1 family. friendly food. » Food photography: How to choose a camera – SLR versus compact

This is a guest post by Simone.

Simone is a professional photographer who wants to become a food photographer. She has culinary customers but she still photographs weddings, portraits, product etc. She gives food photography workshops for beginners and food bloggers in Holland, where she lives. She says “That is great fun and people are always amazed at what they can do with their point and shoot that they never knew about!” She also writes the beautiful food blog Junglefrog cooking, a blog about cooking, travel, and photography.

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A lot of people ask me what kind of camera they should be buying to take good food photos. While that might sound like a simple question, it is not! Of course I can all tell you to buy the most expensive digital SLR but I am sure that is not the answer you’re looking for.. :) I am by no means an expert on the topic so I can only tell you my findings and opinion. Feel free to use it or not!

When writing this post I started out with explaining all the differences and then going into the technical details way too much; I mean if you’re not that into photography you might not know what aperture does or white balance so I was explaining it all, which lead to be a totally different post than the one I wanted to write! So starting all over; if you are looking for a new camera ask yourself first:

* Where are you going to use it for?

* Do you mind carrying around heavy and clumsy cameras or are you more comfortable in having a pocket sized camera?

* How technical do you want to get?

* How serious are you about becoming a good photographer? Do you merely want to take nice photos for your blog or do you really want it to stand out from the average?

* What is your budget? (A compact doesn’t necessarily have to be cheaper then an SLR, but keep in mind that you will need at least one lens to be able to operate the SLR)

There are many differences between an SLR and a compact camera but the main ones can be boiled down to the below list:

1. An SLR has a larger sensor than a compact camera resulting in sharper and better quality images; again; if you only use photos at web size for your blog this might not make a huge difference to you.

2. Possibility to change the aperture value and in general more options to change the settings on the camera. If you don’t want to do that, stick to the compact. It would be a shame buying a SLR and then not using the possibilities. On the other hand; it will still give you superior quality results.

3. With an SLR you can achieve a shallower DOF (depth of field) then with a compact. If you like the effect of a blurry background then that is easier to achieve with a SLR then with a compact. This is due to the size of the sensor and the general build of a compact. (You can see the difference between both type of camera’s in the below photo. Both taken with an aperture of 2.8. Dramatic difference in the visibility of the background!!)

SLR vs compact

SLR versus compact

4. Noise levels; current day SLR’s are better capable of handling low light level and high iso then a compact camera. Part of this is due to the race for more pixels. Nowadays it seems that everyone beliefs that more pixels equals better photos, but that – sadly – is not necessarily true. Sure if I need to shoot something for a billboard then I would need to have as any pixels as I can get, but if I am only going to use my camera for everyday usage why would you need 12 megapixel cameras? On compact cameras an overdose of pixels also creates more noise, especially visible when you shoot on high iso. But even on low iso, the noise levels in a compact will be higher then on a SLR. The example below is not entirely fair since I took the shot from my compact without a tripod so it is a little bit more blurry then the SLR one, but you get the general feel of the smoothness (and color handling!!) of a SLR vs. compact.

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The one taken with the SLR is bright and clear, colors are accurate and overall the image looks very smooth. The one taken with my compact on the other hand looks a bit drab in regards to color and you can see that it is more noisy then the other one. The compact one would probably benefit from a little exposure adjustment.

In the end it is still true that a good photo is taken by the photographer and not by the camera, but having good tools does help you achieve the best results. A compact camera will work very well when shooting in bright and clear conditions. When we go on holiday I use it all the time as I don’t want to carry around my heavy SLR and if the weather is good and I do not have to use flash the results are brilliant as you can see from the examples below.

However; in lower light conditions or indoors, the SLR beats the compact every time. That can be partially solved by getting good lights to light your indoors scene or moving the dish outdoors to take advantage of the light if it is not at night… :)

There are many more arguments for buying either a SLR or a compact, but without getting too technical these are the main differences in my opinion. It’s up to you to make the final call!

compact

Canon Powershot D10 (yes, it’s an underwater camera too!!)

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Thank you Simone for this post!

For more tips and recipes, visit her blog: www.junglefrog-cooking.com

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Categories : Food Photography



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