Which lens to buy for food photography?

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by raymund, May 23, 2012.

  1. I need your opinion on this one

    I had an Olympus E520 with 18-180mm and later upgraded to Canon 60D with the kit lens 18-135mm, I am doing mostly food photography which I use in my food blog (http://angsarap.net) now that I have a wider audience I want my photos to look better(to please more viewers) hence planning to buy a Canon 50mm lens which I heard that is good for food photography. Now I am looking at the f1.4 and f1.8 MK II, I read alot about both lenses and I have some worries in both of them so I need the professional guidance on people who have used both perhaps in similar application.

    Here are my worries

    Looks like a very fragile lens according to what I read online, is this true that it is susceptible to AF locking when bumped?
    If I buy this do I need to prepare my self to go for repairs often?
    while $500 is not that expensive the real expense for this one is $500+ whatever future repair costs will be.
    I also read some articles that it is soft at wide open.
    Is it worth the extra bucks to jump from 1.8 to 1.4?

    *f1.8 mk II*
    Flimsier than 1.4 but the price can justify, my big worry is the bokeh quality but if I use subtle backgrounds rather than repetitive lines will the bokeh still be harsh?
    I know the AF is slow at low light but I am used to is as the 18-180 is slow in low light as well, is this lens any better in terms of AF?

    Any sugestions on what should I buy? If you have some sample food or even product photos using both lens you can also post as that would help a lot.
    My max budget buying a lens is in the price range of f1.4 so f1.2 is not an option nor the Sigma 50mm f1.4. Also please take note I want to use that lens for low light handheld and portraits but mainly food.
  2. Depends how big the food is....
    Actually I doubt that a 50mm lens would be noticeably better than your current kit lens. The 50mm lenses are faster, but you probably aren't shooting in dim light and you'd probably need to stop down to get good depth of field. Since web images are small, the difference in the images between a prime and a zoom may not be noticeable.
    To be honest, I don't see anything wrong with your current images. They look just fine to me.
    If you want a fast 50 for other reasons too, then by all means get one. The 50/1.4 is slightly better, but it's quite a bit more expensive and the focus mechanism, which generally reliable, is more prone to failure than most. I find the 50/1.8 just fine for portrait work (though I prefer the 85/1.8).
  3. Sometimes I shoot in dim locations which is a problem for the kit lens as I dont have proper lighting equipment and use natural light bounced with white cloth.
    Usually the food size is from a small saucer to a big plate. The reason why I am looking for 50mm is that I want to produce good bokeh to separate the background if ever there is to the food. Now my question is the bokeh difference between two lens are far apart from each other in terms of quality (pleasant to see), taking into consideration that I would not use very noisy backgrounds or props.
  4. I recommend that whatever you buy, don't shop for food lenses when your hungry. You will end up buying way more
    lens then you need.

