Food Photography

Which Macro Lens For Food Photography Should You Buy?

100mm/105mm or 60mm?

Adding a macro lens for food photography to our kit is really exciting, (I know, I know. I’m a total dork). But seriously, it’s kinda a sign that we are progressing in our food photography journey and are ready to explore new ways of composing our images!

One of the most common questions that I get from creatives is regarding lenses, lens upgrades and which lens should you add to your kit. Most of the time we are upgrading or adding to our kit, we’re doing this from wider focal lengths like the 18mm-55mm (which has a different minimum focusing distance and maximum aperture to a macro).

A macro lens for food photography will allow you to explore composition and go beyond overhead shots, which are a little easier to compose (and do well) than 45-degrees.

Adding a macro lens for food photography to our kit is really exciting, so which one do you choose? 100mm or 60mm. Click to read before you buy.

So which macro lens will it be?

In one of my most popular posts about lenses, 4 Ultimate Food Photography Lenses for Beautiful Photos, I talk about (of course) the four most common and beautiful lenses that food photographers will want to think about adding to their kit. I also chat about how I use each lens I recommend.

And the BIG question is always, which lens should I get for a cropped sensor vs a full frame…

For those of you who know me, you’ll know that I like to empower others to make their own choices. Knowledge is power right? So normally I lay down the education and let you decide. So after you’ve filled your cup with knowledge from my most popular lens post, I’m going to throw it out there that this is what I’d recommend based on whether you currently shoot with a cropped sensor or a full frame.

But what makes me so sure? Well, this is what I did when I was starting my journey and it worked for me. Therefore I’d do it again 🙂 As I shoot Nikon, these are the two lenses I have (love) and use. Canon equivalents are interchangeable for this post.

Let’s dive in.

😀

FULL FRAME – 100mm/105mm 

Adding a macro lens for food photography to our kit is really exciting, so which one do you choose? 100mm or 60mm. Click to read before you buy.

Nikkor 105mm Micro AF-S f/2.8

CROPPED SENSOR – 60mm

Adding a macro lens for food photography to our kit is really exciting, so which one do you choose? 100mm or 60mm. Click to read before you buy.

Nikkor 60mm Micro AF-S F/2.8G

The evidence. Full frame v cropped sensor.

When we are trying to improve our work, we tend to think that one major thing will improve our images – aka a new lens. But that isn’t always the case.

I know when you have saved your business pennies to purchase a new macro lens for food photography, we can still feel hesitant about which macro lens is better? Rather than thinking which lens will work for the camera and sensor we have.

I come from a camp that views things as YOU are the one that makes the great photo, not (solely) your gear. Therefore, here are two images that I took. One with my Nikon D800 and my Nikkor 105mm 2.8 AND the other my Nikon D300 and my 60mm 2.8.

What do you think?

Adding a macro lens for food photography to our kit is really exciting, so which one do you choose? 100mm or 60mm. Click to read before you buy.

Shot on the D300 (cropped sensor) with the Nikkor 60mm micro 2.8.

Adding a macro lens for food photography to our kit is really exciting, so which one do you choose? 100mm or 60mm. Click to read before you buy.

Shot on the D800 (full frame) with the Nikkor 105mm micro 2.8.

NOTE: They were taken from on a tripod which was not moved throughout the shoot. Edited the same, with the same settings. You can see the slight difference in the amount of light between each lens.

 

The 100mm/105mm macro lens for food photography.

If you’re shooting with a full frame, this lens is calling for you!

This lens was one of the ultimate lenses that I looked forward to adding to my kit just before I started to freelance. She’s a bit pricey, but kind of an essential focal length to capture those beautiful 45-degree shots that we all love.

It allows us to get those really flattering and tight 45 degree shots of our dish, whilst keeping a shallow depth of field for the background elements. It’ll cut through the distortion at this angle that you get when you shoot with a wider focal length like a 50mm.

You’ll have a better minimum focusing distance and some great maximum aperture options.

 

Why do I recommend the 100mm/105mm macro over the 60mm macro for full frame users?

When shooting with a full frame, the focal length you use is the focal length you see. There is no crop factor to deal with. So a 100mm macro lens on a full frame is a 100mm. Likewise, a 105mm macro lens on a full frame is a 105mm.

