Best Lens for Food Photography

Best Lens for Food Photography

Looking for the best lens for food photography but can’t choose between a fixed and zoom one? Read more about how much mm is enough to take high-quality and “yummy” food photography even at home.

best lens for food photography

What Is the Best Lens for Food Photography?

Not all lenses are suitable for food photography. It depends on the effect you are interested in and what are your final goals.

top 3 best lenses for food photography

It can be a flat lay food photo for your Instagram business page or a restaurant’s lifestyle photo of the staff.

However, each food photographer is looking for the lens which will capture the food from its best side. I have tested many lenses and chosen 12 top ones suitable for food photography.

Best Lenses for Food Photography in 2019:

If your image requires much space, a telephoto lens is your variant. The wide-angle lens allows shooting from the above or do flat-lay.


1. Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM

canon ef 100mm macro usm lens for food photo View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Great photo quality
  • IF focus system
  • Accurate AF
  • Excellent quality/price ratio
Cons-
  • Haven’t been found
 

The 100mm lens gives minimal distortions, saves food proportions and their location in the space. If you often shoot from above, it is not your variant. If the composition consists of more than one plate, you will have to climb very high.

It is a macro lens so you may easily take close-ups. Each macro food photographer knows that it is important to focus very close to the subject and this optics provides such an opportunity (the minimal focal length is equal to 31 cm).

Canon 100mm for food photography Photo by Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM

However, it is not convenient to work with it in small rooms. You often have to step away for a considerable distance from the shooting object.

The 100mm lens gives light vignette but you may correct it in Lightroom using the Lens Correction Profile.


2. Sony 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS

sony 90mm macro lens for food photo View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Blogger-friendly lens
  • Universal
  • Quick and accurate AF
  • Easy to use
  • Integrated Optical Steady Shot stabilization
Cons-
  • “Focus-By-Wire” technology falls behind traditional manual focusing
  • Limited depth-of-field functions
 

The Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS allows shooting with a maximal scale 1:1. The minimal focal distance is 28 .cm, which is quite a standard value for a 90mm lens. During macro shooting in this position, the macro focus is the slowest but it is always accurate.

I tested the lens in the studio and it is ideal for indoor food photography. You may easily take pictures of small objects, and while shooting big ones, you take macro shots as well as capture tiny details.

Sony 90mm for food photography Photo by Sony 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS

The sharpness of the food lens is impressive. You will be already pleased with the sharpness on the aperture f/2.8.

Starting with f/4.0, the image becomes sharp across the entire field. If you dream of a blade-sharp picture, it will be an ideal variant.


3. Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

canon 50mm usm lens for food photo View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Shallow depth of field
  • Background blur for poor lighting conditions
  • Cheap
  • High-quality picture quality
Cons-
  • Rather slow AF in comparison with ring-USM-based lenses
 

First of all, this lens is used to take pictures of food from the top. For example, if the composition is on the table, you may shoot it from above, simply using the chair.

It is convenient since you don’t have to climb somewhere (like with 100 mm lens, for instance). Moreover, 50 mm lens for product photography is suitable for shooting at an angle, when the part of an interior should be in the frame.

Canon 50mm for food photography Photo by Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

50 mm lens is not suitable for shooting small compositions at a short distance. In this case, it distorts proportions of a subject and their location in the space.

These optics offer high brightness, the maximum aperture value is 1.4. What does it mean? First of all, you may take pictures which have only a small part in focus. Secondly, you may shoot with hands when there is poor lighting.

Widely open aperture allows saving noise values necessary for frame sharpness and low ISO values.


4. Nikon 60mm f/2.8G AF-S Micro NIKKOR AF ED

Nikon 60mm af-s macro lens for food photo View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Relatively cheap
  • User-friendly
  • Crystal clear, sharp, captures small details
Cons-
  • Restricted sphere of use
 

It is a great macro lens providing ideally clear shots. Moreover, it is really easy to use.

In comparison with 105mm optics (my favorite one), I have to stay at a distance of 2 to 4 feet from the subject to get the shot I have, using a 60mm lens.

Nikon 60mm for food photography Photo by Nikon 60mm f/2.8G AF-S Micro NIKKOR AF ED

So, if the distance is a problem (in case you like macro shooting and close-ups), it will be your new lens. It is an interesting focal length between 50mm and 85mm.

One more reason why I recommend it is that it is very light. Unlike a 105mm lens which weighs 1 pound 12 ounces, 60mm optics is half of this weight (1 pound).


5. Nikon AF-S FX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G ED

Nikon 35mm af-s lens for food photo View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Qualitative device providing great image quality
  • Insensitive to backlighting
  • Comes with a lens bag and sun cap
  • Good price
Cons-
  • No image stabilization
  • Lower sharpness in the corners at full aperture
 

This food photography lens has great compensated frame geometry. Straight lines near the image edges remain straight which is not typical for the wide-angle lens. The optics provide great sharpness in the middle of the frame with an open aperture.

