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Camera Body: Canon 5D Mark II
It’s been a while since I bought my last camera, so if you’re looking for a full frame DSLR, I would recommend the latest version of my camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.
If you’re new to photography and would like to purchase an entry level DSLR, I would recommend Canon EOS Rebel T7i (Canon EOS 800D) or Canon EOS Rebel T6i (Canon EOS 750D), which will get the job done for a fraction of the Canon 5D Mark IV’s price. Always buy “body only”; most of the lenses included in kits are (in my opinion) useless.
Lenses: For food photography, I’m partial to my Canon EF 100 mm f/2.8L IS USM. For wide angle shots, I also use Canon EF 24-70 mm f/2.8L II USM. When I travel, I only pack Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM Lens–also called “pancake” lens–as it is ultra-slim and lightweight.
Tripod & Tripod Head: In order to reduce camera shake and capture sharper photos–especially when you are shooting at lower shutter speeds, which is almost always the case if you only shoot with natural light–a tripod is a must. I use Manfrotto 190XPRO Aluminum 3-Section Tripod (MT190XPRO3) coupled with Manfrotto XPRO Magnesium Ball Head with 200PL Plate (MHXPRO-BHQ2).
Memory Cards: You will need lots of memory cards, especially if you’re shooting RAW or video. SanDisk Ultra 16GB Compact Flash Memory Card and SanDisk Extreme 32GB Compact Flash Memory Card are highly recommended. I have three of each.
Remote Switch: The tripod helps you get better pictures (especially when the light is low) and the Canon RS80N3 remote switch helps even further, tripping the shutter without moving the camera. And if you’re into long-exposure photography, then you absolutely have to get it.
Color Calibration target: X-Rite ColoRChecker Classic is a color calibration target consisting of a cardboard-framed arrangement of 24 squares of painted samples. The chart’s color patches have spectral reflectances intended to mimic those of natural objects such as human skin, foliage, and flowers, to have consistent color appearance under a variety of lighting conditions. If you’re serious about still life photography, get one.
Battery: I keep lots of batteries on hand, especially when I’m shooting outside. For Canon 5D Mark II, you need Canon LP-E6.
Filter Kits: I buy filter kits for each of the lenses I own. The Ultraviolet (UV) filter helps protect your valuable investment from dust, moisture and scratches, which can lead to costly repairs. The Circular Polarizing Filter removes unwanted reflections from non-metallic surfaces such as water or glass and also saturate colors providing better contrast. The effect can be seen through the viewfinder and changed by rotating the filter. The filter factor varies according to how the filter is rotated and its orientation to the sun. The Warming Filter (Intensifier) controls the bluish coloration that affects daylight film. Also removes excessive blue from the effects of electronic flash. Reduces blue to green color and makes the color of human skin look more sun-tanned.
Filters come in different sizes and which one you’ll buy depends on your lens:
- For Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM Lens: Hoya 52mm Filter Kit
- For Canon EF 24-70 mm f/2.8L II USM: Hoya 77mm Filter Kit
- For Canon EF 100 mm f/2.8L IS USM: Hoya 67mm Filter Kit
Reflector/Diffuser: To bounce more light into shadowy areas or diffuse harsh natural light, you’ll need a reflector kit, such as the Neewer 43-inch (110cm) 5-in-1 Collapsible Multi-Disc Light Reflector. These kits usually come in 5 different covers. The translucent panel is used as a diffuser. It is usually held directly above the subject to soften the sun’s natural light. The silver cover is very reflective and brighten both shadows and highlights but does not change the color of the available light. The gold cover basically works the same way while adding a warmer color to the image. The white cover brightens up the shadows to produce a softer light. It is not as bright as the silver side so you can get closer to your subject. The black cover subtracts light and creates shadows in certain areas.
Camera Bag: For me, Crumpler Men’s The 7 Million Dollar Home Pro Camera Bag is the perfect size. It fits my camera body with any of the lenses attached plus 2 more lenses, a flash if you need it, batteries, filters, memory cards. It also includes removable straps for carrying a tripod. If you’re traveling and would like to fit your laptop in the same bag as well, I would recommend Crumpler Brazillion Dollar Home.
Great post. Shows that basic and important equipment for the best shooting. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you for your explanation Cenk. After I read that article, I decided to take more photos like good old days =). You inspired me =).
Hi Cenk, I just found your great site. Your photos are an inspiration in themselves. I’d love to take food pictures like yours. However, I live in Bağdat Cadessi, and can’t find where to buy specialist camera equipment – especially like the lenses and diffusers you describe above. TechnoSA doesn’t quite cut it!
Elizabeth – The prices are insane in Turkey, but your best bet would be Erkayalar.
Thanks Cenk. Success, although I only bought the minimum for the moment – enough to practice with. You’re right, the prices here are eye-watering!
Cheers Cenk and lots there to pick from and its going to be a great addition to be able to add higher quality photos for my site. Thanks again and keep up the fantastic work
Must say my wife is delighted with your recommendations. Made a massive difference to her photos on her cooking/food site. http://Www.oliveoilandlemon.ie cheers again and love your work
I am a big fan of you,your blog and your gorgeous photos. Even though I follow your fabulous blog for two years, I haven’t left a comment before. I make my comments about your blog to the people I know. I live in Pittsburgh and I love to cook food from all around the world beside traditional ones. I want to take pictures of them. I have just bought Nikon D-SLR 5100 kit with 18-55 & 55-300 mm lenses. Somehow I didn’t see this article before. If I knew it, I was gonna buy Canon Rebel T2i or T3i. After I saw your recommendation about camera, I couldn’t decide that if I should keep that or return it back. I know you are busy with your book and you don’t have enough time to search it. I am just asking if you have any idea about Nikon D-SLR 5100. Thank you very much for your time.
Emel – Thank you! I absolutely have no idea about the camera you mentioned. Actually, I don’t have any idea about any of the cameras introduced after the model I’ve bought. I’m sure they have more advanced features, etc. I wouldn’t worry about the camera too much – lenses are much more important than cameras. I’m not sure what your needs are, but if I were you, I’d return at least one of those lenses. You can keep the 18-55 as a walk-around less if you like. I don’t like kit lenses. I’d recommend investing in good quality prime lenses that will suit your needs.
Hi Cenk. Really cool post. And almost exactly what I was looking for. I am headed to Chicago in a few days for a gastronomy trip. Since we are always traveling around to eat at restaurants, we need a camera that can take good pictures with low light, no tripod or flash. I read that the Canon is easier than the Nikon. And since I am most certainly not a photographer, I was wondering which camera would you reccomend. Cheers!
Marcus – If you’re going to buy a DSLR, I’d recommend getting the lightest (and probably the cheapest) one and a 50 mm 1.8 lens. If not, people say good things about Canon G10.
Wilson E. Stevens
Nice comments on camera equipment, though I am a Nikon user buying my first Nikon F in 1960. My question is how do I learn to take photo’s of food, and stage the food photo’s like you are doing. I don’t see any books or instructions, and you must have learned it some where. Please advise if you have time. Thanks for the great recipes and photo’s.
Wilson – I learned most of what I know through trial and error. Check out blogs you like and try to replicate the photos. In time, you2ll learn about light, shadows, etc. There are a few books on food styling as well. I’d recommend Plate to Pixel: Digital Food Photography & Styling
Ayşe Hande Günaydın
Thanks for the detailed post. It really helped. Love your food and pics, and of course waiting for more 🙂
I have a t7i. And what lenses do you recommend for food photography
Can I use the 24-79mm f2
Above are my choice of lenses. My favorite is 100mm.
Inspiring! You are my new favourite.