September 19, 2014 at 9:24AM

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Best cheap lenses for filmmaking with a Nikon D5200

Any suggestions for good, cheap lenses for filmmaking with a Nikon D5200?

18 Comments

I suggest an old vintage set of primes, they will have character and some flare but they will give you a wide range to learn with and make you work within the limitations of the lenses so when you switch to higher quality glass you'll have much more freedom.

If you're looking for zooms main thing is make sure they have a constant aperture. Nothing is more annoying then losing a stop or two at the long end of the lens.

September 19, 2014 at 12:54PM

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Chase Axton
Cinematographer
1183

I own a D600 and use it mostly for film work. My advise to you would be to not buy the current lenses. The older Nikon AI and AI-S glass are some of the best lenses made by Nikon and they can be found for amazing prices used - since of course every photographer wants autofocus, and we don't really care about that for film.

I bought the 28mm Nikon 2.8 AI-S and it is incredible. The other thing that is very important is the ability to have manual aperture control without having to go out of live view. On a Nikon to adjust the aperture when filming you have to click back out of live view so having a lens with manual aperture (not worrying about declicked at this point) is so nice and helps save time.

Not a plug, but I bought my lens on keh.com - they are one of the used gear broker sites, but they rate their products really well, so you know what you are buying. SOOO many times on eBay you can find great deals, but you don't know exactly what you are getting in terms of glass quality and how the lens has been kept - but with some of these reputable dealers they have rated the lenses so you know what you're buying. I think I paid about $250 for the lens and it has been a workhorse for me.

I also have the 50mm 1.4D lens - so its one of the newer ones with autofocus, but it still has the manual aperture. I also bought the Rokinon 85mm lens which I think is phenomenal. It really matches well with my Nikon glass and obviously it gives you full Cine control which is fun to have!

I literally use my Nikon daily for film work - so if you have other questions don't hesitate to PM me - always happy to help a fellow "backwards focuser" :)

September 19, 2014 at 5:14PM

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Scott Selman
Content Creator | Filmmaker | Producer
955

Thank you both.

I just bought this DSLR (it's my first one) to try and maybe start to make a couple of short films. Old primes sounds good as they are cheaper! I've spent the evening looking on eBay (so easy to lose time on there!) looking at older Nikon lenses. I've added some Nikon 50mm 1.8D lenses to my watchlist. They seem to sell for around £60. Would something like that be a good one to start with (hoping to get nice shots - eg. medium two shots with super background bokeh, street shots, etc.)

I think the Nikon Ds have manual aperture control (but not the Gs) unless I'm mistaken. I've done so much research on lenses today that I'm probably going to start to get things mixed up!

I think I looked at Keh as well but when I saw it was in the USA I somehow concluded I couldn't or wouldn't buy from there as I am in the UK. But I'll have another look.

One other thing I keep worrying about is the 1.5 crop factor. Despite reading lots of explanations about this all over the place I doubt I'll ever understand it! It was influencing my decision to maybe start with a 50mm lens, but maybe I should have gone for something like a 35mm? Or should that be 85mm? (See what I mean!?).

By the way, went out with the new camera today. The kit lens that came with it (18mm-55mm f3.5-f5.6) was disappointing - couldn't get any realistic background blur/ bokeh. It felt like I was just using my old camcorder!

September 19, 2014 at 5:48PM

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Kyri Saphiris
Filmmaker
320

The kit lenses are always very slow, and 55mm is not that long either.

If you get a 85mm f/1.8 then you'll get very shallow depth of field! Because it is fast, and long. It will look nothing like what you'd get with a camcorder, I can assure you!

However, 85mm is a tad long to use as a general focal length for most filming with. I suggest start out by getting the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G (costs just under US$200 brand new), then after you've used that for a few months get either the 50mm f/1.8G or 85mm f/1.8G depending on what you think your needs now are (ideally, get both of course).