  5. Raymund, for what you're shooting, you should probably use a tripod. It doesn't have to be a great (expensive) one, as your images only have to be sharp enough for the web. With a tripod, you can shoot in the dimmest of light with no problem.
    The bokeh of the 1.8 is OK, not great. It's a very sharp lens, which is why people like it. The 1.4 has a bit smoother bokeh; however, like Bob, I doubt you'll see much difference. You might get the best bokeh out of an old, 70's era, manual focus lens -- e.g. an SMC Takumar 50mm f/1.8 with an M42 thread, which you can adapt to the EOS mount with a cheap Chinese adapter off of eBay. With your camera on a tripod, use liveview on 10x magnification to focus.
    Depending on how much effort you want to put into it, you can get your entire subject into sharp focus, while achieving excellent background separation, by using focus stacking software. You'd take multiple images at different focal distances and then combine them. Never having used this method, I can't recommend a lens that would be good for it. However, I would think it would be important to maintain the same image size as the focus is adjusted. I'm pretty sure that would require internal/rear focusing, which would probably eliminate almost any 70's era prime lens.
  6. Of the two I'd opt for the 50/1.8 (and either Raynox 250 or Kenko extension tubes) but for food photography I'd opt for the 60/2.8.
    Happy shooting,
  7. Another vote to get a (small) tripod. I would recommend the 50 f/2.5 macro lens, it is superb for your intended use, and it would be the equivalent to a short telephoto in APS-C. The more recent 60 macro is also very good, but might be too long? However, it would give you better separation from the background, and more working distance.
    Another very good lens is the Tokina 35mm macro, same lens as the Pentax 35 Macro.
  8. Others mentioned a tripod, which is sound advice. The food doesn't move, so you can use a tripod, manual focus, and get excellent results from even the cheapest lens like the 50/1.8 or the zoom lens you already have.
    However, you did specifically ask about handheld photography. In that case I would suggest putting the food next to a window to get some daylight! If you really need to take handheld photographs under indoor lighting then the 50/1.8 may help, but note that the more you open it up the narrower the depth of field becomes. You probably don't want just one part of the plate to be in focus. I wouldn't spend the money on a more expensive lens without buying a tripod first.
  9. For food photography, the first lenses that come to mind would be the 60mm 2.8 and the 50mm 2.5 CM.
  10. 45 or 90mm TSE + extension tubes.
  11. You left out the best 50mm lens of all. The 50mm f2.5 compact macro out performs both the 1.4 and 1.8 for sharpness and gives you the added benefit of Macro. It is also about 1/2 the cost of the f1.4. Read comparisons between it and the f1.4. It has become my favorite lens, unless I have to have a different focal length. My f1.4 is used so seldom I've been thinking about selling it.
  12. Personally, I'd skip the new lens (keep the kit lens), and get one or two flashes and learn how to use them. Like most other aspects of photography, what often separates the outstanding shots from the so-so ones is control of the lighting.
  13. The Tilt/shift lenses (45 or 90mm) would be the best choice, but only if you're willing to deal with the learning curve. They will do amazing things, but require techniques that may or may not be beyond you're ability. Obviously, you're the one who has to decide that question.
    Otherwise, one of the macro lenses is an excellent choice. They easily focus within the range you'll need, and are optimized for maximum sharpness at near distances.
    For the commercial shots that I do, not food but in the same size range, I use either a 90mm Tilt/shift or a 100mm Macro. If you're tight on space a shorter macro (50/60mm) or the 45mm Tilt/shift would be fine. Don't be suckered into getting a zoom with a "macro" mode. It's just not the same thing.
    You might also consider one of the Canon macro flash units. Either the MR-24EX or the older MR-14EX would do a good job, although they are pricey.
  14. Just for the record.
    The Plastic Fantastic (EF 50mm f/1.8 mark ii) may look to be more fragile than the EF 50mm f/1.4, but I believe that it may actually be less sensitive to environmental trauma (e.g., drop test).
    I would not worry about its durability in any case. I don't think that variable is significant in this case.
  15. Don't get the 50/1.8. The bokeh of this lens is fine, but the manual focus ring is terrible.
    I suggest Canon 60/2.8, Sigma 70/2.8, or Tamron 90/2.8
  16. Nice blog. Man, you made me hungry.
    I'm sure you know, but just in case, don't forget that your cameras and lenses are business deductions in most parts of the world. Your blog certainly puts your photography expenses into the business usage category.
    A lot of your images seem to be available light, so I'm thinking that going with a body with superior high-ISO performance might be the way to get the speed that you need. With many of your images I'd personally have gone for more DOF, if that were an option. Going with something like a 5D MkII will allow that. Then, just about any L-series lens is going to give you the IQ that you seek.
  17. Very good suggestions guys! Thanks for all the help, It looks like I will have to read more on other lenses suggested specially the 50mm 2.5 macro. BTW can that lens be used for portrait?
  18. The interesting turn of events with food is in the past everything had to be in focus. Often food magazines I shoot for want areas to be soft. Because of this I like to use tilt shift lenses, my fovorite for this type of work is the 90mm. With this lens you can shoot both ways, soft and very sharp.
  19. Raymund,
    I shoot a little food, if I was going to do more I'd get the 45 TS-E and a set of Kenko extension tubes, no question. The TS-E lens is a great tool for creative food shots, it really is a different league from the macro lenses. But even secondhand they are a fair bit more than the 50/60mm lenses.
    But first you need a tripod, seriously, any of the Manfrotto 055 or even the Manfrotto 190 kits would do you fine, and give you a lot more flexibility for your shots.
    If you want a short macro but are not thinking of going full frame any time soon don't think about the 50 macro, get the 60 EF-S Macro. It is better made, focuses better and does 1:1 without an extension tube, and it is a nicer portrait lens to boot.
    Here is a shot I took with the 50mm f1.4 and a 12mm extension tube, it was natural light and I used a tripod.
  20. Don't be suckered into getting a zoom with a "macro" mode. It's just not the same thing.​
    I dunno, a zoom lens plus an extension tube might work well. You don't need true 1:1 macro for food photography. As long as you can get to say 1:5 magnification you'll be fine. The zoom lens won't be as sharp as a fix-focal macro lens but stopped down to f/11 you won't see much difference - especially not for pictures shown on a website.
  21. One of my main macro lenses is my 70-200mm f/4L IS combined with a 1.4x TC and a 25mm ET. The L-series zooms can be very sharp (Canon's 70-200mm Ls are all stellar) and, don't forget, modern softwares, like Capture One and Lightroom and DxO Optics Pro, correct for CA, geometric distortion, softness, etc. at every aperture and every focal length of the better zooms.
    Pay attention to minimum focus distance when selecting a multi-purpose zoom lens. If you can get a relatively short focus distance and then combine that lens with a TC and and ET, you've got a VERY effective macro.
    I'll reiterate my suggestion to go for a camera body with great high-ISO performance, like the 5D MkII, so that you can control aperture so that DOF can either be shallow or deep, as desired. Also, on such a camera, f/4 is plenty fast for almost all available light shooting.

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