November 11, 2014 at 11:07AM

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Lenses, lenses, lenses!

So I'm a newbie when it comes to the workings of DSLR cameras. I've had my Canon Rebel T3i for awhile now and I'm looking for some good lenses to invest in to start shooting video. I know a 50mm is the classic, go-to standby, but are there any others that are good to have in a basic kit? Thanks!

54 Comments

17-55mm f/2.8 IS ( good all purpose zoom lens that is image stabilized so it can be handheld )

85mm f/2.0 ( good for medium and tight close-ups )

November 11, 2014 at 5:37PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
30692

17-55 is ten best option and you have a good range of distance.

November 12, 2014 at 4:51AM

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Ragüel Cremades
Film producer and director
7599

I've heard good things about the Sigma 18-35 1.8. It's around £600/$800.

Also consider old M42 lenses - there are hundreds of them on ebay, they're cheap and can be used with a super-cheap adaptor. You have to manually focus but the focus rings are often super-smooth and have a nice 'drag' to them, rather than cheap modern lenses which can be knocked out of focus if someone breathes on them.

BTW, you mention 50mm being a go-to lens - don't forget that with the crop factor a 50mm is effectively an 80mm. If you're planning to shoot a lot in real locations (i.e. your home etc) then you may want something a little wider.

November 12, 2014 at 6:10AM

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Jon Mills
Filmmaker
743

I'll second Jon's comment about M42 lenses. There are a lot of great vintage Japanese and Soviet lenses just sitting around on ebay for very little money. What's even better is that many of them are just oozing with vintage character.

Rob Hardy

November 17, 2014 at 11:32PM

I would suggest, like everyone else, a 17-55mm or 17-50mm. Try and get something with a constant apeture like f/2.8, otherwise the long end of your zoom will get darker. Also if you can swing it get something that has Image Stabilization if you are doing any hand-held. As for crop factors don't get too hung up on them when looking at lenses.

If you are planning on adapting any old lenses check out this article.
http://www.bobatkins.com/photography/eosfaq/manual_focus_EOS.html

It covers what lenses work best to adapt to Canon EF mount.

November 12, 2014 at 11:07AM

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Kyle Acker
Cinematographer/ Video Editor
476

for canon,
16-35
24-70
70-200
easily the most used when I work with Canon.
It's also a good idea to get a couple primes such as a macro (I recommend the 100) and a 50.

November 12, 2014 at 11:55AM

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Brandon Kelley
DIT/Director
627

Like Jon said, M42 lenses (preferably Helios) are great vintage lenses that you can effectively/cheaply adapt to your canon, and they are all manual, how real film lenses should be. I have used about 10-20 M42 lenses on my T3i, and they work great.

November 12, 2014 at 2:22PM

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Christian Gentry
Director, Producer
53

I like the Sigma 50mm F1.4 its 400 dollars but its a good investment
or the Rokinon 85mm T1.5 it is also 400 dollars great for portraits

November 12, 2014 at 2:47PM

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Kevin Mayorga
Director of Photography
98

Hi everybody,
I have a question too. What do you think about using Canon FD lenses with EOS cameras (5D mkII). What about image quality through a converter? They are not so expensive and good quality lenses. Thank a lot ;)

November 12, 2014 at 3:19PM

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Robertas Muravskij
Director of Photography
74

Canon FD lenses will only work on a modern Canon camera by adding an optical converter ( which does not produce great results ) or by rebuilding the FD lens to an EF mount.

You are better off using old Nikon AI-S lenses as the converter is cheap, does not add any extra optics, and these lenses perform as good or better than the FD lenses do.

Guy McLoughlin

November 12, 2014 at 3:40PM

You can not actually use Canon FD lenses on the EOS mount due to the sensor to flange distance, you will not be able to reach infinity focus. You can go FD to EOS with an adapter with a lens in it to compensate, but these adapters usually create some other unwanted aspects to the image like softening or distortion. I recommend some older nikon ais primes over the Canon FD lenses if your on an EOS Canon mount.

Ryan O'Rourke

November 16, 2014 at 4:26PM

A guy on EBay (EdMika) makes converting kits that do not use optics. They involve removing the very back of the lens and attaching a new brass mount, but are fully reversable. It's a good option.

Michael Markham

November 16, 2014 at 5:35PM

Could someone suggest a vintage lens that is able to be mounted on a GH4 with relative ease? I would like to introduce some distortion and imperfection into the sterile and perfect footage natural to the GH4.

