Roundup: 5 Budget Zoom Lenses for Beginning Filmmakers
When you’re just starting out as a filmmaker, an affordable zoom lens can be your best friend. Here are our picks for the best lenses for beginners.
For those just diving into the world of filmmaking and video production, a solid zoom lens can be a powerful tool with your digital camera of choice. Unlike fixed, or prime, lenses, a zoom lets you change focal length while remaining stationary. It’s a great choice for documentary and run-and-gun projects when you need to get shots quickly.
There are, of course, some high-end options that would be better for professionals looking to make a long term investment. For those just starting off, however, an affordable zoom as your main lens is a great way to go. Let’s look at five options that will help get you started.
1. Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 — $299
This is a personal favorite of mine, but only for the right cameras. The Tamron 17-50mm was an ideal choice for my Canon 7D for years, as the crop factor basically pushed the lens to a 26-78mm range. Like many of the options on this list, it’s light, with a lot of plastic, but with powerful results. Its f/2.8 maximum aperture was ideal for run-and-gun filmmaking when I wanted to keep things fast with a beautifully shallow depth of field. (Note: this lens is not compatible with full-frame (35mm size) sensor cameras.)
2. Canon 55-250mm f/4-5.6 — $299
One of Canon’s most versatile offerings, the EF-S 55-250mm IS STM telephoto lens has a ridiculous focal length, which is great for photography and documentary filmmaking. Its maximum aperture ranges from f/4 to f/5.6, with 3.5 equivalent stops of shake correction in its optical image stabilization technology. The lens, while long, is surprisingly compact and lightweight for run-and-gun filmmaking.
3. Nikon 70-300mm f/4-5.6 — $172
Similar to Canon’s fantastic offering, Nikon has its own affordable ultra-zoom option with focal length ranges from 70-300mm (or 105-450mm on DX-format cameras). While this lens is mostly marketed at photographers, it is a powerful tool for beginner filmmakers looking to shoot weddings and events or capture footage from afar. It’s a much more affordable option than the industry-standard macro-zooms by Canon (which you can read more about here).
4. Panasonic 45-150mm f/4.0-5.6 — $249
A strong compatible option for Panasonic’s Lumix GH4, GH5, and GH5s, the Lumix G Vario 45-150mm ASPH is a great zoom lens for any micro four-thirds mirrorless camera. Built as a 45-150mm, the crop equivalent is roughly 90-300mm of focal length range — with its maximum aperture moving from the f/4 to f/5.6 (which is pretty much standard for these budget price points). The lens utilizes Panasonic’s MEGA OIS — optical image stabilization — for sharper imagery when operating handheld or on other run-and-gun rigs.
5. Sigma 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 — $549
One of the best options for smaller-sized sensor filmmaking (in this case, designed with Canon’s APS-C sensor and EF mount in mind), Sigma’s 18-250mm lens has got you covered from wide to telephoto. With such a long focal length range (18-250mm), the Sigma stays at four inches long with a maximum aperture that opens up as wide as f/3.5 to f/6.3 at full zoom. Like many offerings on the list, Sigma uses its own image stabilization technology to help with shake when adding movement and motion to your camera.
Cover image by lOvE lOvE.
For more lenses and gear roundups, check out some of these articles.