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Hey guys,

I have been toying with the idea of stepping away from my iPhone, and wanted to start using my Canon T7i to take better quality watch photos. My question is, what would be a versatile lens to invest in for general watch photography? Every time I break out my Canon with the 18-55 kit lens, I become frustrated trying to dial in the focus. I often gravitate back to using my iPhone for a quick wrist shot and have put the Canon aside for hiking and outdoor photography.

I see amazing pictures on blogs/Instagram with watches alongside different items (leather boots, straps, denim, books, etc.) and would like to draw inspiration from these shots. Below are two pics taken from W&W and Hodinkee articles...this is the style that I'm looking for. What lens would make it easier to take these type of shots? I am new to watch photography, so any tips or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!


 

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Check out the Sigma Art line of lenses, they're often optically superior to Canon but their autofocus can be lacking (not a big deal if you're shooting still life stuff like your examples though).

The 70mm Macro might be a good fit for oyu
 

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Thanks for the replies! I will take a look at the Sigma Art line of lenses. The Canon 18-135mm also sounds appealing because it adds some versatility, although I may have to flip my kit lens to prevent redundancy. Is the Canon 18-135mm noticeably better than the 18-55mm optically?
 

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They are specifically using macro lenses and strobe lighting for most of the shots you see on sites like wound and worn. Combined with post processing to clean it up. As much as I find Ken Rockwell a bit of an opinionated blow hard take a look at his reviews for lenses he does a pretty thorough job. But because you will have to step down the f stop to take a macro shot with enough depth of field you will need some flash work or some outdoor sun light.

Good luck. Feel free to PM if you have any specific questions. Not a pro photographer but I am always interested in discussing these matters.

I take shots with my iPhone because it is always with me. Like my watch.

Ps. You will probably want some prime lenses too. 35mm 1.8 is just the tops for the T7i

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They are specifically using macro lenses and strobe lighting for most of the shots you see on sites like wound and worn. Combined with post processing to clean it up. As much as I find Ken Rockwell a bit of an opinionated blow hard take a look at his reviews for lenses he does a pretty job. But because you will have to step down the f stop to take a macro shot with enough depth of field you will need some flash work or some outdoor sun light.

Good luck. Feel free to PM if you have any specific questions. Not a pro photographer but I am always interested in discussing these matters.

I take shots with my iPhone because it is always with me. Like my watch.

Ps. You will probably want some prime lenses too. 35mm 1.8 is just the tops for the T7i

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Thanks for the tips! Do you think Canon’s 60mm 2.8 macro would be a good place to start considering the T7i is a crop sensor. I’m starting to think anything in the 100mm range would be too much. I’ll give Ken Rockwell’s site a read for more info


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The Canon 60mm 2.8 macro will be much better than any none "L" zoom lens.

The following accounts for basically all DSLR and mirror less cameras: really good photo quality comes from quality (and expensive) glass, not so much from the body.

All that being said - if you have some funds available - I'd sell the entire Canon enchilada on eBay and get this setup:

- SONY A7 (Used): https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/801651762-USE/sony_ilce7r_b_alpha_a7r_mirrorless_digital.html

- SONY FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS Lens (new): https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1126140-REG/sony_sel90m28g_fe_90mm_f_2_8_macro.html

- A proper macro tripod like the FEISOL TT-15B: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1388944-REG/feisol_fett15b_tt_15b_mini_tripod_and.html


Just a few samples I came up within 5 minutes...









 

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DXOMark is a good source for lens quality:
https://www.dxomark.com/lenses/launched-between-1987-and-2018/mount_type-Canon_EF-Canon_EF_S/focal-from-1-to-1500/launch_price-from-0-to-13000-usd/lens_use_case-lens_supertelephoto#hideAdvancedOptions=false&viewMode=list&yDataType=rankDxo
Sort by the sharpness column for a good indicator of the image quality and then look at the price for a good indicator of how many watches you will not be able to buy because of the lens.