November 13, 2014 at 12:52AM

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Like someone said, Russian Helios lenses are great "imperfect" lenses. You will need a M42-M4/3 adapter, but that's it for them to work, I believe.

Olof Ljunggren

November 13, 2014 at 3:01AM

Thanks. I saw that post but he was specifically referring to adapting to EF mount. Thanks for clarifying that it can also be adapted to M4/3! Have you used a Helios before?

Alex Rollinson

November 13, 2014 at 4:26PM

Nikon Ai/Ai-s lenses are great! They have a beautiful look and are very high quality. I myself use a 35mm F/2 lens as my go-to on my GH2. It has a nice field-of-view.

Samuel Zerbato

November 14, 2014 at 5:05AM

What are people views on future proofing lenses? I have a T3i at the moment and don't want to invest in Canon L series lenses because I might not stick with Canon when I upgrade. I'm not in bad need of better lenses for now and just buy old all manual lenses when I want to try something new. That's ok but for photography the lack of AF can be a bit tedious (but also fun of course if you're playing around). So this seems silly to me. I want to get nice lenses that I can use to their max potential (AF for photography, aperture control) even if I switch brand. So I feel a bit stuck - I'm just waiting until I have the money to upgrade my camera.

November 13, 2014 at 12:21PM

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I'm not sure there's a simple answer to this - people tend to stick with one brand because it's what they've always used (unless they can afford to have a dozen cameras!).

All I would say is that provided you look after your lenses and keep all the receipts/warrantees etc they will keep their value. So worst case - you change to a different brand but you'll get 70-80% of your lens money back.

Jon Mills

November 14, 2014 at 2:42AM

Unfortunately I can't think of anything that meets all of those requirements. If you want good auto focus on your current Canon Camera, then L glass is your best option. And it holds its value well, and can easily be adapted to a wide variety of new cameras.

Michael Markham

November 16, 2014 at 5:40PM

I made the happy accident one day of finding a Nikkor NON-AI 50mm f/1.4 for $80 on ebay last year. I easily adapted it to my Canon T3i via a $12 add-on. It can be very soft wide open but I fell in love with it's low light abilities. I've since purchased an 85mm and 35mm Nikkor AIS, both at f/2. The AIS lenses do perform better wide open than the 50mm, but stopped down I'm really happy with all three. The focus pull is really long and smooth, the manual aperture ring is great for video, and since they are full manual lenses I've easily adapted them to a Sony a5100. I want to get the Nikkor 20mm f/2.8 and a lens with a focal length greater than 100mm next. I'm also considering slowly swapping them out one by one with Rokinon cine lenses in the Nikon mount. Full manual as well with click-less aperture rings.

The long-winded point I wanted to make is that by a happy accident I discovered a series of lenses that fit my needs and can easily be adapted to almost any camera system at a very reasonable cost.

Luis Cardenas

November 20, 2014 at 11:31PM

You basically have three options

1. Buy Canon compatible auto-focus lenses (doesnt have to be L lens, they make plenty of quality non-L options that are cheaper). If you move to another system, re-sell all your gear for 80% of what you paid

2. Buy Canon FD lenses and use edMikas converters to turn them into EF lenses: http://www.ebay.ca/sch/ed_mika/m.html. Still lacks auto-focus, but I'll get to that

3. But legacy glass (Nikon AI, etc) and use adapters.

For options #2 and 3, you'll want to install Magic Lantern on your camera and get VERY familiar with trap focus. While its not as fast or convenient as traditional auto-focus, it will allow you to shoot anything that basically isn't action sport or birds-in-flight. My suggestion would be to go option #3, as what you pay for the converters in option #2 isnt worth it

Chris Preperato

December 15, 2014 at 10:52AM

What are people views on future proofing lenses? I have a T3i at the moment and don't want to invest in Canon L series lenses because I might not stick with Canon when I upgrade. I'm not in bad need of better lenses for now and just buy old all manual lenses when I want to try something new. That's ok but for photography the lack of AF can be a bit tedious (but also fun of course if you're playing around). So this seems silly to me. I want to get nice lenses that I can use to their max potential (AF for photography, aperture control) even if I switch brand. So I feel a bit stuck - I'm just waiting until I have the money to upgrade my camera.

November 13, 2014 at 12:21PM

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Sorry for the double post - we need a report or delete option.

Sophia Smoloka

November 13, 2014 at 12:22PM

This all depends on your personal genre of photography.

Please note that on a T3i, you don't want a 50mm, you want a 35mm due to the sensor size. I absolutely love my 35mm Sigma f/1.4 ART. It's a beautiful piece of work and does a fantastic job.

