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Who Makes the Best Camera Lenses?

January 26, 2024


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Wondering Who Makes the Best Camera Lenses? Let’s Discuss!

Written by Colette Nichol, Solo Filmmaker and Story Strategist

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

In the world of filmmaking, video production and photography, the quality of your lenses can be as crucial as the camera itself. Different lenses have different capabilities that can significantly impact your final product. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the types of lenses available and list 10 of the best camera lenses, while addressing some common questions about lens quality, brands, and cost.

But first, if you’re just wondering which brands manufacture the best lenses in the world, here’s a quick answer. Zeiss, Canon, Nikon, and Sigma are the top makers of SLR lenses which can be used in photography and video production on DSLRs and mirrorless cameras.

The top makers of cinema lenses include Zeiss, Leitz, Angenieux, Cooke, Fujifilm, and Arri.

You can also get good cinema lenses by Canon and Sigma. If you want to buy cinema lenses, rather than rent them, and you’re not a millionaire, you’ll want to look at Rokinon for affordable, though not premium, options.

You can view the top SLR lenses for photo and video by price, on B&H Photo Video here.

Once you get serious about photo and video, it often makes sense to spend as much or more on your lens as your camera body because your lens has such a massive impact on your imagery.

Types of Camera Lenses

1. Prime Lenses

Known for their fixed focal length, they offer superior sharpness and a wider aperture. A fixed focal length means that the lens does not zoom. It’s field of view or frame is one size only.

2. Zoom Lenses

Offer a range of focal lengths, providing versatility. You can zoom in and out to adjust the frame.

3. Telephoto Lenses

Ideal for capturing distant subjects. These ultra zoom lenses are used in sports and wildlife photography and video.

4. Wide-Angle Lenses

Perfect for capturing expansive scenes. If you’re using a full-frame camera, anything that’s 24mm or lower is considered a wide angle.

5. Macro Lenses

Designed for extreme close-ups with sharp detail. I love using my macro lens for nature shots and also weird portraits. For video work, they can be fun to use but they are challenging. A macro lens allows you to get much closer to the subject than with a normal lens.

6. Cinema Lenses

Specifically built for filmmaking, offering smooth focus and aperture control. Cinema lenses have T stops rather than F stops. They allow you to more easily use a focus puller on your lens. They also provide the best image quality of any type of lens. They can cost as much as $150,000 for a cinema zoom lens. An average-priced cinema lens is about $5000 to $10,000 per prime lens.

4 Best Canon Lenses for Video Shooters on a Budget

I shoot on Canon and Blackmagic, though I’ve used most major camera brands over the years including Panasonic and Sony. But I do love Canon lenses! If you’re a video shooter with an entry-level or intermediate Canon camera, check out these lenses. If you want recommendations for other brands, check out this post on camera lenses for video here. And keep in mind that you’ll need to know your lens mount before you buy a lens!

Best for Crop-Sensor DSLRs
Best for Full-Frame DSLRs
Best for RF Mirrorless
Best for M Series
Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS
canon ef-s 17-55
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L
canon ef 24-70
Canon RF 24-70mm f/2.8 L IS
Canon rf 24-70
Canon EF-M 18-150mm IS STM
canon ef-m 18-150
Fast lens is good in low light. Sharp with good colour rendition. Built to last. Image stabilization. Zoom range covers all major shot sizes.
Fixed max aperture of f/2.8 is good in low light. While the premium quality glass is built to last and help you create gorgeous imagery.
This fast and sharp lens is made with premium quality glass. Built to last a long-ass time. Image stabilized. Killer autofocus. Perfect for video.
Made to go with the lightweight M-mount mirrorless cameras and provide you with a mega zoom so you can start experimenting.
Image Source: Canon

8 Best Camera Lenses from $2000 to $13,000

Now keep in mind that while these lenses might be great, you need to get a lens that works for YOUR camera! And you also need to get a lens that works for you style of shooting. There’s no such thing as the absolute best lens. You have to get the right lens for you.

1. Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM: A versatile telephoto lens.

2. Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM: A top-notch zoom lens for full-frame Sony cameras.

3. Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art: A prime lens known for its sharpness. Best for photography on a full-frame camera.

4. Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED: A good wide-angle lens for photo and video.

5. Zeiss Otus 1.4/55: If you’re a photographer or video creator shooting on a full-frame this prime lens is going to give you insane quality. But also, it’s pretty darn expensive.

6. Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 II: A great choice for crop-sensor Micro Four Thirds cameras and covers the low to mid range nicely.

7. Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L USM: A crisp and high-quality zoom lens for Canon’s mirrorless cameras. This is best for the full-frame series not the crop-sensors.

8. Leica Noctilux-M 50mm f/0.95 ASPH: A luxury option for outstanding detail and image quality. The lens apparently outperforms the human eye. And frankly, for $13,000 it had better!

Canon RF 24-70mm f/2.8 L IS USM
Best for R-Series Canon Mirrorless cameras like the R6 and R5
Filter Size: 82mm  |  Weight: 1.98 lbs 
Image Source: Canon
 What We Love:
✓ Beautiful image quality
✓ Built to last a lifetime
✓ Fixed aperture of f/2.8
✓ Perfect focal length range for your full-frame Canon mirrorless
✓ Great auto focus
✘ You can’t use this lens on a Canon DSLR or the BMPCC 6k — it’s strictly for use on the R-series cameras.
✘ This lens is pricey due to the fact that it’s high-end glass with a fast aperture and image stabilized.

Common Questions

Which company has the best camera lens?

This varies based on your specific needs and camera compatibility. Canon, Nikon, Sony, Sigma, and Zeiss are all renowned for their quality lenses.

Which lenses are best for filmmaking?

Cinema lenses from brands like Zeiss, Cooke, and Arri are often favoured for their optical quality and build. However, many DSLR and mirrorless lenses also perform well. Unless you’re shooting for the big screen a regular (i.e. not cinema lens) is just fine.

Also, I highly recommend renting lenses if you’re shooting short film because it’s much cheaper than buying and you can make more “sophisticated” lenses selections rather than relying on the lenses you own.

Does the brand of camera lens matter?

While the brand can be a sign of quality, the specific lens characteristics and compatibility with your camera are more important. If you need a fast lens, then getting the right minimum f-stop will be more important than which brand you buy. Also, you typically want to make sure you don’t have to use an adapter. So make sure the lens is made to go with your camera’s lens mount.

Do Canon or Nikon make better lenses?

Both brands have their strengths. Choice should be based on compatibility with your camera and specific lens needs. While I’m a Canon shooter, I can’t deny that Nikon makes good lenses. However, in my opinion, it makes absolutely no sense to put a Nikon lens on a Canon camera and vice versa.

Get the right lens for your camera and try not to use an adapter unless strictly necessary.

What is the most expensive camera lens?

Specialized lenses like the Leica Noctilux-M or the Canon EF 1200mm f/5.6L USM are among the most expensive SLR lenses. However the most expenses lenses are cinema zooms which start at around $100,000 per lens.

What makes a camera lens more expensive?

Factors include optical quality, aperture size, focal length, build quality, and specific features like image stabilization or weather sealing. Typically high-quality telephoto lenses are quite expenses because they need high quality glass, a wide aperture, as well as premium build quality with weathersealing.

What makes a good quality camera lens?

When I’m looking for a lens, I’m trying to balance a low fixed aperture (which allows me to shoot more easily in low light) with sharp image quality, colour saturation, and autofocus. I don’t want a lens that feels like it’s made of plastic unless I’m looking for a walkabout lens that needs to be ultra light weight.

Sharpness, clarity, build quality, aperture size, and minimal distortion are key indicators of a good quality lens. But honestly, sometimes you’ll sacrifice quality just to have a lens that weighs less! No point having a killer lens if it’s too heavy to take anywhere. And yes, I speak from experience.

What is the most expensive camera lens?
This image shows a whole bunch of old-school lenses. You can see that lenses have transformed a lot over the years. Just focus on getting something that’ll do the job. And then start shooting!

Final Thoughts

Choosing the right lens is a important decision for any filmmaker, photographer, or video creator.

While there are many great lenses from various manufacturers, the best lens for you depends on your specific needs, camera compatibility, and budget. Remember, a good lens is an investment that can elevate your work and bring your creative vision to life.

And finally, don’t get trapped in the gear-decision rabbit hole for too long. You can always sell your lens if it’s not the right fit. The most important thing is to be shooting!

More Lens & Camera Articles

The Best Lens For Video Hands Down

How To Know What Lenses Are Compatible with My Camera

What is a fisheye lens?

What is the best camera for beginners?

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 one time per year and is the best way to become a filmmaking or video pro fast!

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