On this week's "Reel Rebel", Stephen Schweickart of VScreen, gives us a quick rundown about the importance of, and basic differences between the various types of lenses you can use if you're knowledgeable enough to shoot video with a DSLR camera, or other video camera that supports interchangeable lenses.
3 Basic Types of Interchangeable Lenses for Video
There are three basic types of lenses you should be familiar with: fixed, zoom and "close up" or macro.
Fixed Lens (aka Prime Lens)
These come in a range of focal lengths from wide angle to telephoto. They have fairly simple optics and allow more light into the lens which gives the shooter more control over the depth of field. For example, if you want individuals and objects in the background to be out of focus, you can use a fast, fixed lens to keep the main stars of your video as the main focus to the viewers.
This allows flexibility of the zoom length to be varied with one lens - as opposed to a fixed lens where you need to change out the lens for varied length. There are two types of zoom lens, a true zoom lens (parfocal) which maintains focus when its focal length changes and a varifocal which loses focus during zooming. Zoom lenses are helpful when you need to travel light or if you don't have a clear plan of what you will be shooting.
These have a production ratio greater than 1:1, that means they allow you to get an extreme close up of whatever you are shooting. A macro lens allows you to shoot objects larger than life. This type of lens requires some practice to master the depth of fields to use because the range comes down to millimeters.
QUESTION: Will these lens tips allow you to broaden your cinematic scope?
If you’re shooting on your cheap handheld digital camera, or even something so old it still requires tapes – sorry – you don’t have the option for interchangeable lenses.
If you’ve advanced yourself enough to shoot on something like, say a DSLR camera, you’re in luck. You’ve proven that you’re smart enough to escape the basic range zoom lens that comes with the camera, that is, unless you’re too cheap to buy or rent something new.
If you’re really serious about maintaining complete control of what you’re shooting – then the three generic types of lenses that should be on your radar are fixed, zoom, and “close up” – or macro.
Fixed lenses, also known as prime lenses, come in a range of focal lengths from wide angle to telephoto. Their optics are simpler, like many of you, and let in much more light giving you more control over the depth of field. You want to throw the less-than-attractive extras in the background out of focus? Consider a fast, fixed lens to keep your viewers’ attention on the true star of your video.
Zoom lenses come in handy when you’re wanting to travel light, or if you’re heading out to shoot without a real plan. The only thing you’ll have complete control over is the distance in which you capture your subject.
“Close up”, or macro lenses, have reproduction ratios greater than 1:1 - much like the cheerleading squad from your old high school. Macros let you get that extreme close up of – well – we don’t really want to know. Be careful with your depth of field when using these “larger than life” lenses because your range may literally come down to the millimeter.
Think you’ll actually broaden your cinematic scope with these lens tips? Give us a thumbs-up, or follow us for more tips to bring your video-making skills into the current century.