Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Food-o-graphie event: My cameras for food photography


Unlike most other blog events, Food-o-grafie is not only about delicious recipes or beautiful pictures but also a networking event for the exchange of ideas and experience about food photography. For the inaugural event, Zora has requested that we post about the cameras that we use for our food photographs. I have written a post of some tips for food photography, and a few lines in my About page, but have otherwise not said very much about the camera equipment that I use. So here's the run-down on the cameras responsible for the photos you see on Soy and Pepper.

The older photos (prior to February 2008) were taken with a point-and-shoot Canon Powershot A75. I have been a long-time fan of Canon cameras and loved the quality of their lenses since the days of film photography. Although their Powershot series is bulkier compared to the slim and sexy Ixus range, you get much better control of the mechanics and settings with a Powershot. The macro settings have served me well for food photography and it has pretty good colour representation, focus and White Balance treatment. A good all-rounder. Here are some photos taken with the old Canon Powershot A75.

IMG_4724.JPGLemon cream pie 6
Roast chicken legs with tomatoes 1Silken tofu with shitake mushrooms and spring onion topping

Unfortunately, my trusty Powershot died earlier this year in April 2008. It was damaged while I was on a trip to Boston. I contemplated getting a slimmer camera for convenience, since I have bought a DSLR by then, but eventually decided that the limited user control with a smaller but simpler point-and-shoot would annoy me too much and I went with another Canon Powershot, an A720 IS. I often carry this with me particularly to restaurants where whipping out a larger DLSR camera might seem too intrusive or conspicuous. Again, I am pleased with the results. Very simple to use, intuitive menu controls and the quality images that I have gotten used to with Canon lenses. Given the very dim lighting in most restaurants, I have been quite impressed with the light sensitivity of this camera. Another plus with the Powershot range is that they tend to be on the cheap side, compared to the ultra-slim range. So if function is more important than looks in your books, I would definitely recommend a Powershot (or the higher end ones like the Powershot S5 IS, which I very nearly bought while debating whether to buy a DSLR)


Earlier this year, in February 2008, I gave in to a beginner's digital SLR, the Canon EOS 400D (Digital Rebel XTi in North America). The camera came with the Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens. With a DSLR, it is true that the quality of the lens is more important than the body. With the EOS 400D being so affordable, the advice has been to forgo the kit lens (which is good value at that price, but not really a great performer) and pay a bit more for a much better lens instead. However, with no prior knowledge of using an SLR, and having very limited knowledge of a DSLR camera, I had no idea in the slightest what lens I would want to buy and so I took the 'easy' option of just buying the kit lens to start off with and learn about the camera as I go along. I figured that I could then make a more informed decision as to what type of lenses I would need for the photography that I am interested in. That worked for me, as I did figure out that lenses I want, but I do sort of regret buying the kit lens now as I have become increasingly dissatisfied with the quality of images. It is supposed to be an all round lens (arguably good for a beginner) but ended up being mediocre in all aspects and doing nothing very well (landscape, telephoto or macro).

After a few months, I was encouraged to buy a prime lens (non-zoom) that offers much better quality for the price compared to zoom lens. In a perfect world, I would have bought a dedicated macro lens but budget dictated that I go for a Canon EF 50 mm f/1.8 II. It is one of the best lens for the price and have produced beautifully sharp close-ups and very lovely portrait shots as well. A very 'bright' lens at f/1.8, it also performs very well in low light. The downside is that it feels rather plastic (not very study feel) but one can't complain very much with the price tag. I would highly recommend this lens for those looking to get more money for their buck in close-up shots but not wanting/able to fork out for a dedicated macro lens.

Hijiki nimono (simmered hijiki seaweed with edamame)Szechuan peppercorn and dried chillies

I hope this has given you some ideas about camera options for food photography. Zorra has requested that we post a photo taken in September 2008. Here is one that I like for its clean colours and the curves of the shitake caps highlighted by the more elaborate whirls of the bowl pattern:

Shitake 2


VeggieGirl said...

FABULOUS photographs!!!!!

didally said...

Very nice composition.

I'm also a canon user until my canon A80 died on me last year. I got myself a fuji compact with some manual functions. I still like my A80's LCD flip screen, I miss it so much.

noobcook said...

I've always enjoyed your food photos ^_^ I think we are using the same lens (50mm) but I'm using the nikon equivalent :)

Nate-n-Annie said...

I had an A75, then moved to an A710IS, then now I have Jaden's old 350D with the 18-55 kit lens. It's worlds better than the PowerShots, but I am growing increasingly dissatisfied with the lens. Gotta save up for that f/1.8!

Nilmandra said...

Veggiegirl: Thanks!

Didally: Yeah, I was quite tempted by the flip screen of the Canon Powershot S5 IS. I like your photos, the Fuji seems to have worked out well for you.

Noobcook: Most people seems to be divided between a Canon camp and a Nikon camp ;) You take lovely photos!

Nate n Annie: It's true, the beginner's grade DSLR are so much better than the Powershots, even with kit lens. But you would probably like to try a prime lens like the one I have (it's cheap too). Prime lenses require you to think about the composition a bit more since you have to move around instead of relying on zoom. But less moving parts usually mean better quality lens at lower price since there is less mechanism to deal with.

Mrs Ergül said...

This is a lovely and informative post! Thanks! I've picked up new tips!

Nilmandra said...

Mrs Ergul: Glad you found it useful!

zorra said...

Very informative post and wonderful pics. Regarding the lenses, we will talk again on a future food-o-grafie. ;-)

Thank you for your participation in the 1st food-o-grafie event.

Jenna said...

I like how you demonstrate that a person doesn't have to have a DSLR to take fabulous pictures! I'm ready to move up to a DSLR but we can't afford it yet. I'll keep practicing with my little canon g9 until then!

exhausted said...

The images are really great, can't believe you made these with a Canon Powershot A75! - I have a cannon and mine don't look anything like yours! :(

Do you use lighting and how?
Mine always turn out terrible ;(

Would love to know what are you looking for in a good "shot"

Nilmandra said...

Exhausted: Thanks for the compliment :) The only lighting that I use are what I have available in the kitchen or dining room (usually crappy flourescent or tungsten lightbulbs). A lightbox would be ideal but I don't have the space or budget for it.

On bright days (and in late-spring and summer) daylight is always best. Always take your photos in a bright location with sunlight coming in through the windows if you can. Otherwise have adequate artificial lighting (not too close to the food) and compensate for the White Balance by adjusting the settings on your camera and also through post-processing on the ocmputer later. I wrote a bit more on this in this other post on Tips for Food Photography.

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