And you guessed it, a 60mm macro lens on a full frame is a 60mm.

Shooting with a 60mm macro lens on a full frame camera won’t allow you to capture those gorgeous 45-degree shots and get those really flattering shallow backgrounds that a 100mm/105mm will produce. Nor should food photography be macro photography either. We need to see a bit more of the scene and story to really connect. So the 60mm on a full frame is going to act more like a 50mm, and you’ve most likely already got a 50mm. You’ll most likely use it for overhead and wider shots.

 

Learn more about how I use these lenses. Click below to read!

Adding a macro lens for food photography to our kit is really exciting, so which one do you choose? 100mm or 60mm. Click to read before you buy.

The 60mm macro lens for food photography.

If you are shooting with a cropped sensor, then this guy is ready for your kit!

This was the first lens that I purchased, so I totally have a soft spot for it (and still use to today). It captures the light so beautiful and is ever reliable.

As far as food photography lenses go, this is one is for the smart photographer. On a cropped sensor you can use it like a 90mm (close enough to the 100mm), and if you ever upgrade you can still use it like you would a 50mm. It also helps when space is an issue for you as you can get closer to your subject.

When shooting in combination with a cropped sensor, this lens will act more like a 100mm and allow you to get those really flattering and tight 45 degree shots of our dish with that shallow background we all drool over. It’ll cut through the distortion at this angle that you get when you shoot with a wider focal length like a true 50mm.

 

Why do I recommend the 60mm macro over the100mm/105mm macro for cropped sensors?

There are a couple of reasons here. Cropped sensor cameras are generally less expensive than full frames and we are starting out, it’s smart to get started and invest in what we can afford. (There is no point in having the best gear when we start out as we really don’t know how to get the most out of it. You can always sell your old gear and upgrade later).

So investing in less expensive lenses isn’t unwise, investing in expensive lenses that you don’t need is.

On a cropped sensor the 60mm macro lens is more like a 90mm (where you have a crop factor of 1.5) and this is pretty darn close to the 100mm macro lens and will (yes, I know I sound like a broken record) allow you to capture those beautiful 45-degree shots.

If you go for the 100mm/105mm macro lens on a cropped sensor you will be shooting at a focal length of 150mm (where you have a crop factor of 1.5) and this is going to be a super tight crop. If space is an issue, or if your style focuses on a lot of styling and story – this will be super frustrating on a cropped sensor.

 

Getting the 100mm/105mm macro lens for food photography on a cropped sensor.

There is always exceptions to the rules right?

So when would I recommend investing in the 100mm/105mm macro lens when you have a cropped sensor. This would be an unequivocal yes if you are planning on upgrading to a full frame in the near future and have the budget for it.

I still use my 60mm macro lens for food photography on a full frame, but I have the luxury of having both lenses to play with.

Resale values of lenses are always lower, so if you know that you will be upgrading, have the space to shoot on a cropped sensor until you do – then this would be my pick.

 

Did this post give you some clarity about which macro lens for food photography you might get next? Let me know which macro lens you’re going to go for!

 

 

 

Two Loves Studio was not paid to write this post, however it does contain affiliate links. If you purchase an item from an affiliate link, Two Loves Studio does get a commission on the sale which goes towards continuing to provide awesome content. Only affiliates for products/services I believe in and that align with my values appear on this site.

You Might Also Like

18 Comments

  • Reply Shibani April 27, 2017 at 9:16 pm

    Rachel, i cannot believe that this post came to me in the right time. You have done a great job in explaining the whole post in such a beautiful way. I have been debating this in my mind since last week So this is confirmed that i am buying the macro lens .. it is worth.

    • Reply Rachel April 28, 2017 at 9:03 am

      Hey Shibani! How about that hey. Super glad to hear that was useful for you in making a decision. Do you know which one you are thinking of getting? I’d love to know.

  • Reply Rayzel April 28, 2017 at 6:00 am

    Hey there!

