Looks like my wife picked up another art director / food stylist gig for a dessert cookbook, and I serve as food photographer - it'll be our second. I shot the bulk of the first cookbook in DX with a 50mm f/1.4 AF-S and my learning was that it'd be good to be able to back off away from the table and give the chef and stylist more working space around my tripod. My working distance was typically 3-4 ft. Keep in mind that the first book featured full plate settings: steak, fish, chicken breast. This next will be smaller subjects, closer: brownie, mousse, muffin.
I don't plan to be a full-on pro product photographer (despite the strobes, softboxes, backdrop, light stands and Nikon gear ;-) - these projects are a bit of a rarity. So I'm thinking about this gig as an opportunity to finance my camera bag, and what would both serve the job, but more long-term give me a better telephoto lens option for general purpose photography.
I think the obvious choice for the "job" would be the 105mm f/2.8 VR. Working distance, sharpness and 9-blade aperture all make for the professional beauty and look I aim to achieve. However; it seems like a limited-purpose lens for a guy who generally likes to walk around with less in my bag for personal uses. If I'm going to carry around that much bulk, I'd more likely want a zoom.
Next choice would be the 85mm f/1.8 AF-S. It wouldn't back me off from the subject as far, but it offers a little there, plus reviews to be crazy sharp as well. I have tubes for the possible case I need to get really close. This seems like a great DX walk-around telephoto.
Third choice might be the 70-200 f/4. Its range is the most lacking in my bag (see signature) and I suspect it would get me more working distance and flexibility for the gig. However, it's the most expensive. I like to control the narrow focal plane but found I mostly shot the 50mm at around f/2.8-5.6 which got the front-to-middle of the plate in focus and pushed the background sides and props into a nice blur. I'm not sure that f/4 will be fast enough to make a shallow DoF on something so small as a flan - sure if I'm close in, but f/4 might not be shallow enough if I'm 6-ft back.
I also have on my wishlist both of the DC lenses, 105 and 135, but these seem even more limited-function. For fun I shot some samples with my cheapo 18-105 zoom. At print sizes it's probably fine, but onscreen at 100% I could tell the edges were mushy and the transition to mush wasn't a nice beautiful bokeh kind of quality look - though the subject was all sharp.
Short of renting them all and test, I thought I'd bat this around here - especially if anyone has used these first 3 in product situations. I don't really call it macro because I'm not that close. Thanks in advance for any experience and ideas.
D7100, D60, 35mm f/1.8 DX, 50mm f/1.4, 18-105mm DX, 18-55mm VR II, Sony RX-100 ii