When you stop mid-scroll because you've seen a beautiful pair of shoes in your social feed or a mouth-watering ad for a great new restaurant, chances are good you've been drawn in by one common thing — high-quality product photos.

Whether it's on or offline, businesses use product photography to make their products stand out and drive sales. In fact, nearly half of consumers consider product images to be the most important factor in their purchase decisions.

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Your product photos leave an impression on potential customers, reflect your brand and represent your product's quality.

When you're setting out to take quality product photos, you need the right gear. Lighting and lenses are very important, but before you consider any of that, you need the camera itself.

In this article:

There are a few types of cameras widely used today, but not all cameras are equal. When you're looking for the best camera for product photography, you'll have to decide between dSLR, mirrorless, point-and-shoot and even smartphone.

Each of these categories has different offerings that are vital to understand before you make a purchase. Here's a quick overview.

What is a dSLR camera?

A digital single-lens reflex camera (dSLR) has a body and an interchangeable lens. Light travels through the lens to a mirror that reflects the light, which then sends the image to an optical viewfinder. This method enables you to see what you're shooting so you can compose your images more precisely — there's no offset like you get with a point-and-shoot.

Most dSLRs have a high pixel count and a large sensor, which is what captures high-resolution photos — even if the image is cropped.

In addition to manually controlling the settings, one of the most important selling points of dSLRs is the interchangeable lens — allowing for a variety of effects and a greater diversity of looks in your portfolio. Whether you need a macro lens for details or a wide-angle lens to capture an interesting perspective, you'll need a dSLR to make it work.

(To be frank, a dSLR will almost always be the best camera for product photography. If your budget doesn't allow for it, that's okay — there are still other viable options.)

What is a mirrorless camera?

Smaller in weight and size, mirrorless cameras have a lot of the same benefits of a dSLR including interchangeable lenses, manual settings and high resolution. But unlike dSLRs, instead of seeing what you're shooting through a viewfinder, with less-expensive mirrorless cameras, you still set up your shot on a digital screen. This is great if you're used to shooting with your smartphone.

Another important difference to note is that the sensor in mirrorless cameras is smaller than most dSLRs, resulting in low performance when shooting in low light. And since mirrorless cameras are relatively new, there are fewer lens options.

What is a point-and-shoot camera?

Remember taking photos of your friends with a Nikon COOLPIX back in the day? That was a point-and-shoot. Also known as a compact camera, a point-and-shoot is designed to be simple — there's usually one button for the shutter and just a few choices in a digital menu. The main advantages of these cameras are the size and weight, as they're easy to carry and don't require any accessories for travel. And of course, point-and-shoot cameras are almost always cheaper than dSLR and mirrorless camera systems.

The downside of point-and-shoots is that they're equipped with fixed lenses, meaning they're not interchangeable like dSLR and mirrorless cameras. Another common characteristic of point-and-shoot cameras is their depth of field, which brings everything in your frame into focus, creating a sharp image. Unfortunately, this can make your product look flat or uninteresting.

How do you decide which type of camera you need?

Tips for buying your next camera for product photography

If you're only taking product photos to use online, remember to focus more on the lens than the megapixels. While megapixels add clarity to your images, it's not as important in a digital space versus print.

Always do your own research and keep in mind that your equipment doesn't have to be state-of-the-art, especially if you have a good eye. Find a local camera shop or library where you can take a camera for a test drive — many offer cameras for rent.

If you go with a dSLR, remember you'll also have to invest in lenses that work with what you'll be taking photos of.

What is the best lens for product photography?

Before we dive into camera specifics, there's one more thing to consider. When it comes to dSLRs and mirrorless cameras, it's not only the camera body that matters, you need to think about the lens, too. After all, even the most high-end body can take a crummy photo with a low-quality lens and vice versa.

For convenience, we thought we'd give you a short list of the best lenses for product photography, too.

Here's what you need:

Just getting started: a "nifty fifty" millimeter lens

If you're new to product photography, a great place to start is with a 50mm lens on a full frame or a 35mm lens on a crop sensor.

The nifty fifty is also called a normal lens because it makes the subject of your photo appear, well, normal. With this lens, there shouldn't be any noticeable distortion, so it's a go-to for any product photographer.

Recommendations:

  • Nikkor
  • Canon
  • Sigma

Adding details: a solid macro lens

If you're ready to add to your lens arsenal, the next thing you need is a macro lens. These lenses range from 50 to 200mm and help you capture every single detail of a product — from the tiniest seed on a strawberry to the glint off a pair of stud earrings, a macro lens will help you capture it all.