    I have your course and I’ve already learned stuff in just the first few lessons.
    Q! I only have a crop frame right now. I notice in these two images that the full frame camera REALLY looks better – as in the depth and shape of the photo- hard to explain- the crop sensor looks a lot more “flat” for lack of a better word- is this because of the full frame? If so, these two images may have convinced me to upgrade to a full frame. Can you weigh in on that? I had thought that crop frame meant that the only thing that was different was that I’d have to step further away, but in these two images the quality really seems different when it comes to the shape and feel and depth to the full frame vs. the crop – is this accurate or do you think something else is making the crop frame version look flatter?
    Thank you for any input!
    Rayzel

    • Reply Rachel April 28, 2017 at 9:27 am

      Hey, Razel! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I would love to chat about this with you 🙂

      Photography isn’t just as simple as that. There are always many factors that come into play to get a desired outcome.
      There are many differences between a full frame and a cropped sensor, the most important one being the quality of the sensor. There are a number of things that a full frame sensor has that allows for it to take better quality images. Having said that, the lens that you use also plays a role in getting quality, sharp images.

      I don’t doubt that you prefer the full frame image taken with a 105mm, and it can come down to personal preference.

      A couple of things to think about is that these are web res quality images exported at 85% quality. Then had graphics put onto them and exported again. There will be quality lost from both images here for sure. Comparing the two full size on my computer, the full frame will generally have more quality but from what I saw it was marginal for small print and web use.

      The next thing to think about is that on the full frame, the 105mm is a 105mm. The 60mm on a cropped sensor is 90mm. So we are comparing a 90mm lens and a 105mm lens at the same distance and angle (as I didn’t move the tripod for comparison). I would have been able to get a similar angle and feel had I moved around and actively chose to purse the same positioning.

      The other thing to think about is that there will be differences between different lenses. For comparison, I shot with the same settings on both. Generally, I know my lenses and will change settings to suit the image and the lens.

      Then to add another layer is that I did the same edits to both. Given that I took each shot with the same settings, then edited the same – there will be slight variances in how each image will show up as I have not taken into account how each lens picks up light differently for comparison’s sake.

      Improving in photography is about a bunch of little things coming together, rather than one big on. So at the end of the day, consider this:

      Solely having a full frame and spending $2k may not improve your photography.
      Buying a quality lens for $1k and taking a lighting course $500 then a food styling course $500, you may be able to improve your work exponentially because you are covering more of those little things that go into making a great image.

      For me, the difference here is marginal and the improvement isn’t worth spending $2k on. I think it would be better spent on lenses and courses. BUT if you have been toying with a full frame, and have the budget there is no denying the quality will be better. If you needed an excuse to buy one, then this is the permission you need!

  • Reply Rayzel lam May 1, 2017 at 2:28 am

    Thank you so much for this detailed reply! That was very helpful. I think at the point I’m at I’m about ready for a full frame. I have some really nice lenses already and know how to use them and do get pretty great images with my crop frame and feel pretty comfortable these days with layout and lighting and the Manual mode on my camera- I think that’s why I”m ready for the next level up now as I’m starting to see the tiny nuances of improved quality of the full frame or the lense or what not because when I first started shooting I didn’t notice this, thus I was perfectly content with my crop frame. Time to go to the next level! But that was helpful realizing the effective 90mm vs. 105 and the tripod left in same place, that make sense. I’ve already been editing in raw all year as well – albeit in Photoshop! So that’s why I bought your course because it’s SO long and tedious in Photoshop and I need to start making that process faster. I’m also curious how it would be shooting with such a long focal length- I think I have my food photography area set up on saw horses so actually I use a short 24mm or 35mm on my crop frame and I don’t think I could use anything longer than that before it became an problem – especially for overhead shots, I can’t barely get the full area I need with my 24mm and my ladder! so I’m guessing that many other food photographers must be using a surface much lower to the ground to be using such a longer focal length like the 105mm you mention.

    • Reply Rachel May 1, 2017 at 1:28 pm

      Yes, everything will change for you when you upgrade. To do overhead shots, you’ll now need a 50mm (as you’ve been using your 35mm for this on a cropped sensor which equates to a 50mm). If you do use your 105mm, then you will need to be higher. So on a set ladder or a ladder. It isn’t uncommon to see photographers on ladders to get around this kind of thing. If you are able to, I would rent a narrow focal length so you can see what you’ll be dealing with in terms of your new camera and the space you have.

