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KerinF

Preferred lens for product / food photography (Canon)?

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I currently have a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM lens which I use for a lot for still-life / food photography with my Canon 6D.  I absolutely adore the lens, but in the (small) space I have available for a home studio, I sometimes find I can't get far enough back (or above) to get all I want in frame.  I am thinking of getting another prime lens to complement the macro, which will work well for a bit wider views.

 

I also have the EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM and EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM which I use for general purpose / outdoors photography.  Sometimes I use them for still-life / food, but never feel they are quite as pin-sharp as the macro lens. With overhead shots, frustratingly, the 24-105 zoom also sometimes rotates.

 

As a budget option, I am toying with getting Canon's cheap and cheerful "nifty 50" given I have read that it is very sharp.  I am less concerned about how robust it is, since it would really just be used indoors on a tripod.  Any thoughts on this lens?  Is it false economy and will I just regret not buying the EF 50mm f/1.2L USM?

 

I have also been considering that instead, it might be worth getting a tilt-shift lens (e.g. TS-E 90mm f/2.8) since it gives the versatility of both architectural and product photography.  I've never worked with a tilt-shift lens before, though, so uncertain of the relative advantage (and the extent of learning curve) over "normal" lenses.  Any thoughts on using tilt-shift for product photography?

 

Any other views on favourite lenses people are happy to share?

 

 

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Nifty fifty is the best €90 I ever spent ;)

 

Phil

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I still drag out my Canon 50mm f2.5 Compact macro when I'm photographing the jewelry and other art work my wife creates.  It's sharp corner to corner, goes to half life size for close ups, comparatively cheap, and is more robust than the flimsy 'nifty 50'.  There's some good used bargains around.

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Whilst I'm now a Nikon shooter, I have owned much of this kit on Canon, and have in my time had all of them on Nikon.

 

It really depends on your budget.

 

The 50mm is a cheap option, sharp on the 1.8-1.2 versions and realistically under controlled studio conditions and assuming you are not shooting at wider than f1.8 then you'll see little difference between the £80 version and the £1000 version. Bokeh on the f1.4 and f1.2 is smoother due to an increased number of aperture blades. Contrast straight out of camera is better on the f1.2L but given you are in studio conditions and will post-produce not critical. 

 

I wouldn't recommend the 90mm TSE as it is too close to your 100mm macro. The 45mm might well be an option. Again more expensive than most of the 50mm primes you can very occasionally pick these up 2nd hand. 

 

The TSE can be used as a standard prime by locking it down in a central position, and is normally a very sharp lens, but the benefit you will additionally gain is being able to tilt and shift. Critically placing the plane of focus in the image different to that you get with a standard lens. Very useful to get larger depth of field at a wider aperture (less risk of loss of sharpness due to diffraction), or to creatively highlight the hero aspect of the shot. All TSE lenses are manual focus though..... and tilt/shifting hand-held is a challenging skill. Tripod usage only takes a short while to get used to, but as is typical much harder to become expert at making best use of the technique in your images.

 

You could also get your 24-105 checked for sharpness, and serviced to reduce the issue of zoom creep which you really shouldn't get on this lens - it might indicate worn parts. Certainly Penny De Los Santos is a big fan of the 24-105 for her food images.

Edited by Mike@Meonshore

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Presume that you are familiar with image stacking to get a deeper focus zone as an alternative to an expensive tilt lens?

 

No issues with my battle scarred 24-105.

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I use my 90 TSE for the vast majority of my still life/product photography/food shots. It's a great lens and ideal for this type of work, probably my favourite lens I've ever owned and will never be sold (hopefully). It's not expensive in the sense that it will last for ever and produces fantastic results...

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I'm afraid zoom creep on the 24-105 is a common (and probably insurmountable) problem. I've had mine "repaired" by Canon specialists twice & it still happens. My solution is a 1cm wide charity band around the zoom ring. Works like magic. The lens is superb though, but I've not used it to shoot food.

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Let me point out that you are not buying a pair of socks, Kerin; one size does not fit all. There are many ways of approaching tabletop and food photography.

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90mm TSE is just about the only lens I use for food and product these days.  I swapped from the 100mm f2.8  about a year ago, the difference is amazing, both in terms of quality and usability. The tilt is something I frequently use to gain increased dof - it really doesn't take much getting used to, you will be doing this type of work on a tripod anyway. I loved this lens so much I bought the 24mm TSEII for architectural work!

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Thanks for all the responses everyone! I'm sorry for not replying earlier, have been offline for a couple of days. I think I might hire a TSE lens for a couple of days to play around with, before making any decisions. I think it opens up a range of fresh creative possibilities.

In an ideal world, i would happily buy up all the lenses (or socks!?) mentioned, but not in my budget right now.

Great tip with the charity band around the 24-105mm for overhead shots, i do still very much like this lens, amd it does produce pretty good results (well, i have never had a QA fail from it).

I have been playing around with stacking a bit, but find it involves quite a bit of post-processing work. For the (relative) small returns on time invested, though, i tend not to use it often.

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Another way to ask this is, "What is the most pleasing focal length for tabletop?"

 

Some consider the diagonal of the film or sensor to be the right focal length for a "normal" lens. Back when I used to shoot with 4x5 I liked the 210mm Schneider best for food and products, considering its focal length of 1.4x the diagonal to be most pleasing.

 

For full-frame 35mm, the diagonal is 43mm and 1.4x is around 60mm. Of course, many shots call for wider or longer lenses and tastes vary. If I were shooting with a Canon 6D, I'd probably look at their 60mm macro.

 

Since I'm using Fuji-X, I plan to get a Kipon tilt-shift adapter to go with a 40-50mm lens as a complement to the Novoflex bellows with 50mm Rodenstock Rodagon that I use for close work.

Edited by DDoug
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