The incredible optics of DSLR cameras may have originally been intended for photographic use but ever since the Nikon D90 became the first DSLR in 2008 to shoot video, the world of videography has never been the same.
The explosion in popularity of using DSLRs to record video created an insatiable demand for high quality, high-performance lenses that were optimized for recording instead of shooting. While the base technology is reasonably similar between photographic lenses and video lenses, there are some significant differences that make some lenses better for video than others. In this guide, we will be looking for three main features in each lens that make them suitable for shooting video.
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When you are shooting video there are many situations that you will encounter that do not allow you to perfectly set up the focus beforehand. There will be moving objects and dynamic subjects that require attention at different portions of the shot. The ability to quickly, and seamlessly transition between two focal points is one of the defining features of a good DSLR video lens, and every lens.
When shooting a still photo you can get away without using a tripod much of time (providing the lighting conditions are good enough). You simply adopt the proper stance, control your breathing and take the shot. With video, however, this is not the case, and you will struggle to control your breathing and keep a good stance during the entire duration of the shot. This can result in noticeable wobble, and drastically reduces the quality of the video captured. A good video lens should have robust and effective image stabilization technology built into it to reduce the impact of wobble.
The final factor that is incredibly important for shooting video on a DSLR is the noise of the lens. For lenses that are mainly designed for photography instead of videography, this is not really a variable that needs to be taken into account (because obviously, photographs don’t have sound). But videos do have sound, and because the microphone on a DSLR is in close proximity to the lens, the slightest noise from the lens motor can be picked up by the microphone easily. While this can be used to creative effect in a few cases, generally lens noise is unwanted. We like to see a very quiet, or even a silent lens if it is going to be classed as acceptable for use for shooting video.
Canon was almost the first brand to release video on a DSLR with the D5 Mk2 but was just beaten by Nikon who got there first. Despite losing the race to be the first video capable DSLR, they have gone on to create some of the finest lenses for DSLR videographers in the world.
Today we are going to look at some of Canons best lenses that are suitable for professional videographers, and amateur enthusiasts alike.
The Absolute Best Canon Video Lens – EF-S 18-135mm
Just like with photography, the kind of lens you should get for video get depends on what you are mainly going to use it for. Some are better suited to some styles of videography, and some are better suited to other styles.
We are going to start off this list with a good all rounder. The Canon EF-S is a f/3.5-5.6 18-135mm lens that is on of the best canon lenses for video and is adaptable to most situations. There are other specific lenses that perform better in specific situations, but most of them do not have anywhere near the versatility of the EF-S. It’s a mid-range lens that produces excellent clarity and produces very sharp images.
To be honest, compared to some of the other lenses you are going to see on this list the EF-S is probably one of the slowest. Being an all-rounder, it’s a good at a whole range of things but is not really excellent in many. You will be able to adequately switch focus between different subjects, and you’re not going to be “disappointed” with the speed, it’s perfectly fine. But if we are being picky, it could be a little bit faster.
Despite Canon using the same (or at least very similar) image stabilization technology in most of their lenses, the amount of wobble reduction can vary between their different products significantly. The EF-S is one of the better lenses in this respect. While you are stationary you’re not going to notice much wobble at all (providing you have a reasonably good stance and technique). While shooting on the move it is slightly lacking, and struggles compensate enough to provide full stabilization. This being said, it’s perfectly acceptable and is the kind of quality you would expect from a great all rounder lens like this.
Again when it comes to noise, the EF-S does the job well enough – but there is room for improvement. It’s not a silent motor, and you can certainly hear it audibly focusing when shooting the video (albeit reasonably quietly). An interesting point is that on the actual playback of the video it is much quieter than you would expect after hearing it in person. You can easily notice the noise it makes in perfectly silent situations (like interviews for example), but if there is even a modicum of background noise, you will not be able to hear it at all.
The EF-S is one of those lenses that is at home in a wide range of different situations. It can easily be used for stationary shots or shots on the move, but It’s not going to excel at either of them. The one limitation of this lens is when you are shooting interviews in a quiet, controlled environment. If you have the subject in focus and are not planning on moving the camera it will be fine, but if you are planning on doing zoom in and zoom out shots – it could be a little bit too noisy for your requirements.
