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!
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.
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.
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.
This is an overall great prime lens.
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.
Great image quality
Sharpness for moving subjects
No optical stabilization
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.
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.
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
Front element does not rotate
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.
For this price, you can find a real cinema lens currently affordable for filmmakers and all visual artists.
$3.990 on Amazon
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:
Available for mounting
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.
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.
Compact – great match for mirrorless bodies
Impressive image quality
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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