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Choosing Your Lens: Buying Guide for Beginner Videographers

Updated: Feb 27



Investing in the right camera lens will help videographers separate themselves from the pack, especially in an increasingly competitive industry. But with the saturation of lenses in the marketplace, most aspiring videographers don’t know where to begin. So we’ve come up with a list of essential camera lenses for the working videographer. We’ve narrowed down the choices to lenses that are most suited for situations videographers face with regularity: the 14mm ultra-wide lens, a 24 mm wide-angle, a standard 50mm lens, a short 85mm telephoto lens, and a medium 135mm telephoto lenses.


Samyang 14mm T3.1 Cine Lens



Samyang’s Cine Lens series has been gaining popularity among videographers due to its reasonable price range. The 14mm T3.1 Cine Lens boasts a 115.7° ultra-wide-angle field of view when paired with a full-frame or 35mm camera. It features a de-clicked aperture as well as industry-standard gears on both focus and aperture rings to allow for follow focus systems. Its maximum aperture of T3.1 makes it perfect for low-light situations.


Perks for Videographers


For videographers, the focal length of the Samyang 14mm lens reduces the effects of camera shakes, making it the perfect companion for gimbals and stabilizers. Tracking shots thus look incredibly smooth while using this lens. Shooting weddings, real estate walkthroughs, or travel videos would be ideal situations to show off the features of the Samyang 14mm Cine Lens.


Also, the de-clicked aperture creates a more seamless transition of exposure changes, which is extremely helpful when one is adjusting aperture while shooting. The industry-standard gears on the focus ring allow one to attach a follow focus system and capitalize on the lens’ minimum focusing distance of 28 cm. Keep in mind though that this lens is manual focus only.


The ultra-wide angle-of-view does have some drawbacks. Distortion occurs at the corner of the frames, which is typical of most ultra-wide lenses. To offset this effect, videographers who use this lens tend to avoid framing people on the edges of the frame.


Pros


  • Modest price range around $325-$365

  • 115.7° ultra-wide angle of view for full-frame cameras

  • T3.1 maximum aperture, ideal for low-light conditions

  • Declicked aperture and industry-standard gears for follow focus

  • Focal length reduces camera shakes, perfect if you want the smooth camera movement


Cons


  • Heavy linear distortion, warping subjects on the edges of the frame

  • Only available in manual focus

  • Pronounced vignetting on maximum aperture on full-frame cameras




Rokinon 24mm F/1.4 Aspherical Wide Angle Lens


The 24mm is quite popular and a highly used cinema lense. On a full-frame camera, it provides a wide-angle view of 84° while on APS-C sensors, you get 57.6° equivalent to a 35mm lens on a full-frame camera.


Perks for Videographers


The lens has low distortion wide-angle capabilities making it ideal for cramped interior scenes. Consider this lens when having two subjects on-screen as its wide enough to capture the action without a warping distortion around the edge of the frame.

At F1.4, this lens is fitting for night shots or poorly lit scenes. The ability to open the iris diaphragm to 1.4 will aid the sensor in getting the much-needed light to avoid the dreaded pixel noise.


At 24mm, this lens is suitable for tracking shots. When tracking a subject having a wide lens allows for visually smoother movements. Jitters and slight hand movements become more apparent by using a longer lens or a tighter shot.


Quick notes: the lense is 100% manual focus. For many cinematographers, manual focus is not a huge deal as they commonly work with crews that include focus pullers, but for the solo run and gun videographer manual focus is something you should factor in when making a purchasing decision. This is a prime lens, not a zoom, meaning the focal length is locked at 24mm.


Pros:


  • Relatively inexpensive given the specs it provides

  • Fast F1.4 aperture - suitable for low light

  • Minimum focusing distance of 9.84 (great for close-ups)

  • Wide distortion-free angle of view

  • Anti-reflection UMC coating (Ultra Multi Coating) enhances light transmission, increases contrast, and reduces flare.

  • Its 13 elements in 12 group design utilize 4 Extra Low-Dispersion (ED) glass elements and 2 Aspherical elements to produce sharply defined images even in low lighting conditions.

  • Anti-reflection UMC coating (Ultra Multi Coating) enhances light transmission, increases contrast, and reduces flare.

  • 77mm filter mount (allows the use of rotating filters such as ND's and polarizers)

  • Includes removable hood


Cons:


  • The image gets soft/hazy when operating the lens at F1.4

  • slightly decentered

  • No autofocus

  • Plastic body




Yongnuo YN 50mm f/1.8 II Prime Lens


The cheapest lens on this list, the Yongnuo YN 50mm II Prime Lens, is well-regarded for producing roughly the same image quality as its closest counterpart, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens, at almost half the price. With a maximum aperture of f/1.8 and a minimum focusing distance of 35 cm, this lens offers better controls on the depth of field while achieving great bokeh and creamy out of focus backgrounds. It enjoys a 46° angle of view as well as autofocus capabilities.


Perks for Videographers


A 50mm lens, also known as a “nifty-fifty,” is widely considered to be the most prominent lens in a cameraperson’s toolkit since it can be employed in almost any situation. Lens distortion is absent, its field of view is most similar to the human eye, it’s sharp while obtaining a great depth of field, it works well in low light conditions, and above all it’s cheap. Since the Yongnuo YN 50mm II costs less than $100, it’s the perfect starting lens for beginner videographers.


