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The Best Lens For Video Hands Down

December 8, 2021

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WHAT IS THE BEST LENS FOR VIDEO?

Article by Colette Nichol, Solo Filmmaker and Story Strategist

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

“Hey, what exactly is the best lens for video? I just want a simple answer.”

I’ve been asked this question so many times.

Unfortunately, this is a tough question because the answer isn’t simple.

It depends entirely on your camera’s lens mount, which I’ll discuss later in this article. But before you dig into the dark and stormy depths of how to pick the best lens for your DSLR, mirrorless, or cinema camera, I’ve got some basic easy answers for you.

In my opinion, the best lens for video is a standard, high-quality zoom with image stabilization and a minimum fixed aperture of f/2.8.

Your zoom should have the full-frame equivalent of a 24-70mm lens. So if you have a Canon crop-sensor camera like the Canon 90D, the best lens is the Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 lens. While if you have a full-frame camera like the Canon 6D Mark II, then the best lens for run-and-gun shooting is typically the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4 IS USM or the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 USM (which is not image stabilized).

Side note: there will be links to all my top lens picks later in this article, so keep reading and scrolling for that.

These are three of the lenses that I use for video, along with my Kenko adaptor. FYI, I don’t recommend using a lens adaptor if you don’t have to. It’s always best to have a lens that works natively with your camera.

Crop Sensor vs Full Frame Lenses, Oh My!

I can only recommend the Canon 17-55mm f/2.8 if you have a camera that will take EF-S lenses.

For example, the BMPCC 6k will work wonderfully with the Canon 17-55mm f.2.8 because the BMPCC6k is a crop sensor camera with an EF lens mount. But you can’t use this lens if you’ve got a Canon full-frame camera.

Why not?

Well, you can’t put a crop-sensor lens on your full-frame camera. Instead, you’ll go with an EF lens. Have you noticed yet that this can get complicated, and there’s no single perfect answer? That’s because there are so many variables regarding lens choice.

But don’t worry, I’m going to cover everything you need to know about lenses so you can buy the best lens for video no matter what camera you have.

So keep reading!

And if you’re struggling with all the terminology, watch the video where I try to clear up some major lens confusions.

I teach filmmaking online, and I’ve also spent hours helping family members who are aspiring filmmakers and video creators. Across the board, everyone gets confused by lenses. It’s a complicated landscape.

So stick with me as we go through this together.

I Just Want the BEST Lens!

You’ve got a camera, or you’re thinking of buying one. And you want to know what the best lens for video is.

Great! But there’s one problem, the answer to this question is nuanced. Now, before I answer what the best lens for video is, I have a story for you. Stick with me. It’ll make sense in a minute.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. 7-minute watch: The Best Lens for Video Hands Down
  2. What is a good lens for a video?
  3. For Sony Mirrorless Camera
  4. For Canon Crop-Sensor DSLR
  5. For Panasonic Crop-Sensor Mirrorless
  6. For BMPCC 6K with EF mount
  7. What lenses should every videographer have?
  8. Is a 50mm lens good for a video?
  9. Does your lens affect video quality?
  10. Best DSLR lens for video: Canon
  11. Don’t get sucked into lens marketing
  12. Summary

I WORKED IN FINE DINING FOR YEARS. 

For over ten years, to be exact. But my last restaurant job was the best one. The people were weird and hilarious, and the food was off the hook.

The staff also had an idiosyncratic love of burgers that took on a level of obsession I’d never seen before.

Starting at 11 pm every night, the servers and cooks would commence talking about burgers. All night long, we were serving high-end fares like uni mousse with squid ink brioche and BBQ quail with puffed sorghum and maple-glazed cornbread. 

But at 11 pm, the craving for beef in a bun would hit. 

AT ONE POINT, THIS CRAVING TOOK ON A NEW LEVEL OF OBSESSION.

Someone discovered an elusive burger truck that apparently had the BEST burgers in town. 

It was one guy, in a truck, probably high AF, making retro burgers. Thin beef patties with iceberg lettuce on the perfect fluffy-yet-squishable white bun, finished with nostalgic plastic cheese and a pickle.

For a millennial yearning for simpler times, this was heaven. Especially after doing fine dining service all night long.

HOURS WERE SPENT WAXING ON ABOUT HOW THESE BURGERS WERE THE BEST IN TOWN. 

But were they? Were they really the best?

Of course not!

There’s no such thing as best, dammit.

And yet, we still want it and fall for it every time. 

This is the best croissant you’ll ever have. This is the best spa on the west coast. And this is the best hike you’ll ever go on. This is the best water bottle you’ll ever use! This is the best computer screen, the best hotel, the best bed, the best movie. 

YOU GET IT. WE LOVE THE NOTION OF BEST. 

Which is why I made you this video.

In this week’s video, I’m going to walk you through the BEST lenses for video.

