We gave starting tips for those who want to try their hand at product photography here, and today we’ll talk to those who already understand the basics and are looking for the best technical solution for their shots. Below is a rating of the best still cameras and lenses suitable for them.
Let’s agree right away that this article does not talk about soulless shooting of goods for an online store. The specificity of most of these shootings is that customers need photos for the Internet in a small resolution, about 1500 px. For such a photo, the quality of your optics is not important. Correctly exposed light plays a much more important role.
But if you are planning to seriously earn money and improve in product photography, then it is better to immediately acquire professional equipment. Perhaps this will motivate and allow you to fight the impostor syndrome, give you primary self-confidence.
And now let’s figure out how to choose a camera for subject shooting.
Depth of field
Crop or full frame
In product photography, there is a problem of shallow depth of field. It is connected with the fact that our objects are small and we are forced to shoot them at close range. And the depth of field depends on the focal length and on how far we are from the object being shot. From this position, it seems that crop cameras are more profitable to use, because. you can move further away from the object.
But this is an imaginary advantage. Usually the resolution of crop-cameras is crop times less than that of fullframe. This means that the owner of a full-frame camera can move further away from the subject, and then independently crop the picture during editing. And due to the higher resolution, get pictures that are comparable in proportions, but of better quality.
In product photography, often only part of the subject is sharply depicted, and the rest is blurred. This is done to focus on a particular detail of the object. Although, sometimes, customers require that the entire subject be sharply depicted.
In order to increase the depth of field, the aperture is usually covered. But in such a case it is easy to overdo it, diffraction will set in and reduce the overall sharpness of the image.
The intensity of diffraction manifestation depends on the size of the matrix pixels. The smaller the pixel, the weaker you can cover the aperture without risking diffraction effects.
In subject photography, autofocus is not used — a maximum to confirm autofocus. Therefore, using lenses that do not fit the mount with an adapter is a common practice.
It is better to choose macro lenses. Macro lenses transmit to the matrix the scale of the object being shot is not less than 1:1. When shooting with a macro lens, you can get close to a small object (such as a coin) so close that it takes up the entire sensor and is still in focus. In product photography, this is necessary to capture the details of objects or, for example, jewelry.
Macro lenses have the best sharpness, and for a product photographer, sharpness is the main characteristic of optics. In addition, telephoto lenses allow you to shoot at a distance from objects, which is important if they are small objects. This will allow you not to think that the camera or lens will be between the light source and the object and cast shadows.
If the shooting area is small, a zoom lens will do. The main thing is that it has a wide range of focal lengths (for example, 24–100), suitable for both wide shots and close-ups in detail.
A high-quality tilt-shift lens makes it possible to shoot from any angle, even in profile, without optical distortion, and also provides sharpness in those areas where it is needed. Here are examples of how they can be useful in product photography:
- if you want to photograph an object from the bottom up. With a conventional lens, you will have to point the camera non-parallel to the object, which is why there is a risk of getting the effect of vertical convergence. With tilt-shift optics, the entire object can be included in the picture;
- shifting the plane of the sharpest focus so that the object being photographed is sharp in its entirety.
Top best cameras and lenses for still photography
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
30 MP full-frame SLR camera. The camera confidently shoots at ISO up to 6400 inclusive. This is especially important in product photography, which often requires closed apertures to ensure that the entire subject being photographed enters the depth of field.
The camera is quite massive — about 800 grams. In product photography, tripods are often used to avoid even the slightest blur. Therefore, this is a non-critical factor.
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM
The lens aperture is in the range from f/2.8 to f/32, the number of blades is 9. The lens is light — 625 gr. The minimum focusing distance is 30 cm. This distance is measured from the main plane of the sensor, at a 1:1 scale, the object will be only 13 cm from the front lens of the lens. It is sharp even at an open aperture and is practically devoid of chromatic aberrations. Also equipped with autofocus and a stabilizer that removes shaking in the viewfinder, helping the autofocus system not to lose the subject being shot. So when working without a tripod, you won’t be able to miss the sharpness. And the process of building a frame will become more comfortable.
