FOUR DSLR LENS TYPES AND TIPS FOR FILMMAKERS ON USING THEM
As a filmmaker there’ll come a time when you’ll be working with various lenses. Therefore we’re writing this introductory post to give you some insight into the most common lens types used by filmmakers and we broach upon their utility.
Without further ado:
1) ZOOM LENS (KIT LENS)
Most DSLR’S will come with a set of lenses and they are zoom lenses. A zoom lens is a lens whose focal length can be changed. That is, it has a range of focal lengths and a mechanism on the camera (usually twisting) that allow you to narrow or widen it’s field of view. By widening or narrowing its field of view the objects can appear bigger or smaller.
A zoom lens is an excellent lens for filmmakers to learn and practice framing and composition. It has a zoom ring that you can twist/rotate to the framing and composition of your choice.
2) FIXED/PRIME LENS
Fixed lenses are as the name implicates, fixed. That is, the focal length of a fixed lens cannot be changed. You cannot zoom in or out. A fixed lens has only a focus ring, it does not have a zoom ring like a zoom or telephoto lens. Fixed lens and prime lens are used interchangeably, i.e., they mean the same thing.
Filmmakers will generally use fixed lenses when they are set on getting a specific focal length with a specific purpose. For example, it is commonly accepted that a lens with 22-24mm is the common focal length of the human eye.
3) WIDE ANGLE LENS
A lens with focal length starting from 16mm to 35mm gives a wider view with little lens distortion.
Wide angle lenses are usually used to film footage of large dimensions that will be useful to the filmmaker telling their story. For example, a wide angle lens may be use to film a wide shot of a sports arena, landscapes, etc.
4) TELEPHOTO LENS
In a telephoto lens the focal length starts from 70mm and goes beyond 800mm. With a telephoto lens you have the capability to magnify your subject. Your camera can be extremely far away from your subject but the lens will bring your subject close to it due to its mm range capacity.
Below is an excellent and briefly made tutorial by Vimeo Video School that contrasts the use of telephoto lens with other lenses beautifully.
Depending on the film directors creativity, telephoto lenses can be used to depict various emotions in a shot. In the film, The Graduate, director Mike Nichols uses the telephoto lens beautifully as Benjamin’s car comes into shot and eventually runs out of gas and then he starts running. The telephoto lens shot gives a feeling of desperation as if Benjamin may never reach his destination.
The Graduate was released on December 22nd, 1967. It went on to make $100.4 million dollars on the US and Canada box offices. It also won director Mike Nichols Best Director at the academy awards.
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