Professional product photography helps elevate your brand and highlight your product’s best features. When hiring a product photographer, you want to make sure they have the skills and the right equipment to do the job.
When it comes to equipment, a great camera for product photography is a must.
In this article, I’ll talk about product photography cameras and how they affect the quality of the images you get from a photographer. I discuss product types and offer my top picks for camera brands and models. Let’s dive right into it.
Camera Types for Product Photography
Product photography cameras come in different sizes and shapes. And your product photographer should know which type is best for what purpose. This expertise is one of the reasons to hire a professional product photographer.
The choice may also depend on the photographer’s skills. Here are some of the common camera types and setups your photographer should have access to:
DSLR cameras are arguably the most popular type of camera for product photography. They’re versatile and produce high-quality images. They can also fit a wide variety of lenses — which is perfect if you have varying product photography needs.
With a DSLR camera, your product photographer has full manual control. They can adjust settings like focus, aperture, shutter speed, and ISO for precise control over the image.
Mirrorless cameras offer many of the advantages of DSLR cameras. Unlike DSLR cameras, mirrorless cameras display what the sensor sees through the viewfinder digitally. In DSLR cameras, light is reflected into the viewfinder with a mirror.
They’re smaller and more portable, plus they have faster shooting speeds and better video capabilities.
Previously, mirrorless cameras were known to have shorter battery life, limited lens selection, and higher price points. However, these aren’t necessarily true anymore. Sony, for example, now offers lots of lens options for their mirrorless cameras. DSLR cameras are also slowly becoming obsolete.
Medium Format Cameras
If you want to achieve the highest level of image quality possible, medium format cameras are your best bet. They have larger sensors and offer:
Wider dynamic ranges
Shallower depths of field
More accurate colors
Medium format cameras are often used in high-end product photography.
Top Product Photography Camera Brands
Before I go into my picks for product photography camera brands, remember that equipment is usually secondary to the photographer’s skills and setup. More often than not, if the lighting is good, any professional-grade camera with the right lenses will do.
Nonetheless, having access to powerful product photography cameras makes the photographer’s job a little easier. It also tells you that the product photographer is serious about investing in his craft. And it’s always nice to have choices, so here are some:
My Top Pick: Sony (A1)
I love Sony cameras. Specifically, I use Sony A1 — it’s one of the most technologically advanced cameras from Sony, combining high-speed performance with a 50.1 MP full-frame stacked image sensor.
The Sony A1 also has a fantastic sensor that makes focus stacking truly easy. Here are some of its other most notable features:
5-Axis SteadyShot Image Stabilization
8K 30p and 4K 120p Video in 10-Bit
Up to 30 fps Shooting, ISO 50-102400
Dual CFexpress Type A/SD Card Slots
It does have some downsides for product photographers, so you might not find many of them using it.
Overkill for many photographers
Has a complicated menu system
This camera costs around $6,500 — yes, it’s expensive. But it more than earned its price tag as Sony took all the best features of their previous models and packed them into a single camera.
If I had to buy another camera, it would be a Fujifilm GFX 100 II. Fujifilm is doing great things in the camera world, bringing medium format quality to the masses. Before this camera came to market, medium format systems like Phase One could cost $30-40,000, were complicated to use and had limited capabilities.
The GFX100 outperforms most other modern mirrorless cameras. It’s a medium format camera with 100 MP and an on-sensor phase-detection for faster focus. These features highlight its large-sensor advantage over other cameras.
Here are some of its most notable specifications:
102 MP BSI-CMOS 44 x 33mm sensor
On-sensor Phase Detection
5-axis image stabilization
Continuous shooting at up to 5 fps
4K video with 4:2:2 10-bit HDMI output
5.76M-dot removable OLED viewfinder
16 or 14-bit Raw capture
Like other cameras in this list, the GFX100 has some cons that product photographers have to deal with, including:
Its size and weight.
Its limited lens selection.
The GFX100 costs around $10,000 — a pretty hefty price. But the prices are coming down. With the introduction of the GFX100 II, the price is now closer to $7,000. But that’s still more affordable than other medium format cameras in the market. And while it does have some downsides, image quality and overall performance aren’t among them.
Nikon is among the biggest players in the industry, and their Z-series offers a variety of great camera options for product photography. The Nikon Z9 is touted as their “fastest, most powerful Nikon—ever”. That’s for good reasons, too.
For one, it’s one of the very few cameras with a flash sync rate of 1/200 seconds. It also sports a truly blackout-free real-live viewfinder, with the best-in-class autofocus system boasting 493 phase-detection points. Here are more impressive specifications from the Nikon Z9:
24MP BSI CMOS Exmor RS sensor
Autofocus system with 493 phase-detection points
9 Cross-type sensors
8K Videos @ 30fps
Continuous shooting of up to 15 fps in Sports Mode
Durable magnesium alloy body
7Mp full-frame sensor
Is it perfect? Arguably. However, you can also nitpick on some of its features and qualities, as with other cameras in this list. Here are some of Z9’s downsides:
More expensive than other full-frame cameras
Poor battery life
No mechanical shutter is available
At $5,499.95, the Z9 is truly among the upper echelons of Nikon’s flagship products. But if you want only the top-of-the-line features for your product photography campaign, this beast is well worth the investment.
