Essential Filmmaking Lenses Under $500 For Independent Filmmakers

Essential Filmmaking Lenses Under $500

If your camera is capable of accepting interchangeable lenses, you’ll need to have at least one kit lens or a basic zoom. A full set of high-end cine primes is overkill for any aspiring filmmaker for several reasons, including cost, weight and bulk, on-set efficiency, and so on. 

Most lenses on the more affordable end of the spectrum aren’t lightning fast in terms of aperture, and some may lack key characteristics or image quality, but in the end, only one thing makes a difference: Does a specific lens get the job done? If that’s the case, that’s it! If the resulting video is stunning, no one will care about the lens you used.

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Key Features

  • E-Mount Lens/APS-C Format
  • 24mm (35mm Equivalent)
  • Aperture Range: f/1.4 to f/16
  • Two SLD Elements, Three FLD Elements
  • Two Aspherical Elements
  • Super Multi-Layer Coating
  • Stepping Motor AF System
  • Weather-Sealed Construction
  • Rounded 9-Blade Diaphragm

Essential Filmmaking Lenses Under $500

The 16mm f/1.4 DC DN is part of Sigma’s Contemporary series of lenses and is designed for use with APS-C-format Sony E-mount mirrorless cameras. It combines a comfortable wide-angle design with an ultra-fast maximum aperture.

This lens is adept at working in low-light conditions due to its bright f/1.4 maximum aperture, and it also provides increased control over depth of field for selective focus control. Several low dispersion and aspherical elements are used in the optical design to control color fringing and other aberrations and provide high sharpness and clarity across the aperture range.

Individual elements also have a Super Multi-Layer Coating to reduce flare and ghosting for improved contrast and colour fidelity when working in bright light.

If you’re looking for a super-fast wide-angle lens for Sony E-mount and Micro Four Thirds cameras, I highly recommend the Sigma 16mm f/1.4. It’s long-lasting, the autofocus is excellent, and the image quality is far superior to what you’d expect at this low price.

Essential Filmmaking Lenses Under $500

Key Features

  • EF-Mount Lens/Full-Frame Format
  • Aperture Range: f/1.4 to f/22
  • Two High Refractive Index Elements
  • Super Spectra Coating
  • Micro Ultrasonic Motor AF System
  • Rounded 8-Blade Diaphragm

The Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM is a versatile normal-length prime lens with a bright f/1.4 aperture for working in low-light conditions and producing shallow depth of field imagery. It offers a natural perspective as well as a fast maximum aperture. 

This lens also has a Gaussian optics design and two high refractive index elements to control spherical aberrations and distortion and achieve high sharpness and clarity. 

In addition, a Super Spectra coating has been applied to reduce flare and ghosting for improved contrast and color accuracy when working in low-light conditions. A micro USM, which enables quick and quiet autofocus performance as well as full-time manual focus control, complements the optical design.

If you don’t have a lot of money to spend on equipment and worry about whether or not a piece of gear is a good buy, you won’t have to worry about this lens. This is a must-have lens. Excellent in low light and extremely versatile.

It’s lightweight, so it’s easy to transport, and it can produce some creamy background blur.

Essential Filmmaking Lenses Under $500

Key Features:

  • 23-69Mm equivalent 
  • First electric-powered zoom Lens for the x mount 
  • Minimum working distance of just 5cm, ideal for clear close-up shots. 
  • Approx 4.8 oz (136G) 
  • Compatible with all x series cameras 
  • Lens Type: Wide Angle, Telephoto

The ‘FUJINON XC15-45mm F3.5-5.6 OIS PZ‘ is the smallest and lightest interchangeable zoom lens compatible with the ‘X series’, covering the frequently used focal length range of 23mm to 69mm in 35mm format equivalent. 

The x mount’s first electric-powered zoom lens. The lens’s minimum working distance is only 5cm, making it ideal for clear close-up shots. The smooth electric-powered zooming mechanism, which begins at the wide-angle 23mm end (35mm film format equivalent), allows for compositional freedom when framing still images and video. 

At all focal lengths, this lens produces stunning images! This is a great travel lens because it is small and light. I’m not a fan of power zooms in general; I prefer manual zooming, but this one is a keeper!

Essential Filmmaking Lenses Under $500

Key Features

  • X-Mount Lens/APS-C Format
  • 41mm (35mm Equivalent)
  • Aperture Range: f/2.8 to f/16
  • One Aspherical Element
  • Super EBC Coating
  • DC Coreless AF Motor
  • Manual Aperture Ring with ‘A’ Position
  • Weather-Sealed Construction
  • Rounded 7-Blade Diaphragm

The FUJIFILM XF 27mm f/2.8 R WR, with its slim and portable form factor, is distinguished by its updated exterior design and versatile 41mm equivalent focal length for everyday shooting. This wide-normal prime lens now has a weather-sealed construction and a manual aperture ring for intuitive and tactile exposure control, though a ‘A’ position can also be used for camera-based settings adjustments. 

