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Shot by Crispcontrasts for Lewin Terrace on a Nikon D800 with a 105mm AF-S Micro-Nikkor f/2.8 VR

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The Many Lenses of Food Photography

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Photographers have always found pride in their equipment, from large aperture lenses for the wedding folks to high fps bodies and long lenses for the sports photographer.

For us food photographers, we are not too enamoured by large apertures, nor fast focusing speeds, not even Vibration Reduction, VR in Nikon’s parlence ( here’s a good article by Ken Rockwell on Vibration Reduction if it does interest you).

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At Crispcontrasts, we predominantly use with Nikon equipment on-location, and a Hasselblad/Phase One/ Sinar combination in the studio. We’ve found this combination to work the best from the last decade of food and product photography.

Here are the work horses, the AF-S Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 G VR and the AF-s Micro-Nikkor 60mm f/2.8G.

 

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These were pulled out of the location bag for this photo, as you can see, they are pretty grimy with much of the gold print rubbed off, but they work all day everyday. We’ve owned almost every generation of these pair of lenses and the current generations are undoubtedly the best.

They are a joy to use because of the quick and quiet AF motors, bright apertures and very good ergonmics when it comes to shooting at difficult anges. Nikon has only made lenses sharper as they are released, to the point that we are skeptical if it is all just optics, or if newer camera bodies are able to recognise N coated lenses and have their contrasts and sharpness boosted a tad in RAW.

When I started out photography, one of the first few lenses i got my hands on was a AIS Micro-Nikkor 55mm f/2.8 (here’s some history of the lens) that was completely battered. It was an awesome lens none the less, and a good buddy Tim  @tim.cam.sg still uses this lens till today. Photos of 55mm lenses circa 2007.

I did go a bit overboard, continued to buy another 4 copies and an matching extension tube, only to sell all of them off to make way for an AFD 60mm f/2.8

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What do we look for in a lens for food photography?

Any lens can be used for food photography, but here’s a quick checklist to make your life easier when you go hunting.

  • Close Focus – Something that focuses to at least 25cm and 1:4 magnification, we’ve gotten away with using the casual pancake 35mm with reasonable results.
  • Manual Focus – Manual Focus is everything when it comes to close up photography, too many lenses these days use a electronic focus ring, eg. AF-P lenses, Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC, etc. This makes it so much harder to bring objects into focus.
  • Chromatic Aberration – The phenomenon that causes this pink/purple fringe on the edge of brightly lit subjects at large aperture. A lot of lenses suffer from pretty bad CA wide open, and we would avoid using these as the CA is very cumbersome, though not impossible to remove.
  • Flare Resistance – Flare is rarely an issue when shooting with natural light, but with flash, you will start to notice that a lot of lenses are not sufficiently flare resistant, nor have the facility to attach a hood that does.

 

One of the lenses that would surprise you is the kit lens that came with the D800, the Nikon AF-S 24-120mm f/4G VR (See DXOmark’s Review here). We’ve used this lens extensively when shooting products because of the flexibility it provides when trying to frame large items.

 

We would love to hear from you about the lenses you like to use for food photography!

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