Pro tip: Make sure your macro lens is a prime lens (as opposed to a zoom) for the best clarity and sharpness.

Recommendations:

  • Nikkor
  • Canon
  • Sigma

The workhorse: a 70-200 zoom

We know what you're thinking: Why add a zoom when we just said primes are the best? The truth is, not all shooting situations are created equal.

When you've got a couple of primes and a sharp copy of an excellent zoom lens, you're prepared for anything a product photo shoot can throw at you. You may have to back up a bit more than you do with the nifty fifty or the macro, but with a sharp 70-200, you'll still be able to create a wide variety of images no matter what the product is.

Word to the wise: We keep bringing up sharpness because sometimes zoom lenses don't have the knife-sharp clarity of a prime — even between lenses of the same make and model.

When you buy your lens, make sure you're working with a reputable source (we like B&H Photo Video for new, and KEH.com for used) so you can return it easily if your copy isn't quite sharp enough.

Recommendations:

  • Nikkor
  • Canon
  • Sigma

The dream lens: a tilt-shift

Once you've got a nifty fifty, a macro and a great 70-200 in your kit, the next great lens for product photography is a tilt-shift.

If you're shooting basic Amazon-style images on a white background, you won't ever need to worry about this. But if you truly want to set your style apart, a tilt-shift lens can be just the thing to get you there.

Related: Image requirements for Amazon — how to optimize your product photos for more conversions

This lens is different from any other because it can alter the plane of focus entirely. This can give your images that otherworldly feeling that makes viewers look twice and wonder, "Why does this product look so cool?" Not a bad feeling to inspire, right?

Recommendations:

  • Nikkor
  • Lensbaby

Okay, now that we've discussed lenses, let's jump back to cameras so you can start your decision-making process.

Here are the best cameras for product photography 2019

  1. iPhone Xs
  2. Samsung Galaxy Note9
  3. Google Pixel 3 XL
  4. Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS60
  5. Canon PowerShot SX530 HS
  6. Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II
  7. Nikon D3400
  8. Canon Powershot G7 X Mark II
  9. Nikon D750
  10. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
  11. Sony Alpha A7R III
  12. Nikon D850

Best smartphone cameras for product photography

  1. iPhone Xs
  2. Samsung Galaxy Note9
  3. Google Pixel 3 XL

If you're just getting started or you want to practice before buying, look to your smartphone. It may not have the BEST camera for product photography in 2018 or 2019, but there are some impressive ones available. Many of the smartphones available now offer dual cameras that allow for super-sharp images, along with settings that make photos look like they were taken with professional cameras.

Here are a few of our favorites.

1. iPhone Xs

Price: $999–$1099

Resolution: 12 MP

Allow me to state my bias right up front — I have the iPhone Xs and I adore it. I've had iPhones since the 3GS, and some of them had fantastic cameras (I still have my 5 — I love the camera on it that much) and some were kind of dogs (sorry, 6S, but it's true).

The iPhone Xs has reignited my love for taking photos with my phone again. Oh, and all the best photo editing apps are usually available in the App Store first.

Ready for the stats? This smartphone has dual 12-megapixel cameras that make it a great option to use for product photography. Here's the full breakdown:

  1. 12-megapixel wide-angle and telephoto lenses
  2. f/1.8 wide-angle aperture
  3. f/2.4 telephoto aperture
  4. Dual optical image stabilization
  5. Optical zoom up to 2X and digital zoom up to 10X
  6. 4K video recording at 24, 30 or 60 frames per second
  7. 1080p HD video recording at 30 or 60 frames per second

And needless to say, there's the infamous Portrait mode, a helpful tool if you have models in your shot, or you're shooting makeup or jewelry. (Portrait mode really IS that good — here's a photo of my daughter I took at the mall and edited with the free Snapseed app — no additional lighting needed.)

Image: Misha Hettie

One more note about the iPhone Xs: If your hands are on the small-side, stick with the Xs and stay away from the Max. This way it's easy to manipulate with just one hand and you'll always have your phone (and thus your camera!) with you because it can still fit in your pocket.

2. Samsung Galaxy Note9

Price: $999

Resolution: 12 MP

The Samsung Galaxy Note9's dual camera shoots crisp photos and allows for a 2x optical zoom that remains surprisingly clear. Plus, with optical image stabilization, you get a little forgiveness if your hands are shaky. Best of all, it has an even longer battery life than its predecessors so you can keep shooting even longer.

