One of the most common questions I receive from new photographers is which lens to use when photographing food. When choosing gear there is never a correct choice; it all boils down to the type and size of the food, your workspace and setup, the style you hope to achieve, along with how you want your final image will look. Each lens will have advantages, and even disadvantages, depending on your setup. Here is a list of a variety of lenses, along with why you might choose each type of lens for food photography.
A macro lens is an obvious choice for photographing food. You can get really close to the food to highlight certain elements, and also easily photograph and fill the frame with small items, like berries or tiny bites of food. Depending on the camera you use, macro lenses come in different ranges of focal lengths.
Keep in mind that a macro lens is not always necessary to photograph food. With full-frame cameras it is sometimes necessary to use a macro-capable lens in order to get close enough and fill the frame. And, in some cases, getting too close to your dish may not be the best way to photograph it. With crop-frame cameras, such as with the FUJIFILM X-T2 used for this photo, a macro lens is not always a requirement. Because of the crop factor there is the perception that the camera is closer to the subject, and so a macro lens is only a real necessity when you want to get really close and fill the frame with small items.
In most cases a wide lens will be best for overhead setups. The space I use to photograph food in my home is too small for a wide-angle lens to be used without including other elements, such as the window or reflectors. Instead I reserve the wider focal lengths for overhead shots.
A mid-range lens, especially one that has a close focusing distance, can be a good option for food in any environment. I like to use this type of lens when I know I will want to photograph my dinner while traveling (for example). It is long enough to compress and blur the background, but narrow enough to not include too wide of an angle of view. I can also still sit quite close to the food; with a longer lens I need to move back a few feet, which can be difficult when sitting at a dinner table.
Medium Telephoto (90–120mm)
The medium telephoto lens, also known as a good range for portraits, is also a great focal length range for food photographs. One of my favorites is the FUJINON XF90mmF2 R LM WR; I can get in close to the subject, and also compress and blur the background quite well.
When you have a lot of space to work in and really want to compress and blur your background, then a telephoto lens might be a good option for you. This type of lens will typically work well with crop-frame cameras, which is great news for Fujifilm users! On full-frame cameras, however, you may find that the focal length will not allow you to get close enough to the subject to get it in focus. However even with this setup (a small item of food) I was unable to get a tight shot of the bruschetta with my FUJIFILM X-T2 because of the limited focusing distance, but with a larger dish this lens might work well.
We asked a few of our X-Photographers why they love the widest of our super-fast aperture prime lenses, the FUJINON XF16mm F1.4 R WR. Here is what they said..
Kevin Mullins – Reportage Weddings
At first I wasn’t sure if I would be attracted to the 24mm full frame focal length having tried that several times in my Canon days. However, as soon as I got the 16mm I just knew it was going to be a flyer. This lens is PIN sharp wide open, focuses incredibly quick and works so well with the continuous shooting mode of on the X-Series. It gives that extra width when shooting in tight areas at weddings and is perfect for shots such as the recessional and really close up but powerful images of the confetti throwing etc.
I love the 16mm f1.4! It’s a surprisingly versatile lens that is equally at home shooting portraits as it is landscapes. The X-Series lenses are all fantastic, but I would say the 16mm f1.4 has something extra special. I can’t really put my finger on it, but there is just something magical about it. There’s a cinematic quality, an epic look, yet a sense of real intimacy when working in close. I like to work with two bodies at a time and the 16mm paired with a 35mm or 56mm is an amazing combo that gets any job done, no matter how low the light!
Stuck in dark, hot conditions with F2.8 being on the borderline of usability, even with high ISOs, the XF16mm offers a popular standard focal length with a wide aperture range that makes it surprisingly versatile. Though you can stop this down for a larger depth of field, many want to use this at F1.4 or there abouts. A very close minimum focusing distance and beautiful out of focus rendering make this a superb lens for placing your subject within an environment but keeping the viewer focused on the subject thanks to that narrow depth of field.
This is lens is so sharp and so fast it’s unbelievable, I carry it with me at all times to get me out of trouble in low light conditions. I used to use a 24mm on my old film camera for Street when I was shooting wide, but now I use the XF16mm. It really comes into its own on busy city streets as it allows me to get in close but also grab lots of other detail in the background. I love the lack of distortion when shooting in cities with lots of vertical & horizontal lines.