The EF-S is a great Canon DSLR video lens for people who are a little unsure about what kind of video they want to shoot. If you are just looking for a good solid lens that will be able to operate adequately in a wide range of situations then this is for you. However, if you know that you are going to be doing a large amount of a specific style of shooting, then perhaps something a little more niche would suit your needs better.
The Second Best Canon Lens For Video – Canon 10-18mm
This is one of the newer lenses on this list (but is still 3 years old), and it’s one that we love. We were a little unsure about it when it was first released, but over time its become one of our best Canon lenses for video.
This is a 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 wide angle lens that can be used in a variety of situations but excels at taking dramatic wide shots. Like all the lenses on this list, it is incredibly clear, crisp and produces very sharp images.
As you would expect, this lens has Canons ultra effective image stabilization technology built into it. This makes it great for handheld shots, and significantly reduces wobble and blur. It not the most advanced image stabilization we have seen, and there is certainly room for improvement. But inadequate lighting conditions, your shots will be stable enough to not need a tripod.
Because this is a reasonably slow lens it’s inherently not great in low light settings. This is exacerbated when not used with a tripod, and the image stabilization struggles to mitigate this like other lenses can.
This is a light speed lens that will focus on a target incredibly quickly. It’s great for dramatic action packed shots that contain large amounts of movement and variable subjects. The transition between focal points is smooth and gentle, and there is minimal focus “hunting” in most situations.
One of the best things about this lens is just how quiet it is. It contains Canons much-loved STM technology, which basically makes it silent. You can very faintly hear the lens focusing when you are actually shooting the shot, but when you come to play the video back the motor is not audible at all.
While this lens can be used in a wide range of situations, it is very well suited for shooting dramatic open landscapes. The wide-angle nature of the lens allows you to get every last bit of subject matter into a shot with ease. When this is combined with the super quiet nature of the lens it opens up a whole range of creative possibilities (for example a quiet countryside scene with a dramatic zoom).
This is our go to lens for landscape shots, it’s arguably one of the best Canon DSLR lens for video with a wide angle. But despite this specialty, it’s still quite a general purpose lens that will be suitable in many situations. So it’s not going to gather dust waiting for a very specific situation to arise. Highly recommended.
The Third Best Canon Video DSLR Lens – Canon 40mm
This is one of the smallest lenses on this list, in fact, its one of the smallest lenses in the world. The Canon 40mm is a f/2.8 pancake lens that is one of the best Canon video DLSR lenses where portability is important.
Ok, this is the main issue with this lens. It doesn’t have any inbuilt image stabilization. However, because this is a pancake lens we have given it a pass on this section (It is very rare to find a pancake lens with image stabilization). If you want the extreme portability of a pancake lens, then this is a trade off you are going to have to make – regardless of the brand you choose. It’s much better to use this lens with a tripod, but with a proper stance you can still get some great handheld (short) shots.
This lens can focus incredibly quickly. Changing targets or focal points within a scene while shooting is not going to cause any problems whatsoever. Great for dynamic shots that have a large amount of movement in them. It works brilliantly in low light conditions thanks to the fast speed of the lens and can focus accurately in all but the darkest lighting conditions.
This lens also uses Canons STM motor system to drive the focusing apparatus. It’s very quiet – but it’s not silent. You may just about hear it in near silent situations when playing back the video, but it’s not going to detract from the shot.
Because of the lack of image stabilization this lens is best used with a tripod, which presents a little bit of a dilemma for us. The best bit about pancake lenses is that they are so darn portable. They are ideal for people who like to travel a lot, and for people who like to slip the camera in their coat pocket when they leave the house. But these benefits are hindered slightly by the “requirement” for a tripod.
We would say this is a one of the best Canon video DSLR lens for people who have a reasonable amount of photographic experience that will benefit from the portable nature of a pancake lens. If you are able to hold a steady stance and control your breathing correctly, it’s possible to take some great stable shots with this product. But if you are a little less experienced, it may be worth sacrificing some of the portability to get a larger lens that has image stabilization built into it.
The Fourth Best Video Lens For Canon – Canon 24-105mm f/4 IS
If you have shaky hands, or your stance is not quite right – then this could be the lens for you. The 24-105mm f/4 has some of the best image stabilization technology we have ever seen. It also packs a great zoom which can create stunning dynamic shots. It’s a little bit slow as far as lenses go, and as such it’s better suited to daylight conditions. Its one of the best video lens for Canon that money can buy.
