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How to Choose the Best Camera for Product Photography

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Related course: Wow Factor Photography

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.

White water bottle with an orange on a green background
Photo by LARQ on Unsplash

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Consider the Type of Product Photography You Shoot to Find the Best Camera

The kind of product photography you do will impact how finicky you are about your camera’s tech.

You might be photographing for digital use, on websites like Etsy or eBay. In this case, you can get away with a less expensive camera body.

But you might want to try photography for prints, or stock websites. Then the quality of your photos is more important. This affects the type of camera you’ll want to use.

Any imperfection will show in print because of its sheer size. With digital, you can shrink an image down and hide many of the issues with it.

Car in a field with horses
Photo by JOHN TOWNER on Unsplash

Features Your Product Photography Camera Should Have

DSLR and mirrorless cameras are your best bet for most product photography. Some important key features are exclusive to these camera types.

Use Manual Mode for Full Control

‘Auto’ mode exists in every camera. But professional photographers don’t use it often. Cameras are still no match for the human eye. And photographers prefer to have full control over every aspect of photography. So choose a camera that has a manual mode.

Even if you’ve never photographed in 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.

Manual mode also extends to lens focus. Cameras don’t always focus well on small products such as studs. With manual focus, you can ensure that the studs are tack sharp.

When doing product photography, the camera’s sensor won’t always be accurate, especially with jewellery that reflects light. You want to be able to select the ideal ISO, shutter speed, and aperture combination. These will create the necessary exposure.

You also want to be able to adjust the white balance to photograph accurate colors. Auto mode can also change exposure settings between shots or during a video. This change will lead to inconsistent results.

Black bicycle on a black background
Photo by Josh Nuttall on Unsplash

Video Capabilities Mean You Can Use 360 Product Views

Although we are talking about photography, video capabilities are essential for product photography. Your client might want a 360 view of their product. You’ll need a camera that can offer them this.

Most new cameras nowadays come with video capability. But if you’re looking at older models to save some money, be sure to check whether they have video or not.
You’ll also want a camera that has autofocus for videos. Otherwise, you’d have to use filming equipment to keep your camera steady.

Many bodies do not have autofocus in video. This includes the Canon 5D Mark III. But newer cameras all do, such as the Canon 5D Mark IV.

White watches on a white surface
Photo by Rachit Tank on Unsplash

Does Your Camera Have Interchangeable Lenses?

Why limit yourself to a built-in lens when there is a limitless world of lenses out there? Each product photoshoot requires a different kind of lens to showcase its brilliance.

For example, jewellery does excellent with detailed macro lenses. But a fashion editorial works best with a 24-70mm lens. You want to stick with DSLR and mirrorless cameras as those have interchangeable lens bodies.

Cell phones and point and shoot cameras in 2018 are very advanced. But the built-in lenses won’t do everything you’ll need them to.

A camera lens floating in the air
Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

What Specifications to Look For

Here is where you can differentiate between DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. Some cameras will have better specifications for product photos than others. Here’s how.

Use a Camera With a High Megapixel Count for Detailed Shots

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. And the more megapixels, the more controllable detail is in an image. In post-processing, this allows you to fine-tune your edits even better.

Another perk 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. But you’re in luck. Many new cameras have a significant amount of megapixels at somewhat lower costs.
Here are a few of our recommendations:

How Well Will the Camera Perform in Low Light Conditions?

You won’t always be playing with perfect light- especially in product photography. Whether you’re shooting an editorial or using models, you’ll sometimes be on location. And other times you’ll be in a room with burnt-out studio lights.

You’ll need a camera that does well in both situations. And here low light capability comes in handy.

Look for camera models that have less noise at higher ISO levels and more sensitive sensors. The ideal camera body will have the lowest amount of noise at high ISO numbers.

One way to check this is to look at comparison shots online of different camera bodies at the same high ISO level.
For example, the Canon 5D Mark IV produces better low light photographs than the Canon 5D Mark II. You can check this on a website like DPReview.

Perfume bottle lit with pink neon light
Photo by Ash Edmonds on Unsplash

Choose a Camera With an Impressive Auto Focus System

Many product photographers use manual focus for their shots. And that will give you the most control over the appearance of your image. But there will be situations where manual focus is not practical or efficient.

Time is money. And when your product client is hiring you for an hour, you need to increase your efficiency. This means as little lost or wasted time as possible.

Having a camera with a good autofocus system is crucial for time-sensitive shoots. Many new camera bodies have impressive autofocus systems. Canon’s dual-pixel sensor is an example. But if you’re shooting still products, older camera systems work great too. You’re not dealing with the complications of a moving subject.

Keep in mind that the lens makes more of an impact on the final outcome. The camera lens determines most of the quality and ease-of-shooting more than the camera.

Time and time again, the debate of whether or not to upgrade the camera body or the camera lens results in a new lens.

A Ballantines whisky bottle with ice cubes next to it on a black background
Photo by Vivek Doshi on Unsplash

The Color Spectrum of a Camera Will Affect Your Prints

Each camera body has its own way of showing color. Some bodies are more vibrant than others. Some are colder, while others show warmer images.
If you are a print photographer, choose a camera body based on how advanced its color range is.
You’ll edit color in post-processing. But you can only edit what is already in the image unless you’ve got hours upon hours for advanced editing work.
Here are some of our favourites for colour quality:

A yellow Heinz mustard on a red background

Conclusion

Digital product photographers can be more lenient with camera systems. Look for convenience and function.

For print photographers, there is much less wiggle room. Base your camera body choice off of high megapixel count and quality performance.

With these tips, choosing the best camera for your product photography should be an easy task! Let us know if you have any camera recommendations in the comments section!

Looking for more product photography tips? Check out our new post on motorbike photography next!

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