Are You Looking Through The Right Lens?
You’ve just picked up a nifty new DSLR (digital single-lens reflex camera). Welcome fellow DSLR user! DSLRs have been a staple in video and photo production for more than 10 years and are great, cost effective cameras that provide a high degree of versatility — balancing numerous professional-grade features at a cost effective price. You probably noticed that your camera didn’t come with a lens, if you just bought the camera body.
Unfortunately, without a lens, your new DSLR camera is practically useless. The lens is one of the key parts of the camera. It’s what focuses the light onto the camera sensor, and has a huge impact on the quality of the image you want to produce. So, if you’re thinking of buying a lens (and you should be since you bought a DSLR), here are four things to keep in mind.
Prime vs. Zoom
The two main types of lenses are prime lenses and zoom lenses. All lenses are described by their focal length (measured in millimeters), or their angle of view; i.e. how wide or zoomed-in the image it generates. A lens with a set focal length is called a prime lens. They come in versions like 24mm, 50mm, 85mm, etc. Lenses that can be moved between certain focal lengths are called zoom lenses. Common zoom lenses are 18-55mm, 24-70mm, 70-200mm, etc. Your choice here will depend on your use of the lens. Prime lenses are great for specific applications like landscapes or interviews, while zoom lenses work well in scenarios where you will need to adjust for your subject on the fly.
The aperture of your lens determines how small or how large the hole is within the lens. This is measured in f-stops. As a result, the aperture directly affects how much light the lens projects onto the camera sensor. Not all lenses have the same aperture range. As a general rule, higher quality lenses will often drop to much lower f-stops (larger aperture), allowing you to create better images in low-light situations. Another effect the f-stop controls is how much depth of field your image will have. A lower f-stop of, say f4 and bellow, increases the size of the aperture and creates a shallower depth of field, blurring the background and creating separation between the foreground and background. This is nice for uses like portraits or interviews, when you want the viewer to focus on the subject. A higher f-stop (smaller aperture) will let in less light, but will allow for more of the image to be in focus. Your aperture will be a key tool in your video and photo tool-belt to create the images you want.
Some people like to use auto-focus; others prefer manual focus. If you’d like to have the option of auto-focus, make sure you buy a lens with that feature.
Image stabilization in a lens can be very helpful, especially with longer focal length lenses. Some lenses have different types of image stabilization for different situations, like a mode for general stabilization and a mode that focuses on stabilizing horizontal movement. Image stabilization is useful when shooting handheld video, as it takes out the small jitters of the camera. Decide if this is something you would like in a lens.
Great lenses can easily outlast the life of your camera. Having a cheap lens to throw around can be great, but buying quality lenses will be much better for the long haul.
For more tips on video tech and all of your other video needs, view our other blog posts!