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Good Camera for Stills (m43 or Nikon)?


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I've been hired to do product photos. I'm video only but the client is important and it was hard to say no.

Fortunately the shots are for the web so a high resolution camera isn't needed.

I would like to get something that I can control remotely with my phone (Android only, I don't have iOS devices.) That's pretty much my only requirement as I'm a one man shop.

Glass I own:

  • Sigma 18-35mm f1.8 (Nikon)
  • Sigma 50-100mm f1.8 (Nikon)
  • Panasonic 12-35mm f2.8 (m43)

Also not too sure if it's important but I currently shoot video on:

  • BMCC (m43)


 I have zero idea what to look for in a good stills camera. Right now I'm considering going with a GX85 as it's under CAD$1000. I understand Nikon makes some fantastic bodies but I don't know where to start looking.

Help me out?

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I think the GX85 would probably be a good choice for product photos, and you would have 4K video and 5-Axis IBIS if your work ever calls for it.

On the other hand, Nikon makes great stills cameras and their video capabilities are supposed to be some of the best h.264 1080p up to 60p around, plus the Nikon's flat profile is supposed to a pleasure to grade. The sigmas should be really nice with the Nikon as well. If you're looking for autofocus just make sure you get the right model of Nikon... Some lenses won't autofocus with the D5500, so you will need the D7200.

Good luck. 

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Honestly for product photos, lighting is everything. Lens choice is a close second. If I were in your shoes I'd probably lean towards Nikon - something like the D3300 is more than sufficient even as basic as it is. Combined with that Sigma glass and you should get great results. 

that being said - GX85 will more than get the job done as well, especially with that 12-35 you have. You might get more use out of this with video work too as stated by Mercer 

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You will find that most cameras that support raw files can be used pretty successfully for product shots with careful management of lighting and white balance - use a grey card or white balance preset to fine-tune this either during the shoot (latter) or in post (former). AF is not a particular issue with product photography in general because manual focus will be preferable in most cases. However, if the camera is remote then AF might be of assistance. Given your stills requirement and lens selection, I'd suggest a Nikon with wireless control capability and so you can use the qDslrDashboard app (http://dslrdashboard.info/introduction/).This app also works with Canon cameras. I've used qDslrDashboard successfully on a mac for taking product shots and for stills of transparencies and artwork with a D750. It provides a live screen preview which is useful for managing framing and focus and a number of controls. It is touted to work on Android mobiles as well. The nikon wireless control app can also be used but it is rather rudimentary. You can also trigger these cameras with a cheap remote trigger (e.g. Nikon ML-L3), but this is simply an infrared shutter release, which in many cases may be sufficient.  As for camera, I'd probably consider something like the D5300 as its stills image quality is good but it is relatively inexpensive if you get one second hand. If you want the Nikon flat profile for video as well, step up to the D5500. My Sigma 18-35 works fine with AF on my D5300, and I believe the Sigma USB dock can be used to upgrade the sigma ART line to work with newer cameras, but I'd do some double checking with camera and lens combinations other than the D5300/18-35.

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Why do you need a remote control for product photos?

Seems like the Nikon D5200 is the obvious choice as you've got those Sigma lenses in a Nikon F mount already. 
D5200 has the latest 24 megapixel APS-C sensor in it, making it a rather terrific stills camera to start out on. A quite good video camera too for its price (which is almost nothing these days on eBay!):



I'm still using mine, as recently as yesterday on Sunday and Saturday too, covering a motorsport event. Together with my G6 and BMPCC.


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I have a fancier idea, it will give better quality than anything new you can buy for 1000Cad. If it's product shots of small things like jewlery, accesories,etc... the important thing is not the camera but the lens setup.

Either bellows or a tilt and shift adapter for the emount, put the cheapest nex camera behind it. For example, nex5, shift/tilt kipon adapter, and a nikkor 55mm macro lens. This will cost less than 300-500$ us. Now you have money left for some flash (also buy used old flashs :) that you can trigger offcamera from the nex).

The only problem is that you have to know how to use all that stuff ;)

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Zach is spot on. You didn't say what kind of product it is (I pray it's not a car, then you're probably way over your head) but usually what really counts for product photos is the lighting, you'll probably want to shoot with manually set strobes (at least 1 + reflector but probably more). Focus on that, camera isn't really important, you'll manually focus anyway so all the technical bells & whistles are pretty much useless.

I'd shoot with the SIGMA 50-100mm on APS-C from a tripod with whatever has a nice flippy screen or you can also tether to a tablet or computer. Shoot RAW and edit in Lightroom. Done.


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Thanks a lot for the advice guys. Didn't realize that stills sensors haven't really improved in leaps and bounds over the last 6 years. And yeah, I'm shooting small items in controlled light, I can maximize DN at ISO 100-200 and minimize noise.

