The most familiar and earlier instance of product photography were present in magazines. Luxury goods, premium products used magazines as a medium of advertisement. Product photography is expanding in modern times. It portrays anything from a home-baked cake to a luxury car. The rise of e-commerce websites has increased the reach of small scale entrepreneurs to a much bigger audience. When the product photography is rightly done, it has the potential to attract a wider audience. The right camera and the best lens for product photography ensure the same.
Types of Product Photography
Studio/Indoor product photos: Products shot in a studio or indoors with a different light setting. It could be products shot with studio lighting or with the natural light available inside a room.
Lifestyle photos: Lifestyle photography depicts an item as it would appear in a real-life situation. It could be a camping/sporting equipment or a coffee mug or a table or a book/showcase.
Closeup photos: Displaying the specific details, textures of a product or a piece of jewellery might require a close-up photo to portray them accurately.
Process photos: Do you want to advertise your production method? Or Give attention to a specific process that gives your product an edge? Process photos are the way to go. It could be outdoors or at a manufacturing plant. You might require a different kind of lens depending on the nature of the project itself.
Best Lens For Product Photography
We will look into the best lenses suitable for different kinds of product photography.
1. Nikon 50mm f/1.8G AF-S NIKKOR
“What you see is what you get” is the main motive behind Product photography. A lens that can offer the same angle of view as eyes is an advantage, to begin with. For Nikon DSLR cameras, the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G AF-S NIKKOR lens is a perfect companion which shelves all the distortion of wide-angle lenses.
This prime lens is ideal for amateurs and professionals. It is small, lightweight, affordable and offers strikingly-sharp images across the entire frame. The lens has a seven round-bladed diaphragm that stops down-to-f/16.
The Nikon lens comes with fast autofocus and a rubber ring controlled manual focus which can be operated in a fingertip. The metal mount and the filter on the front of the lens protect it from dust and physical damage. The lens comes with a 58mm filter size and doesn’t have problems of vignetting.
It works in all the three formats in Nikon cameras, 35mm, FX and DX. While the effective-focal length and angle of view changes due to the crop-factor in DX format.
2. Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM
The Canon EF 50 mm lens uses a conventional design of seven elements in 6 groups. An ultrasonic motor delivers the auto focus with a full-time manual override. The lens uses an electronic EF mount which fits every DSLR from canon regardless of the sensor type.
Despite being soft at the wide apertures, this lens offers competition with high-quality images in the range of f/4 to f/8. The wide aperture ensures a solid low light performance. This lens is perfect for portrait photography.
While vignetting would be evident with full-frame sensor cameras, it drastically reduced with smaller sensors. The focus ring enables easy switching to manual focus. The lens has a good flatness-of-field and works with minimal readjustments in case of attachment of polariser and filters.
3. Sigma 24-105mm f/4.0 DG OS HSM ART
The Sigma 24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM is a standard zoom lens for full-frame DSLR cameras. It works as a wide-angle and a Telephoto zoom lens. In collaboration with APS-C sensors, it has an effective increase in focal length.
The lens features a rounded Nine blade diaphragm that gives an attractive bokeh effect. The built-in optical image stabilisation and a Hyper Sonic Motor for fast and quiet autofocusing deliver a versatile performance. It has a maximum reproduction ratio of 1:4.6 and it is compatible to Canon EF/Nikon F/Sony A/Sigma SA Lens Mounts.
The Sigma lens gives a centre-sharp image throughout its entire zoom range. You could see some softness at the shorter focal lengths at wider apertures. In the minimum and maximum focal lengths, the lens was susceptible to chromatic aberration. Vignetting was visible at an aperture of f/4 gradually decreasing till f/8 and consistent throughout the rest of the values.
4. Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G
The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G is a lightweight prime lens suitable for both FX (full-frame) and DX (APS-C) format Nikon DSLR cameras. It offers a maximum aperture of f/1.8 suits for poor light performance and natural depth-of-field for portrait photography.