If you love portraits, maybe you should invest in an 85mm (50 or 53mm with crop factor) lens. it's one of the most versatile lenses for shooting people. Since it's a prime, they can be very fast lenses. The focal length is most natural for portraits and registers the features on people's faces to be naturally proportionate.

If you love sweeping landscapes, consider something quite a bit wider, around 20mm or smaller in your case.

Sigma is a great builder, I strongly recommend looking at their prime lenses especially.

The most dangerous thing I believe a photographer can do, is attempt to be adept at all genres of photography. You've heard the saying "A man of many hats, but a master of none"? Think about what you really want to shoot and make a decision based on that. I used to think I enjoyed landscape photography, but I'm gradually becoming more of a portraitist. It's ok to know some of everything, but make sure you focus your learning on mastering one thing. Put your mark on it and become identifiable. A famous landscape photographer and friend of mine in southern UT specializes in the deserts of the south-west. He's that specific, and owns a gallery down there where people spend hundreds and thousands on his work. He's become a master in his trade, and told me he would have no idea how to shoot a person.

I wish you the best of luck! Search hard both inside yourself and in stores.

November 14, 2014 at 3:05AM

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Brandon Neubert
Color Artist / Writer / Director
728

To add to my reply, wider lenses tend to be better for video, but don't disregard telephoto lenses. I use a Nikkor 70-200 for interviews. Pick your genre.

November 14, 2014 at 3:06AM

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Brandon Neubert
Color Artist / Writer / Director
728

It depends upon your budget and shooting style. Zoom lenses or fixed focal lengths, like the 50mm?

One way to start is by renting lenses you think you might like. Check the chart on this page: http://digital-photography-school.com/where-to-rent-a-lens-online/
Adorama has a rental department too, and may credit your rental towards a purchase.

November 15, 2014 at 3:12AM

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Charlie K
1396

Hello. I got super excited about old Nikon lenses after seeing this video!
http://vimeo.com/38098309

My dream list of old Nikon lenses would be this:
-Nikon AI-S 24mm f2 (http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/2420.htm)
-Nikon AI-S 35mm f1.4 (http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/35f14ais.htm)
-Nikon AI-S 50mm f1.2 (http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/50mm-f12.htm)
-Nikon AI-S 85mm f1.4 (http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/85mm-f14.htm)
-Nikon AI-S 105mm f2.8, macro (http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/105mm-f28.htm)
-Nikon AI-S 135m f2.8 (http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/135f28.htm)

All of that less than 2000 euros from eBay! All you ever need (well maybe one ultrawide on top of those). Those are the best i could find, but there is many different combinations to make set cheaper.

+if you would like to save some money:
-Nikon AI-s 80-200mm f4 (http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/80200f4ais.htm)

These would stay with you whit all the new cameras that you would buy in the future!

See the video, read the reviews....

November 15, 2014 at 8:44AM, Edited November 15, 8:44AM

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Iiro Hokkanen
DP, Sound Designer, Music Producer
89

I can warmly recommend the Nikon AI-S lenses, I use both the 28mm f2.8 and the 50mm f1.2 on my GH4 with a Metabones Speedbooster, and I love them, the 50mm was used for about half the shots on the short film I'm currently working on, I got a teaser here if you wanna see what kind of look the lens gives: https://vimeo.com/111116514 (All shots except for the third shot and the wide shot at the end was shot with the 50mm)

November 16, 2014 at 10:47AM

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Simon A. Kristiansen
Producer/Director/Screenwriter
119

Hey! What is your budget? Zoom lenses are fine, but if you're looking for cheaper alternatives, try the old ones. There are plenty of old, but fast manual lenses, which can be used with an adaptor. Look after helios, old pentax, nikon, etc. lenses. You can get it for maybe 50 bucks.

November 16, 2014 at 4:15PM

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I always preferred the 50mm and 85mm. But then I shot a feature movie and the 35mm turned oft to be the most used lens. Its perfect for shot sizes from mid shots to closeups. Even for long shots and medium long shots...I worked on the epic with old analog Nikon lenses

November 16, 2014 at 4:28PM

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On a budget, you really cant go wrong with the samyang/rokinons.

get a 35/50/85 and youre pretty much wet, maybe another 18 for wides.

we have a zeiss cp2 set at work, but i got these for personal use and for its price, they pretty much are just as good

November 16, 2014 at 4:39PM

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Michael Van Ostade
Director
239

On a budget, you really cant go wrong with the samyang/rokinons.

get a 35/50/85 and youre pretty much wet, maybe another 18 for wides.

we have a zeiss cp2 set at work, but i got these for personal use and for its price, they pretty much are just as good

November 16, 2014 at 4:39PM

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Michael Van Ostade
Director
239

Look up M42 lenses on eBay and grab an m42 to ef-s adapter. You can find really cheap and good lenses that are old that have full manual capabilities. I have six different lenses that work well and I spent less than $150 dollars for all of them. Grab small ones that you think you need. That aps-c sensor size has a 1.6 crop factor and getting wides can be a pain in the butt because of it.

