Recommended lenses for video SLR

by Enche Tjin on June 2, 2010

A while ago, I discussed best digital SLR cameras for video recording. Today, I like to follow up with recommending some of the best lenses for the job. My philosophy is get the lens that does not broke the bank and instead of spending all the money to one lens that cost over a thousand dollar, I rather spend several inexpensive lenses.

Canon 5D mark ii with external mic. Ready for video shooting

Canon 5D mark ii with external mic. Ready for video shooting

One of the advantage of using DSLR / micro four third system is in interchangeable lenses , and this advantage carry over to video recording. Each type of lens has its own characteristics. With big maximum aperture and large sensor size, producing video clip similar to those of Hollywood production is now possible.

When you choose a lens for video recording purpose, I recommend to choose a lens that has manual focus override, so you can use auto focus in before you record, and then adjust the focus as the subject moves. Depth of field and focus indicator will also be helpful. Image stabilization (IS) feature is not important in video recording.

Here are some popular lens type and recommended lenses:

The recommended lenses are mostly Canon and Panasonic, however, you might able to find equivalent lens from other brands. I choose Canon and Panasonic because they are leading in video today.

Wide-angle lens

Wide angle lens provide wider angles of view than our eyes. So it could produce unusual view of the subject. Wide angle also make shooting in cramped location possible.

Canon 17-40mm L f/4 Price: $700
High quality Canon wide angle zoom lens that will work well in full frame or crop frame camera.

Canon 28mm f/1.8 USM Price: $459
Fixed lens that great in full frame camera as a wide angle and become standard lens in crop frame camera. Its main benefit is the big maximum aperture that allow a lot of light in low light condition.

Standard / Normal lens

This standard normal lens give normal field of view

This standard normal lens give normal field of view

Standard / Normal lens is one of the lens that very popular in still photography and also in video because it give you normal / natural field of view. As a result, the video will look natural with minimal distortion

Canon 50mm f/1.4 USM Price: $350
Canon standard lens is one of “must have” in photographer bag. It is ideal for full frame sensor. It has very big maximum aperture capable to achieve very shallow depth of field (great to defocus background) plus huge light gathering capability.

Canon 35mm f/2 Price: $325
For crop sensor DSLR camera user in budget, 35mm will be great choice. It is sharp and reliable. Also consider 28mm f/1.8 USM.

Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 Price: 365
For micro four third system users, Panny 20mm f/1.7 is an excellent lens for low light photography and video. It allows beautiful soft focus background due to its big maximum aperture.

Telephoto lens

Hollywood effect is possible by using telephoto lens with big maximum aperture

Hollywood effect is possible by using telephoto lens with big maximum aperture

Telephoto lens allow you to shoot far away subjects. Not only that, telephoto lens has characteristic of compressing the image, so background will appear a lot closer to the main subject. In shooting portraits, telephoto lens usually flatter the subject by eliminating barrel distortion.

In video, using tripod is very crucial especially if you use telephoto lens, and blue casts, mists and mirage usually accentuated.

Canon 85mm f/1.8 USM Price:$380
One of the best value lens, Canon 85mm f/1.8 is great because of its ability to render a very soft background. It is ideal for shooting people and artistic shots.

Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS Price: $1200
More versatile than 85mm f/1.8, Canon has several variation of 70-200mm lenses, but 70-200mm f/2.8 shines because it has big aperture and half the price the new IS version.

Multipurpose zoom lens

Zoom lens has several advantages in video camera. It allows you to change focal length when shooting, so in many cases, it eliminate the need of dolly. It also versatile because you can change field of view with only one lens.

The drawbacks are lower image quality especially distortion, abberation and sharpness and bigger max. aperture compare to fixed lens.

Canon 24-105mm L f/4 IS USM Price: $1050
Canon popular multipurpose lens that usually bundled with Canon 5D full frame DSLR camera.

Panasonic 14-140mm f/4-5.8 OIS Price: 799
This lens is designed mainly for video recording in micro four third system cameras. It has silent focus and zoom and able to track moving subject. It is also significantly lighter and smaller than regular DSLR zoom lenses.

Macro lens

Macro lens is an unique lens that has ability to magnify subject. There are some challenges in using macro lens such as very shallow depth of field and hard to follow focus for tiny moving subject. A good tripod is a must.

Canon 100mm f/2.8 USM Price: $525

Panasonic Leica 45mm f/2.8 Price: $900

Tilt Shift lens

These lenses are specialized lens that able to prevents converging line. Therefore it is very useful for architecture or landscape photography. It also could do various effect like shift defocus.

Many of tilt-shift lens are very expensive, however, you can try lensbaby lenses.

That’s all folks. I recommend getting lenses from Amazon, they have a very competitive price and great service. I hope this can help you and have fun making pictures with the lenses!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Leonardo April 30, 2014 at 3:05 am

I got this web page from my buddy who informed me about this website and now this time I am visiting this
site and reading very informative articles here.

Enche Tjin April 30, 2014 at 3:20 am


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