Anyhow, if anyone is interested, I ended up being given a D7000 for free. I kept asking colleagues I know for advice and happened on someone with a bunch of bodies. I was going to go with a D5200 as it's available brand new in Canada for less than $500. Pretty sweet deal without having to worry about shutter longevity from a used buy.

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On 7/18/2016 at 4:16 AM, Nikkor said:

I have a fancier idea, it will give better quality than anything new you can buy for 1000Cad. If it's product shots of small things like jewlery, accesories,etc... the important thing is not the camera but the lens setup.

Either bellows or a tilt and shift adapter for the emount, put the cheapest nex camera behind it. For example, nex5, shift/tilt kipon adapter, and a nikkor 55mm macro lens. This will cost less than 300-500$ us.

This is the best advice yet, in regards to the camera aspect of product photography.  If you are seriously doing a lot of tabletop shooting, you really should have some Scheimpflug ability.  A shallow-mount APS-C camera with a tilt-shift (or tilt-swing) adapter and full frame lenses works perfectly in this regard.


As @Nikkor mentioned, an inexpensive/used NEX camera with a Kipon tilt-* adapter would cost around US$300-US$500.  You could also get a Canon EOSM with a Kipon Tilt-* adapter for Nikkor lenses, and that combo would cost around US$250-US$450.


You might also consider getting a few primes (for APS-C shooting):  20mm; 28mm; and 35mm.

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If the products are small, you'll probably need a macro lens.  I use a 50mm for my camera.  And a very sturdy tripod.  If you've got to isolate the product on a white background I use Topaz Remask, it works better than most.  F16 is about the smallest aperture you'll get away with before defraction sets in, with a smaller sensor than full frame you might want to stay around f11.  And expose to the right if you're shooting on white paper or if you have a lightbox.  And, do a test shot to see if there's dust on the sensor, if there is it adds a lot to the processing.  On a good day I do up to 20 product or food shots, but I have to fix them and keyword them, keywording takes a lot of time but your client will probably do that.  Good luck!

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I've shot retail product (primarily apparel and jewelry, with various consumer and tech products) for close to 20 years, back to the film days with 4x5" Ektachrome. Done stuff for Neiman-Marcus, JCPenney, Blockbuster video, all sorts of manufacturers and wholesalers, and on and on. My thoughts:

Even if "just for the web", shoot full rez and raw. Doing minor fixes or going pure-white on the BG is easier at big sizes. In your bid, note that you'll shoot full print size and archive for future use. You never know when someone will decide to do a flyer or a print ad. With a modern 20+ MP stills cam, you can shoot for billboards.

Having shift and tilt is nice for product shooting. If this is a one-off deal, I wouldn't worry about it. I don't do as much product as I did in the past and haven't needed it - I still have a big camera stand which to me is more important, esp. in the digital days. Lighting is more important. A soft box, white reflectors, and a7" and 11"  grid head (to "raise" detail in folded soft goods or add sparkle to jewelry) is a basic starting point. If you're doing more of a still-life look or food, grids and even tungsten lights can play a bigger role in sort of a "heightened beauty" look. You really want complete control for each light, either by individual controls or with a symmetrical/asymmetrical pack or nets and ND.

(As for tilt-shift - I've built a tilt rig to use Mamiya 645 lenses on a Nikon camera... still need to get a lens and complete it...)

I'm a Nikon fan for this work, especially since Nikkors can go on all sorts of modern cameras for video, and there are decades of classic glass out there used for someone starting. You don't need AF or OIS for this stuff. I'd look at a used/refurbed D7100 - really great stills image and nice video.

I cite the 7100 since it was the first Nikon to lose the OLPF (low-pass filter). I'd say a camera without OLPF is a primary consideration; as a product and corporate people shooter, it was really a new era in fine detail. To my eyes this was a big game changer - the leap in IQ from the 7000 to the 7100 was pretty astounding to me. (I'm sure there's Canon stuff that's equally good - when Digital first gained acceptance, I delivered many shots from an Olympus P&S for no-rental-budget clients - it was the first full-manual consumer digital with a strobe connection that saved uncompressed TIFFs - six to a card! Each shot took 20 seconds to write to disc... but the IQ was badass). (This when renting a pro digital stills cam was a pricey affair).

There must be a zillion product shooting tutorials on the web - check them out, but avoid any "light-tent" style setups - you do want a sense of directionality to the light, to make things look three dimensional, vs. just-plain-flat.

Film, no photoshop:

Nikon, 50mm lens.

Silly Olympus P&S:


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3 hours ago, IronFilm said:

They also had a leap forward in resolution, which could be also what you are noticing.

After years of upgrading D-series bodies, I'm convinced it was the OLPF. I watched resolution go up over time, but the fine-detail level was what really jumped out at me.

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