Before you spend, I think we need to explore what is not working for you shooting watch shots with your 18-55.
Your example shots are typical product shots. Maybe you can get some improvements with some technique hints? e.g.
Are you shooting on a tripod? (allowing you to extend exposure tie and maximise the sharpness your lens is capable of)
What lighting are you using? (directional light can improve contrast/texture, ambient light can give more even illumination)
Are you looking for areas of the picture (e.g. background) to be out of focus? If so you need short depth of field with large aperture and maximum focal length. (look at McCarthy's pics for great examples of this)
What post-production are you using? (a tool like Lightroom can help you get the most from your picture by adjusting global and local exposure / saturation / sharpness just as you might have done in a darkroom in the dark old days)

I have a Canon full-frame (6D) when I want to do some considered pictures.
But I also have a cropped sensor 200D with 18-55 lens as a lightweight carry around option.

Here are some quick pics with the 200D:

Typical wrist shot with low aperture to reduce DOF and throw the unimportant hand out of focus:
IMG_0078.jpg

An experiment with harsh directional light to try and emphasise the texture in the movement:
IMG200D-0217_LI.jpg
 

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Discussion Starter #9
The Canon 60mm 2.8 macro will be much better than any none "L" zoom lens.

The following accounts for basically all DSLR and mirror less cameras: really good photo quality comes from quality (and expensive) glass, not so much from the body.

All that being said - if you have some funds available - I'd sell the entire Canon enchilada on eBay and get this setup:

- SONY A7 (Used): https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/801651762-USE/sony_ilce7r_b_alpha_a7r_mirrorless_digital.html

- SONY FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS Lens (new): https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1126140-REG/sony_sel90m28g_fe_90mm_f_2_8_macro.html

- A proper macro tripod like the FEISOL TT-15B: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1388944-REG/feisol_fett15b_tt_15b_mini_tripod_and.html


Just a few samples I came up within 5 minutes...









Thanks! I added the 60mm macro to the list. Unfortunately, getting a new camera isn’t in the cards right now...I think I’m going to hold onto the Canon for a while and learn how to shoot with it before I sell it haha. Nice macro shots!


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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
DXOMark is a good source for lens quality:
https://www.dxomark.com/lenses/launched-between-1987-and-2018/mount_type-Canon_EF-Canon_EF_S/focal-from-1-to-1500/launch_price-from-0-to-13000-usd/lens_use_case-lens_supertelephoto#hideAdvancedOptions=false&viewMode=list&yDataType=rankDxo
Sort by the sharpness column for a good indicator of the image quality and then look at the price for a good indicator of how many watches you will not be able to buy because of the lens.

Before you spend, I think we need to explore what is not working for you shooting watch shots with your 18-55.
Your example shots are typical product shots. Maybe you can get some improvements with some technique hints? e.g.
Are you shooting on a tripod? (allowing you to extend exposure tie and maximise the sharpness your lens is capable of)
What lighting are you using? (directional light can improve contrast/texture, ambient light can give more even illumination)
Are you looking for areas of the picture (e.g. background) to be out of focus? If so you need short depth of field with large aperture and maximum focal length. (look at McCarthy's pics for great examples of this)
What post-production are you using? (a tool like Lightroom can help you get the most from your picture by adjusting global and local exposure / saturation / sharpness just as you might have done in a darkroom in the dark old days)

I have a Canon full-frame (6D) when I want to do some considered pictures.
But I also have a cropped sensor 200D with 18-55 lens as a lightweight carry around option.

Here are some quick pics with the 200D:

Typical wrist shot with low aperture to reduce DOF and throw the unimportant hand out of focus:
View attachment 13376165

An experiment with harsh directional light to try and emphasise the texture in the movement:
View attachment 13376163
Nice pics and thanks for the tips! I tried doing a few different styles of shots yesterday evening, mostly wrist shots and table-top shots outdoors. I used natural lighting when the sun was going down. The pictures are on my home computer so I’ll be able to post samples later on.