7-MINUTE WATCH: THE BEST LENS FOR VIDEO HANDS DOWN

Of course, I know that “best” is subjective. But when it comes to video, there are actually so few appropriate lenses for the general-interest video maker, that I can confidently share what I think are the best lenses out there.

WHAT IS A GOOD LENS FOR VIDEO?

First and foremost, when choosing a lens for video, you must know your camera’s lens mount.

Lenses are not interchangeable between camera brands. So if you’re using a Canon, you don’t want to buy Nikon or Sony lenses in most cases. There are also 3rd party lens manufacturers that make lenses for various camera brands. For example, Sigma creates lenses for Sony, Nikon, and Canon.

THUS, YOUR FIRST AND MOST IMPORTANT DECISION IS WHAT CAMERA YOU WANT.

From there, you decide on your lens based on the lens mount on your camera.

The lens mount is the metal element at the front of the camera body where you attach your lens. There’s a letter-based code for every lens mount.

For example, Canon’s most common lens mounts are EF mounts, EF-S mounts, and RF mounts. You can put an EF lens on a camera with an EF-S mount. But an EF-S lens won’t work on a camera with an EF mount. EF-S mounts are for crop sensor cameras, while EF mounts are for full-frame cameras.

If you own a starter Canon camera, then you have a crop sensor camera. This means you can buy EF-S lenses or EF lenses. Meanwhile, the RF lens mount is for Canon’s mirrorless cameras.

So, do you see how knowing your lens mount is so important when researching what the best lens for video is?

SO HERE ARE YOUR STEPS:

  1. Decide on what camera brand you want to use for the next couple years.
  2. Buy the camera.
  3. Choose your lens based on the available lenses for your camera’s lens mount.

Okay, but how do you decide what lens to get once you’ve figured out your lens mount?

If you want the decision to be easy, just get a high-quality standard zoom. For video, it’s all about the zoom. You want to be able to quickly change up your framing by zooming in your lens. For filmmaking, many people prefer prime lenses (single focal length, no zooming!) because the quality is higher. But for video, the zoom is where it’s at.

Answer these Lens Questions Before You Buy

DO YOU NEED THE LENS TO BE FAST BECAUSE YOU’RE GOING TO BE SHOOTING IN LOW LIGHT?

If yes, get a lens with a fixed aperture of f/2.8 or faster.

Look for f/2.8 or a LOWER number in the specs. And make sure it’s fixed not variable. A variable aperture would be written like this: f/2.8-5.0

WHAT FOCAL LENGTHS DO YOU NEED?

In other words, how much zoom do you need?

If you’re going to do bird videography or sports videos, you need a serious zoom and a serious tripod. But if you’re going to do more typical shoots, then a standard zoom will do the trick.

For a full-frame camera, 50mm is the equivalent of what the human eye sees.

But for a camera with a crop factor of 1.6x (which is most Canons) then a 30mm lens would give you a field of view (frame) that’s close to what the human eye would see. Thus, the standard zoom for a crop sensor camera is often 17-55 mm, while for a full-frame camera, the standard zoom is usually 24-70 mm.

DO YOU NEED YOUR LENS TO HAVE IMAGE STABILIZATION?

Image stabilization is usually required by people shooting a lot of handheld video.

With Canon lenses, you’re looking for the IS symbol, which indicates image stabilization. But for other brands, image stabilization is called something different. Now, if you just want some easy answers, I’ve got those for you too!

Best Mid-budget Zooms for Video

With the Assumption that You’ve Got a Crop-sensor Camera, These are the Best Lenses for Video

The assumption is also that since you’re going to be doing video, getting a fast lens is a priority since you’ll probably be shooting inside in low light. And noise removal in the video is much less advanced than in photography! In other words, you don’t want to have to ramp up your ISO to get decent exposure when you’re doing video because trying to fix a noisy image in a post is a real pain.

And now for the links! These are the lenses that I recommend for the different types of cameras that most video creators and solo filmmakers use to get started.

FOR SONY MIRRORLESS CAMERAS

Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 DC DN Contemporary Lens for Sony E | $549 US

FOR CANON CROP SENSOR DSLRs

  1. Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art Lens for Canon EF | $799 US
  2. Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG HSM Art Lens for Canon EF | $1299 US
  3. Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Art Lens for Canon EF | $1099 US
  4. Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens | $879 US
  5. Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens | $1899 US (premium glass, but not image stabilized!)
  6. Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens | $1099 (only if you’re going to shoot a lot of landscapes)

FOR PANASONIC CROP SENSOR MIRRORLESS

The GH5 series has a crop factor of 2x so to get the equivalent of a 50mm lens, you’ll need a 24mm lens.

  1. Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 II ASPH. POWER O.I.S. Lens | $997 US
  2. Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm f/2.8 II POWER O.I.S. Lens | $1097 US

FOR BMPCC 6K with EF MOUNT

The BMPCC has a crop factor of 1.558x. So you need a 30mm (approx) lens to get the equivalent of a 50mm.

