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03-19-2013, 02:31 PM   #1
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Right lens for product photography

Hi, I am working for a boot manufacture company. We just opened an online store and I have been doing product photography with 18-55mm lens, but it doesn't give the best quality which is needed for high end online store pictures. I own Pentax K-5, and with the little experience in photography it is so hard for me to find the best lens. Is it the best to go for Macro, or Zoom lens? Or there is any other better options?

Thank you!

03-19-2013, 03:05 PM   #2
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Zoom lenses provide flexibility over a range of focal lengths. Prime lenses usually give better image quality for a given lens class.

So for product shots that are setup and usually don't change much you would get better image quality from a good prime. Take a look at the shots you have been taking and determine what focal length most of them have been taken at. Then you know what to look for.

A good macro lens is always a plus for product images in my opinion but not required. Pentax makes macro in 35mm, 50mm, and 100mm focal lengths. If you don't need the macro they also make a good number of primes both in the limited range (21,40,70mm) and in the standard range DA 35mm f/2.4 and DA 50mm f/1.8.
03-19-2013, 03:18 PM   #3
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I agree with the prime lens approach, but I like macro as well because you never know how close you'll need to get to your subject. Some zooms require you to keep a certain distance or they won't focus.
03-19-2013, 03:21 PM   #4
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Surely your kit lens provides image quality adequate for the web. Are you sure it's the lens that is causing the less than satisfactory results?

03-19-2013, 03:32 PM - 1 Like   #5
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I liked the kit lens for lenses, with a hacked-together light box, sunshine, a tripod, f9.5 to 11:



I think a macro prime lens is probably overkill for something boot-sized and in an online photo. It's unusual to see online images larger than say 1800 pixels wide, so everything will be resized and that fixes a lot of sharpness issues. As already mentioned, zooms offer flexibility - you aren't constantly moving the tripod for different framing.

Are you shooting the boots by themselves or on a model? What's your lighting going to be like?
03-19-2013, 04:03 PM   #6
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Welcome!

In my experience shooting products that emphasize texture and craftsmenship, I have found the 35mm Ltd macro to be extremely valuable. My shots were also used in other contexts that were benefitted by high detail macro capture. Perhaps you should meet with the art director and see if other uses of your shots are planned. An awesome lens you can use for non-macro purposes as well.

M
03-19-2013, 04:03 PM   #7
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Honestly, my experience shooting quite a lot of product photography for local clients over the last 8 years has been that lighting, composition, technique and post processing have the biggest impact in terms of crafting exceptional product shots for online and print use. Yes, lenses can make a difference, but usually only when you run into situations where you know what type of lens you need because you need to do something that requires a specific type of lens (macro, tilt shift, etc.).

Although a nice prime lens with a fast aperture is going to be sharper than a kit lens, most clients I've worked with want more DOF in their product shots rather than less ... meaning you end up using small apertures (high numbers) to get the DOF so more of the product is in focus.

Most of the product photography I've shot over the years has been done with various zoom lenses in the same range as the kit zoom lens you're using.
03-19-2013, 04:10 PM   #8
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Get a good zoom that allows macro mode. I've been using the SMC-A 35-105 and I found the results being very acceptable at worse.

Mind you that I'm a prime guy.


Last edited by ducdao; 03-19-2013 at 05:08 PM.
03-19-2013, 04:19 PM   #9
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Boots are somewhat large objects, so you may not want a longer macro lens as your working distance for normal shots will become quite large. I would suggest the DA 35mm Macro or the FA 50mm Macro. These lenses will let you stand closer to your objects, will not show much distortion, and can provide fantastic macro shots as required.

I would prefer a prime over a zoom, as I can't imagine you needing a zoom with an inanimate object and a closed studio.
03-19-2013, 04:42 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by sozey Quote
Hi, I am working for a boot manufacture company. We just opened an online store and I have been doing product photography with 18-55mm lens, but it doesn't give the best quality which is needed for high end online store pictures. I own Pentax K-5, and with the little experience in photography it is so hard for me to find the best lens. Is it the best to go for Macro, or Zoom lens? Or there is any other better options?