I’m still having issues getting sharp images out of the kit lens (definitely an operator problem!). My main complaint with the sharpness is that the logo, writing, and details on the watch’s dial are blurry in most of the pictures when viewing them on my computer. It’s frustrating because I can take a quick shot on my iPhone and still read the little “Swiss made” at the bottom of the dial....this isn’t the case with the Canon.

I think my biggest pitfall is trying to take the wrist shots freehand, although isn’t it a little much to break out the tripod to get a quick, clear wrist shot? If I did use a tripod, should I also use a remote to prevent camera-shake when pressing the shutter? I usually set my focus point right under the 12 o’clock marker on the dial. For post production, I occasionally use the generic editing software in “Photos” on my Mac. I definitely need to invest in something a little better.

I also began to read more into prime lenses lately. After noticing that I shoot a lot of my pictures at the 35mm focal length on the kit lens (even most of my hiking/car show pictures), do you think a Canon 35mm f/2 prime would give me a noticeable separation in quality? How would the 35mm f/2 work for product/wrist shots? I also plan on using it as a general purpose/walk-around lens. I appreciate everyone’s help!


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Nice pics and thanks for the tips! I tried doing a few different styles of shots yesterday evening, mostly wrist shots and table-top shots outdoors. I used natural lighting when the sun was going down. The pictures are on my home computer so I’ll be able to post samples later on.

I’m still having issues getting sharp images out of the kit lens (definitely an operator problem!). My main complaint with the sharpness is that the logo, writing, and details on the watch’s dial are blurry in most of the pictures when viewing them on my computer. It’s frustrating because I can take a quick shot on my iPhone and still read the little “Swiss made” at the bottom of the dial....this isn’t the case with the Canon.

I think my biggest pitfall is trying to take the wrist shots freehand, although isn’t it a little much to break out the tripod to get a quick, clear wrist shot? If I did use a tripod, should I also use a remote to prevent camera-shake when pressing the shutter? I usually set my focus point right under the 12 o’clock marker on the dial. For post production, I occasionally use the generic editing software in “Photos” on my Mac. I definitely need to invest in something a little better.

I also began to read more into prime lenses lately. After noticing that I shoot a lot of my pictures at the 35mm focal length on the kit lens (even most of my hiking/car show pictures), do you think a Canon 35mm f/2 prime would give me a noticeable separation in quality? How would the 35mm f/2 work for product/wrist shots? I also plan on using it as a general purpose/walk-around lens. I appreciate everyone’s help!


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Yep, you will need a proper tripod, and you will need to operate your camera in manual mode in order to adjust exposure / f-stop.

If you go with a cheaper lens, you will need slow f-stops (for example 9) in order to archive good sharpness. The issue here is, that a slow f-stop will reduced the bokeh effect (low DOF) and most of the background will be sharp as well.

Only expensive and faster lenses offer sharpness at fast f-shops like 1.2 or 1.4. and a nice background. An alternative are longer lenses (for example a 200mm) at 2.8, and they are equally expensive.

Now, the Canon 60mm at 2.8 will be fast enough to provide some bokeh if you keep the background at distance. This lens has the added advantage of being a macro compared to the 35mm f/2. Hence you won't need to crop into the photo for details.

The 35mm f/2 is better for general as well as low light and handheld photography, but not for close-ups.

You first step should be to purchase a good tripod and to use longer exposure, lower ISO, slower shutter speed at 9. That alone will improve the sharpness by a lot, even with a cheap plastic kit lens.
 

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Yep, you will need a proper tripod, and you will need to operate your camera in manual mode in order to adjust exposure / f-stop.

If you go with a cheaper lens, you will need slow f-stops (for example 9) in order to archive good sharpness. The issue here is, that a slow f-stop will reduced the bokeh effect (low DOF) and most of the background will be sharp as well.

Only expensive and faster lenses offer sharpness at fast f-shops like 1.2 or 1.4. and a nice background. An alternative are longer lenses (for example a 200mm) at 2.8, and they are equally expensive.

Now, the Canon 60mm at 2.8 will be fast enough to provide some bokeh if you keep the background at distance. This lens has the added advantage of being a macro compared to the 35mm f/2. Hence you won't need to crop into the photo for details.