However, note that Nikon cameras use Sony sensors. If you’re a fan of Sony and don’t specifically need a Nikon, you might as well just buy a Sony!
Canon is another giant in the camera industry, and it offers a wide array of products that fit almost any budget. Canon R6 is among them — it’s a great budget option that offers many pro-grade features in both still images and video.
The R6 is a full-frame hybrid that packs well-rounded features that include an incredible autofocus system, top-tier image stabilization, and excellent low-light abilities. It also has quick burst shooting and 10-bit video recording features. Here are more:
20MP Dual Pixel CMOS Sensor
In-body stabilization rated at up to 8EV of correction
Dual Pixel AF II with AI-trained subject tracking and 100% AF coverage
20 fps shooting with e-shutter, 12 fps mechanical
UHD 4K shooting at up to 60p, 1080 at up to 120p
10-bit 4:2:2 internal recording in either C-Log or HDR PQ
10-bit HDR photos in HEIF format
1.62M-dot fully-articulated rear touchscreen
All that for a relatively more affordable price than others in this list. That said, consider some of its cons:
Overheats for 4K video
Lower resolution than other cameras
Bulky and not very portable
At around $2,600, the R6 is super affordable and easy to acquire. And remember, cheaper cameras don’t always mean lower quality — if your product photographer is skilled enough, this camera can produce wonders for your product photography campaign.
Key Factors to Consider When Choosing a Camera for Product Photography
If you are buying a camera for product photography — whether you’re using a product photographer’s services or not — consider the following:
The photographer’s budget will dictate the range of cameras they can use, alongside accessories and product photography props.
However, price isn’t the make-or-break factor here. A mid-range camera can deliver stunning images when paired with top-tier lenses and skills. The same is true for pro-level gear: premium cameras with advanced features justify their price tag in huge commercial photography projects.
When considering the camera’s price, think about:
Needs and budget: consider the project’s requirements and budget. What features are absolutely necessary? Which ones can be compromised for a better price?
Accessories: the main camera is only the start. What about the lenses, batteries, memory cards, and other accessories? Their prices can quickly add up.
Research: compare different brands and read reviews about their performance. What do other photographers use? What do they say about specific brands?
Lenses are at the core of any type of photography. Your product photographer should have access to a wide array of lenses to accommodate different shooting scenarios.
This ability to interchange lenses offers flexibility, which allows your photographer to meet each product shoot’s requirements.
For instance, different products require different focal lengths. Capturing a huge piece of equipment might require wide-angle lenses while highlighting the intricate details of jewelry requires macro lenses.
Product photographers often accumulate a variety of lenses over time. This is possible if their camera is compatible with the diverse range of lenses available in the marketplace.
Dynamic range refers to the camera’s ability to capture details in both the brightest highlights and the darkest shadows of an image.
A product photography camera with a great dynamic range lets the photographer capture details in both reflective lights and dim environments.
While post-processing can recover details in highlights and shadows, it’s not a great substitute for a camera with a naturally excellent dynamic range.
Resolution and Megapixels
Cameras with higher resolutions have higher megapixels and higher megapixels result in more detailed images. This is a must for product photography projects, especially if you plan to crop or print large images.
Images with higher resolutions and megapixels require more storage space and processing power. As a result, if your photographer takes time in post-processing, don’t be mad — it’s because of the high-res images they’re delivering.
Sensor Size and Type
The camera’s sensor size and type affect the image’s quality. In general, larger sensors capture more light, and your images will be of higher quality.
Bigger sensors also result in better low-light performance, good dynamic range, reduced noise, and the ability to capture more details. Full-frame sensors are a great choice for product photography.
Great auto-focus systems are essential for any camera for product photography. This is particularly true when shooting intricate details or moving objects.
Advanced focusing systems include single-point AF, zone AF, or face detection AF. For product photography, photographers often use full AF for crisp images. However, single-point AF is also great for emphasizing the features of a product.
Other features that might be important when selecting a camera for product photography include:
Overall, a great camera for product photography has all the features you need to meet your shoot’s requirements. I personally love Sony cameras, but Nikon, Fujifilm, and Canon are also excellent choices. The camera your photographer is using might only be one part of the equation, but it makes a great difference.
What are the best lenses for product photography?
For product photography, use a lens of at least 50 mm. Anything smaller than that could produce wide-angle distortions. Telephoto lenses of 85 mm or higher with good lens speed are ideal if you want to avoid distortions while achieving higher magnification.
What camera do you need for product photography?
Product photography doesn’t always need Hollywood-level cameras to produce good images. Like I said, good lighting and a good-quality professional camera can do the trick (most of the time). However, if you’re hiring a professional photographer, it helps to know what your photographer is using — look for cameras that are either DSLR or mirrorless and meet the quality factors I’ve discussed above.
Which is better: mirrorless or DSLR?
It depends on your photographer’s preference, style, and working habits. Mirrorless cameras are easier to handle and more portable, while DSLRs are often bulky. In terms of performance, both cameras can shoot at ultra-fast shutter speeds. Mirrorless cameras have simpler internal mechanics than most DSLRs, but DSLRs are better in terms of lens compatibility and battery life.