Best lens for food?

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by joshberg, Apr 17, 2009.

  1. What's the best lens to shoot food with my 40D, assuming 1) I'll have to deal with low light, flashless, close-quarters restaurant situations. 2) I can't afford the new $1,700 24/1.4! I have the 17-55/2.8, which is a fine lens, but I'm yearning for something primey. Does the 28/1.8, for example, offer better IQ than the 17-55? Thanks for any suggestions you can offer.
  2. I've seen many photographers use macro lenses for food shots. Lenses typically at f/2.8
    You might try Canon's 60mm Macro or even Tamron's 90mm macro.
  3. Will you be able to do the shoot using a tripod?
  4. I have the Canon 60mm, another good lens, but that focal length (at 1.6X) requires standing up and/or back from the table a bit, and in restaurant situations I'm trying to shoot as quickly and unobtrusively as possible. Thus, no tripod either . . . not exactly discreet.
  5. Low-light and flashless suggests that you're talking about having fun taking photos of the food you have ordered, rather than getting into professional food photography. And I would guess that your desire for "something primey" is a primal desire for depth of field far shallower than you would see at f/2.8. Otherwise, you would stick with your 17-55 (I have the same lens, and it easily focuses close enough to fill the frame with an average-sized dinner plate at the 28mm setting).
    My favourite prime lens in this range is the Sigma 30mm f/1.4. Its out of focus blur is gorgeous and it has no trouble focusing at the kind of distance you will need. No currently available macro lens will suit your purpose because none of them is faster than f/2.8, which you already have. If you need to get any closer, you could consider getting a Canon 500D (the close-up lens, not the soon-to-be-released DSLR). I sometimes use one with my Sigma 30/1.4. It requires a step-up ring because the Sigma uses 62mm filters. Canon says the 500D is intended only for telephoto lenses but I have never had a problem with this combination. However, I doubt you will need the 500D.
    Is out of focus blur (i.e., bokeh) quality what you care about? I'll post an example of what I get with the Sigma. If that is important to you, perhaps someone else will post an example of Canon 28/1.8 bokeh. Bokeh is very subjective and it can be hard to find a lens that you really like.
  6. Thanks, Gerry. Indeed, this is all at the fun rather than professional level. My wife and I are foodies; she cooks a lot of beautiful food, and we also eat out a lot. I do like bokeh and it's important to me. But when I spoke of getting primey, I was really thinking primal sharpness. I've sometimes read of the Sigma line having quite a yellow color cast--have you found this to be an issue at all?
  7. zml


    Best? A 45 or (better) 90 mm T/S (tilt/shift) lens with extension tubes and/or TC: since what's lacking at large f/stops is depth of field at close up distances, a bit of tilt is helpful. But that's going a tad above "fun level." I'd stick with 17-55/2.8 if I were you perhaps with a small (and sturdy!) table-top tripod and a few large pieces of aluminum foil (makeshift reflectors!) for some help with shadows.
  8. The EF 50 2.5 CM is great for food and small products. Sharp as a tack. I use it all the time on my 50D. And it's priced right.
  9. Best lens for food? That would have to be a "pancake" one, or perhaps for those with a more exotic palate, the "fisheye".
  10. I shoot food professionally with a 5D + Leica 60 macro. Sometimes, if I have enough space, I can use the 90mm. lens.
    Use whatever f stop you like; whatever works best for you is fine. Forget whatever other people are doing or might be doing.
  11. As you can tell, I used more than a shy f2.8 for this image. I can't remember which f stop, and there is no f stop recorded in the metadata with 3rd party lenses. But my clients never ask which f stop was used for an image.
  12. I've never encountered a yellow cast with any of my lenses, whether Canon or Sigma. And I find the Sigma to be sharp. I'll post a comparison with the 17-55 later. Probably comparing them at f/2.8 would make the most sense.
    I find my Sigma 30/1.4 to be a wonderful lens and very sharp. However, many new Sigma lenses (especially for Canon EF mount) are calibrated wrongly and need to have the autofocus recalibrated by Sigma (or to be returned to the retailer for exchange). You might understandably feel that the risk of needing to send a new lens away for calibration is unacceptable. My first Sigma 30 was badly calibrated when I received it but I liked the lens so much that I exchanged it for another that autofocuses accurately. Apparently, if you send them to Sigma they fix them in a few days.
    I like the aluminium reflector idea. I made some that I pasted onto small pieces of card and that I carry around in my camera bag.
  13. To add to what Gerry said, some Sigma lenses do have a slight yellow cast and some don't. My favorite Sigma macro, and considered by many to be their best lens overall, is the 70mm macro, and it doesn't have any color cast at all that I've been able to see. It's also razor sharp wide open with a perfectly flat field, very rare for any lens, and very useful if you specifically want or need to shoot wide open, and has excellent bokeh as well.
  14. It all depends on MANY factors. There is not one 'lens for food' (except the lens that puts food on your table!) - I used a Tilt and Shift lens made by Hartblei and worked great for me.
  15. Thanks, all. Lots to consider here. Delicious image, Marco.
  16. I shoot a lot of food and generally reach for the 100mm f2.8 Macro, with full frame bodies, if I am looking for shallow depth of field. It's extremely sharp, has a good working distance and is long enough to not have to worry about too much background. If I want more in focus then it's the TS-E 90mm f2.8 which allows some control of the focus plane - but recently the style that my clients want is more selective focus, and the 100mm is fine for that.
    I would imagine the 60mm Macro on a crop sensor body would be great for food shots (with the caveat that I've never actually used it)!
  17. Josh, I took a couple of test shots over the weekend. I realize now that I was jumping to the wrong conclusion about why you want a prime lens for your food shots. So these photos are probably not much help, but I'm adding them to the thread because I promised I would. They are at f/4.5, not f/2.8 (I did that because I re-read your second post and realized that wide open apertures are not what you are after). Both photos have both had the same, minimal processing (convert from raw and adjust colour balance for tungsten as I was shooting indoors at night -- both shots had the same colour balance adjustment). I have applied no sharpening to any of these. The shots at the bottom are 100% crops of the point where I focused (manually, by the way).
    Apologies if Friday evening's vegetable couscous is not quite what you want to be looking at whatever time of day it is where you are.
    In my opinion, there is not much to choose between these shots (Sigma 30 and Canon 17-55 at 28mm), so there's probably no point in your getting a Sigma. But nor is there any kind of colour cast. I have several Sigma lenses (30 1.4, 50 1.4, 50 macro, which is the sharpest lens I have, and 10-20) and none of them has any kind of colour cast that I have ever noticed.
    I now think that if you still want to get an alternative to your 17-55 (which does a fine job, in my opinion) your best bet might be a wide-ish macro lens... and Marco's pastry chef.

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