Best Camera for Food Photography by Budget

The best camera for food blogging by budget

What’s up Nomsters! When we first starting blogging and instagramming, we did a lot of research to improve everything from our photography to our branding and marketing and everything in between. And while we found a lot of information that pertained to “Blogging” in general, we didn’t find much that related specifically to Food Blogging. THAT’S what we’re changing here. We’ve decided to write some posts dedicated to helping food bloggers! Whether you’re brand new or have several years under your belt, we guarantee you’ll find some useful info here that pertains directly to food blogging and food photography. And for our first post, we wanted to give our recommendations for the best camera for food photography based on what your budget is.

Photography and blogging is definitely an investment, but if you really want to take it seriously, you’re going to have to spend some money in order to get good quality photos. If you really want to get into food photography, we highly recommend not skimping on your camera and lenses. It’s well worth it to save up several hundred dollars, if you can, in order to start with an entry level DSLR or mirrorless camera instead of relying solely on your phone camera or a simple point-and-shoot. If you’re upgrading from your phone camera or point-and-shoot, you’ll notice instant quality improvement, even when shooting in automatic mode (you should learn to shoot manual asap, but that’s for another post).

One thing to be noted in the beginning is that we have used mostly Nikon cameras, and so we have the most experience with, and understanding of, that brand. We’re sure Canon, Sony, and other brands make great products as well, but we don’t want to give recommendations for products we haven’t used and experienced ourselves.

On that note, and for full disclosure, the links on this post are all affiliate links, but all of our recommendations are for products that we’ve used and love.

Anyways, let’s jump right into the recommendations! They’re listed from least to most expensive.

NOTE: When you buy cameras at this level, they all have interchangeable lenses. These budgets do NOT include lens costs. They are JUST for the camera bodies.

$500 Budget: Sony a6000 Mirrorless Camera

Sony a6000 front
Sony a6000 back
The Sony a6000 is the best camera for food photography in the $500 price range. It’s a 24.3 megapixel mirrorless camera that’s great for the price. The picture quality isn’t as good as a DSLR in our opinion, but it’s much more compact and way lighter than the other cameras listed here, so if decent quality and portability are most important to you, this one’s definitely a top choice. We know multiple foodstagrammers who use this camera all the time and love it. Plus, it can shoot at an astounding 11 frames per second, which is perfect for capturing those action shots of syrup and gravy pours, cheese pulls, and cocktail mixing.

For some examples of shots taken with the Sony a6000, check out our friend, Grace Cheung

Pros:

  • Compact
  • Light weight (12.2 ounces)
  • Vertical tilting screen
  • 11 frames per second continuous shooting (great for syrup pours and food action shots)

Cons:

  • Slightly lower quality images
  • APS-C Sensor (Crop sensor – half the size of a full frame camera, so it lets in less light)
  • Mediocre low light performance

$700 Budget: Nikon D5500 Crop Sensor DSLR

Nikon D5500 front
Nikon D5500 back
The Nikon D5500 was the first camera we bought and it was an amazing entry level DSLR. With 24.2 megapixels, it’s physically larger than the Sony, but smaller than the D750 and the D850. It’s still relatively compact, but gives you the mechanical shutter and a better grip when holding and shooting. It definitely feels better in your hands. One of the coolest features of this camera that we don’t even have with the more expensive full frame DSLRs is the fully articulating screen. You can swivel it out and literally turn it in all directions. This is incredible for food photography because it allows you to get you camera positioned in tight corners and all kinds of angles and still see what you’re shooting. If you’re at a restaurant with tight quarters where you can barely move your elbows without bumping the chairs next to you, this is a life saver.

For examples of shots taken with the Nikon D5500, check out this post

Pros:

  • Fully articulating screen
  • Touch screen focusing
  • Great image quality

Cons:

  • 5 frames per second continuous shooting
  • Optical pentamirror viewfinder (explanation later in the post)
  • Crop sensor (APS-C)
  • Decent low light performance (better than the Sony, but worse than the D750 and D850)

$1700 Budget: Nikon D750 Full Frame DSLR

Nikon D750 front
Nikon D750 back
After a year of using the D5500 and loving the images we got from it, we knew that we wanted to get serious about our photography, so we did some research and decided a quality full frame DSLR was the direction we wanted to go. We ended up getting a Nikon D750 and a D850 (which we’ll talk about next), and both still never cease to amaze us.

