Essential Guide To Cinematic Camera Lenses – 5+ Key Types Of Lenses For Filmmaking

Cinematic Camera Lenses – 5+ Types Of Filmmaking Lenses

Are you trying to figure out how to get a cinematic-looking video for your next film? You’ll need more than just a beautiful film camera to shoot a scene that looks cinematic. A filmmaker must frame the scene perfectly, including the location of the subjects being filmed, camera movement, and superb composition.

However, there is one important filmmaking equipment that may make recording beautiful cinematic video so much easier for a filmmaker, and that is having the correct cinematic film lens in the filmmaking camera kit.
In comparison to still photography lenses, film lenses provide superior image quality and are easier to operate.

For filmmakers and cinematographers, having the correct cinematic camera lens in their camera gear is important. Exploring numerous sorts of camera lenses will undoubtedly help you shoot excellent cinematic material, whether you’re shooting a narrative film or a YouTube video.

This post will cover What a Film Lens Is, Film Lens Characteristics, Cinematic Camera Lens Types, and much more to get you up to speed on picking the proper cinematic camera lens for your next film project.

What is a Film Lens or Cinema Lens

A cine lens, also known as a cinematic camera lens, is a higher-end camera lens used by filmmakers and cinematographers to create stunning film projects. A film lens consists of a set of glass plates that deliver exterior light through the camera’s viewfinder to a film strip or digital sensor, just like the lenses you’d use with a DSLR or mirrorless camera.

Prime and zoom lenses are the two types of camera lenses used in filmmaking and photography. Although all lenses filter and focus light so that it reaches the sensor or film strip properly, several elements influence the appearance and quality of an image captured by a film lens.

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Characteristics of a Film Lens

Focal length

The Focal length of a camera is the distance between the lens and the digital sensor, or film plane, which records the image, measured in millimeters. 

Smaller focal length cine lenses have broader angles of view, which is how the human eye perceives the size of objects in a picture, whereas larger focal length cine lenses have a narrower angle of view and display less of the scene.

T-stops

The amount of light passing through a cine lens is measured in transmission stops, or t-stops, which is a more precise unit of measurement than the f-stop (camera setting that determines the aperture of the lens) used for still lenses.

Aperture

The image that the cine lens can capture is also affected by the aperture, or size of the opening in the lens, or iris.

Large apertures produce a shallow depth of field, which is the amount of focus in the image, similar to focal length, whereas smaller apertures produce a greater depth of field and more focus.

Maximum aperture refers to a lens’s widest aperture setting, which is good for low-light settings.

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Breakdown Of The Two Main Types of cinematic Camera Lenses?

Before we get into the different types of cinematic camera lenses that a filmmaker should have in their filmmaking gear, it’s important to grasp the difference between cinematography and photography.

Prime Lens

Because the focal length of a prime lens is fixed, filmmakers must physically move the camera closer or farther away from their subject to modify the angle of view.

This lens is also referred to as a varifocal lens since its focus shifts as it zooms. A cine prime lens is often lighter than a zoom lens, but it provides less creative zoom control.

Zoom Lens

By zooming in and out with the zoom ring on the lens body, cinematographers can vary the focal length and angle of view. Zooming allows the cinematographer to achieve a wide-angle shot all the way to an extreme close-up.

The cine zoom lens, which is a parfocal lens that allows filmmakers to vary the zoom range without compromising focus or image quality, is a common choice for filming. Zoom lenses have more glass than prime lenses, which makes them heavier but gives them more versatility.

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5+ Types of Cinematic Camera Lenses for Filmmaking

There are many lens options for filmmaking in regards to the two primary types of prime and zoom lenses. Here are the most popular cinematic camera lenses that filmmakers rely on for incredible-looking footage.

Prime Lenses

cinematic camera lens

14-20 mm

A wide-angle prime lens with a focal length of 14 – 20mm or more is a great addition to any filmmaker’s or camera operator’s gear. Its effect on sceneries is to draw attention to a human or object in the foreground by separating it from the background scenery. It will make the images pop if used in an interior or specialized exterior setting. 

There is no flattening of foreground and background, unlike other types of camera lenses. The details in the foreground are highlighted and exaggerated. 

A wide-angle lens will distort a person’s face or things, so keep that in mind. However, if you like distorted aesthetics, a wide-angle prime lens in this price range might be right for you. 

If you’re a fan of director Terry Gilliam, the director behind 12 Monkeys, Brazil, and a slew of other classics, you’ll know that he’s famous for employing the 14mm and shooting Dutch angles with it to create strange distortion in his scenes.

50mm - The "Nifty Fifty"

50mm lens is a prime lens that every filmmaker should own. It’s a remarkably adaptable lens that excels at shooting scenarios involving two performers. A 50mm lens and a 35mm lens are frequently carried by most filmmakers since these cinematic camera lenses are fantastic for realism because they depict how we all see the world. 

Another incentive to have a 50mm lens in your camera bag is that they are inexpensive and light, plus they feature some wonderful out-of-focus bokeh. Because of its small weight, I can use the 50mm lens for handheld gimbal shots without it weighing me down.

Alfred Hitchcock, for example, was a big fan of the 50mm lens. He was able to capture a genuine scene with more details than we would see in real life. Akira Kurosawa, was another outstanding director who exploited the 50mm to perfection in mimicking how the human eye sees things. 

