This was the culprit. The reason I went went with Nikon instead of Canon. The
Nikon 35mm f/1.8 lens. Small, light, inexpensive, designed for APS-C sized sensors (most easily categorized as DSLR cameras that cost <$2000), and this lens is a steal at ~$200.
You see, back when I was learning photography the only tool I had was an Olympus OM-2N and a 50mm f/1.8 lens. In its day, it was known for its compactness, large bright viewfinder and build quality. Loved that combination. I saw everything through that lens, and a 50mm lens on 35mm film gave what's generally considered 'normal' vision in terms of perspective and magnification. People have a really wide viewing area, peripheral scope, which is beyond what a flat reproduction can give us, but that gets beyond my scope of knowledge too.
What I can say, is during the time I was choosing a DSLR, Nikon had this lens for $200, and Canon had nothing in comparison. Canon's offerings were either large $$$$ (4-figure) pro lenses, or older wide angle lenses designed for the film days. These were not as sharp, distortion-free, light, small or as inexpensive. Canon had squat for modern non-professional DSLRs in this standard perspective range.
So that did it. I got the Nikon D60. I also got the Nikon 18-105mm zoom, as a walk-around lens. During the first year of shooting, I noticed that 75% of my best-rated photos (judging my own shots on a 1-5 scale), were taken with the 35mm lens. With this lens on, my brain worked more like an artist. I actively looked for things that would fit into the frame, and when I got the camera to my eye, I could capture what I saw. With the zoom lens, my brain took shortcuts in the creative process. I just framed what caught my eye by zooming, and I pulled the shutter. The skipped step was thinking. Imagining.
It may seem counter-intuitive, in a market where good cameras are judged by how fast and automatically they can capture a moment. I think those features are great, but especially required for a lot of candid, kids and sports shots. But my eye was usually drawn to landscape, object and pattern, and speedily snapping these led to unremarkable 'snapshots'. By forcing myself to slow down, I started considering the subject as art, and by thinking so it becomes so... at least in a few fortunate cases.
So that's my spiel on the standard lens. But WAIT, this is a Food Blog! What do I mostly use to take my favorite pictures of food?
50mm f/1.4 lens. ~$450. Not so small, light, cheap. Sigh. But I love its perspective on food (and Yelena :-). It has an even wider aperture, giving me the ability to cut an extremely narrow depth-of-field, plus it gets me closer to the food. It fills the frame with a plate, where the 35mm f/1.8 generally gives me a place-setting.
I'm not into brand wars, so all you Canon people relax - they have two fine lenses at this focal length. The 50mm 1.8 is cheap at $100, and well-regarded as sharp. Built cheaply, but sharp! And the 50mm f/1.4 is very comparable to my Nikon, at ~$400. Great for food photography.
So now I have a 35mm, a 50mm and a 18-105mm lens bag. Dang, it crept up on me, but that's a significant bag of glass - so now it becomes hard to jump to Canon. And am I done? Of course not! As a Nikon shooter, if I were to start out thinking of just food photography, I'd get this guy. The
60mm f/2.8 Micro: