Product photography is a profitable, fun, and in-demand photography niche. The right equipment will help you capture those amazing shots that will sell. Here is our guide on how to find the best camera for product photography.
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Choose a Camera to Suit the Type of Product Photography
Product photography is a mixed bag of various disciplines. So the products for photography you need ultimately depends on what type of services you want to offer.
The type of camera you should get has to meet the demands of the services you wish to do.
Are you interested in photographing for digital use for Amazon, Etsy, or eBay? In that case, you can get away with a less expensive camera body. You can even use a 12-megapixel option if you wish.
Websites don’t work well with big file sizes. If you use a high-resolution camera, you’ll have to reduce its quality to upload your images. That’s why it’s best to use more straightforward cameras with less megapixel count for web use.
But how about if you want to try photography for prints? Then it’s essential to buy a camera with a high-resolution sensor. Why? Because you’ll need to maintain the fine details of your image when printing. You’ll find it useful when you need to create commercial posters that are several feet wide or even bigger.
What Features Do You Need for Product Photography?
You see, cameras are still no match for the human eye. No matter how high tech they are, they still make mistakes. That’s why photographers prefer to have full control over every aspect of photography. And manual mode allows them to do just that.
What if you’ve never tried manual mode before? It’s not that hard to learn, but don’t take my word for it. Check out this quick guide on manual mode, and you’ll see.
When doing product photography, the camera’s sensor won’t always be accurate. So it’s still best if your device lets you select the ISO, shutter speed, and aperture combination. That way, you always get the correct exposure every time.
Of course, the manual mode also extends to lens focus.
Cameras don’t always focus well on small products on auto mode. But if you adjust everything yourself, you can ensure that your main subject stays tack sharp.
Why limit yourself to a built-in lens when there are tons of other options specifically made for different situations? After all, each photography for product varies.
When getting into product photography work, check the megapixel count of your camera. The larger the number of megapixels, the bigger and higher quality the print will be. The more resolution you have, the better you can capture details. In post-processing, the level of precision you get from high-res cameras allows you to fine-tune your edits even better.
Another perk of high-resolution sensors is the ability to crop very tight and still print very big. More megapixels mean more detail and less compression. This detail means you can crop more and fiddle with composition without risking anything.
Many product photography companies will ask about your camera megapixel count. Any option with a resolution between 40MP to 100MP + is perfect for large commercial projects.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean the best camera for product photography has to be 50MP +. When you’re still starting, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll get projects requiring big print ads just yet. The truth is your first job would most likely be for the web or social media. So that means you can produce excellent photography products even with a 12MP camera. But to help you get better results, it’s better to stick with 24MP options. After all, they are common in most entry-level cameras, anyway.
Dynamic Range Performance
Product photography is ultimately all about lighting. Of course, regular people can take photos of products anywhere they want. But what makes a professional’s work different is how they can create beautiful lighting around objects.
The best camera for product photography has to have an excellent dynamic range. In other words, it needs to capture the brightest highlights and darkest shadows equally.
Sadly, every camera is different. That means their dynamic range performance also varies greatly.
So how do you which option has the best dynamic range?
Since there’s no way for you to test each camera, you’ll need to rely on reviews.
If the camera you choose has only three stops of dynamic range, then it’s not a good option. Why? Because you likely won’t recover shadows or highlights when editing your photos. But if it has eight stops or more, then there are less chances of blowing out your images.
Even if your camera has a 100MP sensor, it won’t mean much if you have a crappy lens.
If your lens can’t produce sharp photos, then it negates the resolution of your camera. So choose a system that has reputable lenses. Thankfully, most camera manufacturers offer great optics.
You also need to consider the types of lenses you can buy for your camera.
For instance, does your brand sell quality macro lenses specific to your device? If not, then that may not be the best choice. This issue is particularly prevalent when it comes to new mirrorless systems. Some of them have new mounts that are not compatible with lenses already available in the market. So before you buy, do your research. Check if the option you have in mind is compatible with the lenses you’ll need.
10 Best Cameras for Product Photography
Product photographers earn the most in the world of product photography. Apart from their skills and experience, they also use expensive equipment available to get the best results.
So what is the most popular camera for professional photographers? Well, the answer depends.
Some of the cameras that product photographers use can exceed $40,000. Now that’s way beyond the budget of even the most enthusiastic enthusiast.
So for this list, we included the best options for beginners, professionals, and experts. That way, you can choose the perfect camera for you no matter your skill level or your budget.
Is your budget a bit tight? Then, Sony a6000 is the best camera to help you get started. No, you’re not reading a misprint. I am talking about the same Sony a6000 released in 2014. So why is it relevant in product photography? Because it’s one of the cheapest high-quality cameras you can buy brand new.
In 2020, you can purchase it with two zoom lenses for less than 800USD. Sure, it doesn’t have 4K video and all the newest gimmicks. But at 24MP, it has plenty of resolution you need for online product photography. Not to mention sharp optics and accurate autofocus. It’s the best-selling mirrorless camera of all time. And it’s so good that Sony still manufactures it.
If you don’t feel like buying an entry-level mirrorless camera, then the Canon T7i is the perfect option for you. It has the same price as the Sony a6000 and has the same amount of resolution at 24MP. But what makes Canon T7i different is that it’s incredibly user-friendly, especially to those who love using DSLRs.
