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Filmmakers love to talk about what kind of camera they’re shooting their latest project on, but the lenses you use are also important. Selecting the right camera lens is an art in and of itself. They can’t do the work for you, but starting with great lenses gets you one step closer to crafting that perfect shot. And there’s a lot of variety on the market, so shopping for lenses sometimes feels more complicated than it really is. There are a multitude of specialty lenses for every purpose imaginable, but you probably need to own a few of the basics before you start branching out. Here’s a quick overview, for those who are new to the game, or looking for a refresher.
The two most important categories of camera lenses are prime and zoom lenses. Prime lenses are fixed on one focal length, so they cannot be adjusted. These lenses are generally useful for shots that you know you’ll be repeating over and over again, such as very wide angles. What they lack in versatility, they make up for in speed, price, and light gathering abilities. Certain prime lenses, such as the 28mm and 50mm, are considered by many to be essential for any filmmaker.
Zoom lenses, on the other hand, are adjustable, covering a wide range of focal lengths. The ability to customize the length means that a zoom lens can do the job of several prime lenses. The flexibility comes in handy when you find yourself going on a location shoot and trying to pack lightly. They can be heavier and more expensive than prime lenses, but if you only plan on buying one camera lens and want to make films, definitely go for a zoom lens. The increased size is partially due to the fact that they contain image stabilizing technology, making your shots look a lot prettier.
While every film project has different needs, a combination of high quality prime and zoom lenses is generally your best bet. They both serve different purposes, but having both makes you a more well-rounded filmmaker. So we’ve gathered a variety of the best lenses available on Amazon in some of the most popular categories to fill whatever holes you might have in your kit. The vast majority of these lenses are compatible with either DSLR or mirrorless cameras, so you can improve your shot framing regardless of what you’re using. And with an Amazon Prime membership, you can have your new lenses shipped to you in two days for free.
Most lenses are specifically made for a certain camera brand, so make sure to confirm that anything you buy fits with the equipment you already have. That said, regardless of your brand, there are certain lenses that every filmmaker needs to own. Check below for some essential prime lenses, and zoom lenses. Regardless of budget or camera, you should be able to find something you need. Remember, every lens you own is just another opportunity to capture that perfect shot. Stocking up now gives you the flexibility to maximize your creative potential during your next film shoot!
A 28mm prime is one of the most commonly-used wide lenses. It’s extremely versatile, and can handle almost any kind of shot reasonably well. This model, designed for Canon cameras, also contains an Optical Image Stabilizer to keep your images clear, even as they cover a lot of ground.
If you are a Sony user, this 28mm prime lens is every bit as good as the Canon one. It is ideal for wide angle shots that feature people in them, as the high aperture keeps faces in focus without having to zoom in too closely on them. This lens is specifically designed for Sony’s mirrorless models, so make sure you don’t try to use it on a DSLR.
Moving up from the 28mm, this 50mm prime lens is slightly more focused, but still extremely versatile. It’s a great option for shooting in dark conditions, as the aperture lets a lot of light in. The lens has fantastic depth of field, and it is often said that 50mm lenses capture images that look similar to what the human eye sees.
Rokinon is one of the most popular third-party lens manufacturers, so their products can fit a variety of cameras. This 50mm prime comes with a lens hood and offers a de-clicked aperture, so you can turn the focus gears without worrying about making a sound that will appear in your film.
85mm prime lenses are one of the most popular options for portrait photography, and in film, it is probably the widest lens you can use for close ups. This Canon lens is perfect for striking a delicate balance between your actor and the background. It keeps the human beings in focus without completely obscuring their surroundings.
Many an indie director has cited the 85mm lens as one of their favorites for narrative films. So if you have a Sony camera and can’t use the Canon lens, this is a fantastic one to pick up.
This optically-stabilized Canon lens is a fantastic jack-of-all-trades. The wide focal range essentially means that you’re getting a 28mm, 50mm, and 85mm lens for the price of one. And then you can focus even more, going up to 105mm. Whether you’re making blockbusters or shooting weddings, this lens will never outlive its usefulness.
The 24-105mm lens is so helpful, there’s basically no excuse not to own one, regardless of what camera brand you use. This Sony camera lens is perfect for serious filmmakers, as it contains a variety of instruments designed to maximize precision. Four stops of optical image stabilization, a motorized inner focus system, and a special coating designed to prevent lens flare make it a fantastic addition to anyone’s collection.
70-200mm lenses are a favorite of documentary filmmakers, and it isn’t hard to see why. One single lens allows you to get almost any shot, and they are quite easy to adjust on the fly. This one from Canon contains three image stabilization modes, and is a great value for the price point. They aren’t exactly discrete, though. So if you’re trying to film a documentary without being seen, you might want to look elsewhere.
Another 70-200mm option, this Sony lens is notable for having a higher aperture than its Canon counterpart. The f/2.8 lens will allow a lot of light in, so shooting documentaries at night is not a problem. You don’t have to kill the authenticity of the moment by using your flash!
This 12-35mm lens was designed specifically for Panasonic’s LUMIX mirrorless camera. It’s compact, durable, and extremely fast. The auto focus technology ensures that the high-tech experience remains very user friendly. If you don’t have a DSLR and are looking for something more specialized, this lens is one you’ll often see recommended.