In terms of optics, one aspherical element is used to reduce distortion and spherical aberrations, and a Super EBC coating is used to control flare and ghosting. A high-torque DC coreless motor is also used to achieve quick, accurate, and near-silent autofocus performance, which benefits both photo and video applications.

This is now my favorite lens. This is one of the sharpest lenses I’ve used, and the colors and textures I get from it are incredible.

The images have a 3D effect. Also, this focal length is all I need most of the time, and with the XE4’s small form factor and lightweight, it’s always with me. The lens is sharp in any setting, including wide open. 

Essential Filmmaking Lenses Under $500

Key Features

  • Micro Four Thirds System
  • 24-120mm (35mm Equivalent)
  • Aperture Range: f/3.5 to f/22
  • One Extra-Low Dispersion Element
  • Three Aspherical Elements
  • POWER O.I.S., Dual I.S. Compatible
  • Splash- and Dust-Proof Construction
  • Rounded 7-Blade Diaphragm

Panasonic’s Lumix G Vario 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH. POWER O.I.S. is a Micro Four-Thirds system lens with a versatile 24-120mm equivalent focal length range. It was designed as a compact zoom that is ideal for travel.

The lens’ design incorporates three aspherical elements and one extra-low dispersion element to reduce spherical and chromatic aberrations throughout the zoom range for improved clarity and image sharpness.

Furthermore, an appropriate POWER Optical Image Stabilization system compensates for the effects of camera shake and is also compatible with cameras that feature Dual I.S. for robust stability to benefit handheld shooting in low-light conditions.

This 12-60mm lens has a dust- and splash-proof construction for use in harsh environments, further solidifying its place as a versatile and ideal lens for photographers and filmmakers on the go.

Essential Filmmaking Lenses Under $500

Key Features

  • RF-Mount Lens/Full-Frame Format
  • STM Stepping AF Motor
  • Center Macro Focus, 1:2 Magnification
  • Optical Image Stabilizer
  • Customizable Control Ring
  • Rounded 7-Blade Diaphragm

The Canon RF 24-105mm f/4-7.1 IS STM is a well-rounded zoom that covers wide-angle to short telephoto focal lengths to benefit working in a variety of conditions. It is sleek and versatile.

A variable maximum aperture also contributes to an impressively compact profile that is suitable for everyday shooting.

A unique Center Macro Focus position, which allows working with close-up subjects at a 1:2 maximum magnification ratio, complements the flexible design, and an Optical Image Stabilizer also helps to achieve sharp imagery by minimizing the appearance of camera shake.

A STM motor also provides impressively quiet and smooth autofocus performance, as well as a full-time manual focus override. Furthermore, a programmable Control Ring allows you to adjust exposure settings such as ISO, aperture, and exposure compensation directly from the lens.

Essential Filmmaking Lenses Under $500

Key Features

  • E-Mount Lens/Full-Frame Format
  • Aperture Range: f/4 to f/32
  • Three Aspherical Elements
  • Linear AF Motor, Internal Focusing
  • Retractable Design
  • Dust- and Moisture-Resistant
  • Rounded 7-Blade Diaphragm

The Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6 is a wide-angle to long-normal zoom with a retractable design and a slim profile that is both compact and versatile. The slim design of this lens makes it ideal for walkaround, everyday shooting, and the versatile focal length range benefits a wide range of subject types.

Three aspherical elements are used in the optical design, which helps to reduce distortion and spherical aberrations while also promoting greater sharpness and accurate rendering.

A linear motor and internal focusing design complement the optics, resulting in quick and quiet autofocus performance for both photo and video needs.

The lens body is also weather-sealed, allowing it to be used in adverse weather conditions.

Essential Filmmaking Lenses Under $500

Key Features

  • F-Mount Lens/FX Format
  • Aperture Range: f/2 to f/22
  • One Double-Sided Aspherical Element
  • Ultra-High Refractive Index Glass
  • Manual Focus Design
  • Minimum Focus Distance: 9.8″
  • Metal Lens Barrel, Scalloped Focus Ring
  • AI-S Support/CPU for Aperture Control
  • Nine-Blade Diaphragm

The black-rimmed Ultron 40mm f/2 SL IIS Aspherical from Voigtlander is a versatile prime well-suited to everyday shooting, with a slender profile and a slightly wider-than-normal focal length.