I began using Fuji cameras at the beginning of 2013. I had begun my photographic career in the days of film, primarily working as a studio fashion and portrait photographer. Through a lot of the time of digital I had been raising a family and working on fine art projects using film but in 2013 I decided it was time to get a really great new digital camera. The Fujis were suggested to me and I just felt comfortable with them straight away- not least because of the familiar velvia and provia settings. Initially I got a X-E1 and did so much work with that that that I later got an X-T1 as well. I feel that much of the work I have done over the last two years has happened because I am so comfortable with these cameras.
Recently I’ve been trying out the Fuji XF16-55mm f/2.8. My XF18-55mm f/2.8-4 has seen 2 years of near daily use since I got my first Fuji camera, and compared with it, the 16-55/2.8 is a lot bigger lens, quite a lot heavier, and I wondered if the extra 2mm and constant 2.8 aperture could make that much difference.
I really love this lens.
I am a photographer not a writer so the best way to explain it is probably by showing some of the pictures I have taken with the lens.
On VJ day 70th anniversary after photographing the Queen arriving at the Church service, using a longer lens, I had switched back to the 16-55 as the Royal car drove past- given the heightened security it was not made clear which route she would be driving so I was lucky she drove past.
The image on the left is shot at 16mm and then zoomed in to 38mm for the shot on the right. The reflection on her face is a bit unfortunate but I love the way her hand is rested on Philip’s knee.
Last year there was a lot of focus on the Labour party and I covered a bit of this with the 16-55. L-R, Mr Corbyn arriving at the announcement of the Leadership Election, Yvette Cooper in a lift on the way to make a speech and Gordon Brown giving the speech where he walked over a mile, a real test of the camera’s autofocus speed as he literally didn’t stand still.
Like most photographers I see no reason to leave the camera at home if I go away for the weekend so I had the Fuji with me when I went to Weston-Super-Mare to visit Dismaland. It was one of the least dismal days of the year, and gave me the chance to test the lens for landscape shots.
I also tested out the low light action with left: Fat Boy Slim and right: Run The Jewels
One job which is always a welcome break from politicians is the London Zoo photocall. In August they weigh the animals and invite news photographer’s along to record it. This tiny frog was a nice test of the close up capabilities of the 16-55.
I quite often photograph celebrities, often campaigning and this month has seen its fair share with Charlotte Church and Emma Thompson for Greenpeace and Brian May for Badgers
I also covered the AIM Independent music awards with FKA Twigs and Michael Eavis
All in all the 16-55mm has dealt with everything I’ve needed it to do, I quickly got used to the extra weight and I would recommend it to anyone.
Our X-Photographer “Why I love” XF lens series continues with our super sharp, super fast aperture prime lens, the FUJINON XF56mm F1.2 R.
Kevin Mullins – Reportage Weddings
Most wedding photographers want to be able to separate their subjects from the background at some point during the day and the amazingly fast 1.2 aperture of the 56mm (85mm full frame equivalent) allows me to do that. Even when I’m shooting fast moving subjects, such as a confetti throw, I will sometimes want to offer a luscious depth of field and there is no other lens that offers that f1.2 aperture that allows me to do that right now. This lens, along with the 23mm lenses are my goto lenses for every single wedding I shoot.
The super fast aperture of f1.2 and the full frame equivalent of 85mm make this lens an essential part of my kit. It doesn’t matter if I’m shooting a documentary wedding, a jazz artist in a dimly lit room or a well lit portrait, the 56mm lens has a unique look and produces some of the best shallow depth of field creaminess of any lens I’ve ever used. Like all the Fuji XF lenses, the 56mm is also razor sharp and it beats the best of the high end 85mm lenses from the other big manufacturers. I haven’t tried the 90mm f2 yet, but it looks like that too will be an amazing portrait lens.
