Panasonic Gh4

Jun 162014

Somewhere on this website, I think I have a post that discusses the best lenses for video. But that post is focused on cinematic lenses, that may be difficult/impractical to use (vintage glass, manual focus, nice bokeh, etc…). Here are a few lenses that I think are amazing for video, are affordable, and practical:


Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 or Canon 10-18mm STM

If you are shooting on a crop sensor, you will want a lens that is under 24mm. 35mm and beyond can be too zoomed in, making it difficult to frame your subject. More often than not 50mm will be way too zoomed in. Phillip Bloom swears by the Tokina 11-16mm, and I certainly love mine. It allows me to get a nice range of wide shots while still maintaining a fast f/2.8 focal ratio. The build quality rocks, and it is a fun lens.

The Canon 10-18mm is the new kid on the block. It is cheaper, sharper, has Image Stabilization, and has STM focusing technology. Without a doubt it is going to sell well. The only problem is that it is a slow lens. F/4.5-5.6 doesn’t cut it for my photography or video needs. If this lens was a fixed f/2.8 or even f/3.5, I am pretty sure I would have instantly sold my Tokina 11-16…


Canon 35mm f/2 IS USM

This lens is a face melter. At first it got a lot of hate because of the price tag and the competitive Sigma 35mm 1.4. If all you care about is sharpness, contrast, and build quality, get the Sigma 35mm 1.4. It is an amazing lens. If the Sigma had IS, I would have bought it. For video work, the Canon 35mm IS USM takes the cake. It is priced at $350 less, is relatively fast, is very sharp (almost as sharp as the amazing Sigma), and has very useful image stabilization. The IS makes it a no-brainier for video. Where else can you find an extremely sharp F2 lens with IS for $550?.

Canon STM Lenses: Okay for Stills, Excellent for Video

If you have a camera that can use STM technology for  video auto focusing (the new Canon rebels have it, such as the Canon T4i, Canon T5i, and Canon 70D), then you might want to invest in an STM lens. On the Canon T4i and T5i video auto focusing still sucks. But if you have a Canon 70D, the dual pixel technology allows for faster and more accurate video auto focusing (that is still not perfect). If you are on a budget, get the Canon 10-18mm STM and pair it with the Canon 40mm STM. Low light will be an issue (maybe buy a Canon 50mm 1.8 as well?), but you will get two (three?) awesome lenses that are sharp and cheap.

Canon 40mm f/2.8 STM

Sharpest, cheapest, lightest, fastest, smallest. Everyone loves this lens. Pros, amateurs, the rich, and the poor. Its a great lens that has basically left the Canon 50mm 1.8 in the dust. Despite being light weight, it has a very solid build quality with a metal mount.

Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM

The 18-55mm never gets much love despite being a good beginner lens. I have the non STM version, and it is sharp enough for video. It is slow at the tele end, but the image stabilization is very useful throughout. Often times I use my cheap 18-55 instead of my better lenses when I need image stabilization. I think the STM price is fair, you get a sharp lens, Image stabilization, and STM video focusing.

Canon EF-S 55-250mm F4-5.6 IS STM

I own the non STM version. Without question, this is an amazing lens. Get this lens only if you need the tele end. Otherwise get the 40mm STM. The IS is excellent, the auto focusing is good, the build quality is better than most other EF-S lenses, and it is sharp. Remember, you are paying for the extra features (IS, STM). If you want a sharp telephoto lens, get a used Canon 300mm F4 (I own it as well and it smokes the 55-250 in terms of sharpness and contrast).

Cheap Canon Lenses vs ???

Canon bias? As usual yes. But who else makes high quality video oriented lenses for such reasonable prices? If you are willing to sacrifice a little bit of build quality, lens character, and sharpness you will make life much easier on yourself. You will save money, and you will be able to use friendly lenses that are jam packed with useful video features. If the only thing you care about is a beautiful image, I would suggest the following lenses:

  • Canon 14mm f/2.8
  • Sigma 35mm f/1.4
  • Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art
  • Canon 85mm f/1.2L
  • Canon 135mm f/2
  • Additional vintage lenses such as Takumar, Mir, Jupter, Zeiss Jena, etc…

And I would pair these lenses with an anamorphic adapter such as the  Iscorama 54. $5,000 for the anamorphic adapter, $7,000 for the lenses… yeah um… let me dream for a bit.

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