Similar to Portrait mode in the iPhone Xs, the Note9 comes with a live focus feature that creates a bokeh effect — also known as that blurry background that everyone loves. This will make apparel and other products stand out in photos with models.

The stats:

  • 12-megapixel wide-angle camera
  • f/1.7 wide-angle aperture
  • f/2.4 telephoto aperture
  • OIS dual-optical stabilization
  • 4K video recording at 30 frames per second
  • 1080p video recording at 30 or 60 frames per second
  • Optical zoom at 2X, digital zoom up to 10X

3. Google Pixel 3 or 3 XL

Price: $899–$1,129

Resolution: 12.2 MP

I've got to admit, this was a real contender for the best product photography camera when it comes to smartphones. Both versions are sleek, and the Night Sight photo feature is fantastic. And because it's from the geniuses at Google, you also get unlimited photo storage.

On the technical side, the Google Pixel 3 XL has dual cameras AND dual-pixel autofocus. This type of autofocus helps you create laser-sharp images so you can capture great product photos with minimal expertise. Best of all, it also offers a Super Res mode so you can take a shot, and then crop it later without losing any crispness.

How the Google Pixel 3 XL measures up:

  • 12.2-megapixel rear camera
  • Optical and electronic image stabilization
  • f/1.8 rear-camera aperture
  • Autofocus with dual-pixel phase detection
  • 4K video recording at 30 frames-per-second
  • 1080p video recording at 30, 60 or 120 frames per second

Best affordable cameras for product photography

4. Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS60

5. Canon PowerShot SX530 HS

6. Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II

If you want to spend less than $500, these three cameras will fit your budget and help you shoot great product photos.

4. Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS60

Price: $200–$300

Type: Point-and-shoot

Resolution: 18 MP

Although the Lumix DMC-ZS60 has been cited as not performing very well in low-light settings, the compact 18-megapixel sensor can still yield pretty high-res photos with limited artifacts — making it an ideal camera for online product images, especially if you're sticking to a smaller budget.

It comes with all the bells and whistles, too: 4K video capability, 30x optical zoom, macro mode and RAW shooting. The 30x optical zoom also doesn't provide the sharpest results, but this shouldn't be a dealbreaker if you're using it for product photography as you're more than likely not going to use a zoom feature.

Despite some of its setbacks, this camera is still one of the best on the market if you're looking for quality product photos at a good price.

5. Canon PowerShot SX530 HS

Price: $250

Type: Point-and-shoot

Resolution: 16 MP

One of the latest high-zoom cameras from Canon, the PowerShot SX530 HS has a 50x optical zoom, a 16-megapixel sensor and full manual control. It's not as compact as most point-and-shoot cameras, but the size is still fairly reasonable for a camera of this caliber.

According to Amy Davies from photographyblog.com, "Colors directly from the Canon PowerShot SX530 HS are bright and punchy, displaying a good level of saturation and warmth." Your products will pop off the page and stand out in the frame.

Davies also says there's a "decent level" of detail with only a little image smoothing when looking at the images at 100%. So you can still get photos that will zoom nicely for online shoppers to see product details.

6. Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II

Price: $450

Type: Mirrorless

Resolution: 16.1 MP

This camera is easy to use and has lots of controls that you can play around with to alter the look of your product images. For example, you can use the various art filters, frames and effects to put the finishing touches on your images without a photo-editing program.

Image: The Creative Exchange

Some of the top features of this mirrorless camera are the deep color contrasts that make products come to life, the sharpness and quality of the powerful lenses that show off product details, the built-in Wi-Fi and how compact it is.

Best beginner pro cameras for product photography

7. Nikon D3400

8. Canon Powershot G7 X Mark II

9. Nikon D750

If you're prepared to make a larger investment in a camera for product photography, but still need something easy to use, these three might fit the bill.

8. Nikon D3400

Price: $499

Type: dSLR

Resolution: 24.2 MP

The Nikon D3400 has no optical low-pass filter, which means you can capture even the smallest details in your products.

(Keep in mind that this camera doesn't have a microphone port. So if you're looking for a solution that can shoot product photos and capture video [such as for your social channels or website], this won't be the one for you. Just want to get great shots? Then this camera will give you great bang for the buck!)

