When your food deserves more-appetizing photos than your camera's phone can deliver, these cameras will feed your need.
There are as many styles of photographing your food -- from
fresh-at-the-market to the crumbs left on your plate -- as there are
ways to shoot and share 'em. But you don't want be a laughingstock over
photos of your chicken stock. I can't help you with your food, but I can
help you avoid Martha Stewart's Twitter ignominy of poorly exposed images with harsh flash and bad color.
Some of the most common problems with food photos include, in no particular order:
-- Poor exposure
-- Camera shake (shutter speed too slow)
-- Harsh flash
-- Boring composition
-- Icky colors
-- Color noise (red, green and blue speckles)
-- Too soft or out of focus
Some can be fixed by simply thinking
about the shot. Most importantly, what are you trying to show? If you're
enthralled with the bright colors of your sorbet, they're simply not
going to show up in an underexposed shot. On the other hand, if you're
tickled by the layout on the plate, underexposed might pass. Others can
be fixed with appropriate accessories, like a tabletop tripod or a macro
lens for your phone. You can also improvise; use a rolled-up section of
tablecloth as a stabilizer or have a friend hold a white napkin to
bounce the flash. But try not to go all crazy like these folks.
most of my recommendations, I'm sticking with relatively smaller, less
expensive cameras; once you get past a certain price, almost any camera
can produce what you need. And most companies provide a decent app for
using your smartphone to upload.
As time goes on I'll update with newer recommendations, so stay tuned.
Editors' note: This story was originally published on November 23, 2013, but has been updated frequently to reflect more-recent reviews and announcements. The latest update incorporates the Panasonic Lumix LX100.
Important features: Image stabilization, connectivity, zoom range
Honestly, your camera quality barely matters for uploading to Instagram. By the time you've filtered, squared off, and scaled down the shot, the actual colors or exposure produced by the camera become moot. But if you want to upgrade to something a little more flexible than your phone, the Samsung WB250F Smart Camera is a relatively cheap option that gives you more zoom and excellent connectivity options for uploading via your phone, plus a flash that tilts back.
Important features: Fast lens, good photo quality, low price
When you'd rather spend your money on food but still want a decent camera, your best bet is usually an older, more advanced camera that's come down in price. At just under $300, the Olympus Stylus XZ-2 iHS is a great bargain, with a fast f1.8-2.5 lens and the ability to focus as close as 5 cm/2 inches -- even closer if you zoom out to its 28mm widest angle. You do get much better results if you shoot raw, and its biggest drawback from a sharing perspective: no built-in Wi-Fi.
Important features: Image stabilization, low-light quality, flash control, connectivity, zoom range
I separate this one from the Instagrammer because networks like Facebook and Twitter really can benefit from higher-quality photos. For these folks, a slightly more expensive camera like the Sony RX100 II is a good all-around choice for general-purpose foodie photos.
Its main competitor, the Canon PowerShot G7 X is a fine choice as well, but while it offers slightly better photo quality, it falls a little short in the connectivity implementation.
Important features: Image stabilization, low-light quality, flash control, fast lens, connectivity
you spend most of your time staring at nouvelle cuisine in dim dining
rooms or sampling Chardonnay in bars, you need a camera with even better
low-light quality, and that tilting flash is indispensable for
photographing drinks without hot spots on the bottles or glasses. The Panasonic Lumix LX100 doesn't have a tilting flash, but it does have a hot shoe for one, and with a built-in electronic viewfinder, fast lens and excellent photo and video quality, it's a great all-around camera for casual low-light photography
This replaces the Sony RX100 III as my choice here, but the LX100 is more expensive -- if you want to save a little money the RX100 III remains a great choice and does offer the tilting flash.
In addition to good image quality in all lighting conditions and a tilting flash, I think the option to change lenses is a huge benefit for travelers; you simply can't get a low-light-friendly lens that's portable and has the zoom range you usually want for your travels. Compact mirrorless ILCs, with their small bodies and small lenses, make it possible to bring several lenses without breaking your back. But the key to the usefulness of these cameras is to get extra lenses, such as a 50mm macro -- if you're just going to stick with the kit lens it comes with, don't bother getting an ILC.
My recommended ILC for all-around use is the Sony A6000, although the less-expensive model that it replaced, the Sony Alpha NEX-6 is a decent choice as well. If you don't care about video, action shooting, or instant uploading, the Fujifilm X-M1 delivers the best photo quality in its class.
Using photographs to illustrate your how-to blog posts about ingredients, techniques, and final results (but stopping short of full video productions) requires a camera that accurately renders the look of the food, with sharp details, and one that's totable to farmers markets and on other shopping expeditions. For this I recommend the Fujifilm X-M1, which excels at these tasks.
Important features: Good video autofocus, interchangeable lenses
If you're all about the cooking and want to share tips, tricks, and video lessons, unless you have a minion to help shoot, you need a camera you can set on a tripod and forget. While the Canon EOS 70D dSLR doesn't have the greatest video quality I've seen, it's still pretty good and its autofocus is the best for tracking you while you move around doing your thing, and the video will still look relatively professional.
Plus it can handle different lighting conditions better than most point-and-shoots. However, unless you want your tomatoes to look like oranges, you have to change the default settings.