The Nikon’s super integrated coating enhances the light transmission which offers superior colour performance and reduces flare. The Silent wave motor offers an accurate and noiseless autofocus performance. The wide-aperture settings ensure a beautiful bokeh effect with a crisp and natural image reproduction.
If mounted on a DX-format camera of Nikon, the 85mm f/1.8 has an effective-focal length of 127mm. Comprising of nine spherical elements in nine groups and a 7-bladed aperture diaphragm, it acts as a medium telephoto lens. It comes with a rubber weather-sealed mount.
The ghosting, chromatic aberration and vignetting is minimal starting from apertures f/4 onwards.
5. Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM Lens
This canon EFS 55-250 mm lens is a budget option, which delivers amazing Sharp centre photos in the entire zoom range.
The Canon lens employs a “Stepping Motor,” autofocus system to provide smooth and quiet autofocus. With a close-focus range of 85cm and a magnification of 0.29x can act as a decent macro lens.
The plastic body makes it lightweight, but there is no rattling or flexing while zooming. The chromatic aberrations are hardly noticeable.
6. Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USD G2
The Tamron SP 15-30 mm lens comes with a fast and constant aperture of f/2.8 with an inbuilt image stabiliser(Vibration compensation). It comes with three levels of the coating, including an Anti-Reflection expand coating to reduce ghosting and flare.
The optical stabilisation offers a solid low light performance during handheld shooting. The aspherical lens reduces distortions.
The G2 has a fast autofocus owing to its dual microprocessing units, which gives up to 4.5 stops. It comes with a gelatin filter holder compatible to canon EF type mounts. The build quality is robust with a comprehensive weather sealing.
7. Sigma 180mm F2.8 EX APO DG HSM OS Macro
The Sigma 180mm F2.8 is a high-speed macro optical lens with a magnification ratio of 1:1 and a focal length of 180mm. It is compatible with Canon’s EF mount of full-frame and APS-C DSLR cameras. Three FLD glass elements minimise colour aberrations, and the floating inner focus system helps reduce field curvature and distortion.
A Super Multi-Layer Coating of the elements minimises ghosting and flare and producing sharp images. The lens comes with an optical stabiliser to reduce the effects of camera shakes. The lens has a solid construction.
8. Sony 30 mm f/3.5
The Sony 30 mm f/3.5 is a wide-angle macro lens which is tailor-made for close- up photography. The lens delivers high-quality macro shot with minimal distortion and light fall-off.
It is compact, lightweight cased in a silver metal shell and employs a metal lens mount to attach to the camera. The autofocus is silent and fast. The manual focus is available with a touch of the focus ring, the only control feature in the lens. Despite being a wide-angle lens, the Sony 30 mm delivers an almost distortion-free performance.
Without Stabilisation, the camera is prone to motion blurs and fuzzy pictures, when you are shooting close.
9. Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM ART Lens
This 35mm lens from Sigma works with both full-frame and APS-C cameras, making it an excellent option for product photography. Designed to fit EOS mount, the lens has a quick and silent autofocus, owing to a Hypersonic Motor (HSM) and floating internal focus.
It features 13 elements in 11 groups to deliver sharp photos, with low levels of aberrations and distortions. The lens offers a maximum aperture at f/1.4 ensures a solid low-light performance. The lens comes with a manual focus ring and distance scale in feet and meters.
10. Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G
The modern version of a short telephoto macro lens, the Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G is tailor-made for close-range photography. It made possible by its 1:1 magnification and a focusing distance of 1-inch. It has a wide aperture range of f/2.8 to f/32 makes it suitable for a variety of lighting conditions.
The extra-low dispersion element gives high clarity and colour accuracy while minimising chromatic aberrations. The Nano Crystal and Super Integrated Coatings reduce the flare and ghosting in bright lighting conditions.
A Silent Wave Motor Auto Focus system keeps focusing quiet. A simple touch of manual focus ring overrides the focus to manual mode. The Vibration Reduction/image stabilisation negates the effects of camera shakes up to three shutter steps.
Best Lens For Product Photography Buyer’s Guide
Based on the focal length and their application, the lenses belong to six broad categories.