David Peterson

September 22, 2014 at 4:34AM

Hi Kyri,

yeah, go with a 35mm first as this will bring you closer to a 50mm equivalent (ish) on the crop sensor. but do get a 50mm too. you will find the 35mm usually come as f2.8 but the 50 you can find a f1.8 really easily and at a great price, both have quite different bokeh - you'll love them

I have a crop sensor nikon but film on multiple camera brands, i most recently shot on a Canon 5diii but used an old Nikon 24mm manual lens with an adapter, the images were AMAZING, Nikon glass just has so much 'character'

my first lens after the kit lens was an 85mm f1.8D and it was amazing but sooooo 'zoomed in' it was like always shooting with a 105mm lens lol but i prefer portraiture so it worked, i have a 28mm, 50mm, 700-210mm now and an 0.45 expander (yes it softens the image but i regain the sharpens in post some what)

anywho, hope that helps :)

September 21, 2014 at 4:19PM

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Allan Okello
CEO, Director, writer
86

Good and cheap can be a bit of a contradiction... so will be about finding a balance between those two. Though what is "good" and what is meant as "cheap" can vary a lot from person to person. For one person a $1k lens is very cheap, for another it is outrageously expensive. Likewise one person's "excellent" lens is another person's "rubbish" lens. Everybody has different thresholds of standards and values.

But anyway, here is my suggestions:
Nikon 35mm f/1.8G: I reckon every Nikon DX owner should have one of these, as it is a great value modern Nikon lens which gives you a normal field of view, thus making it very generally useful. I use this lens with my own Nikon D5200 more often than any other lens. The only big reason not to get this lens is if you're instead getting the excellent Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 instead (which I hope to one day), but it is much more expensive than the Nikon 35mm f/1.8

The other Nikon f/1.8G lenses, 50mm & 85mm: these are also on the shopping list to get soon for my D5200, as they're great value modern lenses too. (you could also consider the f/1.8D series instead, as they're cheaper, but if you want to have AF they won't be usable on your D5200. You need a D7100 or similar instead to have AF. And as I also like to do photography I'm spending the little bit extra for the newer f/1.8G series lenses instead)

Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8: this might seem like a very expensive lens to you, but for what it is (a high quality, and fast, UWA lens) it is actually a very good value lenses. I have one myself. And people even by this lens to then Cine mod it and put on a PL mount, as they think nothing is as good as this one at anywhere else near its price range! (even after the expensive cost of conversion) http://timurcivan.com/2012/12/an-examination-of-duclos-11-16mm-ultra-wid...

One of the big benefits of the Nikon F mount, is it is a very popular mount which has been in continuous production for the longest out of all the mounts, thus there is a LOT of older lenses out there to pick from. So bargains can be found there.

For instance some older lenses which I have got in a Nikon F mount are (they range in price from a bit more than a hundred bucks to less than a hundred dollars per lens, you might need to hunt a little and keep on eye on auctions for a while to find them at their most bargain prices):
Vivitar Series 1 28-90mm f/2.8-3.5
Vivitar 135mm f/2.8
Vivitar 70-150mm f/3.8
Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8
Sigma 70-210 f/2.8

September 22, 2014 at 4:29AM

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David Peterson
Wedding Cinematographer
2307

Greetings! Thank you all for your valuable input.

Some comments/ questions -

I think I got my sums mixed up! Now, I think I understand that a "normal" field of view is 50mm (but that's on a full frame camera) and that the "equivalent" for a Nikon (crop factor of 1.5) means I would need 33.3mm! The closest match would be a 35mm (which would equate to 52.5mm full frame as opposed to a 30mm which would equate to 45mm, ie. not as close). Not even sure how much difference there would be between a 30mm and 35mm.

For a better shallow depth of field an f/1.4 would appear better than an f/1.8 by almost one stop (I haven't done the exact maths!). I've looked at some lenses and it also seems that, as a very rough, general rule, the f/1.4s are about 4-6 times more expensive than the f/1.8s!

So, excluding price considerations, the "ideal" one-stop-shop lens would have a spec. of 35mm f/1.4! (The 30mm being a bit too wide and the f/1.8 somewhat deeper).

On eBay, there's one or two Nikon Nikkors 35mm f/1.4 Ai lenses - second hand currently in auction (cheapest at £82 with two days before auction closes) and two new ones (one at £370 and one at £502!). Too expensive (for me). The £82 has seen a lot of use and looks tatty but apparently in very good working order with good optics and mechanics. At that price, it might be well worth a punt?

The Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 might be a compromise as it's a far better price, but only comes as a "G" lens, so manual aperture control. As Nikons can't adjust aperture in live view, a manual aperture would be better. However, I've searched and it seems that this lens spec. does not come as a "D" (unlike the 50mm f/1.8 which comes as a "G" and as a "D" and is selling second hand for £40 to £80 or new for, I think, £109 to £148.

If 30mm f/1.4 would be deemed ok (remembering that 30mm is really only 45mm), then that brings Sigma 30mm f/1.4 into the equation. Available brand new £253 to £379 (too much for me for now) but possibly less second hand. One went the other day for £147 refurbished with 6 month warranty and another second hand one is currently at £63 on eBay with three days of bidding left. There's also one other second hand one at £150 starting bid with no bids and just a day to go! If I could get this at a reasonable price I'd possibly still be worried about the 30mm (as opposed to 35mm). But maybe it's not really anything big enough to worry about?

There's at least two recommendations in this discussion for the Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G, so I'm adding that to the melting pot/ potential purchase list!. I'll also keep an eye on the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 and the Nikkor 35mm f/1.4 Ai over the next couple of days. What will I buy, what will I buy...!? The suspense...

Any further thoughts, or other specific lenses to add to the shortlist, all very welcome! (I don't think I've found any others with a 35mm f/1.4 spec. but there may be others with a slighly different focal length or f-stop that would also be worth looking at). Appreciate everyone's input as it's really helpful, thanks.

September 22, 2014 at 8:04AM

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Kyri Saphiris
Filmmaker
320

Yes, there is a big price jump from f/1.8 lenses to f/1.4 lenses. If you're on a tight budget, I wouldn't go with a f/1.4 over a f/1.8 As you're getting deep into diminishing returns.

Instead save the cash and use it to fill in the gaps in your lens collection. Personally I'd suggest only once you've got your complete set of primes and constant f/2.8 zooms, then consider getting a faster f/1.4 or f/1.2 lens.

I'd happily use anything from 30mm to 40mm as a "normal lens" for Super 35mm / DX / APS-C, and 35mm is pretty spot on. I'd most certainly go with the Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G over any others, it is much better value and you will get AF with your D5200 (as I mentioned, it is the one I use myself with my D5200. And find managing aperture just fine, not a great hassle at all to flick around through the options. Just got to know your camera inside and out). Likewise this is why I'd suggest you consider the 50mm f/1.8G over the 50mm f/1.8D, as the newer one works better with your D5200 body and you don't save much by getting an older 50mm f/1.8D.

Anyway, get the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G first for now. It is my most used lens on my D5200, And it is a lens I reckon should be in every Nikon DX shooter's kit (unless they get the much more expensive Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 instead, which I personally think I might get soon myself even though it is pricey).

Then you can think about which lens next is appropriate for you needs, another prime such as the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G or the 85mm f/1.8G or a f/2.8 zoom such as the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 or the Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8, or an UWA ("Ultra Wide Angle") such as the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 or even a Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 fisheye! Or maybe a cheap macro like the Vivitar 70-150mm f/3.5 All depends on what your shooting needs and budget are.

September 22, 2014 at 11:28AM

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David Peterson
Wedding Cinematographer
2307

Another post with my thoughts on the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G going into further detail.
When it comes to alternatives to the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G I think all the other alternatives to consider are one of:
a) waaaay more expensive, two or three or even five times more expensive (such as the Rokinon 35mm f/1.4, Sigma 35mm f/1.4, or Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8)
b) is lower quality or compromised in one way or another (such as the old first version of the Sigma 30mm f/1.4, which can be found at kinda similar prices to the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G but is not one that I'd go for as Thom's review explains: http://www.bythom.com/Sigma%2030mm-HSM-lensreview.htm However, I'd very happily use the newer Art series, as that Sigma 30mm f/1.4 gets good reviews. But... it is more expensive than the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G so I don't see any point in me using it at this point in time. If I was a Canon user I'd consider the new Sigma Art 30mm f/1.4 however, as Canon doesn't make anything equivalent to Nikon's 35mm f/1.8G)
c) or is an alternative to a 35mm prime which is also very different, so not really directly comparable to a 35mm prime (for instance if you got a standard zoom with a constant f/2.8 instead of a normal FoV prime, such as the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 which you can find for not much more second hand than what a Nikon 35mm f/1.8G goes for brand new, and for some people could be a worthwhile alternative to getting a 35mm prime).