November 16, 2014 at 4:51PM

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I started with a Canon 550D (Rebel T2i) and had the exact same question. After reading some articles on the Internet I bought a Canon 50mm F1.4. Great lens but I wish did my homework better and read about crop factor. A 50mm lens on a cropped sensor like the T3i (anything other than full frame is cropped) ends up to be more like a 80mm lens. To get the 50mm look I bought a Sigma 30mm F1.4, It ended up being one of my favorite lenses (and still is).

I suggest looking at a prime lens with a large aperture. It forces you to do two things. 1) Because it's a fixed focal length you have to think about your framing and shot a little more 2) When you work at large apertures you'll learn to work that focus ring (and appreciate the skills of a focus puller). A large aperture prime also gives you more flexibility in terms of depth of field and low light capabilities.

Another consideration is EF or EFS - if you are going the Canon route. Investing in EFS lenses means you can't use it on a full frame camera (like the 5D etc). Also consider USM vs STM - the latest Canon STM lense are great when you want to use continuous auto focus (but don't sweat it - you'll learn to do without it). Lastly - if you are serious about this hobby - take it from me - rather save a little for a quality lens than making an impulse buy.

November 16, 2014 at 5:01PM

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Thank you so much!

Gabrielle Zurlo

November 17, 2014 at 4:32PM

I really enjoyed the Sigma 30mm on my T2i, it's definitely worth the $500 investment. Now I'm using a mark iii with the new Sigma 50 ART which is even better. If your willing to drop 1k on a lens I'd definitely recommend it.

November 16, 2014 at 5:02PM

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Joey Kopanski
Cinematographer
74

I like to use old lenses such as Caleb Pike explains here: https://vimeo.com/17805517
here: https://vimeo.com/38098309 and here: http://dslrvideoshooter.com/convert-photo-lenses-cinema-lenses/

I'm currently using a Carl Zeiss 85mm f/1.4, a Canon FD 50mm with the FD to EOS adapter from fotodiox with the optical element removed so it works as a macro lens (also got the Nifty Fifty for more common applications) and I've got an Olympus E Zuiko 200mm f/4 with a OM to EO adapter also from fotodiox.

Hope something like this works for you people :)

November 16, 2014 at 5:12PM

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Daniel Reyes
Filmmaker | Drone Camera Operator at rentaundron.com
96

Btw the Zeiss one is made for C/Y (Contax Yashica) so I'm using the C/Y to EOS adapter also from fotodiox...

Daniel Reyes

November 16, 2014 at 5:14PM

I have a T3i also and had the same idea to get a 50mm (prime 1.8 canon) to shoot my web serie, that was a real mistake! Since T3i sensor is croped you will get a 85mm field of view so in door you will need a lot of space to get a full body shoot.
Now I have a 28mm (also prime 1.8 canon) and now I can have about the 55mm field of view to shoot indoor scenes without so many closeups.
This lens is a little more expensive them the 50mm but will looks almost like a 50mm with the cropped sensor fact.

November 16, 2014 at 5:16PM

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Marcelo Teixeira
Director
74

24mm 1.4 a bit expensive but in my opinion worth every penny

November 16, 2014 at 5:19PM

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barbara
74

Take a look at the Sigma 30mm 1.4 or Nikor 28mm 2.0, both perfect as go-to lenses for crop sensor bodies like the T3i. As second lens I would suggest to take a look at something wider or more telephoto depending on your needs. A tokina 11-16 or Samyang 85mm would be a good choice. If you have more budget you can combine wide and 30mm-ish with the Sigma 18-35 1.8 off course, which is a great lens imho!

November 16, 2014 at 7:19PM, Edited November 16, 7:19PM

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Renze Boeren
Director / DP
74

I own nikon E serries lenses - made in the 80s as the AI-S serries, but they are Dirt cheap because they are made of plastic, a Much better plastic than today.

28mm f/2.8
50mm f/1.8
100mm f/2.8

This is all i ever need to shoot. Sometimes i slap on a Vivitar 19mm f/3.8 if need be.