Many photographers came to the X-Series because of this lens. Offering F1.2 at 85mm equiv. focal length in a compact package that happens to be one of the fastest focusing lenses in the range… The F1.2 effect has so many benefits, from striking portraits to being invaluable in low light conditions. The later is particularly helpful for me. In tropical rainforests you don’t often see wildlife from a far but instead stumble across it. Here the F1.2 helped to capture this baby elephant dozing, ISO1600 F1.2 1/120sec. If this were with a F2.8 lens I would have been shooting at 1/30sec, risking motion blur as I tried to contain my excitement.
The 56mm F1.2 is my most used lens, it’s almost always the first lens I reach for on every shoot. I love the narrow depth of field and the super fast focusing. As a landscape photographer people are surprised when I say that I often shoot with the lens quite wide open, but for my style of long exposures where I’m trying to create a sense of infinite space the wide aperture looses the background nicely obscuring details I don’t need in the image.
When Fuji released this lens (75-210mm DSLR Equivalent), my intrigue questioned whether this would be an equal to the 70-200mm F2.8L series I had used on my DSLR; would the optics be as good? After trying it I could only describe the results in 2 words ‘Blown away’; the image quality was absolutely outstanding. I use this lens a lot in the studio for its narrower angle of view and the compression it applies to the depth of my images. The focusing & sharpness of this lens, even when hand held is amazing!… I had no need to question this lens, it more than equaled my DSLR equivalent and it’s much lighter too.
It’s obviously a little bigger than the other Fujinon lenses, but who cares when it delivers truly incredible results like it does.
I’ve shot on Fuji for almost two years now, but it was the release of the 50-140mm lens that really sealed the deal for me. Shooting fast equestrian sports needs a fast, longer lens – whether you are looking to capture pin sharp action pictures, or deliberately looking to include creative movement with interesting bokeh.
Even in low light the wide aperture, teamed with the brilliant OIS means I can still hand hold at slower shutter speeds. Also, shooting horses, whether on the polo field or out in the wild, means one thing – rain and mud! The X-T1 body with the 50-140mm gives me a robust weather sealed system I can take anywhere.
I shoot prime lenses most of the time, but as my primes top out at 56mm (85mm in old money), I often need the reach and speed of the 50-140mm f2.8 for music photography (especially for stage work). With a full frame equivalent of 75-210mm, this is the the classic workhorse zoom that has the beautiful look of a full frame 70-200mm f2.8. Put it together with the 16-55mm f2.8 and you have the ultimate fast twin lens zoom setup that can cover just about any type of event. The OIS is essential on a lens of this size and it does an amazing job, even allowing me to shoot handheld at 1/15th sec while zoomed all the way in.
This is strapped to the front of one of my X-T1s at all times. Sharp, fast and built to withstand some strong abuse, the XF50-140mm is designed for those who need a lens to rely on and not to let them down. With beautiful bokeh and tack sharp wide open, this F2.8 zoom has such a useful focal range that it is in the kit bag of nearly all working X-Photographers. The autofocus is able to track moving animals and it has turned out to be the game changer for many of my recent wildlife encounters.
I love to shoot prime lenses but at events and festivals you just cant get close enough to your subjects due to the crowed density, so the next best lens to a fast prime is a fast Zoom and the 50-140mm lens is just stunning. I have used top of the range glass from all the other big names when I used to use DSLR’s but nothing compares to the sharpness of this 75-210mm equivalent. What makes it even better is I can shoot with this lens all day and still not have shoulder and neck ache. It gives me beautiful out of focus areas, pin sharp subjects and the image stabilisation comes in to its own when the light drops.
The XF50-140 is a real workhorse of a lens and without doubt, a lens I am loathed to leave behind.
The incredible optics deliver superb definition and contrast throughout the entire aperture range. But for me it is not the technical specifications that make this lens worthy of the plaudits it receives across the web and throughout the photographic world.
It is the fact that in a cluttered world, I can isolate my subjects, drawing attention to them by shooting with the aperture wide open, deliver exceptional details, stunning candid portraits and most of all dramatic landscapes that have impact & power over the grace of a wide-angled image.
Shooting landscapes with a telephoto lens is a different discipline but it is one worth persevering with & utilising every mm of focal length this stunning lens offers you.
It’s ideal for shooting panoramas and the tripod mount gives it an incredibly stable base for shooting long exposures without a hint of camera shake – but for those who only shoot hand held the image stabilisation is second to none.