September 22, 2014 at 11:49AM

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David Peterson
Wedding Cinematographer
2307

There is I believe a small variation in what's "normal/ standard" on cropped sensor cameras. The 30mm is closer for Canon's 1.6 factor as it comes in at a 48mm equivalent. The figure for Nikon would be 45mm, hence why I mentioned 35mm for Nikon which would get closer to the 50mm at 52.5mm with its 1.5 crop factor. Having said that, the correlation may not be linear but I'm probably not going to look at the calculations. Or maybe it is, I don't really know.

The Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G has had a couple of "votes" on this thread so far so I'm keeping an eye open on eBay - a couple went for £80 recently (secondhand) compared to the brand new price of £148! The reason I wanted a "D" version was for the manual aperture ring as I thought, from talking to people, that it might be useful to have for filmmaking use. Again, not sure how much of a dealbreaker this is; maybe it isn't one at all - I just don't know as I'm not, to date, experienced in anything other than a camcorder! I'm just trying to assemble, with everyone's advice on here, what I need to start using my new DSLR for shooting video/ film.

Didn't realise there were two Sigmas both at 30mm (or maybe I just forgot). I know there's a 30mm f/1.4 for the cropped sensor and I believe a 35mm f/1.4 for full frame (the latter being a lot more expensive). The former can be picked up for the prices in my last post - and so still pricier (a lot more so) than the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G.

I appreciate the input about zooms and at a later date may look at some constant aperture f/2.8 offerings. For now, I want to wrap up getting the right "all-in" prime - ideally something along the lines above! Hopefully all will be concluded in the next two or three days as the eBay auctions I'm following come to an end. At the moment I could potentially go for any of the current three: Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G, Nikkor 35mm f/1.4 Ai or Sigma 30mm f/1.4 - all of which have pros and cons!

September 22, 2014 at 3:45PM

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Kyri Saphiris
Filmmaker
320

check out rokinon lenses they are great glass for a good price. http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/769555-REG/Rokinon_FE14MAF_N_14mm_... their cine lenses are real nice too.

September 22, 2014 at 6:00PM, Edited September 22, 6:00PM

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Michael Militscher
Director / Commercial Producer
2570

> "The reason I wanted a "D" version was for the manual aperture ring as I thought, from talking to people, that it might be useful to have for filmmaking use. "

If you get the f/1.8D lenses you'll gain a *small* convenience in changing aperture but get instead a very big inconvenience of no AF when taking stills (although the lack of AF is somewhat less of a big deal when shooting video, but then you'll be wanting to buy a monitor for you D5200).

To me this seems like a very bad trade off.

If you didn't have a Nikon camera (thus you're adapting it to another mount such as E mount or m4/3) then I'd totally recommend the Nikon f/1.8D lenses. Or if you had a higher end body (such as a D7100, D600, or D800) then I'd also recommend the Nikon f/1.8D lenses. But because you specifically have a Nikon D5200, it seems like a no brainer to me to go with the Nikon f/1.8G range (which as I mentioned, is what I'm doing myself. I use a D5200 as my primary camera, with a Nikon 35mm f1/8G as the most used lens with it. And I'm getting a Nikon 50mm & 85mm f/1.8G next month, even though I already own a Nikon 50mm f/1.8D which I got way back when the Nikon D50 was my main camera. A D50 is a very old DSLR, doesn't even do video!).

> "There is I believe a small variation in what's "normal/ standard" on cropped sensor cameras. "

My point was more there is no hard and fast rule about a normal FoV is (though it is usually calculated as the diagonal of the sensor. And if the focal length is a bit longer or shorter than that, depends on a person's personal preference and shooting style).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Normal_lens

So I wouldn't get terribly hung up over if a lens is 30mm or 35mm.

