Join Anthony Q. Artis for an in-depth discussion in this video Choosing between prime, servo, and manual zoom lenses, part of Pro Video Tips.
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So in this movie, I want to compare manual zoom lenses, servo zoom lenses, and prime lenses, and talk about some of the practical considerations of shooting with each. So let's start off with prime lenses. Prime lenses, of course are any lens that has a fixed focal length, 35 millimeter, 50 millimeter or 85 millimeter lenses are all popular choices for prime lenses. Now, what's great about prime lenses is that they're really fast, in other words, good in low light.
They're also pretty light weight and they look gorgeous. And for the price, they can't be beat. It's one of the least expensive, highest quality type of lenses that you can get. However, the one big limitation to prime lenses is that they require you to keep changing lenses or to move the camera if you want to recompose your shot, since they have fixed focal lengths. So you can shoot a close up, medium, or wide shot with any prime lens. You just have to move the camera to recompose the shot. Now, zoom lenses on the other hand, allow you to get all up in there without having to keep moving the camera.
My personal preference and most unpredictable running gun cases, is for a good zoom lens with a decent range, that doesn't suck up too much light. Now as I've said before, I've long been a big fan of the convenience, smoothness, and speed of shooting with the servo zoom on a fixed lens camera like the Sony EX1 or this Panasonic HPX17. But, when I recently decided to move up to the Canon C100, I had to give up my precious servo zoom motor.
For the more valuable ability to swap out lenses, shoot with prime lenses, and have the option, whenever the budget allowed, to rent top of the line cinema lenses, which offer the absolute best image quality available. The budget doesn't allow as often as I'd like. But to be clear, I only had to give up, my smooth server zoom motor. You can still use zoom lenses with interchangeable lens cameras, of course, you'll just be shooting, on manual zooms. Not motorized zoom lenses. While they don't have servo motors, manual zooms like this one, are still generally preferable to prime lenses for fast paced documentary shooting, or you may still prefer a zoom for narrative work any time you just have a low budget limited crew, or just don't have the time to keep moving the camera and swapping out lenses.
The obvious advantage of a zoom whether you're talking servos or manual zooms for documentary work is that it's faster to change compositions, and it doesn't require nearly as much hustle to get a series of close ups, mediums and wide shots in a short period of time so you can get. A lot of coverage and a little bit of time using the zoom lens. However, one downside to zoom lenses are that they generally tend to be heavier. This thing here is about eight pounds so I could probably do a couple of reps and I'd put on a little bulk before the end of this tutorial. These are also, more expensive and they're generally not as good in the light as prime lenses.
So, I think zooms versus primes is really just a matter of personal preference. It's going to vary by style, by stamina, and by subject matter. But, it doesn't at all have to be an either/or choice. If there's enough breaks in the action, I'll often use both zooms and prime lenses before the day is out, or, I'll freely switch back and forth as the situation, or shot dictates, at the particular time. So let's just take a quick look at the general pros and cons of each type of lens, starting off with the servo zooms.
Now, Servo Zooms are going to offer quicker framing, they're going to be smoother, and a big plus is that, in many cameras, you can adjust the exact speed to where you want it. The downside of servo zooms is that they are generally only available for fixed lens prosumer cameras or high-end big-budget ENG cameras. Also, servo zoom lenses on these fixed lens prosumer cameras, generally don't tend to be of the highest quality. They aren't bad. They just aren't, of the highest quality. And they can also be a little heavier.
Now when it comes to manual zooms, the big pro of manual zooms is you can frame shots a lot quicker than you can with primes. Also, manual zooms generally offer higher quality glass so you can get better optics in a manual zoom than you can with the servo zooms that come with tha pros from the cameras. The. The downside is that they're not as smooth and the speed is controlled manually and they're also more expensive. And, as I said before, they tend to be a lot heavier, which I think is one of the biggest downsides. I don't think I would want this on a handheld camera for a long day of shooting.
Now, prime lenses are, more affordable. They also are faster as in their better with low light and they tend to be more light weight. The only real downside to prime lenses is that they're just a little less versatile because you had to switch them out to change compositions or move the camera. So, regardless of what type of work you do or what camera you shoot with, what I think is most important is that you understand the technical, aesthetic and practical limitations and advantages of each type of lens and think it through, before you shoot.