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When you’re choosing what lens to use in your own videography it’s important to understand the range of options that are available to you and how the lens that you are using can impact on every aspect of your work.
When selecting a lens you need to adapt to the situation and the scenario that you’re working in. Different lenses have varying capabilities and in an ideal situation you should have several available at all times.
What Types of Lens Should You Use For Videography?
- Wide Angle Lens: A wide angle lens has a focal range of between 24-40mm and is perfect for filming an entire scene. It works well in closed spaces and will give you a great depth of field. The lens creates a stunning and dramatic perspective which makes the work look more cinematic without the fancy frills in post production. The downside of using a wide angle lens is that when you are working with close ups the image can get distorted however it’s an extremely versatile lens that is great to have in your gear.
- Standard Lens: With a full frame focal length of about 50mm, a four-thirds of 20-25mm and an APS-C of 35mm, your standard lens will give you a very natural looking perspective with very little distortions. These are compact and although the depth of field is not as deep as other options for your general all round videography it’s a good place to start. The picture is sharp and you can film almost any type of project with your standard lens.
- Medium Telephoto Lens: Also known as a portrait lens you can capture undistorted close up shots and with a wide aperture they operate well in low or poor light conditions. Best used in conjunction with a tripod because they are very fast they are probably the top choice for shooting shallow depth of field footage. One thing to be aware of is that when you’re shooting close up these lenses do tend to flatten the image somewhat however compared to the alternatives it’s a great option for indoor and general videography.
- Telephoto Lens: With focal lengths that vary from 60-135mm and above, the telephoto lens is an incredible zoom lens that is a must have for any serious film maker. Due to the distances at which it can operate, you’re going to need to use a tripod to avoid shaky amateur looking footage and although these are fairly bulky they are perfect for wildlife and sports videography.
- Ultrawide Angle Lens: The ultrawide angle lens can fit a huge amount into the scene although when you are shooting from up close the edges of the frame can be pretty distorted. Ideal for documentaries and creating dramatic perspectives they have a huge depth of field. On the downside these lenses have focal lengths of less than 24mm but are hard to beat for the close up shots.
Important Factors To Consider When Selecting a Lens for Videography.
- Image Stabilization: With good image stabilization you can work fast, even while on the move. The higher quality lenses in the modern world can be operated without a tripod as a result of their inbuilt image stabilization, or ‘IBIS’.
- Focusing Mechanism: When selecting a zoom lens you need to decide if you would prefer a manual or electronic focus mechanism. An electric, or ‘fly by wire’ focus mechanism will change the focus depending on how quickly you move the focus ring on the lens. This can be helpful and is usually a good option if you’re relying on autofocus to keep the image clear however many still prefer the traditional manual focus option. This does give you more control over the image however it is slower and requires a higher level of camera operating skills.
- Parfocal Lens: If you’re zooming in and out rapidly then a parfocal lens can actually hold its focus in between changes. This is extremely helpful for certain types of videography including wildlife, sports and on the ground video journalism.
- Focal Breathing: Unless you’re using a high quality lens then the image can change in size as you zoom in and out. This is not noticeable or particularly important when you’re taking photographs however in videography it can be quite distracting for the audience. Top quality zoom lenses can actually minimize this effect and so it can be worth paying a little extra for the feature.
Can You Use a Prime Lens for Videography?
A lens that has a predetermined fixed focal length is known as a prime lens. This means that you cannot zoom in or out with this lens. If you’re filming with a prime lens and you want to make the subject appear larger in the frame then you will need to physically move nearer to them! Similarly, if you want to make the subject smaller in frame then you’ll need to move away from them.
Despite the fact that Prime lenses have a fixed focal length they make up for it in other categories. For instance, a prime lens will let in more light and can therefore deliver better results in poorly lit environments and because the lenses have fixed focal lengths the image tends to be sharper than other types. Zoom lenses on the other hand, tend to have the clearest images at varying focal ranges.
One of the major advantages of using a Prime lens is that they are much more affordable than many of the alternatives on the market, while being lightweight and compact.
Major Pros of a Prime Lens for Videography.
- Fast Apertures.
- Extremely Sharp Video Footage.
- Highly portable and compact in design.
- Lower prices than alternative lenses.
- Operate in low lighting conditions.
- Crystal clear image.
Cons of using a Prime Lens for Videography.
- With a fixed focal length they are less versatile.
- Prime lenses lack superior image stabilization.
The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens – The Leading Prime Lens.
One of the best Prime lenses on the market at the moment is made by Canon and with it’s reasonable price tag and fantastic utility it’s something every videography should have in their gear.
The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens is perfect for portraits, action footage and low lit conditions and can operate at as little as 1 foot while still capturing crystal clear images. A great all round lens for your videography and if you’re on a budget you can’t beat the Prime lens on cost, capability and effectiveness.
The Lens is Your Window onto the World.
When you’re shooting your footage the type of lens that you are using will play a major role in determining the quality of the final results. Selecting the right lens for your needs can be complicated and in most cases you’re going to want to have access to several different kinds.
The most versatile lens for general use is the Prime lens however, if you need to zoom in and out then you’ll need a lens with varying focal lengths. Prime lenses come at a great price and provide the clearest picture, even in poorly lit situations.
Ultimately, the lens you choose will depend on the genre of videography you’re working in however in terms of value for money and all round utility a Prime lens will serve you very well.
Which lens do you use for your videography?