The D750 is an outstanding mid-priced full frame DSLR, and it’s perfect for food photography. Stepping up from the pentamirror to the pentaprism viewfinder is something you just have to experience to believe. The full frame sensor makes for crystal clear and vibrant images. And if you know how to shoot in manual mode, it has very good low light performance. It’s perfect for those dimly lit dinner shoots! Unfortunately, this camera doesn’t have a touch screen, but you can still move around menus and zoom in and out of pictures quickly once you get the hang of the buttons on the back. All in all, this one gets our stamp of approval for being the best camera for food photography under $2,000.

For examples of shots taken with the Nikon D750, check out this post

Pros:

  • Full Frame sensor (twice the size of the crop sensors, which captures more light and therefore provides better quality images
  • Optical Pentaprism viewfinder
    • We won’t get into too much boring detail here, but basically, a pentaprism viewfinder is a solid piece of optical glass that keeps light loss to a minimum. That’s just a fancy way of saying it provides a much brighter view through the viewfinder compared to pentamirrors, which are composed of multiple mirrors with empty space between them, which causes more light loss and a dimmer view through the viewfinder. Pentamirrors are often found in entry level DSLRs, whereas pentaprisms are found in higher end ones.
    • Larger view in viewfinder – once you start using a full frame camera, looking through the viewfinder of a crop sensor camera feels like looking through a pinhole. It’s so much brighter, clearer, and the actual visible area is larger.
  • Heavier – why is this a pro, you ask? We strongly believe that heftier cameras (within reason) actually help keep the camera steady when you’re shooting. If you don’t mind carrying around the extra weight in your bag, that is.
  • Good low light performance

Cons:

  • No touch screen
  • 24.3 megapixels (not a terrible thing by any means, but the D850 has many more)
  • Heavier (depending on what you’re looking for)
  • Screen doesn’t fully articulate

$3,300 Budget: Nikon D850 Full Frame DSLR

Nikon D850 front
Nikon D850 back
If you have the cash and want the top of the line gear, the Nikon D850 is, without a doubt, the DSLR for you. As of writing this in July of 2018, it is consistently rated as the top DSLR on the market and even beat out Canon’s EOS 5D Mark IV, which held the title for many years. It boasts a jaw dropping 45.7 megapixels, super high dynamic range, a minimum ISO of 64, a tilting touch screen that you can tap to focus and take pictures with, ultra fast auto focus with 153 focus points, up to 9 frames per second continuous shooting, 4k video, and the list goes on.

One of the most useful features that we utilize all the time is the touch screen for taking photos. You know how when you’re taking photos of a flat lay and you’ve got your arms fully extended over the top of everything and you’ve got your head tilted back to try to see the screen and your hand is twisted in an awkward position to push the button to take the shot? Well, imagine how much easier it is support the camera overhead by the lens with one hand, tilt the screen towards you, and just tap on the screen where you want the camera to focus and it simply takes the shot. It’s little things like that, along with the extended list of mind boggling features that make this camera so special and a joy to use.

Not to mention it has phenomenal low light performance. And if you shoot RAW images, you’re able to recover SO much of the image from the extreme ends of the dynamic range (shadows and glare/highlights). If you ask us, this camera definitely lives up to the hype and would be our top recommendation to anyone who can afford it, and is, in our opinion, the best camera for food photography around right now.

For examples of shots taken with the Nikon D850, check out this post

Pros:

  • 45.7 megapixels
  • Amazing dynamic range, which means amazing image quality
  • Touch screen with tap to focus and shoot feature
  • HEAVY – good for image stabilization
  • 4k video
  • ISO 64
    • Most DSLRs have a minimum ISO of 100. ISO is a way of digitally adjusting the brightness of an image that you’re about to shoot. The higher the ISO, the brighter the image will be, but it also introduces noise at the higher end, so your images lose quality. The lower the ISO you can use in any situation the better quality images you’ll get, so the fact that this camera can go below ISO 100 is awesome for quality.

Cons:

  • Largest camera listed here
  • HEAVY – could be a deal breaker for some people
  • May not be a good fit for small hands
  • Screen doesn’t fully articulate

What camera(s) do you currently use? What cameras have you been considering upgrading to? Let us know in the comments! Till next time, Nomsters!

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