Today, Bon Appetit featured a very comprehensive blog post from food photographer William Hereford. Rather than just talking about just a particular technique or style, Hereford also writes to the burgeoning food photographer/enthusiast and tries to answer the question: What is the camera you should go with if you want to get into commercial food photography? The answer may surprise you.
Hereford admits to being a sort of gearhead but knowing very little about how to take a picture before going into photography full time:
"Before I became a professional photographer I fetishized cameras. I spent countless hours reading obscure blogs about film vs. digital, medium format vs 35mm, lenses, digital backs, darkroom techniques, and the best leather camera straps available. Ironically, I knew very little about how to take a picture."
Since then, Hereford has become a very successful food and lifestyle photographer. That said...
"I have not lost my love of the 'everyday camera,' and still spend a large chunk of my time searching for the perfect sidearm: the camera you bring on vacation, to parties, to the park, to a restaurant. My criteria for this camera is and will always be:
1) Does it look cool. If it doesn't look cool, you won't love it so you won't carry it around.
2) Is the image quality high enough for my professional portfolio. If the images don't print well then why not just take mobile phone pics?"
Hereford selects seven cameras that are common choices for photographers of various skill levels and price points...
- Canon 5d MKIII: $3500 (body only)
- Nikon D7000: $1200 (body only)
- Fujifilm x100: $1200 (w/ fixed 35mm equivalent lens)
- Nikon V1: $900 (w/ interchangeable zoom lens)
- Lumix GF3: $479 (w/ one interchangeable lens)
- Canon s100: $400 (w/ a fixed zoom lens)
- iPhone 4s: $200 (w/ a two-year contract)
... and pits them against each other in the same situations. First below is the shot from his Canon 5D MKIII:
However, all seven of the cameras do a really good job capturing the image (click to see larger):
Window light is your friend. When in doubt throw that cutting board on the window sill so your food is "back lit" and turn off any indoor lighting. Sun light is white light, while most light bulbs are a yellowish tungsten. When they are both present the camera goes a bit haywire and turns our whites to blue or visa versa. TIP: Shoot food at home during the day and st your white balance to "auto," or if you're feeling saucy, go into the manual settings and adjust accordingly: tungsten, sunlight, shade...etc.
So when he has to pick one camera to go with, what does Hereford prefer? I found the response surprising:
"So what is the best all around camera? If you have piles of cash and enjoy toting around a heavy body and lens, the Canon 5d MKIII is the winner without question: The images are beautiful, the sensor does great in low light, and the camera handles wonderfully. But it is not the "everyday" sidearm most of us are looking for. The ideal camera fits into your jacket pocket or hangs unobtrusively at your side. You've got to want to take it with you so the design and aesthetic matter. Honestly, I thought the winner would be the Fujifilm x100 because it's beautiful (better looking than any SLR in my opinion). But the manual dials and retro design seem almost like trickery. The majority of people will use this camera as a "point 'n shoot" camouflaged in the body of a classic rangefinder. There may be some manual dials, but overall the camera functions like any mid-range digital body. In the perfect camera, the sensor is big enough to create decent bokeh and captures enough information to bring clarity to big landscapes while traveling.
Out of the seven above, for me, the best camera overall is the Lumix. It's not the prettiest camera in the bunch and the plastic body is less than ideal, but the click of the shutter, the focusing speed, and sensor competed with the Nikon D7000 which is a "real SLR." Also, the body is $500 making it significantly cheaper."