When to Use a Zoom Lens and a Fixed Focal Length for Food Photography?

Silvain • updated June 20, 2022 • 3 min read

When to Use a Zoom Lens and a Fixed Focal Length for Food Photography

Everyone who is interested in photography and owns or wishes to purchase a camera must, at some point, select a lens. Because a camera’s enclosure alone does not produce photographs. With the same camera body, different lenses may make a world of difference.

As a result, everything today centers around a relatively fundamental decision in lens selection: zoom lens or fixed focal length?

There are two types of lenses you can use for food photography: zoom lenses and lenses with fixed focal lengths. Because these two varieties are created differently, they each offer advantages and disadvantages depending on how you want to use them.


 

Food photography using zoom lenses

Zoom lenses have a zoom ring that may be adjusted. Turning it allows you to zoom in closer to your subject or zoom out the other way. You can modify the framing without having to walk closer or further away from the topic.

That’s nice at first since a zoom lens gives you a lot of freedom. You can see a wider area of the image and a full table setting if you zoom out far enough.

Zoom lens example, Sigma

Zooming in closer allows you to minimize the image area around your topic and use it to focus the view or capture only specific elements.

However, this focal length adjustment comes at the sacrifice of light intensity and image quality. As a result, zoom lenses aren’t as well suited to low-light situations and aren’t as sharp as photos made with a fixed focal length.

By the way, the focal length of a lens, whether zoom or fixed, refers to the distance between your camera’s sensor and the lens’s primary plane.

This measurement is in millimeters (millimeters). A zoom lens, for example, will have the designation “24-70mm” or “18-55mm.” Between these two focus lengths, you can zoom in and out. It is not the same with a fixed focal length.

Food photography using fixed focal lengths.

Fixed focal length lenses lack a zoom ring and, as a result, always have the same – i.e. “fixed” – image portion. As a result, the term “fixed” focal length was coined.

They just have one number on them that indicates the focal length of the lens, such as 50mm, 85mm, 100mm, and so on.

fixed focal length 50mm canon

With a fixed focal length, you must move closer or farther away from your subject to modify the frame. This can cause issues if you don’t have enough space to acquire an adequate distance from your subject for the correct crop.

However, because the entire architecture of these lenses can be adjusted for a single focal length, photos produced with a fixed focal length offer greater image quality and produce sharp images. Both are significant advantages for superb food photography.

Fixed focal lengths are also quite fast. So, even in low-light situations, you can shoot astonishingly attractive food shots. They also provide stunning bokeh, or the ever-popular depth of field, for wonderfully atmospheric photographs.

Zoom lens or fixed focal length?

As you can see, both types of lenses have benefits and drawbacks. Nonetheless, you can shoot great food shots with either a zoom lens or a fixed focal length lens.

Which lens is best for you depends primarily on the type of images you want to take, the spatial and lighting conditions you anticipate, and, of course, the amount of money you want to invest in a lens.

A zoom lens is your best bet if you want to be flexible and experiment before committing to one (or more) fixed focal lengths.

Zoom lenses are particularly useful if you want to shoot a table scene from above and you don’t want to be stuck under the ceiling or standing on a high ladder to get enough distance between the subject and the camera sensor for the necessary section of the image. Learn about Camera Angles for Food Photography.

Do you want to take razor-sharp food photographs with a nice atmospheric bokeh of food while also having enough leeway to stand a little further away from your subject?

Then a fixed focal length lens is probably ideal for you. Photos shot with a fixed focal length are usually of higher quality than those taken with a zoom lens. Or it’s an especially high-quality zoom lens, which influences the price.

 


Zoom lenses or lenses with fixed focal lengths – what is your opinion – let us know in the comments!

By Furoore team member Silvain

Silvain is a French/German national and has been with the Furoore Team since the beginning. He likes to write about various photography themes, especially food photography. If you leave a comment, he will come back to you to answer any questions you may have.

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