I know it's a bit late to be drafting up a list of my favorite things, especially with Christmas being . . . uhhh three days away? But I've been just a bit distracted with this thing that's been taking up, oh . . the last four months of my life. So honestly, I haven't really had time to think about much else.
But never mind that, better late than never, right?
Many, many people have asked me what camera I use in my food photography, especially at restaurants where the lighting is really dark.
There's one camera that I carry with me all the time. I swear, it's the ultimate food blogger's camera. It's got interchangeable lenses, great low light capabilities, and is small enough that I actually carry it with me everywhere I go.
My husband's awesome. Last year for my birthday, he did a ton of research and concluded that this Panasonic Lumix GF1 would be a perfect camera for my new food blog. Tiny Urban Kitchen had just been christened a few months back, so it was really the perfect timing.
I seriously carry this camera with me everywhere I go, which means I always am ready to snap a photo should the moment arise. I would recommend getting it with the 20mm f/1.7 aspherical "pancake lens". This camera and that lens combination is like a marriage made in heaven.
I love the 20mm f/1.7 lens because it allows you to shoot in very low light conditions. I regularly bring this camera into restaurants. In fact, I would say over 90% of the photos on this blog are taken with this camera. People are usually quite shocked that this little thing can bang out such nice pictures in such low light.
Photo taken at a dinner at Marea in NYC with Panasonic Lumix GF1
It's also easier to take cooking shots with this camera because it is so small and light. I can easily take pictures holding the camera with one hand while cooking/stirring with the other hand. I can even do lefty shots, if I need a photo of my right hand doing something!
There are a few limitations to this camera. When the light becomes super low, the pictures don't look as good as the ones that I take with a real SLR, such as my Canon 5D, or even better, Bryan's Canon 5D MkII. At really high ISOs, the picture quality does get a bit grainy whereas the Canon 5D MkII has virtually no loss of picture quality even at high ISOs and low light conditions.
Furthermore, sometimes I really wish I could zoom, but the 20mm lens is fixed. I haven't bought any of the other lenses for the Lumix. Of course, if you get the larger zoom lenses, you lose out on the awesome portability of the camera. Furthermore, the lenses available for theese hybrid "Micro Four Thirds" cameras are limited.
These are really small gripes, though. Overall, 20mm is the perfect distance for food photos at a restaurant. You don't have to stand up (unlike the 50mm f/1.8 that many food bloggers have on their SLRs). Furthermore, the size and weight of this camera is priceless. I love being able to carry it around with me everywhere I go. It's sturdily built and feels very solid.
Does One Need a Real SLR then???
The Panasonic Lumix GF1 is a great standalone camera, and if you were to get one camera for food blogging, I would definitely choose it over an entry level SLR. However, if you really want to get serious about photography, I would recommend Bryan's Canon 5D MkII. Yes, it's heavy, huge, and a pain to carry around, but it's so worth it sometimes because the photos that it takes are absolutely stunning. Most of the pictures from the really nice restaurants, like The French Laundry and Per Se were taken with the Canon 5D MkII.
But then my pictures from Melisse and Joel Robuchon were taken with the Panasonic Lumix GF1. Can you tell the difference?
I also love the fact that the Canon 5D MkII takes HD video. In fact, I shot most of my hand-pulled noodle making video with the Canon 5D MkII (with the exception of the footage out in Boston, which was done with the Panasonic Lumix GF1).
All in all, both are excellent cameras. Obviously, the Canon 5D MkII costs many times more than the Panasonic Lumix GF1, so if you were to just get one, I would recommend the Panasonic Lumix GF1. I personally use it a lot more, mostly because it is so convenient and still takes really really good photographs! I also love the manual knobs and dials, which I think have actually been replaced with a digital interface in the newer version of this camera.
As for Canon lenses, I love my 24-105 mm f/4 lens, which you can get as part of a kit with the Canon 5D MkII (which is what we did), or you can purchase it separately. Although this lens doesn't quite have as low light capabilities, it has a wonderfully versatile zoom range and can still handle reasonably low light due to the fact that it has stability control. It is my favorite travel camera.
Bryan's favorite travel lens is the Canon 24mm f/1.4 wide angle lens. It takes wonderful sweeping shots of landscapes and cityscapes, and performs beautifully in low light conditions. It does warp a bit at the edges, but then all wide angle lenses do that.
After the raw files leave my camera (yes, I don't advise shooting in jpg! Please shoot in raw if possible!), I use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 to catalog and work up my images. I absolutely love Lightroom because it makes photo processing so much easier! There are little sliders on the right side which allow you to fine tune parameters such as exposure, color, and clarity. Finally, there are all these plug-ins you can get that allow you to automatically upload to Flickr or post to your favorite blogging software all in one step. Definitely a time saver!
OK . . I think I've talked enough for one day. I was originally going to do a whole list, but I didn't realize I'd be so verbose about the cameras! Maybe another day.
Don't forget the batteries!
Jen at Yodabashi Camera in Japan, holding the latest colored Panasonic Lumix Cameras
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