The 10 Best Lenses for Food Photography (in 2021)
Struggling to find the best lens for food photography? You’re not alone. Food photography is an expansive genre, and picking the right lens depends on a range of factors.
After all, you might shoot in a kitchen or a controlled studio setting, you might do wide-angle food photography, or you might like extreme close-ups. And each scenario requires a completely different set of lens features!
That’s where this article comes in handy. I’m going to share my favorite 10 lenses for photographing food, including options for all major brands and at every price point. By the time you’re finished reading, you’ll know which lens is right for you!
Let’s dive right in, starting with my number one pick…
1. Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM
If you use a cropped-sensor Canon DSLR, you’ll need an EF-S lens, ideally one with close-focusing capabilities and a midrange focal length; the Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 is the perfect choice.
Thanks to the 1.6x Canon APS-C crop factor, you’ll get a nice 96mm focal length equivalent – long enough to prevent any wide-angle distortion, but not so zoomed-in as to become unwieldy, especially when photographing table-top compositions.
As a macro lens, the 60mm f/2.8 is capable of magnifying small subjects to life-size, so you can emphasize food intricacies and highlight every tiny detail.
The f/2.8 maximum aperture offers enough light to shoot handheld in good light, and it’s easy to create a blurred background that’ll make your hero ingredient pop.
Plus, the lens is light and compact, so you can work comfortably in any kitchen or studio.
2. Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM
If you’re a full-frame Canon shooter, then check out the 100mm f/2.8L, which promises astonishingly sharp images in almost any situation.
The optics are incredible, and build quality is exactly what you’d expect from a Canon “L” (luxury!) lens. You can focus down to 1:1, which makes for beautiful detail shots, or you can take a step back to capture photos that show the food in context.
The wide f/2.8 aperture allows you to shoot handheld in low-light situations, and thanks to Canon’s image stabilization technology, you can safely work at ultra-slow shutter speeds. The lens also separates the subject from the background with beautiful bokeh.
Yes, the 100mm f/2.8L is a bit expensive, but for the serious food photographer, it’s absolutely worth a look. On the other hand, if the L version is a little out of your budget, check out the “standard” Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM. It might not be the luxury version, but it still delivers amazing food photographs (and for a much more affordable price).
3. Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G
A good nifty-fifty lens can handle pretty much any type of photography, including food, and that’s where the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G comes in. It’s inexpensive, it’s optically impressive, and you can use it on Nikon DSLRs and mirrorless cameras alike (though to shoot it on the latter, you’ll need an FTZ adapter).
The rounded aperture blades create a beautiful circular bokeh when capturing shallow depth of field food shots – so when you’re shooting at the maximum aperture, and especially when getting up close, the results are spectacular.
If you’re just getting started with food photography, then a 50mm lens on a full-frame camera is a good way to get your feet wet; the standard focal length will provide a field of view closely matching the human eye, so you can confidently move back and forth between the food setup and the camera viewfinder.
The 50mm f/1.8 delivers tack-sharp images, plus it’s extremely portable (helpful for food photographers, including Instagrammers, planning to shoot on the go!).
If you own a Nikkon full-frame mirrorless camera, you might also consider the Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.2 S. It’s expensive, but it’s also amazingly powerful.
4. Nikon 60mm f/2.8G Macro
The 50mm f/1.8 lens featured above offered an ultra-wide aperture – but what if you don’t need to shoot at f/1.8? In that case, I’d recommend the Nikon 60mm f/2.8, which loses a bit of light but makes up for it with top-notch close-focusing capabilities.
Happily, the 60mm f/2.8 offers true macro magnifications, so you can capture stunning close-up shots, while the 60mm focal length also allows for contextual images of food on the table. You can use the lens with both full-frame and APS-C cameras, though the 90mm APS-C focal length is less handy if you hope to capture environmental food shots.
At f/2.8, you can expect a beautiful bokeh effect, perfect for making your food photos stand out. Unfortunately, there’s no image stabilization – so while you may be able to get away with handholding in good light, you’ll always want to keep a tripod nearby.
5. Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS
Medium telephoto lenses are great for tighter food photography, which is why the Sony 90mm f/2.8 (135mm on APS-C cameras) is perfect for serious food photographers.
At 90mm, you can capture stunning photos from a distance – and thanks to the lens’s 1:1 reproduction ratio, you can get outstanding detail.
If you like to shoot handheld, then you’ll appreciate the built-in image stabilization, and for food photographers who prefer to focus manually, there’s a big, grippy focus ring at the end of the barrel.
Optically, the 90mm f/2.8 is top of the line, and the high-quality elements reduce distortion and color fringing. While it’s on the pricier side, you pay for what you get – and with this lens, you get a lot.
