As is known in the biz, the lens maketh the image far more than the camera itself.
Many filmmakers lust after new lenses more so than anything else, and as such, the prices for these almost entirely mechanical pieces of kit tend to be fairly astronomical.
However, investing in a good lens will eventually pay dividends.
Technology in cameras changes ten times a week and thrice on Fridays, but the fundamentals of optics have gone unchanged for centuries.
As such, with the right adapters, cinematographers are still stumbling upon that perfect lens made decades ago, and using it to make modern, exciting video content.
A DSLR (digital Single-Lens Reflex) camera takes the light which enters through the lens and displays it to you through the optical lens via a mirror in the camera.
When taking a photo, the mirror swings out of the way so that light reaches the digital image sensor.
In this way, the image you see through the viewfinder is exactly the same as the one captured by the sensor.
When shooting film, the sensor is constantly in operation and the image is displayed on a rear LCD screen instead.
DSLRs can be a potent piece of filmmaking kit in the right hands, especially if you invest in some quality lenses.
Below, we take a look at some of our favorites and consider just what exactly you should be looking for when shopping for a DSLR lens.
Best Lenses For DSLR Video – Comparison Table
Best Lenses For DSLR Video – Reviews
Before you consider any lens at all, you need to think about whether the lens will even mount to your camera’s body. If your mount systems do not match, then you will not be able to use the lens.
Every DSLR and mirrorless camera system manufacturer has a different mount system; there’s the Canon EF, Nikon F, Sony E, Fujinon X and MFT (Micro Four Thirds) used in many Panasonic devices.
This means in many cases that the lens will only fall flush with a camera body of the same type- with some notable exceptions.
Certain non-Canon cinema cameras will make use of the Canon EF mount system; many quality brands such as Sigma, Tamron, Rokinon and Fujinon will make the same lenses across a range of the more popular mount systems, and some more plush brands such as Zeiss or Cooke will even have interchangeable lens mounts.
Lenses are a long-term investment, so think carefully about whether you might end up using a camera body with a different mount system in the future- otherwise you will have to start building your collection of lenses from the ground up if you ever switch.
Focal length is one of the most important aspects of considering which lens you will use for which shot. It is typically the first number indicated in a lens description, in millimeters.
A lower number indicates a wide angle of view- which will have a number of film applications depending on the shot purpose.
This angle of view allows more of a scene to be included within the boundaries of the frame.
The opposite- a high number, indicates a longer focal length. This is a far more intimate shot and is typically used in film grammar with that intent.
As you can gather, focal length is a terrific tool in a storyteller’s arsenal.
50mm is an approximation of the standard FOV of a human eye, so anything used in either direction lends some form of creative intent in the direction of attention.
Prime lenses of anything between 20mm and 100mm are very common in filmmaking.
Zoom lenses are also a staple of any lens case, and typically cover a range within that bracket.
Manufacturers such as Canon, Nikon, Sony, Sigma and Tokina all produce very similar zoom lenses for similar prices- although depending on the lens type or rarity this can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars..
Prime Vs. Zoom
But let’s not gloss over prime lenses and zoom lenses.
The difference between them is very simple- prime lenses are of a fixed focal length, while zoom lenses can be adjusted (zoomed) to cover a range of focal lengths, even whilst filming.
Owing to their versatility and higher number of moving parts, zoom lenses tend to be generally more expensive than prime lenses.
They’re also perfect for on-the-move style filmmakers who prefer run-and-gun style filmmaking, and know that they won’t have time to stop and change a lens everytime they need a new shot.
Prime lenses, while not as versatile, should be considered as specialized in what they do.
Their apertures will generally be faster, wider and of a bigger maximum size, and their lower amount of elements lead to fewer aberrations and crisp, sharp images.
The aperture is an opening within the lens which opens and closes to control how much light enters the camera’s sensor.
The mechanism which controls the width of the aperture is a multi-bladed iris, and functions in a similar manner to its namesake in the eye.
The iris also plays a part in the sharpness or blurriness of your image, called the bokeh.
The higher the number of blades within the functioning iris, the more circular the iris is, and the smoother the created bokeh in the unfocused image.
When shopping for lenses, the maximum aperture is measured as the f-stop of a lens, denoted in the style of f/2.8 or whatever it can become.
A smaller f-stop number means that the aperture can open more fully, allowing more light into the sensor.
Aperture is one aspect of a camera that affects how bright an image is, but that is not its sole purpose.
Widening the aperture creates a more shallow depth of field, meaning that the plane which holds your focus is a lot thinner.
In a shot with a subject in extreme focus against a blurry background, you know that the aperture was wide.
With zoom lenses the maximum aperture adjusts depending on the focal length you have zoomed to.
This means that you will probably have to adjust your aperture when you zoom in or out, although there are zoom lenses which feature a constant aperture if you are willing to pay for the privilege.
Sensor formats also vary by camera, and not all kinds are suitable for all types of lenses- sometimes the image will appear cut off as in a vignette, but still be usable.
Other times the mount itself will prohibit these sensors and lenses from ever interacting. From largest to smallest, the frame sizes are full frame, APS-C, Super35, and MFT.
Lenses built for full frame sensors will fit upon any sensor as they are the largest, if the ount is right.
Putting a lens built for a smaller sensor onto a larger sensor will result in a cropped image as the image will only cover a portion of the sensor.
This vignette appearance can be used stylistically, but is often unwanted and can usually be achieved in post anyway. Make sure that your sensors are fully covered by an appropriately sized lens.
Different manufacturers produce different mount sizes for the different sensor sizes of the products, and many of them are not cross-compatible.
For example, Canon produce an EF mount for their full-frame sensor devices, but also produce an EF-S mount for their cropped sensors.
An EF lens will mount to an EF-S camera, but the opposite is not true; you will not even be able to attach an EF-S lens to an EF camera.
In this way, full-frame lenses are far more versatile, if more expensive.
Due to the difficulties of matching lenses to mounts, adapters have been made to attach any combination of lenses with any combination of mounts, meaning that so long as you had the right adapter, you could use a lens of a wildly different type with any camera body.
As will all things, these adapters are not without their drawbacks.
Lens coverage of the sensor is still affected despite the addition of an adaptor as the transmission of light remains the same.
Also, an adapter will rarely allow for the digital aspects of a lens to work with the camera body, meaning that features such as auto-focus will not function.
On more modern lenses this may mean you lose basic function controls, such as aperture.
Adapters should be researched before being considered as an alternative to a correctly-fitting lens.
Cine lenses differ from what we call ‘still lenses’. They are structurally very robust, and do not tolerate a lot of variance in their design.
They have a long focus and a smooth de-clicked aperture that is worked manually.
They work well in bad weather, are difficult to work, and are far more expensive than their ‘still’ equivalents.
Aperture on cine lenses is measured in T-stops as opposed to f-stops.
T-stops represent the amount of light hitting the sensor as opposed to the width of the aperture, making the T-stop more accurate and suited to cinematic filmmaking.
Professional cinematographers place a higher value on knowing specifically how light they are receiving, as a certain amount is lost between the lens and the sensor.
Cine primes are more common than the cine zoom, which is more expensive and capable of maintaining consistent focus across the entire lens.
Being ‘parfocal’ in this way makes these lenses extremely complicated to manufacture and contributes to the explosive price.
As cinematographers value consistency between their images and primes are so much more used, cine prime lenses will be sold in sets to ensure that between lens changes the image appears similar between shots.
Last Updated on 2022-07-20 //Source: Affiliate Affiliates