Without leaving the autofocus mode, you can manually correct the automatically induced sharpness by fine-tuning the focusing ring. For greater autofocus performance in macro photography, the lens has a three-position focus limiter (0.3 m — 0.5 m, 0.3 m — infinity, 0.5 m — infinity).
Sony Alpha A7R III
Full-frame mirrorless camera with a resolution of 42.4 megapixels. When shooting, the camera shows good detail, as well as bright, correct colors.
Noise becomes noticeable at ISO 1600, but then its severity grows not in proportion to the increase in ISO, but with a strong slowdown, remaining without serious aggravation up to ISO 6400 (and sometimes more). The camera is equipped with autofocus and five-axis image stabilization systems. The latter serves to compensate for the vertical and horizontal shifts that occur during hand trembling, as well as for camera rotations and deviations.
The Sony A7R III implements a Pixel Shift shooting mode, in which the camera takes several successive pixel-shift frames, which can then be combined into a single frame with a higher resolution than the standard one.
Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS
The lens belongs to the G‑series, it is one of the top Sony lenses. Weight — 600 gr. Aperture from f/2.8 to f/22, 9 blades. The minimum focusing distance when shooting is 28 cm. Paired with the A7R Mark III, even at high ISOs, you will get an acceptable noise level.
The lens has soft bokeh and low chromatic aberration. It has an optical image stabilizer so you can get sharp shots even at 1/20s, considering you’re using the lens with the A7R. Even at an open aperture, the lens boasts high sharpness.
Full frame DSLR with a resolution of 45.7 megapixels. The weight of the camera is 1005 grams. The camera has good sharpness and detail. Great opportunities for cropping, because frames with a resolution of 8256 × 5504 weigh about 90–100 MB in RAW format, so it is logical to cut them. Color rendition allows you to take saturated, but without busting pictures. The camera starts to make a noticeable noise at ISO 3200–6400. The camera has a focus-stacking function: the device independently takes a series of shots, focusing the lens with a given step at different distances, which compensates for the lack of depth of field. This helps, because even the most closed aperture does not always allow you to sufficiently increase the depth of field, but due to diffraction, it can significantly reduce detail. Indeed, in subject photography, only part of the subject is often sharply depicted, and the rest is in a blurry zone.
The camera takes pictures, gradually shifting the focus from a given distance to infinity. You can combine photos yourself in Adobe Photoshop.
Nikon 105mm f/2.8
Weight — 720 grams. Aperture from f/2.8 to f/32, 9 blades. The lens is also equipped with fast and accurate autofocus. The minimum focusing distance is 31.4cm and the lens aperture is f/4.8.
Sharpness already from an open aperture, almost zero distortion, pleasant bokeh, small chromatic aberrations, moderate vignetting on a full-frame camera, good resistance to side and backlight. At f / 5.6–8, the sharpness of the picture will be the sharpest. But even at f/16–22 the sharpness is quite acceptable.
Built-in optical stabilization allows you to compensate for up to three stops of exposure. This means that at a long focal length, the stabilizer will insure against blurring, which can cause even the slightest jitter, and at a short one it will help to compose the frame more conveniently. The image in the viewfinder will not shake. For the same reason, focusing is easier for both the photographer and automation. You can shoot at shutter speeds up to 16 times slower than a non-IS lens requires.
The most budget camera in our top. The camera resolution is 24.3 megapixels, there is no built-in stabilizer. The camera is cropped and mirrorless. But light — only 383 grams.
The low level of noise is maintained up to ISO 3200. The camera has a high minimum sensitivity threshold: ISO 100 is only available as an extension — with a minimum, but a decrease in image quality.
Fujinon XF80mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro
Weight — 750 grams. Minimum focusing distance — 25 cm. Aperture in the range from f/2.8 to f/22, 9 petals. Fast lens for macro photography, sharp throughout the entire range of focusing distances.
There are practically no chromatic and spherical aberrations. Relatively fast autofocus speed. The sharpness is high, the bokeh of the lens is soft and pleasing to the eye, high detail.
The choice of equipment is determined by your goals — if you are going to take subject photography seriously and want to make it your profession — you should get professional equipment. Otherwise, medium cameras will be enough for you, and the flaws in the image are compensated by well-exposed light.