What’s more important for capturing your images than a camera? The lens. The lens is the first part of capturing an image. Through thousands of camera bodies, throughout the 100 years we’ve been able to capture an image, the lens is the first line of processing that information. Without it, light would flood onto our film or sensor and we’d get a mess of light information without being able to tell what we’re looking at. Lenses are the most important tool in your film making arsenal.
The lens focuses the light in much the same way our eyes do. There are many aspects to a lens that make it the most important part of your kit, more than any one blog or article could cover without boring you to death. Here I want to give you just the basics and later on I’ll go over these in more detail.
- Primes and Zooms- Prime lenses are fixed focal length while zooms are variable. This might seem like zoom lenses are the way to go at first glance, but as you zoom in, you lose stops of light, and there can be other problems like distortion, chromatic aberration, softness or vignetting. Prime lenses usually have better image quality (IQ) than a zoom, usually have a wider maximum aperture, and are cheaper than a zoom. On the other hand carrying around 3 or 4 prime lenses and having to swap them out in the field is also a pain in the ass, and can cause you to miss the shot.
- Wide angle and telephoto- Wide angle, besides capturing more than the eye can see naturally, can make a location seem more spacious, increase the distance between two characters, or make something seem like they’re moving quite quickly. Telephoto does the opposite. It can compress space, and distance. So in a fight scene you can use a telephoto and make a swing that is very far from one person to the next look like it hits.
- Aperture- F-stop, T-stop, and lens speed all refer to the opening of the lens diaphragm. Its purpose is to stop light from entering the camera, thus the name. T-stop and F-stop are slightly different in that F-stop measures the opening of the iris while T-stop measures the light that actually lands on the sensor, but both are referring to the lens opening.
- Lens mount- Lens mounts seem like an easy thing when you think about it, but get quite complicated once you start looking. Not all Canon lenses will fit onto your new Canon body because they’ve gone through technical advances in the last 50 years, and that’s to be expected. This may seem like a no brainer, but I bought a few Nikkor prime lenses from KEH.com for film making and finding adapters for them was easy enough once I understood the process.
- IS/OS- Image stabilization, by whatever name, is amazing. Shaky footage can be helped by an IS lens. The wider the lens, the less necessary it is, but the more telephoto the more pronounced the footage will become. A key thing to remember is to turn OFF your stabilization function once you’re locked down on a tripod or monopod as the lens will try to stabilize CREATING shaky footage.
- Filters- I’m not talking about Instagram here folks… I’m talking about better than Instagram filters. I don’t know if UV filters are good or bad, but what I do like are things like polarizing filters, neutral density (ND) filters, black mist, or even DIY bokeh filters. They all give your images a specific look without having to spend hours in front of your computer to try and achieve the same look.
Lenses are a huge part of capturing images… a lot bigger than I had initially planned on talking about. This is basically the quick and dirty to everything I know about lenses. Each section could be its own post and there would still be so much left out, and for your sake this is where I’m going to leave off on this subject for now. Good luck yall! Let me know if there’s anything you wanted me to cover that I didn’t or if I straight up got something wrong!