5 Best Nikon Lenses for Food Photography in 2023!

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Best Nikon Lenses for Food Photography

We live in an age inundated by images of food. Even that pale, lifeless hamburger your college roommate just ate makes it onto social media with a click of her cell phone. Food images are everywhere, both in the amateur and professional world.

If you’re a photographer who works in images of food it’s a much more complex process than simply arranging the salad to complement the entrée and snapping a few pics.

Food photography may not seem as demanding as catching an eagle in mid-dive or a basketball player with his hand in the net on a dunk, but it has its challenges, and selecting the best Nikon lens for food photography may not be as easy as you think.

We’re here to help with that process.

1

BEST LENS FOR FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY

Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G Lens

Nikon

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2

BEST BUDGET LENS

Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8D Lens

Nikon

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3

BEST MACRO LENS

Nikon AF-S FX Micro 60mm f/2.8G ED Macro Lens

Nikon

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4

BEST Z LENS LENS

NIKON Z 24-70mm f/4 S Zoom Lens

Nikon

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5

BEST WIDE-ANGLE PRIME LENS

Nikon AF-S FX 24mm f/1.4G ED Wide-Angle Prime Lens

Nikon

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Best Nikon Lenses for Food Photography Rationale

There are four things to consider in producing a quality food image, and they’re in no particular order. Color, contrast, clarity, and composition. Something that can handle those parameters is the best type of lens for food photography.

Nikon lenses for food photography don’t have the same requirements for other settings that capture motion, in extreme lighting conditions or with the challenges brought on by nature. They do need to have close focal lengths, handle high contrast lighting and produce quality images for both standard print publication and digital online uses. There are a few wide-angle views in food photography, but those require creative angles to display vineyards, production facilities, food transportation, and processing clearly.

The difference between modern food photography from traditional magazines, menus, and newspaper publications is striking.

If you can recall the washed-out, faded images of menus, some that still exist, in major chain restaurants and compare those to an online menu found via Google search you can see the change clearly.

Restaurants now fill their menus with images, rather than just simple text, and online apps require quality images with minimal text adjacent to the +/- tab that allows you to order.

Food photography has exploded on the market in recent years and is one of the more lucrative fields for professional photographers and those who are just starting the business to work.

That cell phone pic just won’t cut it when corporate calls and asks for a portfolio of portobellos (yes, pun intended)

Things to consider in a food lens

  • Shorter focal length
  • Good F-stop range
  • Handles filters easily
  • Auto-focus
  • Good depth of field

Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras

Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f1.4G Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras
Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f1.4G Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras

Best Nikon Lens for Food Photography

Bottom Line:

This lens is the best Nikon FX lens for food photography and the best Nikon DX lens for food photography. You might be surprised, but sometimes the best option is also the simplest one. The “Nifty 50” fixed 50mm Nikkor lens gets the job done in almost every conceivable food photography setting. That’s why we’ve named it the best for both Fx and Dx cameras. When you’re good, you’re good, it’s that easy.

This is a fixed focal length lens with an F-stop range of 1.4 to 16. When you’re trying to generate high-contrast color images you need a lens that will remain focused on close portions of the subject as well as those in the background. Depth of field is crucial in indoor, fixed photographs of food, this lens will provide that clarity in a variety of lighting sessions.

PROS

  • 50mm focal length
  • Lightweight
  • High-speed autofocus
  • F/1.4
  • 2-inch minimum focus

CONS

  • No zoom

Why We Picked It

The ability of 50mm to produce images as your eye sees them is hard to beat. As such, this is a must for food images, and still practical for everyday use with portraits and other close-range photography.

The low F-stop of 1.4 is among the fastest on the market, and this lens delivers that speed at a very reasonable cost. A fast aperture might not seem a necessity for a stationary object like you find in food photography, but the ability to capture images in limited light is a great option. This lens is the best for low light conditions, and one of the main reasons we selected it first.

Shallow depth of field at F-1.4 allows you to delineate your food from an out-of-focus background creating crisp, stark standalone images.

Who It’s For

A fast fixed, 50mm lens is something that should be in everyone’s camera bag. It doesn’t matter if it’s for food photography or just your go-to lens. This is the one they include at lower quality in camera packages since it is so versatile.

Professionals and rank amateurs can get quality images from this lens since it takes so much of the guesswork out of the process.

A professional, using the camera in manual mode, setting their ISO, shutter speed and white balance individually can produce stark, riveting images with this lens that others would struggle to recreate.

An amateur, even one who just points and clicks with the camera in sport, portrait, or any other automatic setting will still create vibrant images. That’s the power of a high-end “Nifty Fifty.”

Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8D Lens for Nikon DSLR

Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 50mm f1.8D Lens for Nikon DSLR Cameras
Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 50mm f1.8D Lens for Nikon DSLR Cameras

Nikon’s Best Budget Lens Food Photography

Bottom Line:

No, it’s not déjà vu all over again with the same 50mm lens. While the fixed focal length is the same, the difference between a 1.8 and 1.4 F-stop will be profound, at least in your wallet. This is the least expensive lens in this review, but it still delivers great quality at an incredibly low price.

Without the additional features of higher priced “Nifty Fifty” lenses, this one will still produce high-quality, high-contrast images in a wide variety of lighting situations.

The versatility of the lens in photographic settings aside from creating food images at such a low price is the main reason we selected this lens.

PROS

  • 50mm focal length
  • 5.5 ounces
  • Inexpensive
  • F/1.8 – F/22 range
  • 2 inch minimum focus

CONS

  • No zoom
  • No autofocus on DX

Why We Picked It

With this model, we didn’t ask what is the best Nikon lens for food photography, but rather which Nikon lens is best for food photography at the best price. Coming in the least expensive model that still delivers a quality image is why we chose this lens.

Priced at the bottom of the scale, and included in almost every Nikon digital camera package, this lens gets possibly more use by the amateur or novice photographer than any other.

The body of knowledge available to the beginning photographer with just a minimum of research is a key reason this lens made the list.

Is it the best Nikon macro lens for food photography? Categorically no, but it gets the job done just the same.

Who It’s For

To be brutally honest, no professional photographer is going to have this lens. It just doesn’t deliver equally with all the options that higher-priced, higher-quality lenses offer. But for an amateur, a novice just starting out and trying to figure out the basics of simple photography or for the person who wants to “do it yourself” in creating digital images of food for their own restaurant or as a startup career, you can’t lose with this nimble little lens at the incredibly low price.

For the beginner this is a great lens to start with, and who knows, after mastering it they just might be ready to step up and find something better in their quest to find a niche for their photographic skills.

Nikon AF-S FX Micro-NIKKOR 60mm f/2.8G ED Standard Macro Lens for Nikon DSLR

Nikon AF-S FX Micro-NIKKOR 60mm f2.8G ED Standard Macro Lens for Nikon DSLR Cameras
Nikon AF-S FX Micro-NIKKOR 60mm f2.8G ED Standard Macro Lens for Nikon DSLR Cameras

Best Nikon Macro Lens for Food Photography

Bottom Line:

This might appear to be a very limited usage lens at first glance with a fixed focal length of 60mm and just an average low-end F-Stop of 2.8 but looks (and images) can be deceiving.

The 60mm is just above the range of the standard 50mm lens, and just a 10mm difference doesn’t seem like much, but with the macro feature of this camera, you can achieve a very tight field of focus.

There are times when you want the entire entre in the photo to be clear and crisp, but with a macro, that’s not the case.

A macro will “reach out and touch” an image with a tight focus and a much softer focus just inches away.

You want that option in some food photographic sessions. Enhancing the image in question is easier when it is the only thing in the frame in tight focus. This lens can deliver that.

PROS

  • 60mm focal length
  • Solid one-pound weight
  • Good macro setting
  • F/2.8 – F/22 range
  • 2-inch minimum focus

CONS

  • No zoom
  • Not great in limited light

Why We Picked It

Detail, clarity, and a one-to-one image ratio are the primary reasons we chose this lens. The detail of a macro lens, at least a good one like this model can’t be matched with even the close focusing ability of a fixed 50mm standard lens.

If you want the drops of water to pop and reflect the strawberries they’re clinging to in a high-definition photo this is the lens for you

When people ask what lens is used for food photography, the answers can vary, but you can be assured that 60mm Macro is one of them.

The 60mm length and the almost one-pound heft of the camera make it easy to control on tight shots, and the macro setting is what you want to use in those edging high-level, high contrast, heavily focused shots.

A lens at a moderate price that remains versatile for other uses when not set in macro mode is another reason for us to select it.

Who it’s for

This is a professional, target-specific lens for the high-end user. You don’t have to be a professional to use it, but it does take practice to get things perfectly set in place so the macro features on this lens can come into play.

You’ll spend more time prepping your subject with this lens in macro mode than you will with other lenses, but the results, at least for the professional are more than worth the effort.

Seasoned professional, or advancing amateur, both photographic skill levels will benefit from this lens.

When you’re not using it in macro mode, it’s still a very useful, respected lens for other photographic venues. What you see is what you get nature of your eye on a subject is met with the same feature on this lens.

If it looks good to you, your camera will capture that identical image with this lens.