In short, if you want to add one zoom lens to your bag, this is the one – it is worth every penny and will never let you down.
When this lens was created there was nothing else much like it in the range. And to date, it is still the finest long lens in the line up. Tack sharp from 50mm to 140mm – this constant f2.8 lens is fast enough & stabilised enough for you to think less and shoot more. Combined with the most recent updates leaves this lens as one of the most reliable lenses – regardless of genre or type of photography.
It’s packed full of all the latest and greatest Fujifilm tech, such as nano Gi coating, LMO (corrects for diffraction), HTEBC Coating (ensuring ghosting and flare are controlled), five ED lens elements, one Super ED lens, 23 glass elements in 16 groups and then seven rounded aperture blades to create a smooth, circular bokeh. It has a massive 5.0 stop stabilisation too. Internal barrel movements combined with large rubber grips give this lens a wonderful sense of balance whilst also feeling very natural to hold.
In short, this lens is one of the most vital items in my kit bag alongside the 56mm APD & 16-55mm lens. The real world interpretation of the technology being used in this lens is simply that it does what you would expect it to as a working professional photographer. Combine this with the focus tracking in the X-T1 and you can confidentially take on any genre of photography. Whether it be a fashion catwalk, motorsports or even wildlife photography knowing you can get the shots you are looking for, every time.
The best thing about the CP+ show last month was getting access to people I wouldn’t normally have access to. One individual I was particularly excited about meeting and interviewing was Mr Soga – the man behind arguably the best part of the Fujifilm X system – the lenses.
Ok, so are you responsible for the lens roadmap in general and final signoff to which lenses are added?
Yes, I am.
Starting with the newest lens to hit the streets, what was the overall goal when creating the XF16-55mm lens?
Our goal was simply to achieve the best image quality possible.
And what sort of photographer would you see using this lens?
The main images we expect to see shot with this lens are landscapes, portraits and fashion images.
Is there a specific reason why the lens does not have optical image stabilisation (OIS)?
Yes, there is a trade off relationship between OIS and image quality.
Lens shift caused by OIS can sometimes be seen in this focal length, 24mm-84mm (35mm equiv.). Since we aimed to develop our best flapship zoom, we have prioritised image quality and decided not to employ OIS for this lens.
Edit: added more information
OIS needs to move the lens inside to compensate for camera shake and as a result can cause loss of resolution in the edges of the image.
In long zoom lens such as the XF50-140mmF2.8, the angle of view is narrow enough to not show this negative effect of OIS in the edges.
However, the angle of view of the XF16-55mm, when set to the widest setting, is large enough for OIS to affect resolution at the edge of the image.
Considering this trade-off, because we wanted this zoom lens to start wide at 16mm and F2.8, and we wanted to best edge-to-edge quality throughout the entire zoom range, we decided to not employ OIS.
A question I’ve been asked a lot: was there a reason for the focal length overlap between the XF16-55mm and the XF50-140mm lenses?
We planned this product to be very useful lens for both landscape shooting and portrait shooting. 24mm (35mm equiv.) is good for landscape shooting. 84mm (35mm equiv.) is good for portrait shooting. We consider to include both focal length when developed.
Moving on to the products in the recent roadmap update, this new XF35mm F2 is a very interesting product. Is it aimed as a step up lens for an XC zoom user or would this be for the high-end Street & Reportage photographers?
This lens is aimed towards the professional or serious amateur photographer that wants to increase the mobility and speed of their photography. With the original XF35mm f1.4 lens, its speed was not as efficient due to its many lens elements moving together.
So this new lens would have increased focusing speed?
Yes that’s correct. We wanted to make a lens that could be the next step for a photographer who already knows and loves the quality of the XF lenses. We think of this lens as a mobility lens due to its clever design.
I understand that the newly announced XF1.4x tele-converter is not compatible with all of the existing lenses. Is there a reason for this?
Due the ergonomics of the converter, it physically will not allow other lenses to attach.
Are there plans to create other sizes? For example a 1.6x or 2x?
This is very much a possibility, we may create a 2x converter in the future although this has not been confirmed.
Do you know what the aperture options are for the XF100-400mm?