The 35mm f/2 is better for general as well as low light and handheld photography, but not for close-ups.

You first step should be to purchase a good tripod and to use longer exposure, lower ISO, slower shutter speed at 9. That alone will improve the sharpness by a lot, even with a cheap plastic kit lens.
Awesome, before I buy a new lens I’ll look into picking up a nice tripod. I’m sure Amazon has some decent options. It’ll definitely come in handy, especially if I dive more into landscape photography. Weather permitting, I’ll take some more experimental shots when I get home and post the results. Thanks!


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Awesome, before I buy a new lens I’ll look into picking up a nice tripod. I’m sure Amazon has some decent options. It’ll definitely come in handy, especially if I dive more into landscape photography. Weather permitting, I’ll take some more experimental shots when I get home and post the results. Thanks!


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A tripod will also allow really nice night shots.



 

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After finding a tripod from an old point and shoot, I decided to break out the Canon to take a few wrist shots. I quickly saw better results with the tripod. Using manual mode was another eye opening experience. I started at the lowest ISO, slowed down the shutter speed, and tightened the aperture to f/8 or smaller. What do you know?...it worked! The pictures were darker than I’d like, but at least they were sharper than before.

Below are three samples. I definitely plan to work on dialing in the exposure and my editing skills before I jump into a new lens. Tomorrow I may try some product shots with the kit lens. Thank you everyone again for the pointers and recommendations! This is a good start...






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That looks really good.

Keep in mind that you will have to keep your arm very steady and rested to prevent motion blurriness with longer exposure. A tripod will only help in this situation when the object is also fixed. Try a few shots with the watch laying on a table and shooting very flat with the background far away.
 

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Nice pics Mreal.

I especially like the first one with the diagonal composition and the warm evening light...

Some of the great things about photography are:
1) Anyone can get a great picture on any camera.
2) You are always learning technique improvements.

As you start to experiment with manual mode make sure you understand the following:
1) the exposure triangle
2) depth of field (and how it varies by aperture and focal length)

Search the internet for theory explanations then experiment:
Try taking the same shot with variations of aperture and shutter speed.
Zoom in and physically move the camera out then zoom out and move the camera in.
- see what happens.

Once you've mastered that then the next tricky step is lighting and in particular flash photography...

If you figure out how to get consistently great flash photographs then please let me know how :)
 

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Nice pics Mreal.

I especially like the first one with the diagonal composition and the warm evening light...

Some of the great things about photography are:
1) Anyone can get a great picture on any camera.
2) You are always learning technique improvements.

As you start to experiment with manual mode make sure you understand the following:
1) the exposure triangle
2) depth of field (and how it varies by aperture and focal length)

Search the internet for theory explanations then experiment:
Try taking the same shot with variations of aperture and shutter speed.
Zoom in and physically move the camera out then zoom out and move the camera in.
- see what happens.

Once you've mastered that then the next tricky step is lighting and in particular flash photography...

If you figure out how to get consistently great flash photographs then please let me know how :)
Thanks! This past weekend I picked up my first decent tripod and lens; a 35mm f/2 prime. I'm looking forward to using the prime for a while and learning the ins and outs of my camera. I've been reading and watching videos about setting a proper exposure, but I think the best way to learn is through practice. Hopefully by the end of the week I can get to some locations near me and shoot some more.
 

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Thanks! This past weekend I picked up my first decent tripod and lens; a 35mm f/2 prime. I'm looking forward to using the prime for a while and learning the ins and outs of my camera. I've been reading and watching videos about setting a proper exposure, but I think the best way to learn is through practice. Hopefully by the end of the week I can get to some locations near me and shoot some more.
While I use to love film photography, and I had a black and white darkroom ... color developing was out of my reach for a hobbyist. So I was forced to bracket my exposures and take more photos that I thought I needed to get one that I liked ... digital has changed that somewhat and you are right ... practice and seeing the immediate results that digital offers is a great way to learn.
 
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