Even if you use the Canon T7i in auto mode, you won’t be disappointed with its performance. It has a 45-point autofocus system that helps it capture your subject accurately. It also has a touch-screen that lets you navigate through the menu conveniently. And did we mention that it has wifi to let you transfer your files wirelessly? That would help you upload those product photos quicker.
The Nikon D850 isn’t cheap. It costs more than 3000USD, which is equivalent to at least four Canon T7i’s! But if you can afford it, you know it’s relatively cheap for what it can do. Its 45MP sensor alone has more than enough resolution to compete with the most expensive cameras on this list.
So what makes the Nikon D850 an excellent investment? The main reason is the image quality. It has one of the lowest ISO noise when it comes to all the DSLR options we listed. It also has an outstanding dynamic range that allows you to recover shadows and highlights in your photos. And did we mention that the 45MP resolution will enable you to print big ads without any issues?
A lot of people are aware of the Canon 5D’s legendary performance. It’s even the go-to DSLR camera of most professional photographers. You can consider the 5DS the beefed-up version of the 5D. Instead of the usual 24MP, you get 50MP, which is 5MP higher than the Nikon D850.
The 5DS’s high-resolution sensor rivals that of its medium format counterparts. That means that it can produce high-quality images you can use for big ads in a smaller DSLR body. Of course, it’s compatible with dozens of Canon’s EF lenses, which makes it versatile for all sorts of product shoots. Oh, and here’s a bonus! It only costs about 1,000USD in 2020!
A lot of photographers switched when Sony released mirrorless cameras for professionals. Why? Because mirrorless options are not only smaller, but they often pack more features than regular DSLRs. A lot has changed since Sony first introduced its professional line. And the Alpha 7R IV is the culmination of all those years of research and development.
What makes the Alpha 7R IV unique is that it features a 61MP sensor. That alone blows Canon’s EOS 5DS and Nikon’s D850 out of the water. This camera also has a built-in image stabiliser that eliminates the tiniest motion blur. That’s crucial, especially since your work involves capturing the smallest details. And at 3,000USD, it’s affordable for most professional photographers.
In 2019, Fujifilm announced their first medium format mirrorless camera GFX 100. What made it stand out was that its design was different from its medium format counterparts. Instead, it looked more like a supersize mirrorless camera.
Despite being bigger than a regular mirrorless camera, the GFX 100 is quite compact for a medium format. That’s why it’s perfect for both outdoor projects and indoor shoots. Sure, the body alone costs 10,000USD. But as a medium format camera with a 100MP sensor, it’s quite a deal. Especially since its competitors cost about 40 to 50,000USD.
Can’t afford the 10,000USD GFX100 quite yet? Then try the GFX 50R, Fujifilm’s 5,000USD 50MP version. Sure, it’s still quite expensive. But if you think about it, it’s just about the same price of many flagship DSLRs these days. That’s why it’s an excellent entry-point for those who want to try medium format.
So what do you get with the GFX 50R? First, you get to enjoy expert-level image quality at a fraction of the price. The 50R’s medium format sensor gives you depth and resolution that even the best full-frame sensor cannot replicate. It also has smaller file sizes compared to the GFX 100. And finally, it has a compact body that’s perfect for both lifestyle product shots and studio photography.
As you become more successful, you’ll eventually need a camera such as the XF IQ4. With a 150MP sensor, it’s one of the most powerful cameras on this list. Oh, and did we mention that it’s also one of the most expensive at 55,000USD? Yes, those are seven five figures, not four.
Phaseone XF IQ4 has a modular design that allows you to change our parts as technology evolves. That means you get to keep the camera for years to come without it becoming obsolete. But with such powerful resolution, it will remain one of the best product photography cameras for years to come.
You can consider the X1D II 50C, the direct competitor of Fujifilm’s GFX 50R. It’s relatively compact, has similar features, and has the same price point. Since it’s Hasselblad, it also has some of the best lenses for product photography.
With a 6,000USD price tag for the body, The X1D II 50C quite affordable, especially for a Hasselblad. If you buy a package with the kit lens, it can set you back 8,000USD. But that price is still manageable, especially if you get plenty of commercial work. So if you want high-end equipment, this may be the best camera for you.
If you have deep pockets, then forget about the X1D II 50C. Instead, you need to get the H6D-400C. At about 48,000USD, it’s one of the priciest cameras among the Phaseone XF IQ4. It has a massive 400MP resolution that is among the highest in 2020.
But let’s backtrack a bit. 400MP is kind of misleading. The H6D-400C has the same 100MP sensor that the H6D-100C has. But the 400C takes several overlapping photos of the scene and composites them to create 400MP images. So the results you get are legitimately high resolution that no camera can replicate right now.
Don’t think too much about choosing the best camera for your product photography when you’re still starting. If you have an old 12MP DSLR or mirrorless, then that should be fine.
Don’t invest your money on an expensive camera especially if you don’t have the experience yet. It would be difficult to take advantage of all its features if you don’t know how to use them properly.
So take your time and learn. The more you gain experience, the more you earn. And as you increase your revenue, you now have the chance to buy the equipment that best fits you.
Remember that even the most experienced product photographer went through what you will go through. So be patient because you’ll also get there eventually.
Looking for more product photography tips? Check out our new post on motorbike photography next!