> "Didn't realise there were two Sigmas both at 30mm (or maybe I just forgot). "

It is very common for a manufacture to make a lens with a particular focal length and aperture, then a few years later to released a lens with identical focal length and apeture but updated in various aspects (such as the focusing, lens coating, optical design, image stabilisation, weather proofing, or in many other ways).

> "I appreciate the input about zooms and at a later date may look at some constant aperture f/2.8 offerings. For now, I want to wrap up getting the right "all-in" prime - ideally something along the lines above!"

There is no such thing as an "all-in-one" lens, even less so for a prime lens. As a prime lens is of course only just one focal length. Though some lenses are more generally useful in a wider range of circumstances, while other lenses are a much more narrow niche purpose.

While you could for instance shoot a feature film with only one lens, and it has happened, in practise people will want to have multiple lenses to cover a range of situations.

I'd suggest get the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G as soon as possible. Then after sometime, a few months perhaps, get one of these based on what you know feel like you personally need based on your experience:
Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 (or the more expensive Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8) if you want a zoom or a wider lens.
Nikon 50mm f/1.8G if you want a longer fast prime.
Nikon 85mm f/1.8G if you want a much longer fast prime.

Then after some more time, get one more from that list. Until you've got all four of them (35mm, 50mm, 85mm, and a standard range f/2.8 zoom). Then after that consider much wider and much longer lenses (so as to further extend the scope of your lens collection) such as the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 or the Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8

Building up your lens collection can often be quite a long term prospect :-) But it is in general a much better investment for the long term to make than getting a new body is. As lenses last a long time, while bodies depreciate quickly!

September 23, 2014 at 1:42AM

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David Peterson
Wedding Cinematographer
2307

Brilliant advice about the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 G versus D. I was not aware that the D version does not auto focus on the D5200 camera. I hadn't even thought about this until you pointed it out. Although video is my interest, your trade off comment is still spot on - now that you've explained it I am much more inclined towards the G version. Whether the lack of aperture ring becomes an issue (for filmmaking) I have no idea.

Based on your remaining comments I've now decided to go with the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G as soon as possible (by the end of this week hopefully). A great price secondhand would be nice - I'm looking on eBay! At the same time, or soon after, it will be the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G, again based on your comments! They've been really helpful.

Just slightly off topic (as it does not relate to specific lens selection but to using focus in practice) - I am assuming that the auto focussing capabilities of the G lenses (on the Nikon D5200) work for video as well as stills - so if I have a subject, stationary or moving, the auto focus will work by focussing and/ or tracking and focussing. In fact, for video, I suspect one would use manual focussing for all stationary scenes but might use tracking auto-focus where you have a moving subject within a relatively shallow depth of field (to avoid going out of focus).

September 23, 2014 at 5:56PM

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Kyri Saphiris
Filmmaker
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Check out Samyang, Bower, and Rokinon, you'll find them much cheaper than Nikkor, and very similar color rendition, sharpness, and performance

September 24, 2014 at 2:18PM

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David Sharp
Video Editor, Cinematographer, Teacher
398

I said this same thing and got hated on too!

Michael Militscher

September 27, 2014 at 11:17PM

Seems odd to be downvoted for this comment! But maybe it is because they're not really cheaper than vintage Nikon lenses! Check out for instance Nikon's E series, or their f/1.8D range. Very affordable and good lenses.

David Peterson

October 5, 2014 at 9:29PM

I use my old early 1980s vintage Nikon F primes that I used with my F3 bodies. I have a 35 mm and 50mm both f1.8. Beautiful video and stills with hose old lenses. you'll never want to use those D5200 kit lenses again. You can find those older F lenses used at camera stores for often less that $100.00

January 8, 2015 at 9:19PM

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Bill Moede Replay Media
Owner - Producer - Videographer
74

A bit late to this, but I thought I'd share something kind of different. I'm very sure that it's nowhere near as quality as a nikon prime, but I have the vivitar 28mm 2.8 close focus/wide angle (28xxxxx serial number/ made by komine), and I'm having fun with it (although mostly for photography). If anything, I think it might have some lens breathing, but I'm new and don't have anything to compare it to regarding that.

January 21, 2016 at 7:21PM, Edited January 21, 7:22PM

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Adam Hocutt
total, utter noob
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