As we already said, this lens is the king of image stabilization. When extended to the maximum zoom of the lens the difference it makes is incredible. It’s almost like you are using a tripod. The additional benefit of the excellent image stabilization is that it compensates slightly for the lacking low light capabilities of the lens. Meaning you can shoot in darker places better than other faster lenses that do not have great image stabilization technology.
We have no complaints about the focus speed of this lens. It’s not the quickest lens in the world, but it’s not the slowest either. It’s more than good enough for most situations. But if you are shooting an incredibly dynamic scene (like wildlife shots for example), then you may need to get something a little faster.
The main downside to this lens is that it is reasonably noisy when focusing. You will hear it when shooting the video, and unfortunately, you will probably hear it when playing the video back too. Even if you have a little background noise it is still audible.
This is a great lens for people who like to shoot video on the move. The image stabilization is arguably some of the best in the world, and you will be able to capture exciting, dynamic, moving shots without using a rig. The low light capabilities do limit the potential uses slightly, but it can produce great results in shadowy conditions. It’s only after the sun has nearly set that things start to get a little bit blurry.
This is one of the best lens for Canon DLSR video that performs well in a wide range of conditions (except night). But the lens motor noise makes it a little too noisy to be used on a set. But we recommend it to anyone that is planning on doing lots of shooting outside of controlled environments.
The Fifth Best canon DSLR lenses for video – Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8
We have mentioned that most of the other lenses on this list are not ideal for shooting in interview situations. They all seem to have one thing or another wrong with them that makes them weaker than they should be. For the final lens on our list, we have picked one that is one of the best Canon DSLR lenses for video use (in controlled quiet interview situations).
This lens has similar performance in terms of image stabilization as the 24-105mm lens we talked about above. It is incredibly stable and is more than capable of reducing the wobble caused by even the most amateur of photographers. This means you can do on the spot interviews with anyone, anywhere – without the need for a tripod. Its fast f/2.8 rating means that it is already going to be a great camera to take low light shots with. When you combine this fast lens with its awesome image stabilization technology you end up with excellent low light performance.
As you would expect from Canon, the focus speed on this lens is very quick. This is probably the quickest focusing lens on this entire list. You will be able to switch between different subjects with ease at a moment’s notice. We have never heard of any instances of lens hunting, and it can be relied upon to shoot dynamic moving shots as well as static interview situations.
This is one of the reasons why we think this lens is perfectly suited for shooting interviews. Even against the silent background of a controlled indoor interview environment, you cannot hear the motor in this lens at all. While shooting, and while playing the video back your shot will silently zoom in and out of the subject as if by magic.
If you have a little bit of experience with photography, it is quite an unnatural feeling, to be honest. The first few times you will wonder if the lens is working properly because you don’t get the audible feedback you are probably used to hearing from other more noisy lenses. This lens gets top marks in this section, a perfect score.
As we have already mentioned, this lens is best suited for interview situations. The silent zoom combined with the above average image stabilization technology allows for a wide range of creative options. However, it’s not just a one-trick pony, and this lens can also be used in a variety of situations. It is particularly good at capturing low light shots, so if you like to get the warm sunset or sunrise light in your shots, or if you shoot a lot of indoor evening events – this could be the lens for you.
One of the best lenses for interviews that money can buy, it’s a really good Canon lens for video. It’s hyper quick focusing and its silent motor make it perfectly adapted to the quiet controlled environments that many interviews are conducted in. We also love the fact that this lens is so fast, the low light capabilities ensure it is usable in a wide range of situations and can be a great all round workhorse if needed.
So there you have it. A wide range of Canon video lenses for DSLR cameras that can be used in a variety of different situations. Whichever lens you choose from this list, you are sure to be in good hands. It’s rare for Canon to make a product which does not live up to expectations.
If you are unsure of what you are going to be shooting we highly recommend your first lens for video should be one of the all round workhorses we mentioned. You can then get a feel for the kind of shots you like to take, and then buy a more specialized lens if required at a later date.
So what are you waiting for…
Lights, Camera, Action!
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