Nikon 35mm for food photography Photo by Nikon AF-S FX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G ED

Autofocus is very fast and sharp. The distance across the whole focal range does not exceed half a second. The minimal focal length is equal to 25 cm from the matrix plane.


6. Canon 24mm f/1.4L

canon 24mm lens for food photo View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Sharp
  • Big f/1.4 aperture
  • Close minimal focal distance
Cons-
  • Some distortions
  • Not for close-up shooting
 

To my mind, it is not the best lens for food photography to shoot stills unless you have a crop sensor camera. Nevertheless, I shoot food and recipe videos with this optics (especially from above). In such a way, I see the food and my hands while cooking the dish.

Canon 24mm for food photography Photo by Canon 24mm f/1.4L

The sharpness of this food photography lens is nice. It’s really sharp and easily captures all the details in the frame and has minimal focal distance. So I can approach the subject as closely as possible and have it in focus.


7. Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8

canon ts-e 90mm lens for food photo View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Minimal chromatic aberration
  • Good frame geometry
  • High-quality assembly
Cons-
  • No autofocus and stabilization
  • Necessity to block all the mechanisms when turning the lens
 

Personally, I like this lens for an artistic effect of axis-tilt. It does not only create a smooth blurring typical for GREEP, but a vignette curved around the focal point.

Speaking about famous Helios-40, the effect is achieved by the imperfection of an optical scheme. In this case, thanks to a tilt of the focal plane, there is a tilt-shift. It means that we easily control the shooting results.

Canon 90mm for food photography Photo by Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8

The turn of a tilt mechanism allows changing the mutual location of tilt and shift sides from the perpendicular to parallel that is for vertical and horizontal shootings. However, it is important to remember about blocking off a shift and tilt when changing the directions.

This lens has a smooth focus ring, which allows an easy finding of a necessary point in the composition.

I recommend switching on magnification while shooting in the Live View Mode to avoid any mistakes. Being unblocked, the axis is not tilted or shifted if you accidentally move the tripod.


8. Nikon PC-E NIKKOR 85mm f/2.8D

Nikon ps-e 85mm lens for food photo View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Tilt and shift axis options
  • Great sharpness in the center starting with an open aperture
  • Macro shooting in the magnification range of 1:2
Cons-
  • No autofocus
  • Smooth picture on the edge of the frame at an open aperture
 

This lens is created for product and food photography. Thanks to tilt and shift options, it is great for creative shootings and is appreciated for flexibility while working with sharpness and background blurring.

Nikon 85mm for food photography Photo by Nikon PC-E NIKKOR 85mm f/2.8D

So, thanks to its special construction, 85mm f/2.8 tilt-shift is indispensable for product shooting which requires flexible control of the size and location of the sharpness.

Ability to correct perspective distortions is necessary for product, architectural, and panoramic shooting as well.


9. Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L

canon 24-70mm lens for food photo View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Constant f/2.8 aperture
  • Decent build quality
Cons-
  • Expensive
  • Rather heavy
  • Slight vignetting at edges
 

This optics is known for its great sharpness. Canon L lenses allow zooming in the subject without moving the camera or a tripod. It is really convenient when you are shooting from above.

However, there is also a drawback concerning this lens. The thing is that when you shoot from above, the weight of the glass case causes unintentional zooming in which may be an advantage as well as disadvantage.

Canon 24-70mm for food photography Photo by Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L

Finally, I recommend buying these optics if shooters are engaged in several photo genres, for example, food photography and weddings, food and travel, etc.


10. Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM

sigma 24-70mm ex dg lens for food photo View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Great brightness
  • Qualitative construction
  • Competitive price
  • Portable
Cons-
  • Corner sharpness is not the best at full aperture
 

In general, it is a good universal zoom lens. Personally, I am not a fan of third lenses but Sigma Company offers decent gadgets and accessories.

Sigma 24-70mm for food photography Photo by Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM

One more peculiarity that should be mentioned is that it weighs almost 1.7 pounds and uses huge light filters with an 82mm diameter. The lens itself is considered a professional one which is proved with ‘EX’ letters (excellent lenses).


11. Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8

Panasonic 12-35mm lens for food photo View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Impressive sharpness, especially in the center
  • Almost no distortion
  • Image stabilization
  • Portable
Cons-
  • Expensive
 

It is an alternative to 24-70mm at a full frame. It is the optics every shooter has to own. No matter whether you are a food photographer or a wedding shooter, this optics is a must-have.