  1. Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens | $879
  2. Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art Lens for Canon EF | $799 US
  3. Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG HSM Art Lens for Canon EF | $1299 US
  4. Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Art Lens for Canon EF | $1099 US

For my work, I use the Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 and the 24mm f/2.0 if I need something small and light. I use the Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro lens for extreme close-ups and more creative random work.

What lenses should every videographer have?

Every videographer should have a standard zoom that gives them a 50mm equivalent with some room on either end. So if your camera’s crop factor is 2x, your zoom should be at least 12-35mm. If your crop factor is 1.6x, your zoom should be at least 18-55mm.

Is a 50mm lens good for video?

A 50mm lens, or its equivalent for the crop factor of your camera, is good for video because it can capture a standard frame. But it’s limiting because you’re stuck with just one field of view. You can’t zoom. A 50mm lens on a full-frame camera gives you a field of view roughly equivalent to what the human eye sees. However, if your lens has a crop factor of 2x, then a 50mm prime lens will be the equivalent of a 24mm lens and isn’t the right purchase for video work. It will be too wide for many general applications.

In most cases, a 50mm prime lens is not the first purchase you should make if you’re doing video. You should buy a zoom lens that gives you the equivalent of a 50mm lens with some room on either end. In other words, you should buy a standard zoom for your camera’s crop factor.

Does your lens affect video quality?

Your lens will affect the quality of your videos.

First, a low-quality lens cannot give you the sharpness and color saturation that you may be hoping to get. Your lens is one of the most important factors in determining the quality of your image. So much so that I’d rather have a cheap camera and a great lens than vice versa.

Many people say that your lens should cost as much as your camera.

Some say your lens should cost 2x what you paid for your camera. This is just to illustrate how important the lens is. That said, I use a lens that cost half the price of my camera and while I know I’ll upgrade at some point, my videos are not suffering.

This is because the camera I’m using has outstanding color science and dynamic range.

So as long as I use this camera with a decent lens, I can capture footage that’s quite beautiful. Will I get a better lens in the future? Sure! But if you’re a video creator, you also have to invest in sound gear and your editing system. In other words, you can’t blow your entire budget on a lens.

Best DSLR Lens for Video: Canon

The best lens for creating videos on a Canon DSLR is the Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens.

It has an f-stop of f/2.8. It’s image stabilized. The glass is reasonably sharp. The zoom is good. The focus is good. If you’re working with an APS-C camera (i.e. it has a crop factor) then this is a good lens for video.

If you’re working with a full-frame lens, then the best DSLR lens for video will be either the Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Art Lens for Canon EF, the Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens for Canon EF, or the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens. These lenses are all solid lenses, so you should base your purchase on budget and whether you have a crop factor or not.

Don’t Get Sucked Into Lens Marketing

The only way to avoid getting sucked into the lens marketing and buying the wrong thing is if you know your specs.

So decide what you want to be shooting and what you need to achieve those goals, and THEN buy a lens. Or if you just want something fast, buy a standard zoom.

That’s it! You’re ready to either start your research or buy something today.

Summary of Key Points

That was a lot of lens information! Here’s a quick review of the main things you need to remember when buying a lens for video.

  1. You need to know your camera’s lens mount before you buy a lens.
  2. Decide how fast you need the lens to be i.e. the minimum fixed aperture (f-stop number).
  3. Choose a zoom lens if you’re going to be doing videography or run and gun shooting.
  4. Don’t buy a 50mm prime lens if you’re focusing on video.
  5. Know the crop factor of your lens before you buy anything.
  6. Choose a lens that will help you create what you want to create.
  7. Finally, don’t get sucked into the lens marketing madness. Buy what suits your needs, not what influencers are hocking you in their YouTube or TikTok videos.


Learn More About Filmmaking!

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About the Author

Hi! I’m Colette Nichol. I’m a solo filmmaker and story strategist based out of rainy Vancouver, Canada. I’ve been making videos and micro films for small businesses and global brands since 2014.

Plus, I LOVE to help aspiring filmmakers pursue their dreams and start making films. This blog is designed to help you gain the knowledge you need to become a filmmaker.

If you want more, get on the waitlist for the Story Envelope Academy Solo Filmmaking Mentorship Program. It opens up 1-2 times per year and is the best way to become a filmmaking or video pro fast!

CLICK HERE to get on the solo filmmaking program waitlist.

I'm Colette, here to give you a filmmaking skills boost! 

Welcome! I’m a story strategist, filmmaker, and digital media consultant based out of rainy Vancouver, Canada. My mission is to give you the tools and tactics you need to pursue your filmmaking dreams, so you can start making films this year! No more waiting for the right time.  Join the inbox party: take my free mini-course and start building your filmmaking skill set.

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