[Instruction] The Best Camera for Food Photography

[Instruction] The Best Camera for Food Photography

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...


... 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."


For his full breakdown and more test images, check out the full article at Bon Appetit.com.
All images copyright William Hereford.

Log in or register to post comments


Tam Nguyen's picture

Seems like the one taken by the 5D MkIII was taken with a wider aperture, so the image looks a tad softer than the rest.

I'm not sure about 'softer.' And the images are a bit small for me to tell... But we should keep in mind that the 5DMkIII has the largest sensor of them all, which will naturally give it a shallower depth of field in any circumstance.

pakiviritz's picture

Yeah! (sensors aside) you can't compare an image taken with 18-105 kit lens on the D7000 vs the 50mm 1.4 Zeiss (bokeh machine!) 

LOL the Iphone appears to handle exposures the best. Whats up with that? It held the inside and outside.  I shoot a Fuji x100 as my professional camera now. It may look like a baby camera but the files are big and sharp. I literally take it with me EVERYDAY. 

进's picture

i have my iphone 4s with me everyday, and my x100 on excursions and trips (even overseas holidays). x100 is my "food camera" now. my d7000 pretty much sits in the dry cabin these days, and only stretches her legs during the few planned days when i set aside time to do "serious photography".

I dont know - this seems like a horrible write up and very non technical. First off mixing two different light sources is not very good for proper food photography, so the advice to just put the food next to sunlight is nice, but if you have a properly balanced light source that is the same color temp as the sunlight, then it is fine.

Advice to set your camera to auto white balance.....yea that seems like professional advice. While many times cameras do an excellent job with white balancing, a true pro product photographer should carry anything from a simple white/grey card all the way to a complete color chart to have proper white balance in post processing.

 Also, artificial lighting affords the reduction of shadows through multiple light sources, or reflectors - something you want in product photography.

He never addresses lens choice and availability for each of the cameras....another VERY important part of the equation. Macro lenses are the go to choice for PROFESSIONAL product and food photography.

Does it look cool does not even mix in the same sentence as "professional photographer". It isn't about the looks, its about the best tool for the job.

The article should be named " the best camera for light travel snapshot food photography"

Oliver Edwards's picture

Spot on, this is in no way about shooting food professionally. no comparision of a phase one, hassleblad or leaf which would blow all the above cameras out of the water at food

looks like iphone image is the best.. excellent, i'll throw my 5d3 away and shoot everything with shitty phone

*sigh* not a real Nikon pro camera in the mix......... are you serious with this "review" ??  kudos Canon, as usual your marketing team are on top.

Nicholas's picture

What, no love for da homies wit da 7Ds up in this piece? I thought we was cool. ;)

West Cobb Photographer's picture

 I can imagine that it would cost $3,500.00 and have a distracting glowing apple on the back of it, yes.  LOL

This post smells like a 5dMK3 commercial.

West Cobb Photographer's picture

Actually, I know he's not strictly basing it on price, but if were were, the Canon S100 does a pretty darn good job of it out-of-camera.   The S95/S100 series were specifically designed for superior images disguised in a small point-and-shoot style body, and my S95 has constantly amazed me at the quality of stuff it cranks out. 

Photo quality is everything but in the pro world, image does count.  If you are doing a paid job for a client, many won't take you seriously if you walk in the door with a pocket camera, so I still use my Canon 7D for client work.  But people who aren't directly working with clients don't need to spend that kind of money, for sure.

Ron R.'s picture

I wonder which camera would show up of this "Professional Food Photographer" if we could examine his exif data of his published photos. I would bet on the 5D being the majority winner. The purpose of this uncontrolled experiment eludes me. There are millions of Iphones out there and everyone loves the photos but in a paid photo shoot ??  Imagine being hired by Betty Crocker or  Heinz and showing up with your Iphone ??????
I think not, Fstoppers why did you allow this  article to be published ??

Criteria for camera choice number one. hilarious but so true. One of my first DSLRs, I felt needing some pimpin' out. I added the battery pack, not for extra battery power but for extra street cred. lol. awesome post.

Canon 5D MKIII is the destinated camera for all the food bloggers here...