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Pro Tip series #1

 Pro Tip series #1 Which is the best camera for food Photography?



I get asked by many of those attending my courses or contacting me through my website, which is the best camera for food, or advice on a first camera to start shooting food projects. I will come back to that question but first a trip down my camera memory lane.... queue “twilight Zone” music

I have not owned many cameras and have tried to upgrade as finances and opportunities allow.

My first camera as a Professional was a Sinar 5x4 camera I bought it second hand for £300 ! Lens not included and remember travelling on the bus in some London suburb to pay cash for it. The lens took another year to buy. I hired lenses as needed. It is a camera definitely not for the faint hearted. It needs a sturdy tripod, the image is projected on the back screen upside down and the flipped left to right and sheet film is used measuring 5x4inches. It seems ancient now, but at the time delivered high quality images perfect for higher resolution printing. The Camera frame could be swivelled and tilted to compensate for any perspective distortions, correcting upright angles in bottle , glasses and distorted perspectives. It was a great work horse but clearly lacked versatility and was a bit of a “tank”




I knew I needed a smaller camera, and a medium format model was something I had my sights on....I initially wanted the classic Mamiya RZ67 a chunky, sturdy camera using roll film at a 6x7cm format. Versatility and quality. But never wanting to miss an opportunity, my girlfriend(now my wife) had a spare Hasselblad! She shot fashion and portraits and loved the smaller hand holdable size and lens quality. All mechanical it worked like a dream and to this day I can still hear the shutter noise and winding on motion when taking a picture in my dreams! I felt like a real life Carbanby street London Photographer with one of those in my bag! So I used her camera, adding  a couple of new lenses, for a very long time...getting married, raising a family, for her changing career, that Hassleblad just kept going, albeit a service once every 18months or so. 


 

Digital was fast becoming an unstoppable force of the industry, but 35mm cameras were still to small in file delivery, so the best thing was a large digital back for my(sorry my wife's) Hasselblad.

The best of both worlds, a Phase One digital back clamped on to a hasselblad with the finest lens...nice

That has worked beautifully over the years, it has endured many hardware, software upgrades and computer changes. Which usually meant many sleepless nights re linking all the equipment on every software upgrade...enough said.




At last 35mm cameras started to catch up with the medium format digital quality. Although there will allays be a large canyon of a difference between the file size and quality between a 35mm DSLR and medium format digital camera, can the difference actually be seen? Do I really want to enlarge my photograph the size of a bus? My pictures are mostly used for A4 and A5 publications websites and social media posts usually the size of postage stamp. So a time for more shopping for a 35mm DSLR. For no reason other than I am a bit of an old romantic about cameras, I decided on a Nikon. I have always loved the look, feel and prestige of this brand, although to be honest there is not difference between many of the top brands, In fact if I have to be honest certainly Canon have been market leaders in camera/video capability.

My old 35mm Nikon DSLR has been used on hundreds of projects, publications and stories. Great picture quality for the now relatively small sensor size, it has allowed me versatility of work, creativity of shooting and as complimented the hasselblad/PhaseOne system perfectly.



The next stage....

I have always wanted to shoot video, something I have been unable to do, also I have watched with envy as camera sensors have got bigger and bigger over the years. Full frame sensor sizes of 50Mb is a real watershed moment for the DSLR systems, Medium format cameras have reached and surpassed that a few years ago, with eye watering prices! Mirrorless technology is becoming evermore popular. I was resistant, loving the real viewfinder of a prism and mirror arrangement.

My teenage daughter regularly reminds me of my “old” dad thinking so in a pathetic attempt to keep “trendy” (I can see my daughters eye's rolling at my use of word trendy!) I am now the proud owner of a  Nikon Z7 mirrorless camera. Scaringly big file sizes for such a small camera, 4K video and nearly all fits into my pocket! I have used on a couple of commissioned jobs, and so far it has exceeded my expectations.


 

A quick note on compact cameras, those eagle eyed among you may have spotted my compact camera in the picture- it is a Ricoh GR, in my mind still the best compact camera around. It punches above its weight delivering superior photos for its size. A great little camera that keeps getting better on each upgrade.

On refection every camera I have used has got progressively smaller, during a time when mobile phones use to get smaller in successive models but are now getting bigger...



Back to the original question, which camera is best for food.



My Pro Tip for this is

  1. Get a camera with the biggest sensor you can afford. Consider second-hand, good quality high end cameras with low capture count can be found secondhand.

  2. Choose a camera that has a tilt and twist screen for easy viewing when overhead

  3. Wifi and bluetooth function- although I have found that using a USB cable connection much more reliable and easier for transferring files and Live view.

  4. 4K video, for any youtube and vlogging potential.

  5. Able to remove and interchange lenses. Although not possible if using a compact. For food using a compact built in lens is OK, I will be posting advice on lenses on my next Pro Tip post- “Choice of lenses for food”

  6. easy use of functions on the camera body, Manual, auto change, ISO and WB changes with quick and ease of use.

  7. High ISO capability with Low electronic noise, check reviews and if possible try before buy

  8. Simple design with clear and quick responsive functions. Don't be dazzled by lots of buttons and functions. Remember sensor size is key not how many shoot functions a camera has.



If shooting mostly food having a system with a large lens choice is not essential, more on lenses on my next post.

Lastly I am not affiliated or connected with any camera manufacture or company, these are just my rambling thoughts acquired over my Photographic career.

William Reavell



 

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