- Standard/Prime lens: Varying from 24mm to 135mm, they only offer a single focal length, depending on the lens you choose. The 24mm provides you with a wide-angle of view, and 135mm giving you a cropped closer view. The focal length is susceptible to change with crop factor in the sensor.
- Wide Angle lens: The wide-angle lenses as their name suggests have a wide view of angle, and they are lightweight. They offer a better depth of field with focal lengths from 14mm, 20mm, 21mm, 24mm, 28mm to 35mm.
- Fisheye lens: The fisheye lenses, known as ultra-wide-angle lenses, is an essential tool in abstract photography. The lenses are available in the range of from 8-24mm. The most common use of a fisheye lens in the CCTV security camera where the wide angle of view is imperative.
- Macro lens: As the name suggests the macro lenses play a vital role in macro photography. This macro lens can portray the finer details. The macro lenses are available as prime lenses with focal lengths ranging from 50-200mm.
- Zoom lens: The zoom lenses have multiple focal lengths and are versatile. The zoom lenses come with a range of focal lengths mostly 17-40mm, 24-105mm, and 70-200mm.
- Telephoto lens: Shooting subjects from a distance involve the telephoto lenses. They are available at a range varying from 70-300mm, 100-400mm, 300mm, 400mm up to 600mm. It is suitable for different types of photography, ranging from wildlife to sports to astrophotography.
Sensor type: The match between the type of sensor and the fit for the lens is essential. There are full-frame sensor cameras and crop sensor cameras. It may not be in one’s interest to use a full-frame lens with crop sensor camera or vice versa. The effective focal length of a sensor changes depending on the crop factor of the sensor the camera sports. APS-C, APS-H, Micro Four-thirds sensor cameras have different crop factors.
Aperture: The aperture determines the amount of light passing through the lens to hit the sensor. Wider the aperture, the higher quantity of light hits the sensor. A wider aperture enables you to use fast-shutter-speeds when the shooting is handheld, or the subject is moving. The wide aperture is your best bet if you work more in low-light conditions.
Image stabilization: Image stabilisation reduces the effect of vibration in the lenses. It reduces the motion blur in the images. Most of the latest lenses come with an inbuilt stabilization.
Focus: Autofocus is a mechanism which involves both camera and lens. The autofocus tracking and the capability to switch between auto and manual focus is an essential trait for your camera-lens pair.
Types of Lens: In photography, there is a list of unsettled debates over sensor types, different brands and image file formats. It extends to the lenses. There are prime lenses and zoom lenses. Regardless of their preferences, they serve their purpose and possess an advantage over the other.
Prime lens: The prime lenses have a fixed focal length, they cannot magnify into the field of view. Prime lenses are known for delivering sharp and high-quality images. They offer a wider aperture in comparison to the zoom lenses, which assures a better low light performance. Prime lenses are smaller in size, lightweight and cheaper compared to Zoom lenses. They are faster than zoom lenses which avoid overexposure and the motion blur in the photographs.
Zoom lens: The zoom lens offers a range of focal length. Flexibility is the advantage the zoom lens has over prime lenses. Their ability to sport different focal lengths makes them versatile and suitable for different types of photography. While flexibility being the advantage of zoom lenses, they are large, bulky and costlier than the prime lenses.
Choosing the best lens for product photography
Understanding the requirement and the kind of product photography is essential to find the best-suited lens. Sigma has a brilliant collection of prime and zoom lenses which offer the best alternative to some high priced brands. Sigma 180 mm macro lens offers a power-packed macro performance, while the Sony offers a budget alternative. But it doesn’t suit other types of product photography.
The sigma 24-105mm is one of the best lenses offering sharp images in the entire range of focal length. Nikon 50mm f/1.8G AF-S NIKKOR is one of the value-for-money prime lenses offering a commendable low-light performance. Tamron SP 15-30mm is the best alternative for wide-angle zoom lenses. With a wide aperture and low light performance, Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G is one of the best telephoto lens for product photography.