Moreover, it is also suitable both for video and photo shootings. In comparison with lenses for bigger matrixes, according to Macro 4/3 standards, it is quite massive. The manufacturer says that the lenses are covered with a “nano-covering” that removes undesired flares and reflections.

Panasonic 12-35mm for food photography Photo by Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8

Autofocus motors are absolutely noiseless, the lens is sharp at an open aperture. I haven’t noticed visible distortions.

If you need a universal high-aperture lens for all of life's emergencies, 12-35mm f/2.8 is the best variant for today.


12. Olympus MSC ED M. 60mm f/2.8

Olympus msc 60mm lens for food photo View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Affordable price
  • Large magnification rate
  • Fast focusing
  • High sharpness and contrast
Cons-
  • Chromatic aberration
  • Bokeh is not always smooth
 

If you attach these optics to cameras, like Olympus OM-D E-M10, you will get an ideal system for macro shooting, and food photography, in particular. Comparatively small matrix allows not to cover the aperture very much and the magnification range is very big.

The stabilizer is capable of working with long exposures and the lens itself provides the best sharpness at an open aperture.

Olympus 60mm for food photography Photo by Olympus MSC ED M. 60mm f/2.8

I would like to mention that the focus is very fast and the distance range may be manually restricted. It makes the process of using an autofocus very convenient.

Speaking about drawbacks, it’s chromatic aberrations, which sometimes appear at an open aperture. The bokeh is not always smooth.


Top 12 Best Lenses for Food Photography

Image Name Features  
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM
OUR CHOICE
  • Great quality
  • Accurate AF
  • Quality/price ratio
Check Price
Sony 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS
Sony 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS
  • Universal
  • Quick AF
  • Easy to use
Check Price
Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM
Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM
BEST APERTURE
  • Cheap
  • Lightweight
Check Price
Nikon 60mm f/2.8G AF-S Micro NIKKOR AF ED
Nikon 60mm f/2.8G AF-S Micro NIKKOR AF ED
BEST MACRO
  • Relatively cheap
  • User-friendly
Check Price
Nikon AF-S FX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G ED
Nikon AF-S FX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G ED
FOR STILL LIFE
  • Insensitive to backlighting
  • Lens bag and sun cap
Check Price
Canon 24mm f/1.4L
Canon 24mm f/1.4L
FOR BLOGGING
  • Sharp
  • Close min focal distance
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Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8
Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8
BEST TILT-SHIFT
  • Min chromatic aberration
  • Good frame geometry
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Nikon PC-E NIKKOR 85mm f/2.8D
Nikon PC-E NIKKOR 85mm f/2.8D
  • Good price
  • High quality
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Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L
Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L
BEST ZOOM
  • Constant f/2.8 aperture
  • Affordable
Check Price
Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM
Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM
  • Qualitative construction
  • Impressive AF
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Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8
Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8
  • Almost no distortion
  • Image stabilization
Check Price
Olympus MSC ED M. 60mm f/2.8
Olympus MSC ED M. 60mm f/2.8
  • Affordable
  • Fast focusing
Check Price

How to Choose the Best Lens for Food Photography?

First of all, the choice of a lens depends on the shooter’s style and his/her requirement. Perhaps, you may need macro images with high detailization or capture the whole buffet table in one shot. These ideas require different lenses.

Perspective

A wider lens creates a completely different effect than a longer one. To create a beautiful composition with different lenses, you need to try different approaches. Telephoto lenses capture fewer items and focus on the main subject; while you will need more props to complete a background composition using a wide-angle lens.

Working Distance to the Subject

-best-lens-for-canon-80d

Each photographer should consider the distance between the camera and the plate while taking photos of food. Sometimes, it is not convenient for a food stylist to create a composition when the camera is too close to the subject.

For example, they may not be able to see the plate from the same angle and it complicates the task. Of course, it is not a reason to avoid using wide-angle lenses in digital food photography. What I am trying to say is that you should mind this peculiarity while choosing appropriate optics.

Sharpness at a Given Magnification

Don’t forget about the degree of sharpness while choosing a food photography lens. Camera optics has a given magnification rate and sometimes it is difficult to focus on the subjects as close as you want.

Therefore, there are plenty of macro lenses to take perfect images. Every shooter knows that non-macro optics does not guarantee sharp results. Some lenses are quite good but the majority of them are not sharp at all. If you want to check the sharpness of your lens, take several shots.

Personally, I have a favorite lens but the fact is that the best lens does not exist. If you are a beginner, you will probably need a macro lens (something between 50mm and 100 mm is quite suitable). If you are a real pro, you are likely to have both.


Ann Young

Hi there, I'm Ann Young - a photographer, photo retoucher and of course, journalist. Here on FixThePhoto blog you can find all of my reviews, photography and photo editing tips, pricing guides, and photography experiments. read more