To produce well-controlled, sharp imagery free of spherical aberrations, the double Gauss optical design employs a single aspherical element as well as ultra-high refractive index glass. Its slightly wider focal length, combined with the bright f/2 maximum aperture, allows for shallow depth of field imagery as well as working in low-light conditions.’

The smooth manual focus operation also helps to control focus position, and depth of field and focus distance scales are featured on the metal lens barrel to help with pre-focusing or setting hyperfocal distance. 

This lens’ physical design also includes a scalloped focus ring, which harkens back to classic lens designs from the 1960s while also providing more secure handling during use.

The lens combines a classic-inspired design with modern functionality, including an AI-S type CPU that allows in-camera adjustment of the aperture setting for faster, more intuitive exposure control.

Essential Filmmaking Lenses Under $500

Key Features

  • 85mm Lens
  • Full-Frame Coverage
  • Multi-Layer Coating to Reduce Flare
  • Standard Gearing for Focus and Iris
  • Dual Side Focus and T-Stop Scales
  • “De-Clicked” Aperture Ring
  • Hybrid Aspherical Lenses
  • Manual Focus and Aperture
  • Removable Lens Hood
  • Accepts 72mm Threaded Filter Rings

The Rokinon 85mm T1.5 Cine DS Lens addresses the challenge of assembling a set of lenses over time by utilizing a multi-layer coating process for consistent color rendition from lens to lens.

The lens has a Canon EF mount and industry-standard geared focus and iris rings that are shared by other Rokinon Cine DS lenses. The aperture and focus scales are marked on both sides of the lens to assist focus pullers who must work on both sides of the lens.

When used with a full-frame sensor camera or a 35mm SLR, this 85mm lens produces a 28.3° angle of view.

With a minimum focus distance of 3’6″ from the lens, hybrid aspherical lenses produce sharply defined images with minimal distortion and chromatic aberrations.

When shooting without a matte box, a removable lens hood protects against flare, and the lens’s threaded front accepts 72mm filter rings.

Essential Filmmaking Lenses Under $500

Key Features

  • Covers Micro Four Thirds Sensors
  • 150° Focus Rotation
  • Internal Focus Mechanism
  • Minimized Breathing
  • 85mm Front Diameter
  • 82mm Filter Thread Size
  • Calibrated Witness Markings
  • 22mm Image Circle
  • Clickless Iris Ring
  • Consistent with Other MicroPrime Lenses

SLR Magic’s MFT mount MicroPrime Cine 25mm T1.5 Lens covers Micro Four Thirds sensors and has a fast aperture, 150° focus rotation, and an internal focus mechanism.

The short focus throw was designed so that you can comfortably adjust the focus ring from end to end when rotating it by hand.

The lens’s internal focus mechanism reduces breathing. Breathing can cause the front of the lens to move, causing your framing to change as you adjust the focus. But that isn’t an issue with this cine lens.

In order to allow for an efficient workflow, the lens shares many consistent features with the rest of the MicroPrime series.

All of the MicroPrimes have the same color and bokeh consistency. Because the front diameter is universally 85mm, clamp-on matte boxes can be easily moved from one lens to another.

The filter thread is 82mm in diameter. Because the length and weight are the same, if you use a gimbal, you won’t have to re-calibrate it if you swap this lens for one with a different focal length. And the lens gear positions are correct.

The MicroPrimes also have calibrated witness markings, allowing focus pullers to measure the distance between the focal plane and the subject with confidence.

Essential Filmmaking Lenses Under $500

Key Features

  • Bright Wide Angle Cine Prime
  • Suitable for High-Res Cinema Cameras
  • Large T2.2 Maximum Aperture
  • Low-Dispersion Glass
  • High Refractive Index
  • Low Distortion
  • Multilayer Coating
  • 7.9″ Minimum Focus Distance
  • Manual Focus and Aperture
  • All-Metal Housing

The MFT-mount 16mm T2.2 Manual Focus Wide Angle Cinema Lens from Meike is a bright cine prime suitable for up to high-resolution cine cameras, with a T2.2 maximum aperture, low-dispersion glass, and a high refractive index.

The large aperture allows for working in low-light situations and gives you more control over the depth of field. The lens produces low-distortion images, and its multilayer coating reduces flare and ghosting for improved contrast and color accuracy. 

This manual focus lens has a sturdy design thanks to its all-metal housing. The minimum focus distance from the image plane is 7.9″, allowing you to get very close to your subject while still capturing close-up wide-angle shots with sharp focus. The scale markings on the lens are in feet and inches.

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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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