With maximum aperture, a 50mm lens can achieve the bokeh effect, which is a soft, beautiful out-of-focus background image. Among the many 50mm lenses available are Canon, Tokina, and the Rokinon 50mm T2.1.

Related Article: 5 Best 4k Filmmaking Cameras Under 1000 Dollars  

75mm - Telephoto lens

A zoom lens with many focal points, the 75mm telephoto, or long lens, compresses and magnifies information in the foreground, middle ground, and backdrop of an image. 

The telephoto lens is rarely utilized in filmmaking, with the exception of large-scale productions or documentaries. During the filming of Blade Runner and Alien, Ridley Scott employed the 75mm long lens for many of the cinematic scenes. 

Make sure the scene you’re photographing has a lot of detail if you’re going to utilize a 75mm long lens

Many filmmakers can’t shoot like Ridley Scott, but a telephoto lens may be used to produce a cinematic shot with the correct camera motions and an eye for the right interior and exterior locales.

Panasonic, Tamron, and Sigma are known for telephoto lenses

Zoom lens

Many established filmmakers prefer to use the prime lenses mentioned above to achieve the best cinematic aesthetic in their films, but having a good zoom lens in your lens kit is a terrific filmmaking tool to have. Here are some excellent zoom lenses and some reasons why you should use them.

24-105mm

This cinematic camera lens provides a filmmaker with a lot of flexibility for any scene. For example, if you want a somewhat distorted close-up photo, zooming into 24mm will do the trick. 

You may zoom out and move the camera around—handheld or on a tripod—to acquire the photos you want whether you want a telephoto effect for specific shots or an entire project.

55-250mm Lens

If your camera has a lens mount that can use Canon Lenses, then you need to add the Canon 55- 250mm telephoto lens with a low f-stop with a range of f4 to f5.6. It offers an incredible range of focal lengths for a zoom lens.

Keep in mind that if you own a zoom lens with this type of range, you’ll need a wide-angle prime lens or two for your cinematic arsenal.

Anamorphic Lenses

Spherical lenses are found in almost every form of a cinematic camera lens. However, there is a special type of lens known as anamorphic that allows filmmakers to change the aspect ratio (the width and height of projected material) of their films. 

Aspect ratios are unaffected by spherical lenses. When an anamorphic lens is used for a film shot, however, the image is compressed while recording and then stretched out in post-production to produce wide and cinematic aspect ratios. 

Here’s a rundown of films that used anamorphic lenses: Pulp Fiction, Blade Runner, Apocalypse Now, La La Land, Halloween, Empire Strikes Back, and a slew of more films are all on the list.

Although many outstanding film directors use anamorphic lenses, they can be rather costly and may not be the ideal option for most filmmakers. 

Is it worthwhile to invest in anamorphic lenses? Films shot with anamorphic lenses, in my opinion, not only look great on-screen and appeal to our collective nostalgia for old films, but they also help you become a better director. It allows you to include additional detail in each frame and opens up your frame to fresh action.

Cooke and ARRI are among the many anamorphic lens manufacturers

Check out the best anamorphic lenses at B&H Photo/Video.

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What Are the Differences Between a Cine Lens and a Still Photography Lens?

As you can tell from the video clip above, there are several key differences between lenses used for film and lenses for still photography. 

Here are the main differences between a Cine Lens and a Still Photgprahy lens:

  • Aperture and iris. The main difference between a cine lens and a lens for still photography is the capability to manually adjust many of its functions, including aperture and iris, with rings built into the lens body. The iris rings have t-stop markings, which provide a more accurate measure of light entering the lens, while the aperture ring allows for smoother exposure. 
  • Focus. Unlike still lenses, which adjust focus electronically, cine lenses have a manual focus ring marked with hard stops that allow for smoother focus pulls. The focus ring also allows for more focus throw, which is the degree of rotation from minimum focus distance to infinity; it also cuts down on focus breathing, which is the slight change in focus length when rotating the ring. However, the manual focus also means that most cine lenses do not have an autofocus feature. 
  • Optical performance. In terms of image sharpness, cine lenses provide more consistent quality than still photography lenses. They can handle difficult lighting conditions and have fewer instances of chromatic aberration, mismatched colors, and vignetting, which is when the corners of an image have reduced saturation. 
  • Size. Cine lenses are larger and heavier in both size and build to still lenses. They typically come with a fixed front diameter that allows the cinematographer to use a variety of cameras, adapters, and accessories, including matte boxes, electro-focus (EF) lens mounts, like the Canon EF Mount, servo controls, and manual follow focus systems, which allow for smoother shifts in focus. 
  • Zoom. The zoom ring on a cine lens creates smoother zooming by changing its zoom focus internally. Filmmakers can zoom in on an object and know that the image will remain in focus.

Want to Learn More About Filmmaking?

Become a better filmmaker with the MasterClass Annual Membership. Gain access to exclusive video lessons taught by film masters, including Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, Spike Lee, Jodie Foster, James Cameron, and more.

Summary

To summarise, even with a DSLR or mirrorless camera, a variety of lenses may give your movie a dramatic look. The greatest movie camera lenses have a wide aperture and low f-stop numbers, and are referred to as “quick lenses.”

It’s worth renting different types of camera lenses and experimenting with different apertures to discover out what the greatest cinematic lens is for you.

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About the author: Trent (IMDB Youtubehas spent 10+ years working on an assortment of film and television projects. He writes about his experiences to help (and amuse) others. If he’s not working, he’s either traveling, reading or writing about travel/film, or planning travel/film projects.

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