8. Canon Powershot G7 X Mark II

Price: $650

Type: Point-and-shoot

Resolution: 20.1 MP

This camera from Canon comes with a 20.1-megapixel sensor and an f/1.8–2.8 lens that can take clear images of your products, even in low-light settings. It's also important to note that with this level of megapixels, you can take images that include crisp details that work for online and print purposes.

The camera can also capture 1080p video, though it doesn't come with 4K capabilities. But 4K technology still isn't the standard for video quality, so 1080p should do just fine.

It's also important to note that the G7 X Mark II isn't a total upgrade from the G7 X, but seemingly because the G7 X already had a rather impressive reputation. The only feature that's still missing from this camera is the lack of a viewfinder, but it does include a tilting touchscreen that helps if you're shooting products at a variety of angles.

9. Nikon D750

Price: $2,000

Type: dSLR

Resolution: 24.3 MP

While the price for this dSLR is higher than the other two in this category, it's still lower than most advanced high-end cameras available.

Released in 2014, the Nikon D750 took home the trophy for camera of the year — and for several good reasons. First, it's a full-frame camera, which means that it includes a sensor that's equal in size to a 35mm film camera — these are usually found in more high-end cameras, too, as it helps to create some of the best high-resolution images even in low or natural light.

The Nikon D750 has also been noted to sit in between their D610 and D810 models, taking features from both but adding more that improves it. So while some features exist in other Nikon models, the D750 provides the best of both worlds at a lower price point while also including a tilting digital screen and Wi-Fi.

On a personal note, this is the body I've been shooting with for years and I've yet to run into a situation that makes me want to upgrade. It helps me create beautiful images no matter the situation.

Best advanced high-end cameras for product photography

10. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

11. Sony Alpha A7R III

12. Nikon D850

If you're already an advanced photographer or have enough to splurge on a high-end camera, these three options surely won't disappoint.

10. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Price: $3,299

Type: dSLR

Resolution: 30.4 MP

Another dSLR with a full-frame sensor, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV comes with a powerful 30.4-megapixel sensor and 4K video capabilities, both of which are designed to capture ample detail. Suitable for various types of shooting conditions, this camera can yield high-quality results from photos in print to online thanks to its ISO range of 100–32000.

The EOS 5D Mark IV also comes with a 61-point high-density reticular autofocus II system. That might sound like photography jargon, but to the average advanced photographer, it's an important feature to capture clear shots.

Like other newer camera models, the EOD 5D Mark IV doesn't come with a tilted touch screen, and the battery life isn't as long as other cameras on the market. But if you're ready to make a serious investment? The EOD 5D Mark IV is a good place to start.

11. Sony Alpha A7R III

Price: $3,199

Type: Mirrorless

Resolution: 42.4 MP

This mirrorless camera from Sony also comes with a full-frame sensor, with a whopping 42.4 megapixels. With that kind of sensor, your images can flawlessly highlight the most intricate details in your products — especially if you're already an advanced photographer.

Older models of this camera have been known to have a less-than-favorable body, as the small size meant it lacked ease to hold it steadily along with a rather small battery. But with the Alpha A7R III, Sony completely revitalized the camera with updates to the dials, a larger battery and features like dust and moisture resistance, especially helpful for those contextual product shots for outdoor products.

12. Nikon D850

Price: $3,299

Type: dSLR

Resolution: 45.7 MP

The Nikon D850 has a full-frame sensor and 45.7 megapixels, which capture minute details of your products. The tilting touchscreen also helps you play around with angles, which is especially important to showcase products from all points of view.

The EXPEED 5 feature quickly processes the 45.7 megapixels of data resulting in lower noise, a wider range and richer details. This camera also has 4K and 8K (with third-party software) recording capabilities and the lowest ISO of any dSLR or mirrorless camera, so there's not much else to ask for.

It's a big purchase, but if you're an advanced photographer looking to improve your photos, it's a worthwhile investment. 

There’s a lot to consider when you’re purchasing your camera and gear for product photography. If you’re still scratching your head and wondering, “OK, but what do I REALLY need?”, sign up here and receive our list and find out.

 

Misha Hettie

Misha is a copywriter and brand photographer who cannot escape her strong "oldest kid" tendencies to plan, improve, lead and teach. Her photo work has been featured in Uppercase Magazine, Travel + Leisure, Gayot Guide, Cooking with Paula Deen, Design Guide, NHOME Magazine, Urban Home, and more. She helps creative entrepreneurs build a brand that stands out online, and PS? That's not really her natural hair color.