NIKON NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S Standard Zoom Lens for Nikon Z Mirrorless Cameras

NIKON NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4 S Standard Zoom Lens for Nikon Z Mirrorless Cameras
NIKON NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4 S Standard Zoom Lens for Nikon Z Mirrorless Cameras

Best Nikon Z Lens for Food Photography

Bottom Line:

This is a lens for a different approach in food photography. The fixed 4.0 f-stop, combined with a 24mm to 70mm zoom in a mirrorless Z format package is a package for the advanced photographer.

Setting the camera on auto and hoping the f-stop changes with the light and distance isn’t going to happen with this lens and camera body. If you’re looking for that ability, you’ll need to look elsewhere, but if you’re light is controlled, this lens will deliver like no other.

The ability to zoom from 24 to 70mm on a fixed subject, with artificial light set on the platter of food, or possibly fruit or vegetables allows you to create step-by-step images that slowly enlarge.

If you’re into animate GIFs morphing fruit, this is the lens for you.

PROS

  • 24mm – 70 mm zoom
  • Fixed F-4
  • Z-mount
  • 2-inch minimum focus
  • 70mm wide

CONS

  • No variable F-stop
  • Expensive

Why We Picked It

As we mentioned earlier, you don’t need a gigantic zoom lens to shoot photographs of food, but the zoom is still a great option to have, even if it seems a little restricted to most amateur photographers.

We consider this the best Nikon zoom lens for food photography, even though the short 24mm to 70mm zoom might seem a little small for most photographers familiar with longer zoom lenses reaching out to 300mm or beyond.

The magic in this lens is the fixed F-stop that allows zooming images to retain the same light-gathering sessions from the shortest to the longest focal lengths.

Panning across a target bathed in calibrated, studio light allows a variety of close-up and pan shots with a stationary camera. The only difference is the focal length and accompanying change in the size of the target.

Who it’s for

This one’s for the pro. It will take someone familiar with light settings, studio lamps, and camera angles to utilize this lens to the utmost. An amateur can learn with patience and practice, but when you’re using a fixed F-stop lens, in a full frame, Z format camera, you’re beyond the realm of most “weekend warrior” camera buffs.

This lens is a must for those that wish to digitize crystal-clear shots into morphed images. The zoom lets you move in and out without moving the camera as a result, when combined with the fixed F-4 stop, you get images that blend seamlessly without having to correct them in Photoshop.

Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 24mm f/1.4G ED Wide-Angle Prime Lens for Nikon DSLR

Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 24mm f1.4G ED Wide-Angle Prime Lens for Nikon DSLR Cameras
Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 24mm f1.4G ED Wide-Angle Prime Lens for Nikon DSLR Cameras

Best Nikon Prime Lens for Food Photography

Bottom Line:

Some might ask why a wide-angle lens for food photography? Are you going to shoot a really big pizza or hamburger? While that might seem a funny question to answer, the truth is that not all food shots are tightly focused, high-contrast, close-ups of someone’s favorite lunch item. There are times when a wide-angle lens is exactly what you need for that perfect food shot.

Food comes in a lot of varieties, and there are just as many or possibly more methods of shooting food that entice customers. Enticing customers is why you were hired to take these photos, or are attempting to cut costs and take them on your own.

A wide-angle lens can capture a food processing plant breaking down vegetables in an assembly line. It can capture workers in the field harvesting a crop or even take idyllic farm scenes that tie the final product back to a more natural setting.

We chose this 24mm beauty for its wide-angle capabilities and the extremely high light-gathering ability of an F-1.4 lens.

PROS

  • 24mm focal length
  • Full frame
  • Excellent wide-angle lens
  • F/1.4– F-16 range
  • 2-inch minimum focus

CONS

  • No zoom
  • Expensive

Why We Picked It

Not all food photography takes place in a controlled studio, with a carefully prepared subject bathed in perfect lighting. Many times, a wide-angle image can convey a more emotional response to a subject, even something as common as food.

To generate that visceral reaction you need a lens that can spread out the image in crisp, clear, detail. Often you’ll want a panoramic view in a photographic session with food, especially food before it’s prepared and on the plate.

The main market focuses on prepared food in its images, but the raw material style and supply side photograph have their place as well.

Who it’s for

You don’t have to be a professional to appreciate the value of a wide image, but you do have to have an eye for it.

High contrast, clear, well-focused images make a wide-angle shot pop, and this lens will create that sensation for both novice and pro.

It comes at a high price, but the fast, light-gathering capabilities make it worth the additional cost.

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AUTHOR
Hey there, my name is James and I am the creator and editor of this site. I have been photographing for the past 20 years and my mission is to simplify this misunderstood art of taking and processing photographs I love. I invite you to say “hey” on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

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