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What lens for low-light food photography?
September 22, 2011 11:05 AM   Subscribe

I need a lens for low-light, hand-held, food photography on my Canon 40D. I will be renting the lens so cost is not an issue and prefer only one lens instead of swapping them out. I will be taking pictures in restaurants during actual meals so dishes must be fully framed from the seated position. No tripod, no flashes, no standing up, no trickery. What would you recommend?
posted by sygyzy to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Canon 50 1.4 or 1.2. Or the macro 50mm. If you need something wider then the 35 1.4.
posted by WickedPissah at 11:11 AM on September 22, 2011


I'd go with the 35 1.4L--the 40D is a crop body, so it will "feel" like a 50mm lens. An actual 50mm lens will feel like 85mm, which is too long for taking photos seated at a restaurant.

I own the 35 1.4L and it is a hell of a lens.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:15 AM on September 22, 2011


Ditto'ing the 35mm f1.4L. Spectacular lens. Bought it a few months ago, and wish now I hadn't waited so long.
posted by strega_bianca at 11:34 AM on September 22, 2011


For those recommending the 35mm f1.4L, would you pick that over the 30mm offerings? One concern I have is the minimum focus distance. As you can imagine, it's often difficult to increase the distance between the lens and a dish.
posted by sygyzy at 11:37 AM on September 22, 2011


If cost is a concern, spring for a Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EFS. Takes great shots on crop-sensor cameras, and it's only about 400 bucks.

I assume by asking this you are more of an advanced amateur, rather than full on pro, so L lenses probably aren't necessary.

Really, a 50 f/1.8 would handle this just fine.
posted by hamandcheese at 11:39 AM on September 22, 2011


As you can imagine, it's often difficult to increase the distance between the lens and a dish.
posted by sygyzy at 11:37 AM on September 22 [+] [!]


Uh... lean back a bit? Photographing stationary food means you can always increase the distance. That said, yes, each of these lenses will focus close enough for your needs.

For cred:

I used the Sigma 30 for years, before moving to all full-frame cameras. It is excellent.

I now use the 35L, 24L, and Sigma's 50mm 1.4 on a regular basis. I still recommend the Sigma 30mm EFS for your purposes. Or the 50 1.8...

Good luck!
posted by hamandcheese at 11:43 AM on September 22, 2011


Cost isn't a concern. I am renting the lens for a week. I am an advanced amateur and not a pro. I own a 50mm 1.8.
posted by sygyzy at 11:43 AM on September 22, 2011


Thanks for your help everyone! I will try my hand at the 35mm 1.4L!
posted by sygyzy at 11:45 AM on September 22, 2011


The problem you may face with the 35mm 1.4 is that when wide open, the depth of field is so low that you can't get both the dish and the diner in focus. Be aware of that when you're shooting and do a few practice sessions first in the light that will be present in the restaruant; you might not see the subtle focus problems on the camera's screen.

You might instead look at something like like the 17-35 f/2.8 L zoom, which will give you some ability to control your framing without moving back and forth. f/2.8 should be more than bright enough since you'll have to have the aperture dialed down a bit for depth of focus anyway.
posted by SpecialK at 1:01 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


(And I may have misunderstood what you're shooting, but the point about depth of field still stands. If it's just the dishes themselves, then the 35mm f1.4 is the correct lens to choose.)
posted by SpecialK at 1:02 PM on September 22, 2011


17-55 2.8/IS may also be an option; you trade two stops of light from the 30/1.4 or 35/1.4 for three-stop image stabilization (I can hand-hold down to about 1/10th of a second) and flexibility in framing.
posted by heeeraldo at 2:13 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


If the minimum focusing distance is too large, a $10 extension tube solves that problem. You'll lose infinity focus when it's on, but as long as your plate is still in front of you, no problems there.
posted by Brian Puccio at 4:22 PM on September 22, 2011


I'd use the 50/1.8 you currently have, and either lean back or stand up for the shots.
posted by imjustsaying at 7:40 PM on September 22, 2011


There are a few examples of what you can do with in-restaurant food photography with the 35 1.4L here, the food porn group on Flickr (not all the linked photos are great, but some are quite nice). I have a couple in that group (that don't seem to have come up on this search)--it is a great lens for this.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:50 AM on September 23, 2011


On a crop sensor, you won't have as small a depth of field as you would if you were using a full 35mm-sized sensor such as on the 5d.

And since you said you'll be taking pictures during actual meals, it sounds like you won't have much freedom to move around. It's about equivalent to a 50mm on that camera, and I wouldn't use a 50mm to photograph something on a table in front of me. To test, I just grabbed my camera with a 50, and I couldn't get the full width of my laptop keyboard in the frame without moving my seat back significantly. I think you want a 35mm-equivalent lens, which is probably a 24mm on the 40d.

The other thing to think about with the fancy, fast L lenses is that they're quite a bit heavier than most other lenses. They have real glass and lots of it, and that makes them heavy.
posted by msbrauer at 8:56 AM on September 23, 2011


On a crop sensor, you won't have as small a depth of field as you would if you were using a full 35mm-sized sensor such as on the 5d.

Seconding this. Bigtime! I sometimes use a Sigma 30mm f/1.4 on my 20D (same sensor dimensions as your 40D) and even wide open, the depth of field is pretty darn large.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 11:48 AM on September 23, 2011


Canon 24-70 L f/2.8
posted by madman at 12:13 PM on October 24, 2011


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