The best Canon lenses for food photography

Looking to take your food photography to the next level? Serve up imagery worth savouring with our hand-picked selection of must-have Canon lenses.
A hollow chocolate ball filled with ice cream and garnished with petals and chocolate sprinkles.

Food photography is a rewarding way to experiment with your Canon camera – and not just because you can eat the subject at the end of a session. Take the time to style your ingredients, control the lighting and fine-tune your settings and you'll find that you can produce food photos worth savouring.

There are, however, some items and equipment that can help you to get the best quality from your camera. A tripod can be useful when you're photographing food from above in a flat lay format, in low light or when you're shooting extreme close-ups, although Canon's range of lenses with image stabilisation (IS) will also really help in these situations. Adding a Canon Speedlite flash or other form of artificial lighting to your kitbag can offer more creative options when you want to give your food photography a professional feel.

Upgrading your lens can have the biggest impact on your food photography. Many lenses have a focusing distance short enough to capture small details, but only a true macro lens gives you a magnification of at least 1x. This means that the subject is recorded on the sensor at 1:1 or life size when the lens is set to its minimum focus.

A macro lens is ideal for revealing the hidden textures, intricate patterns and subtle structures of food that might otherwise go unnoticed, but that's not all that food photography is about. Here we'll look at the best lens options for Canon EOS cameras.

A bowl of tomato and basil pasta, shot top down with a fork, basil leaves and pestle and mortar in frame.

Food photographers often choose a 35mm lens for top-down flat lay shots because it's wide enough to include props such as cutlery and recipe ingredients. Taken on a Canon EOS RP with a Canon RF 35mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM lens at 1/125 sec, f/2.5 and ISO800. © Natasha Alipour-Faridani

Best entry-level RF lens for food photography: Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM

Works with: EOS R System cameras

With a field of view neither overly wide, nor narrow, the Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM is suited to a range of shooting angles. With its fast maximum aperture of f/1.8, the lens gives you plenty of control over depth of field, allowing you to isolate individual elements of mouthwatering dishes and create blurred, artistic backgrounds when shooting from frontal, diagonal or side-on positions. The wide aperture also lets in plenty of light, for shooting in poorer lighting conditions, such as dimly lit restaurants.

An affordable entry to Canon's full-frame EOS R System, the RF 50mm F1.8 STM features an aspherical lens coating for sharpness to the edge of the frame – especially useful when shooting frame-filling overhead flat lay shots. Compact and light, it's a seamless yet powerful addition to any food photographer's kitbag.

Pastel coloured sweets, some loose and some in small biscuit bowls, on a table alongside animal-shaped iced biscuits.

The Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM features a fast Ultra Sonic Motor focusing system, but it's also possible to manually rotate the focus ring to fine-tune the sharpness. Its Super Spectra coating reduces ghosting and flares from light bouncing back off the sensor. Taken on a Canon EOS 800D (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 850D) with a Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM lens at 1/6 sec, f/4 and ISO100.

Canon's first EF-S macro lens capable of producing life-size images makes a great first choice for food photographers. It's small, light and very sharp, and features a large maximum aperture which helps to position the subject between a beautifully blurred background and foreground.

With an angle of view equivalent to a 96mm f/2.8 lens on a full-frame camera, you effectively get more 'reach' with the Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM lens, so you can take frame-filling shots from further away. Not only does this mean you're less likely to cast a shadow across the subject, it also makes it easier to isolate the tastiest-looking morsels on a plate.

Most versatile food photography lens: Canon RF 35mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM

Works with: EOS R System cameras

A rectangle of cheese, a fig role and pieces of fruit on the end of an upright fork.

The Canon RF 35mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM is capable of capturing mouthwatering texture and detail, thanks in part to the RF mount, which places the lens closer to the sensor. Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon RF 35mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM lens at 1/125 sec, f/16 and ISO100.

Various small food items including an asparagus tip and a prawn tail arranged on a spoon.

A macro magnification of up to 1:2 enables food photographers to hone in on the detail. Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon RF 35mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM lens at 1/125 sec, f/16 and ISO100.

A versatile macro lens designed for the full-frame mirrorless Canon EOS R System, the Canon RF 35mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM is capable of capturing both a wide-angle shot of a table arrangement and a half life-size close-up – as well as everything in between.

It's small and light enough to use without a tripod, where the 5-stop Dual Sensing IS technology helps you to make the most of the lens's impressive resolving power.

Like other lenses in Canon's RF range, the Canon RF 35mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM features a customisable control ring at the front of the barrel, to which you can assign an important camera control such as aperture, ISO or exposure compensation. This enables you to easily and precisely adjust the setting with a quick turn of the ring. This feature is also available when using EF lenses with EOS R System cameras, via the Canon Control Ring Mount Adapter EF-EOS R.

Try using this lens with the Canon EOS RP, where you can take advantage of the camera's Focus Bracketing feature to bring a new level of sharpness to your food photography.

