Since getting the new Canon XSi, I’ve taken quite a few nice shots. However, I knew that I couldn’t really take advantage of the camera until I got a professional quality primary, fixed focal length lens. The 18-55 telephoto that came with my camera kit was serviceable, but as those of us who do a lot of food photography know, the flash is not your friend. Really nice food photos are taken in ambient or natural light, and when you are in a restaurant environment, you REALLY don’t want to use a flash. And we also know that ambient light in environments where food is served can be challenging for food photography.
The downside of a telephoto lens is that the glass isn’t as big — the 18-55 kit lens for the XSi is 58mm wide, for example, so you don’t get as much light captured as say a 77mm wide lens. Having telephoto also reduces how wide you can open your aperture — the almighty F stop — which is key to natural light photography. A fixed focal length primary lens also allows you to shoot at a lower ISO rating in less light than a telephoto lens. So to summarize, Bigger glass, wider F stop, better food photos.
Having done some research on primary lenses, I finally settled on the newly released 50mm SIGMA F1.4 EX DG HSM. This comes in a Canon or a Nikon mount, and it streets for about $480.00. DPreview.com has a short write up of it here. Hey, I didn’t say the thing was cheap. Compared to the Canon L Series 50mm F 1.2 though at around $1400.00 which I originally wanted but Rachel would kick my ass if I went out and bought, I thought it was a bargain given this is state of the art lens technology. Canon also makes a 50mm 1.4 which sells for around $350.00, but it’s an older design, and I had a hard time getting one from online resellers without it being a special order item.
Here’s a photo of some grilled jumbo shrimp we made tonight, shot at f/2.5 ISO 500, using just the light in my kitchen. I’m barely scratching the surface of what this lens can do. Like driving a Ferrari, its a high performance product with quirks that the driver needs to adapt to. I’m finding that I have to bracket my exposures in aperture priority mode to finally get the image I want. With practice I should be able to tweak my depth of field just the way I want it. Hey, I’m a total gimp at real photography. Cut me some slack.
Ready for some primary lenses, octopus, and jumbo shrimp? Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.
Some collard greens, shot with flash.
Fried garlic, shot with the regular 18-55 Canon kit lens.
Octopus being marinated in olive oil, salt and pepper, and smoked paprika.
Toss ’em on the griddle.
Octopus. How… tentaclely.
Octopus at f/2.8, ISO 800.
f/5.0 at ISO 800.