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What Is The Best Lens For Filmmaking? All You Need To Know

Photograph of the blog post author, Tanja Gavrilovic

Tanja Gavrilovic

8.9.2020

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This question was, and always will be, up for debate. Professionals and aspiring filmmakers research and inquire about the best lens for filmmaking prior to new projects because the answer to this question is not straightforward and easy. 

In this text, I will form a list of the best camera lenses for filmmaking and place them in categories starting from affordable great lenses, lenses that you can rent for a fair price and lenses that would be smart to invest in if you are starting your own production or if you are looking to get your money back through licensing. Hopefully, you’ll finish reading feeling confident about what the best lens for filmmaking is for you!

What Lenses Do You Need For Filmmaking?

film set

To answer this let’s look back at some basics. 

The lens is an eye of a camera that directs light to a digital sensor. There are two categories of camera lenses. Prime lenses have fixed lens focal length, making them faster, sharper and lightweight.

Zoom lenses allow different focal lengths making them more flexible but not as fast. They contain more glass, which aids in their flexibility, but they also tend to be bigger and heavier than prime lenses. However, zoom lenses are basically an all in one lens which is why these types of lenses are a smart choice in all video works, especially if you are on a budget. 

The Importance Of A Good Camera Lens

film camera

I think that the best way to describe the importance of good cameras and lenses is that there are guardians of the equipment on movie sets. There are specially trained people who are responsible for guarding and transporting cameras and lenses on high budget film sets.

Stanley Kubrick had a strong background in photography. He had his own equipment that allowed him to have his own workflow and esthetics. Lenses should uplift your story and if you make a good choice your audience will experience exactly what you intended.  

Now let’s look at some great choices out there.

Prime And Zoom Lenses For Under $1000

If you are looking to purchase the best lens for filmmaking for under $1000, take a look at these prime and zoom lenses that I think would be perfect for filmmakers and visual artists of any kind, including photographers, on a budget.

Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM Lens For Canon SLR Cameras

canon best lens for filmmaking

$999.00 on Amazon 

This is an overall great prime lens. 

Specifications:

  • Micro UltraSonic Motor (USM),
  • 135mm focal length, Closest focusing distance: 3 feet
  • Ultra-low Dispersion glass with Fluorite elements; inner focusing ring
  • EF mount; telephoto lens; Lens construction (elements/groups) : 10/8
  • f/2 maximum aperture
  • Lens not zoomable

Canon is well-known for image sharpness, great quality glass and fantastic outcome in image quality. This lens is no exception. With very sharp, fast and well-built 135mm lens is perfect for this specific focal length. 

This lens is frequently mounted for indoor action shots, sports, and moving subjects and dialogue scenes. 135 L’s wide aperture has the ability to isolate your subject – shoot in the lower aperture range for an excellent separation of the background.

Pros

Great image quality

Sharpness for moving subjects

Good price

Cons

No optical stabilization

Heavy

You won’t make a mistake if you decide on this lens. However, this would mean that you would need additional lenses to film other scenes that require different focal length. Let’s see what zoom lens you should consider first. With a zoom lens, you will be able to shoot a variety of scenes depending on the range. 

Sigma 24-105mm f4 OS

sigma lens for filming

$669.99 on Amazon

Specifications 

  • Offers stable and fine image quality from wide to mid-telephoto range
  • This lens has a combination of fixed aperture and a good zoom ratio that is kept as high as possible
  • Minimum focusing distance of 45cm and a maximum magnification ratio of 1:4.6. Great for close up photography. Includes Lens Hood, front & rear caps
  • MC-11 Compatible

This lens has a new optically stabilized full-frame Sigma lens, a quality found in expensive equipment. Now, having additional lighting is a fair exchange for gaining this multi mounting lens. This lens is available for Canon EF, Nikon FX, Sony A, or Sigma mounts. Other similar lenses with these characteristics are far more expensive. Considering the range of focal fields, starting from wide to tele, possible cameras you can mount this lens to along wih the price makes this a smart investment to start with. 

Pros

18f wider aperture at max focal length

Has a metal mount

Can focus to infinity

Silent focus motor built into the lens

Wide max angle

0.4 Zoom range

60.7 min angle of view

Cons

Front element does not rotate

Heavy

Not weather sealed 

These two lenses are my favourite on the budget lenses. I think they offer great quality for this price range. These would be a good first step towards gathering great equipment. 

Prime And Zoom Lenses For Under $5000

For this price, you can find a real cinema lens currently affordable for filmmakers and all visual artists. 