  • Reply Justin @ SaltPepperSkillet May 11, 2017 at 11:28 pm

    Rach – I finally picked up my 100mm macro this week, and OMG it is so freakin’ beautiful. I want to thank you for letting me know that it means I might be “progressing in my photography journey.” Good timing for this post! 😀

    I have only taken a few shots so far, and I can’t be more excited. It opens up so many new possibilities.

    • Reply Rachel May 15, 2017 at 1:58 pm

      That’s so epic Justin! I saw a cheeky snap on Instagram and it looks wicked. How are you liking it?

  • Reply Peter June 19, 2017 at 8:50 pm

    The explanation of 60 mm / cropper sensor and the 105 mm / full frame is awesome and cleared my issues related to it.

    Now, I have a better idea of choosing the lense and camera for the food photography.

    Keep it up!

    • Reply Rachel June 20, 2017 at 8:39 am

      That’s so great to hear Peter! So glad this has opened some new possibilities for you. Let me know what you go with!

  • Reply Peter June 21, 2017 at 2:12 pm

    According to my perspective, I would like to go with 105 mm / full frame.

    • Reply Rachel June 28, 2017 at 11:07 am

      Great! I can’t wait to see what you create. Have fun 🙂

  • Reply Humberto June 26, 2017 at 8:50 pm

    FIrst time at your website and google helped. I am a editorial art consultant and I have to tell you that planning and detailed care can be seen even on your older published pictures. You perfected your style and it’s quite recognizable.
    Congratulations you got that artist look that many photographers miss!

    Talking about missing,i miss what sort of setup you use
    1: on tripod, extender, head
    2- and also with studio light and on location portable setup,

    I do some food photography mostly for fun and many times i encounter the worse possible situations (fluorescent and low light) and wanted to know how does a positive thinker approaches these nightmare situations: If you go into a hotel kitchen with no natural light, underground kitchens miss those things alot 😉

    I do not plan to go on full frame so i am doing those 1.6 conversions –
    My canon setup has a Yongnuo 35mm f/2 and a Tamron SP 60mm f/2
    would love to try out a tilt shift lens but i don’t see one that can match your recomendation. 1.6 seems like a dead end here
    I am considering using a software that can be very helpful for macro and with some work maybe ‘cheat a bit the tilt shift effect) Helicon FB Tube, have you ever used software to trick the lack of budget.

    (i see you buy Nikor lenses, but on a budget what are your thoughts on those new emerging chinese brands with very good quality for who can’t invest straight away on the more expensive lenses and the now proven flash units that even pro’s are turning to.

    Well put blog, seriously done social networks and a style from inspiring to showing and sharing the knowledge.
    COngrats again, i can see it bloom, even liked your advertising self imposed rules of at most earn some income with affilliate links of brands you tested or believe in, and not being sponsored to promote. The honnest move it’s always the right move!

    • Reply Rachel June 28, 2017 at 11:13 am

      Hey Humberto! Thanks for stopping by. I know there are a lot of other options in terms of lenses, but I tend to stick to one brand when I love it – so I haven’t taken a look at these brands you’re mentioning. I think as long as you know what you need out of a lens and you can test it out – go for it. Second-hand lenses and renting is always an option when budgets are tight. You can get a 45mm tilt shift which works for cropped frames, maybe explore your options there. When I first used a tilt-shift I rented a lens and borrowed a camera to test it out. Thinking outside the box sometimes!

  • Reply Jackson Grant June 30, 2017 at 3:31 pm

    Just getting into food photography actually, this helped a lot. Working for George Colombaris’ hospitality group, big shoes to fill hahaha.

    • Reply Rachel July 6, 2017 at 4:38 pm

      Right on man! Congrats. That’s awsome.

  • Reply Carlos At Spoonabilities October 7, 2017 at 11:59 pm

    I can give a full testimony how helpful Rachel was during my process of picking my first Macro lens. She did it in a way I understand my needs, my budget, and my goals. The experience was extraordinary!
    I don’t think someone could have helped me the way Rachel did. Thank you so much for your help!

    • Reply Rachel October 8, 2017 at 6:06 am

      Thanks for the love Carlos! I am so pleased to hear that as we did work hard to get your significant other on board with this purchase!

    Leave a Reply