November 17, 2014 at 3:07AM, Edited November 17, 3:07AM

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Patricijus Petrukonis
Cinematographer
147

Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 will be cheap and fine. It can give you good results for the videos at first.

November 17, 2014 at 6:05AM, Edited November 17, 6:05AM

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Semih
Assistant Director , Photographer
86

Hi!
I just bought the Walimex Pro/Rokinon/Samyang 35mm t 1.5 vdslr. I like this lens very much, it´s so sharp and clear! The vdslr version is great, ´cause it has a focus ring for follow focus.
This lens is fully manual, it means: no auto-focus, no auto-aperture. But you can change the aperture without "clicks" which is great to change the aperture while filming.
t 1.5 is the same like f 1.4, I think... That gives your a nice shallow depht of field.
You see, I love this lens! :-) (And in Germany I bought it for 300 €, this is a very cheap price for this awesome lens!)

November 17, 2014 at 8:40AM

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Dave Dennenmoser
freelance Filmmaker
86

This is a great lens for all of you landscape work.

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/554035-REG/Tokina_ATX116PRODXC_11_...

I love vintage lenses as well and you should check out Caleb Pikes Vintage Lens blog post. http://dslrvideoshooter.com/video-gear/lenses/vintage-manual/

Hope this helps!

November 17, 2014 at 6:33PM

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Chad Fortenberry
Director of Media Content
43

Totally agree! Great call. For the price it cant be beat.

Walter Wallace

November 18, 2014 at 7:28PM

i think the tokina is a must have if you are shooting super 35. it just works.

Kazu Okuda

November 19, 2014 at 10:51AM

when you're really ready to upgrade and dish out the money, you would probably want to get a new lens. my opinion on future proofing and also from my own experience.
if you do decide to pursuit this as your career, whatever you purchase now will not really be future proof.
to me a canon L lens quality is not future proofing. Nor is even a contax zeiss or a nikon zf.
they just breathe, and the focus pull is too short. even CP2's are so inexpensive to rent, i dont see the point purchasing it either.
future proofing is a set of superspeeds pl mount.
that will be around and work for a long time.
even 40 year old superspeeds are still circulating regularly at rental houses.
So my opinion. Buy the best you can get right now and Shoot!
if you just wait and wait. you'll never get started

good luck!

November 17, 2014 at 10:03PM, Edited November 17, 10:02PM

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Kazu Okuda
Filmmaker
1321

this blog blew up because of timing and it was great. ryan koo to me was one of the early adopters and pioneers of dslr video communities.
i learned a lot. i purchased my first camera after reading is cinematography guide.
Even though the site wasn't always updated, i loved his writing. Because it read as if it was research of his own. i don't blame him for not being involved as much. He's grown up and he's busy. It happens with many successful business, sites, communities, groups, etc...
there's nothing wrong with it

November 17, 2014 at 10:07PM

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Kazu Okuda
Filmmaker
1321

sorry please delete previous comment that was for another article

thanks

November 17, 2014 at 10:08PM

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Kazu Okuda
Filmmaker
1321

Here are the three lenses you need for film if you are on a budget. Tokina 11-16 2.8, Tameron 17-50 2.8, Sigma 70-200 EX 2.8. You can get all three lenses for under $1500 and they put out great quality for the price.

November 18, 2014 at 7:27PM

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Walter Wallace
Spokesperson/Entrepreneur
1135

Honestly I recommend a Nikon mount of these lenses, Nikon mount because they can be adapted to any mount in existance and you should never have to get rid of them.

Tokina 28-70 2.6-2.8 : Based on Angeniux Cinema glass and can be had for less than $400, creamy cinematic look.

Nikon 28-70 2.8D : Paul Greengrass lens of choice, sharp, low distortion. You can find it with broken AF (Which you don't need for filmmaking anyway) also for under $400 if you check ebay and used lens sites.

December 14, 2014 at 5:37PM

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Geoff C. Bassett
Director of Photography
169

I use the 18-200, 3.5-6.3 that came with my Sony FS700. I have some faster Nikon lenses that i could use but having that versatility is too amazing to put down.

December 18, 2014 at 8:26PM

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Tim McDermott
Video Editor / Digital Content Creator
127

I've only been using "non-electric" macro extension tubes. They are just great!

Question, Is a set of extenders that can still use functionality through the camera worth the $100.00?

January 2, 2015 at 6:15PM

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Gary Ewing
Short Film Screenwriter, Photographer, Director.
144

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