Zeiss Compact 

zeiss compact camera

$3.990 on Amazon

Specifications

  • Cine-style housing
  • Long focus and manual focus
  • Interchangeable mounts
  • Aperture range: T2.1-3.6

Zeiss took in consideration affordability of equipment for filmmakers and produced compact prime lenses that can pair to extravagant prime cinema lenses. These Compact Prime lenses come in three ranges: 

  • 35mm
  • 50mm
  • 135mm

Pros

Cinema quality    

Available for mounting

Great focus

Cons

Price

Considering the quality and comparing these to other cinematic lenses and non-cinematic lenses with an even higher price, this price isn’t so bad. I tend to always look at the bigger picture. If I invest up to $5000 I need to know that I can get some money back, and at the same time be able to film and take great photographs. I think these lenses offer exactly that. 

Canon RF 70-200 F2.8 L IS USM

canon lens for filmmaking

$2,599

Specifications 

  • High image quality and bright f/2. 8 aperture telephoto zoom RF L lens.
  • Compact and lightweight.
  • Optical image stabilization with up to 5 Stops of shake correction
  • High speed, smooth and quiet autofocus with dual Nano USM.
  • Minimum focusing distance of 2. 3 ft. /0. 7M.

Many argue that it is probably the best lens for filmmaking from Canon that has ever been made, and it is a zoom lens. It’s fast for stills and enables super-smooth focus for movie capture. Starting from wide angles to tele focal lengths, this offers a variety that prime lenses are missing. Canon is known for its greatness when shooting in Auto white balance, colour range and image quality. 

Pros

Compact – great match for mirrorless bodies              

Impressive image quality

Weather sealed

5-stop stabilizer

Cons

Price

Weight

Professional Cinema Lenses 

ARRI’s LPL-Mount Prime Lenses

arri's camera

ARRI is associated with cinema. ARRIs name is renowned for its uncompromising quality, usability, and reliability. These lenses are used in cinema, television, and commercial production. Working with Zeiss, that we mentioned before, ARRI has put together some of the most classic lens lines that are in use by cinematographers today.

Ultra Prime 8R

$45,000

Specifications 

  • 8mm Rectilinear T2.8 
  • Prime134mm OD
  • MOD: 14″ (0.35m)
  • PL Mount Prime
  • Lens Options: Wide-Angle
  • Fixed Focal Length:8mm

The Ultra Prime 8R/T2.8 is an extreme wide-angle lens. This unique design allows such extreme wide-angle, but without fisheye distortion. Filming with this lens can make space appear larger without distortion while keeping your action moving subject in perfect focus. This is a truly rare and specific lens. It will allow you to film in narrow and small spaces without making walls or cars distorted and angled.  

Pros

Exceptional quality

Light

Slik design

Cons

Price

This price point is unachievable in most cases. Even if you don’t own them, with clever planning and good organisation of filming you can rent this lens for one or couple of days and stay in your budget range while having an amazing, one of a kind experience. 

ARRI Alura 45-250mm T2.6 F Telephoto Studio Zoom With PL Mount

alura best lens for filmmaking

$34,960

Specifications 

  • Covers Super 35 Sensor Size
  • Consistent T2.6 
  • 3 x Standard 0.8 MOD Gears
  • Fast T2.6
  • Optimized for the ARRI ALEXA 2K 16:9 format
  • Industry-standard 0.8 film 
  • A 9-blade iris

Latest in optical design technology and innovative manufacturing techniques, the ARRI/FUJINON Alura Zooms combine the highest optical performance with an amazingly small size, weight and price. Colour characteristics, as well as their handling, are matched to existing prime lenses. 

Pros

Small            

New Design

Exceptional quality

Mountable

Cons

Price

So What Is The Best Lens For Filmmaking?

If you are funding your own film or any sort of visual art or you are an independent filmmaker, renting equipment is the way to go. Certainly, a well-organised set will save a lot of money in equipment usage time. Depending on what your story is, you could combine a variety of prime lenses and the end result would be cinematic quality. If you are looking to buy the best camera lens for filmmaking that’s cheap, a smart choice would be a zoom lens such as Sigma or Canon. These lenses are mountable for some of the best cameras for filmmaking out there. If your visual art is funded and you have the privilege to rent some expensive stuff, I would without a second thought, recommend ARRI. 

If you are interested in the crossover between music and film, check out our article on music supervisors. With our concierge and service and extensive music library, allow us to help you find music for your film. Sign up free for Music Gateway now!



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