Perfecting Food Photography with FUJINON Lenses

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By Nicole S. Young

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.

Macro

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FUJIFILM X-T2 with XF60mmF2.4 R MACRO Lens at 1/7 sec at F4, ISO 200

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.

Wide-Angle (12–24mm)

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FUJIFILM X-T2 with XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS Lens at 1/4 sec at F6.4, ISO 200

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.

Mid-Range (35–75mm)

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FUJIFILM X-T2 with XF35mmF1.4 R Lens at 1/20 sec at F2.8, ISO 200

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)

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FUJIFILM X-T2 with XF90mmF2 R LM WR Lens at 1/9 sec at F4, ISO 200

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.

Telephoto (140mm+)

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FUJIFILM X-T2 with XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR Lens at 1/10 sec at F4, ISO 200

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.

Making room for zooms

Which XF zoom lenses are regulars in your gadget bag – and why?

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You join me in the midst of a fascinating experiment. The kind folk at Fujifilm UK asked me to write a couple of blogs on which lenses you should you use for what subject, but I think that’s been done a few times already. So, as an alternative, I’m using the power of Lightroom to uncover which lenses I use the most and explain why. My last blog, which you can read here was all about my favourite primes, I was somewhat surprised to find which my most popular prime lens choice actually was. This time, I’m turning to my XF zoom options.

If you’re a Lightroom user and fancy trying this experiment yourself, it’s easy enough to do. Just select the Library Module and then in the Library Filter bar at the top, choose Metadata and you’ll be presented with a series of drop down menus that you can further refine. As with the primes, I’ve used a fair few of the XF zooms; all of them, in fact. But Lightroom showed that four stood out more than others and, as with my prime selection, there’s nothing saying that I’m putting the lenses to their optimum uses shooting what I do. From widest up, they were as follows:

1) XF10-24mmF4 R OIS

It’s no surprise that this is on my hot list as it’s such a versatile lens and – in the 10mm setting – reaches extremes that XF primes lenses currently can’t touch. Compact, lightweight and capable of outstandingly good results even in my hands, it’s a go-to lens for landscape and architecture photographers. Naturally, I’ve shot both of these subjects regularly with the XF10-24mm, but I’ve also pressed it into service when I’ve been overseas; it saw a lot of action on the streets of Rome and San Francisco, for example. Some may bemoan the F4 maximum aperture, but the addition of OIS cancels out any drop in light gathering capabilities and it’s often one of the first lenses in my gadget bag.

Find out more about the XF10-24mm lens here. 


2) XF18-55mmF2.8 R LM OIS

Surprised not to see the XF16-55mm? Yes, so was I, but although the wider and faster premium zoom was used, this more modestly sized optic saw many more frames rattled through it. Normally, I’d be reluctant to use a standard zoom lens to capture images, but the quality of this compact optic really is everything it’s cracked up to be. It’s a true all-rounder, too. As images below show, I’ve used it for a range of images from shooting on the street to shots of architecture and the optical image stabiliser gives low light confidence, too. In my opinion. No X Series user should be without this lens.

Find out more about the XF18-55mm lens here. 


3) XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR

The zoom that thinks it’s a prime, the XF50-140mm is a real favourite for me. It can be used for some many different applications and, with the added versatility now offered by the 1.4x and 2x teleconverters, can be used to capture pretty much anything from sport to distant details. Before I did my Lightroom test, I would have thought my shots with this lens would be very portrait heavy but, in reality, I couldn’t have been more wrong – I’ve shot pretty much everything but portraits with it! Time to line up some models and redress the balance!

Find out more about the XF50-140mm lens here. 


4) XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR

Much like the XF90mmF2 R LM WR which has become a recent favourite in prime lens terms, so too has this monster. It’s the lens that X Series users had been crying out for and although the mainstay of the lens’s capabilities are primarily sports and wildlife that I’m hopeless at, I’ve just modified my shooting and tried it on other subjects – including landscapes. Picture quality is tremendous and with the extra power from the compatible teleconverters, I can see why this lens has quickly become a favourite for many. Despite my having the XF16-55mm for longer, the XF100-400mm has seen many more frames!