Thank you!
Have you calibrated the focus on your K-5 for this lens (Fine Focus Adjustment)? There are several methods in different threads in this Forum ranging from free to purchasing a rather pricey tool.
03-19-2013, 04:49 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by ducdao Quote
Get a good zoom that allows macro mode. I've been using the SMC-A 35-105 and I found the results being very acceptable at worse.

Mine you that I'm a prime guy.
I agree.
I've done a fair amount of product photos (not tons) and the 35-105 is my go to lens for products.
The IQ is excellent, the zoom adds a lot of flexibility, and it does pretty good macro/close-up.
03-19-2013, 06:03 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by JJJPhoto Quote
Honestly, my experience shooting quite a lot of product photography for local clients over the last 8 years has been that lighting, composition, technique and post processing have the biggest impact in terms of crafting exceptional product shots for online and print use. Yes, lenses can make a difference, but usually only when you run into situations where you know what type of lens you need because you need to do something that requires a specific type of lens (macro, tilt shift, etc.).

Although a nice prime lens with a fast aperture is going to be sharper than a kit lens, most clients I've worked with want more DOF in their product shots rather than less ... meaning you end up using small apertures (high numbers) to get the DOF so more of the product is in focus.

Most of the product photography I've shot over the years has been done with various zoom lenses in the same range as the kit zoom lens you're using.
I agree with jjjphoto. Besides, you mention an "online store" and it would appears that the kit lens would be sufficient for 80% on the work the 20% remaining covered with the 35mm macro prime for close ups and textures.
In my opinion, product photography is 80% studio lighting and 20% the K5/kit lens and I'm more inclined to ask what set up you are using? Improvement will more than likely come from there...
03-19-2013, 09:03 PM   #13
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The 35 macro is wonderful. Most of my "product" shots are place settings, centerpieces, bouquets, shores, rings, etc, at weddings, but it really give the perfect feel for that type of shot. You get that added clarity. Now since it is a macro, be prepared with you lighting if you are doing close up texture shots.
03-19-2013, 09:12 PM - 1 Like   #14
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As a professional studio photographer I typically use prime lenses around 85-200mm for still life product photography for several reasons - distortion control, most lenses 85mm and longer are typically have have lower distortion than wider lenses. Also longer telephoto lenses compress distances and this makes foreground subjects prominent - IMO the whole Idea of product photography is to make the product as prominent as you can. I discourage the use of wide angle lenses because: they tend to have weaker corner resolution, distortion can be problematic and because of how much background they make visible due to their FOV wide angle lenses make any unevenness in background lighting obvious. Additionally wide focal length zoom lenses are also to be discouraged, because they can often have distortion and resolution that is considerably worse than an equivalent prime lens - also zoom lenses typically do not allow for closer focusing, and those that do aren't as good at it as primes are.

For product photography I highly recommend the DA70mm f/2.4 Limited or the DFA 100mm f/2.8 Macro - both of these lenses offer superb optical performance.

Last edited by Digitalis; 03-19-2013 at 09:43 PM.
03-19-2013, 10:18 PM   #15
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Why not try a 50mm A series prime?
Nice and sharp, flexibility with aperture if needed (more so than a zoom)
Dirt cheap

The only downsides are:
Manual focus (not really an issue for a stationary object) (although I don't use AF at all, so I do have a bias there)
Fixed focal length (again, not really an issue for a stationary object, the camera or object can be easily moved to suit)



You don't get macro, so if you're doing super close shots of buckles and other little bits on the boots it may be a little harder (although, the M series 50mm Macro is rather nice)

A 50mm A series F2 can be picked up for $50 here in Aust, but I know in the US they tend to be a lot cheaper.

Personally I've recommend the F1.7 if you can get one, a sharper lens and only slightly more expensive.
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