6. Sony E 30mm f/3.5 Macro
If you’re just starting out in food photography and looking for an affordable little lens, consider the Sony 30mm f/3.5. On APS-C cameras, you’ll get a 45mm focal length equivalent – on the wider side, yes, but nice for more contextual food shots and helpfully compact for capturing your meals on the go. (Note that the 30mm f/3.5 is not designed for full-frame cameras; if you use any of Sony’s a7-series cameras, I’d recommend looking at the 90mm f/2.8, featured above.)
The Sony 30mm offers an f/3.5 maximum aperture, and while it’s not super fast, it does help keep the lens’s size and weight down, which is always helpful when shooting handheld (though in low light, you’ll want to bring a tripod).
Like several other lenses on this list, the Sony 30mm features 1:1 focusing, so you can fill the frame with small details of any dish. Of course, you can also take a step back to capture the table, and you can even use the 30mm focal length to capture portraits, street scenes, and more.
At just under $300, this lens is an absolute bargain.
7. Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Macro VC
If you like the idea of a longer macro lens but don’t want to shell out for the Canon 100mm f/2.8L or the Sony 90mm f/2.8, why not consider the Tamron 90mm f/2.8, which offers full macro capabilities and tack-sharp image quality for a very reasonable price?
Its elements are coated to minimize color fringing and ghosting, plus images are consistently gorgeous, especially when shooting at f/2.8. And thanks to the VC (Tamron’s version of image stabilization), you can capture sharp shots even in low light (while shooting in a dimly lit restaurant, for instance).
Note that the Tamron 90mm f/2.8 is available in several different mounts, including both Canon and Nikon – but the mounts are not interchangeable, so make sure you buy the correct one.
8. Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM
If you’re not ready to commit to one focal length for food photography, then you might do well with a zoom lens – one featuring a wide to short-telephoto range for a mix of image types. The Canon 24-70mm f/4L is very versatile, offering a perfect set of focal lengths plus great image quality for detail shots.
Unfortunately, the 24-70mm doesn’t offer true macro capabilities, but you do get a 0.7x magnification factor for some very nice close-ups. And while the maximum aperture isn’t as wide as the other choices presented in this article, the five-stop image stabilization promises sharp handheld photography in lower light (though I’d recommend using a tripod when possible).
Bottom line: For the budding food photographer after a more flexible lens, the Canon 24-70mm f/4L is a great choice. And it’s not too pricey, either, so it’s perfect for shooters looking to grab quality optics without breaking the bank.
9. Panasonic Lumix G Macro 30mm f/2.8 Asph Mega OIS
A 30mm lens on a Micro Four Thirds camera offers a 60mm full-frame equivalent focal length, so the Lumix 30mm f/2.8 provides a very natural perspective for standard food photography.
Don’t let the plastic build fool you; the 30mm f/2.8 delivers extremely sharp images even at its widest aperture, and if you’re shooting in the studio, you don’t really need tank-like build quality, anyway.
Plus, the lens is compact and lightweight, which makes it very easy to handle. It’s a great little lens for capturing food for social media; combined with a small camera like the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV, you can keep it in your bag or around your neck all the time and you’ll hardly even notice.
And if you like to shoot handheld, don’t worry; the lens offers image stabilization and a wide aperture, so you should do just fine even in low light.
10. Nikon PC-E 85mm f/2.8D Macro
Tilt-shift lenses are known for their use in architecture photography – but food photographers can also make good use of them, thanks to their capacity to change the focus plane (which allows you to extend the depth of field).
The Nikon 85mm f/2.8D is a tilt-shift lens, one that offers a nice food photography focal length, a wide maximum aperture, plus close-focusing capabilities. If you’re a food photography specialist and you’re looking for more glass to expand your capabilities, then I’d recommend you check this lens out.
On the other hand, it’s quite pricey, and the average food photographer won’t need the tilt-shift capabilities – so only invest if you know you’ll have a use for it.
Which food photography lens is best for you?
Choosing the best lens for food photography isn’t easy, and you should always consider the type of images you want to take before making a purchase.
If you work in a studio setting, you’ll often have plenty of space, so you’ll do fine with a longer focal length. You’ll also have control over the lighting, so a narrow maximum aperture isn’t such a big deal.
On the other hand, if you work on location, you’ll be going into different kitchens with all sorts of conditions; here, a versatile lens is key.
Finally, make sure to consider your budget. The lenses recommended in this article range from under $300 to over $2000, and while glass is important, there’s no need to overspend. The investment you make should always be linked to your experience level. Are you a beginner or are you already getting professional jobs? If you’re making a living from food photography, then it’s worth considering high-end lenses, as they’ll pay off. Otherwise, stick to cheaper options.
Now over to you:
Which food photography lens do you plan to buy? And do you have any recommendations of your own? Share your thoughts in the comments below!