Find out more about the XF100-400mm lens here. 


So, which one have I used most?

Again, I was a little surprised. I expected it to be the XF10-24mm, but Lightroom told me otherwise confirming the XF18-55mm as my most regularly used zoom. It’s no surprise, it’s a great little lens, but what this exercise does confirm is that my photography is largely working in rather tight parameters, lens-wise. I think I need to branch out a little more and see the world from a slightly wider (and more telephoto) viewpoint.

Why I love: the Fujinon XF16mmF1.4 lens

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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

Kevin Mullins XF16mm

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KevinMullins-Headshot-200x200At 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.quote-right

Click here to see more of Kevin’s work


 Derek Clark – Music

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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!quote-right

Click here to see more of Derek’s work


Ben Cherry – Environmental Photojournalism

A mother watches on as her herd while eating ripe figs.

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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. quote-right

Click here to see more of Ben’s work


Matt Hart – Street

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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.quote-right

Click here to see more of Matt’s work


Racing at walking pace

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As well as shooting trackside and pitlane action, FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) and European Le Mans Series (ELMS) official photo agency Adrenal Media are always looking to provide some very special images from each of the events.

Creative Director and Fujifilm X-Photographer John Rourke invited German race team Proton Competition to bring both of their Porsche 911 RSR 991 race cars to La Source at the recent ELMS weekend at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium to photograph their car using a rig and a Fujifilm X-T2 to capture a shot of the two race cars from an unique vantage point.

Set Up Day
The set up

The rig is a 6 metre carbon fibre four section boom made by UK firm Car Camera Rig that is fixed to the car using high powered suction clamps.

The camera, which is a FUJIFILM X-T2 fitted with the XF10-24mm ultra-wide angle zoom lens, is then fixed in position to the end of the boom. To achieve the correct exposure the camera is fitted with a Formatt Hitech filter system, in this case a Polariser and an ND Grad and then an ND filter to extend the shutter speed to around 10 seconds. This allows Adrenal Media to take images from a position that would not be possible to take when the cars are on track racing.

Set Up Day
X-T2 on the end of the boom

Using a long shutter speed of between 8 to 10 seconds the movement in the shot is achieved at walking pace by team members pushing the cars and the result is an image that makes it look like both Porsches are moving at racing speed.

Set Up Day
Shoot in progress

“We started asking teams to provide us their cars back in May for these special images but this shot with Proton Competition is the first we’ve done with two cars from the same team,” said John Rourke.  “The reason we use the rig is to take images of the cars from a vantage point that would be impossible to do in the real world.”

The shoot continues

“Each shot takes around 20-30 minutes to complete once the rig is attached to the car,” John continued. “The rig itself is lightweight thanks to the carbon fibre construction so it doesn’t take long to put in position, the biggest issue we have is finding a place to attach the suction clamps to the bodywork of the car.  Some cars are wrapped, so the suction clamps don’t have a perfect seal, so we usually do a pre-shoot recce with the team to ensure there are mounting points where the rig can be securely attached to the bodywork of the car.”

“The X-T2 is the perfect camera for this type of shot. The 24mp X-Trans III sensor gives us high resolution images to work with and the tilt screen is a real help when the camera is attached upside down to the end of the boom.”

Set Up Day
X-T2 with tilt screen for the perfect view

“The biggest challenge with shooting with two cars was keeping both Porsches moving at the same speed and we did the shot a few times to make sure we had one that we were all happy with.”

Once an image is selected, it is then edited by John to remove the boom and other elements that shouldn’t be in the final shot.  The result is a dramatic image that highlights the excitement of racing in the European Le Mans Series.

Set Up Day
John creating the final image

Fellow X-Photographer Jeff Carter was on hand with his Fujifilm X-T2 to capture some behind the scenes images of this photoshoot.

The next planned rig shot will be with the Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota TS050 Hybrid LMP1 at Fuji Speedway when the FIA World Endurance Championship visits Japan on 14-16 October.

www.adrenalmedia.com

www.macleanphotographic.co.uk

www.europeanlemanseries.com

www.fiawec.com