Let’s take a look at your different camera options so you can narrow down the right one for your kick-ass photography studio. Don’t worry, I’ll also take your budget into consideration; I’ll offer you different products/services that come at different prices. But, I’ll never suggest a product or service that I wouldn’t mind using myself. In other words, I’ll help you avoid the overpriced stuff that basically sucks.
So, let’s dive into it!
The camera is key, and the more you invest, the better the image quality can be. But you have to find the right balance with megapixels. More isn’t always better. With 360º product photo editing, it’s optimal to work with images that are not too big. Images that are big (like 20+ megapixels, for example) can slow down the automated editing process in Photoshop–especially if your computer’s processing power is slow. I edit my images on a 24” Apple iMac (2.4Ghz w/4 Gigs of RAM) which comfortably handles my Canon 5D’s 12.7 megapixel JPG images in Photoshop CS4.
Low Budget Cameras
Any compact digital camera will work. I can’t guarantee that all compact cameras will work with a fully automated 360º turntable, but there are manual turntables (such as a lazy Susan) that can be rotated by hand as you manually take each product photo.
Medium Budget Cameras
Any entry-level DSLR camera will work wonders for 360 product photography. DSLR is an acronym that stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex. These cameras are well-known for their mechanical shutter release noise and use of interchangeable lenses. There’s a wide price range for DSLR cameras, which can make the right decision unclear. DPreview.com is a good site I’ve used since 2005 to read objective reviews of DSLRs. Their reviews can go into extremely fine detail, so it lets you go as far down the rabbit hole as you want to go.
Big Budget Cameras
If possible, it’s best to use a DSLR camera that doesn’t have a full-frame sensor. This will help to ensure that more of your product is in focus, as full-frame-sensor-DSLRs naturally make the foreground and background blurrier (including parts of the subject you’re photographing!). While a high-end DSLR has more features, it’s the lens, more than anything else, that makes the images razor sharp. If you can afford $3,000 for a product photography camera, I suggest spending at least half of it on the lens. High-grade zoom lenses are ideal. I use a Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS AF lens. “L” stands for luxury, “IS” stands for “Image Stabilization” (which you should always disable when shooting 360º product images), and “AF” stands for autofocus. The advantage of a zoom lens is that it lets you shoot a batch of various sized products without constantly moving the camera and tripod closer and further away from the subject.
Personally, I used a Nikon D200 for a while before I sold it to buy a Canon 5D, which had the full-frame sensor I was fond of for shooting the occasional wedding. Having used both Nikon and Canon, I can say that I truly like both. Sony, Pentax and Olympus have less market share in the DSLR market than Nikon and Canon, but all five of these brands make good entry-level DSLRs with a decent variety of lenses to choose from. Nikon and Canon also offer DSLRs designed for very serious professional 360 product photographers with demanding feature requirements. If you plan on pursuing that path, Nikon or Canon are safe bets, although there are still many successful product photographers that prefer using Sony, Pentax or Olympus. It’s more a matter of preference, so put a few different ones in your hands to pick the one that feels best to you. In the next blog post, I’ll tell you about lighting equipment for 360 product photography.
Have any personal recommendations for the best cameras for 360 product photography in a given price range? Share your experiences below!