One of the significant advantages of the Yongnuo YN 50mm II is how easy it is to achieve beautiful bokeh. The seven-blade diaphragm gives a lovely star-effect when filming bright lights at small apertures. As most experienced videographers know, clients, especially in a wedding or corporate shoots, are easily impressed with bokeh and out-of-focus effects.

Meanwhile, the multi-coated glass elements preserve color accuracy and reduce flare while creating a sharper image, rivaling that of the Canon EF lens. However, take note that the lens is known to be too soft at the f/1.8 maximum aperture. Going up to f/2.8 or f/4 solves this issue.


Pros


  • Bargain price at $70-$75

  • Max aperture of f/1.8 allows for better control of depth of field and better shooting in low light

  • Seven-blade diaphragm creates beautiful bokeh and out-of-focus effects, great for wedding or corporate videography

  • Multi-coated glass elements reduce flare and ghosting while maintaining outstanding color accuracy and transmission levels

  • 58mm filter mount for ND filters or polarizers


Cons


  • Doesn’t perform well with APS-C cameras

  • Using autofocus usually leads to a noisy image

  • Soft at f/1.8 maximum aperture




Canon EF 85mm f/1.8mm Telephoto Lens


For portrait and product shoots, videographers can’t go wrong with the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8mm lens. This short telephoto prime lens features a maximum aperture of f/1.8, allowing one to work in shallow depth of field (minimum focus distance of 85 cm) as well as in low light. Lens flare and ghosting is diminished due to its Super Spectra coating, which also heightens contrast and color accuracy. It also has a built-in autofocus system.


Perks for Videographers


With an angle of view of only 30° on a full-frame camera, we do not recommend the Canon EF 85mm prime lens for anything involving full body shots. However, this lens works exceptionally well for shoots, which include close-ups of any kind. The Canon EF 85mm lens slightly flattens the perspective of an image, which leads to a more flattering look for subjects filmed close-up. The combination of lens sharpness and extreme shallow depth-of-field produced using an f/1.8 maximum aperture will make portraits and products pop by mere foreground/background separation. Say goodbye to the background and hello pure bokeh!


Also worth noting is the Ultrasonic Motor (USM) feature of the lens, which delivers some of the fastest and most accurate autofocus performances in Canon’s series of prime lenses. Changing the focus from subject to subject has never been easier for videographers. Out of all the lenses featured on this list, this lens boasts the best autofocus system.

On the other hand, action or sports shooting is ill-suited for the Canon EF 85mm lens, which tends to worsen motion blur. Nonetheless, the Canon EF 85mm lens is as much needed addition to any camera bag.


Pros


  • Reasonable price at $300

  • Very shallow depth of field allows for extremely sharp foregrounds and excellent bokeh backgrounds, perfect for portrait or product shoots

  • Boasts one of the best and fastest autofocus systems, tremendously helpful for videographers shooting on the go

  • Super Spectra coating reduces lens flare and ghosting while heightening contrast and color accuracy

  • Excellent in low light conditions


Cons


  • Not a good fit for action or sports videography

  • Camera hood not included

  • Some slight chromatic aberration




Rokinon Cine DS 135mm T2.2 ED UMC Telephoto Cine Lens


The Rokinon Cine DS 135 mm medium telephoto lens is one of the most sought-after lenses in portrait and event videography. Its T2.2 maximum aperture with a minimum focus distance of 79 cm makes it a dream for portrait videographers. At the same time, its long focal length allows event videographers to cover the action at a distance without losing sharpness. Although pricier than the other lenses on this list, the Rokinon Cine DS 135 mm lens is a flawless, multifunctional lens that aspiring videographers should consider.


Perks for Videographers


For portrait videographers, the Rokinon Cine DS 135 mm lens, which has an 18.8° angle of view for full-frame cameras, works almost like an 85 mm lens. It compresses the background of the image, creating a soft-focus bokeh background, while increasingly sharpening the foreground. It’s also possible to film macro work because of the combination of sharpness and telephoto focal length. Shooting those macro inserts could be indispensable for your video content. However, even if the lens comes with autofocus, please remember it takes practice to focus accurately using a medium telephoto lens.


Meanwhile, for event videographers, the Rokinon 135 mm allows one to capture close-ups at a distance. For instance, one could film extreme close-up expression shots at a wedding ceremony without compromising the shot for other photographers or obstructing the view of guests. Also, the lens’ low light capabilities while shooting wide open are essential for filming late afternoon or night-time events. Also, the wide aperture of the Rokinon 135 mm glass makes it the perfect lens for shooting fast action or covering sports.


Because this is a Cine Lens, the Rokinon 135 mm lens also comes with declicked aperture and industry-standard gears for focus and iris rings, which improves the seamless transition of adjusting for exposure.


Pros


  • Incredibly shallow depth of field with a sharp image and compressed, soft-focus bokeh background, ideal for portrait videographers and macro shooting

  • Focal length allows event videographers to film sharp close-ups from a distance

  • Declicked aperture and industry-standard gears for follow focus

  • Ultra Multi-Coated Lenses reduced flares and ghosting while improving color accuracy

  • An excellent lens for action or sports coverage


Cons


  • Mid-tier price around $600

  • Takes practice to focus accurately

  • Soft when wide open at T2.2


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