What’s the best lens when it comes to shooting food, but you are on a budget?

A lot of photographers are asking themselves what is the best lens for a particular shot. It doesn’t matter if we are speaking about portraits, landscapes, street photography, food or what so ever a lot of people want to know which lens will give them the best results. Even if we would think that the most expensive one will give you the best results, this is not always true. There are some situations where we can obtain very good results with cheaper alternatives. I invite to find out together with me what affordable alternatives we have. This article isn’t meant to compare specs and charts. This can be done easily through a simple search on the google. From experience I can tell you that the numbers are not always enough.

The 35mm

I can tell you that I am a Nikon user and the copy of my Nikon 35 mm f/1.8G is one of the sharpest I have. It is way sharper than the 50 mm f/1.8G lens, but it depends on your luck. Even if the manufacturing process should be the same I have noticed that there are slight differences between two lenses. It is logical if you think about it, because each lens is assembled by a human hand. Experience leaves its footprint on the product as well. This is also valid in the world of photography.

Returning to the 35 mm lens, I can tell you that prime lenses in general are sharper than zoom lenses. This is due to the construction. While full frame camera users will prefer the 50 mm lens over the 35 mm one, the situation is different in the case of crop sensor cameras. This means that on a crop sensor camera, Nikon (1.5x) or Canon (1.6x) the lens is equivalent to a 52 mm lens on a 1.5x crop factor sensor and 56 mm lens on a 1.6 crop factor sensor. On a full frame DSLR the 35 mm lens would be quite wide for taking those delicious shots. On a crop sensor camera you can get quite close and the shallow depth of field will give you a really delicious look.

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The following image was shot using the Nikon 35 mm lens.

Best lens for beginners - Nikon 35 mm f/1.8G @ f/4
Strawberries shot with Nikon f/1.8G @ f/4

You can buy yourself used for around $ 100, but you can buy it new for around $ 200. Check out the prices below.


The 50 mm (nifty fifty)

The 50 mm lens is one the most common lens used by bloggers. The reason behind this is due to the fact that it is quite inexpensive. It got very popular among bloggers quite soon. Especially among crop sensor camera users. The images delivered by this prime lens offer a really nice depth of field. Although most of the photographers think that they are shooting at 50 mm with their cropped sensor cameras. In fact the image seems to be more like a 75 mm lens or even 80 mm. For this reason you can obtain a shallower depth of field than with the 35 mm lens.

If you are wondering why this lens is called nifty 50 there isn’t any official answer to say it like that. The fact is that this lens is a great travel lens, has low weight, it is fast and very cheap. The Canon lenses are available new for $ 100 or less. Yongnuo launched their nifty 50 for Canon cameras which you can buy for as low as $ 70. If you have other explanations why they are called nifty 50 I invite you to share your explanations in the comment section below.

The kit lens 18-55mm

Although a lot of people will complain about the kit lens, from my experience I can tell you that some kit lenses are even sharper than more expensive lenses out there. While some of you may argue with be that the kit lens is not worth paying attention this is not totally true. A lot of so called “experts” or “professionals” will tell you that you need the ultimate lens for taking great shots. Unfortunately this is partially true.

Although a more expensive lens will give you better overall performance like sharpness, contrast or less chromatic aberrations, nobody speaks about technique. A lot of us tend to transform ourselves into gear freaks wanting the best gear out there. Unfortunately I have to say that the ultimate camera or lens will not make your shots delicious. Not at all. I had to learn that the hard way. Why? Because a real photographer knows so much more than pressing the shutter button. You need to know the light, framing, use your creativity to take the perfect shot of food.

What options do I have

Do you want the best lens on a budget? You already have it. Most of the time the food is a static object. Unless if you are trying to shoot some chocolate or ice cream which might melt during the shooting. In 98% of the cases you will have a static, not moving food in front of you. Your lens is not the sharpest? Who cares? Try stacking multiple shots in Photoshop. For sure it will take you a longer time to process your photos.

But this should not stop you to photograph does delicious cakes grandma or you mother, your wife or girlfriend / boyfriend prepared. Also don’t forget that you have also an advantage. Even if your lens isn’t as sharp as a prime lens you have the advantage of zoom. Your lens can be easily a 35 mm if you want or a 55 mm. You want the entire table to be the frame. Go for 24 mm, but pay attention to the distortions. You already have the best lens. Your probably purchased it with your camera. Your shots don’t look as nice as of other photographers? Don’t blame your camera. Don’t blame your lens. The photographer is taking the picture and not the camera.

If you want to buy one of the lenses please check out the products below:

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G Vibration Reduction II
Buy it now

Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8D
Buy it now

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G
Buy it now

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM
Buy it now

Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
Buy it now

Yongnuo EF YN 50mm F/1.8
Buy it now


Although a lot of us might say that you need a particular lens for your project this is not always true. Probably some of you will say that you need that Nikon or Canon macro lens for the perfect result, but those lenses are not really what we call cheap. Neither are the Tamron or Sigma macro lenses. Certainly they’ll be cheaper than the Nikon or Canon lenses, but you will think twice when you are on a budget. Investing in new gear is not a bad thing, but for sure you will need to dig into your pocket.

The questions is how often will you use it? If you are working on a daily basis it’s worth the investment. If you want to try out something new you have other options. Either you go for something cheaper, either you use what you already have. If you are able lend it from your friend. It is not shame to do it like that. A lot of professionals will tell you that they have borrowed their lenses at the beginning. If you are not making money of photography or if you are not some Ritchie Rich then the above alternatives can give you great results. Don’t forget that photography is a process. It takes skills for delicious shots. Try to improve your technique. Try to be unique.

Final thoughts

Please share what do you think which is the best lens for shooting delicious photos. I invite you bloggers to leave a comment in the section below and share what is your favourite lens when it comes to shooting food. What did you use at the beginning and how did you evolve in time.

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