Best food photography lens for extreme close-ups: Canon RF 100mm F2.8L MACRO IS USM

Works with: EOS R System cameras

Slices of lemon splash into still water against a perfectly black background.

With its telephoto field of view, the Canon RF 100mm F2.8L MACRO IS USM lens is perfect for food shots taken from the front, diagonally or side on. Taken on a Canon EOS R6 with a Canon RF 100mm F2.8L MACRO IS USM lens at 1/1000 sec, f/4 and ISO4000. © Sharon Cosgrove

Offering 1.4x magnification, the RF 100mm F2.8L MACRO IS USM will accentuate even the finest detail of an elaborate meal, while its L-series optical build quality delivers superb image clarity. With up to 8-stops of compensation when paired with a camera with in-body image stabilisation (IBIS) such as the Canon EOS R6, the lens delivers razor-sharp handheld shots, even in low light. What's more, the relatively long focal length of 100mm means that you don't have to get as close as you do with a shorter lens. This can make it easier to position lights, reflectors and other accessories, and ensures your lens won't become steamed up when shooting piping hot plates.

The Canon RF 100mm F2.8L MACRO IS USM boasts super-fast autofocusing thanks to the high speed RF mount, and a silent Dual Nano USM drive, which makes it ideal for hybrid food photographers shooting video. It also features a Spherical Aberration Control ring, which enables you to adjust bokeh and soft focus effects for creative food shots.

Best lens for food photographers who want to travel light: Canon RF 85mm F2 MACRO IS STM

Works with: EOS R System cameras

A macro photograph of the hexagonal compartments in a honeycomb.

Weighing just 500g, the 9cm-long Canon RF 85mm F2 MACRO IS STM is the perfect telephoto lens to slip into a kitbag and shoot wherever your hunger takes you, be that a local food market or an apiary. Taken on a Canon EOS R6 with a Canon RF 85mm F2 MACRO IS STM lens at 1/60 sec, f/2 and ISO1600. © Ilvy Njiokiktjien

Less expensive than its 100mm counterpart, the Canon RF 85mm F2 MACRO IS STM is a fantastic choice for food photographers seeking a short telephoto lens with macro capability.

Slightly wider than the 100mm, this lens will provide a little more flexibility in framing when space is at a premium. With its telephoto 'reach', 0.5x magnification and a 35cm minimum focusing distance, it has no trouble getting up close. The lens features a generous f/2 maximum aperture and offers 5-stops of Hybrid IS, leading to clean, sharp results in all lighting conditions. Additionally, it features a Super Spectra optical coating to reduce flare and ghosting – useful when lighting is difficult to control, such as at outdoor food events.

Best lens for food vloggers: Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM

Works with: EOS R System cameras

A young woman, photographed from behind, pointing a Canon EOS R6 camera at a salad bar filled with bowls of colourful salads.

The slim, affordable Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM lens delivers outstanding quality over an expansive field of view.

A woman in a café holds a croissant towards a camera fixed to a small tripod on the table in front of her.

Its crisp, clear ultra-wide views makes it an ideal option for food vlogging.

At the low end of the focal spectrum, every millimetre makes a noticeable difference. If you need extra space and movement is limited – while filming in a tiny restaurant, for example, or when shooting a large flat lay – the enormous width of the Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM can save an entire shoot. Worried about ultra-wide barrel distortion? Don't be: all Canon EOS R System cameras, including the Canon EOS R, EOS RP and EOS R6, feature lens distortion correction built in, so your shots will always look natural.

This super compact lens, which weighs only 165g, has a minimum focusing distance of just 13cm, even shorter than some macro-capable lenses, so you can get super close and maximise the details. Like the other prime lenses on this list, the RF 16mm F2.8 STM also features a bright maximum aperture for flexibility with depth of field and lighting.

Best zoom lens for food photography: Canon RF 24-105mm F4-7.1 IS STM

Works with: EOS R System cameras

A close-up of a piece of white toast with a small lump of butter melting on top.

If you want one lens to meet your creative needs in all situations, the Canon RF 24-105mm F4-7.1 IS STM is a fantastic choice. Taken on a Canon EOS RP with a Canon RF 24-105mm F4-7.1 IS STM lens at 1/13 sec, f/4 and ISO400.

With a zoom range from 24mm all the way to 105mm, the ultra-versatile Canon RF 24-105mm F4-7.1 IS STM is perfect for whatever position you're shooting from. With a minimum focusing distance of just 13cm and 0.5x magnification when manual focusing at 24mm, it's also a more than capable performer for food photographers who demand delicious close-ups.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the RF 24-105mm F4-7.1 IS STM is that its incredibly wide zoom range and 5-stops of IS fit into a body that measures less than 9cm in length and weighs just 395g. Thanks to this diminutive form factor, the lens fits effortlessly into compact kitbags and makes handheld shooting light work, with reliably sharp results.

Written by Marcus Hawkins

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