aperture is the hole in your lens and it gets wider (letting in more light with a shallow depth of field) or smaller (letting in less light with a sharper depth of field.
Here are a couple of examples:
Prime Lens: 50mm 1.8
- 50mm is your fixed focal length, which makes it a prime lens.
- 1.8 is your maximum (widest) aperture you can get with this lens.
Zoom Lens 18-55mm 3.5 – 5.6
- The 18-55mm is the range of focal lengths it offers, which makes it a zoom lens.
- 3.5 is the maximum (widest) aperture you’ll get at 18mm.
- 5.6 is the maximum (widest) aperture you’ll get when you zoom in to 55mm.
2. What’s The Difference Between a Zoom Lens and a Prime Lens?
A zoom lens is a focal length that you can adjust on the lens itself. You can simply rotate the lens on your camera to get closer or further away from your subject.
A prime lens is a fixed focal length, meaning you can’t rotate the lens to zoom in or out. You have to physically move closer to or further away from your subject.
DSLR, Mirrorless and iPhone Lenses
Since I use Nikon, FujiFilm and iPhone cameras, I am splitting this post into sections so you can easily see my recommendations depending on what type of camera you use. Please be sure that any lenses you consider purchasing are compatible with your own camera model.
If you want to look into more affordable third party lens options, I highly recommend checking out Sigma Art Lenses.
Rent Before You Buy
A pro tip is to rent before you buy. Lenses can be quite the investment, so testing one out first before making your decision is always a good idea. LensRentals.com offers a variety of brand and models to choose from and their online scheduling system is incredibly user friendly.
DSLR Camera Lenses
The four Nikon camera lenses I recommend considering for food photography include:
- 50mm 1.8 (Nifty Fifty)
- 105mm 2.8 (Macro)
- 24-70 2.8 (Zoom)
- 14-24 2.8 (Wide Angle)
Nikon 50mm 1.8 (Nifty Fifty)
The nifty fifty is a solid prime lens for food photography. This was the first lens I bought after starting with the “kit lens” that came with my first Nikon camera. The 50mm focal length makes it incredibly versatile for a variety of popular angles including the 45 degree angle, straight on and overhead (flat lay). And, because it’s made of plastic, it’s incredibly affordable in comparison to a lot of good lenses. If you’re not ready to invest in the more expensive lenses (and they can get super expensive), I highly recommend the 50mm 1.8. Just be sure you get the nifty fifty that is compatible with your camera model.
Nikon 105mm 2.8 (Macro)
A good macro lens is a really great lens for food photography. Macro lenses let you get up close and personal with all of the gooey, drippy, yummy details of the food or drinks you’re shooting. If you want to make people feel like they can reach out and touch the food or even taste it, this macro lens is a must-have.
Nikon 24-70mm 2.8 (Zoom)
This is one of the most convenient lenses for food photography and it may be the lens I use the most. As much as I love a good prime lens, this is an excellent zoom lens that makes my life on set a lot easier. Because it’s a zoom, I have a wide range of focal lengths to play with without having to adjust my entire setup. And, since it ranges from 24-70mm, it’s extremely versatile for shooting food, people, interiors, exteriors and even landscapes.
Nikon 14-24mm 2.8 (Wide Angle)
This lens may or may not make sense for you, but I don’t shoot on location without it. It’s an ultra-wide angle lens that allows me to capture more of “the scene” including interiors, exteriors and landscapes. Since I shoot with a variety of restaurants and hospitality clients, this is an excellent lens to highlight more of their space.
Mirrorless Camera Lenses
The four FujiFilm camera lenses I recommend considering for food photography include:
- 32mm 1.8 (Zeiss)
- 80mm 2.8 IOS (Macro)
- 18-55mm 2.8 (Zoom)
- 16mm 2.8 (Wide Angle)
When I started experimenting with FujiFilm cameras, this was the first lens I ordered. It’s excellent for food photography, because it’s incredibly sharp and works beautifully in low light situations. And, it’s a focal length that works well for overhead (flat lay), straight on and angled shots. You can’t go wrong with this lens.
FujiFilm 80mm 2.8 OIS (Macro)
A good macro lens is important in food photography and I had my eye on this one for a while. This is an excellent lens that captures every little delicious detail. The thing to note is when it arrived, it sounded like something was loose in the body of the lens. But, that’s just how this lens is, apparently. Once it’s connected to your FujiFilm camera, the shaking noise goes away completely. OIS stands for Optical Image Stabilization which means it won’t pick up as much camera shake. This is a great feature when you’re holding your camera to ensure a nice clear image.
FujiFilm 18-55mm 2.8 OIS (Zoom)
This zoom lens is amazing. It’s similar to the 24-70mm in my DSLR lineup of lenses, because of the zoom capabilities and it being a convenient lens to use on set. Rather than adjusting my light stands and switching between lenses, I can simply turn this lens to get closer or further away. This lens also has OIS, which makes it an excellent lens to use when you’re holding your camera.
FujiFilm 16mm 2.8 (Wide Angle)
One of the main reasons I switched to FujiFilm from Nikon was because I love how small the mirrorless cameras are. Their size alone makes them awesome for on location shoots. DSLR cameras are bulky and heavy and aren’t the most convenient to carry around with you. I wanted to get a nice wide angle lens for my FujiFilm cameras, because my on-location shoots are typically with restaurants or hospitality clients. Having a good wide angle lens helps me capture more of their space, interiors, exteriors and landscapes.
iPhone Camera Lenses
The most recent iPhone has some pretty amazing lens options, including ultra wide angle and macro capabilities built right into the iPhone. But, not everyone is able to upgrade to the latest and greatest iPhone models that have these new and improved lenses.
The good news is that you can use different lenses with your iPhone camera! If you find yourself shooting images with your iPhone and may not have the latest and greatest model, this is definitely a great option for you to consider.
Moment Lenses for iPhone Photography
I’ve experimented with a lot of the “clip-on” lenses on the market for iPhones, but I haven’t been impressed with any of them. It’s hard to place the lens correctly without covering part of the camera lens and frankly, they’re not very secure.
This is why I recommend Moment Lenses for iPhone photography.
If you want to experiment with Moment lenses, it will require you to purchase an iPhone case. The lenses twist on and off of the iPhone case. It’s incredibly easy and the lenses line up perfectly with your iPhone camera and it’s super secure. And, although the case is an extra purchase, this option is way more affordable than DSLR or Mirrorless lenses. 😉
The wide angle gives me a beautiful wide view for landscapes, interiors or table scapes. The macro lets me get up close and personal with all the delicious details that food has to offer. Check out two example images shot with my iPhone using each of these lenses below. Isn’t the quality incredible?
In a nutshell, knowing what photography lenses you should get depends on the type of camera you use and what types of images you want to capture. Remember, lenses are not cheap… the better the glass, the more expensive it will be. You can always rent before you buy to be sure you’re making the best investment for your photography goals. Reach out with questions anytime!
READ MORE ABOUT: THE BEST CAMERA FOR FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY
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All images ©Regan Baroni 2020.