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Video-Friendly Lenses for Lumix DSLRs
  • Although a wide variety of lenses can be adapted for use with Lumix DSLRs, most still photography lenses have subtle drawbacks that make them less suitable for video shooting, regardless of the quality of the images they can capture. In order to shoot consistent, production-quality footage, it's often desirable to mount a DSLR and lens on a rig that provides traditional movie camera features:

    * Stabilization and control of camera movement
    * Matte box shading of camera lens
    * Direct, tactile control of lens aperture
    * Follow focus control of lens focus

    Lenses that adapt well to these requirements will possess a combination of subtle features that are often omitted from manufacturers' data sheets and overlooked in published reviews. While vintage lenses provide full manual controls, their compact, old-school design often makes them unsuitable for use on a rig. At the other extreme, modern trends in auto-focus lens design have eliminated a number of manual lens features that remain essential to videographers. In many cases, the most usable lenses for video come from early generations of auto-focus lenses that combined vintage manual controls with modern lens design.

    Here's my list of features that make a lens video-friendly:

    * Manual aperture ring
    * Direct-coupled focus ring
    * Proper focus ring rotation
    * Non-rotating outer barrel (internal focus)
    * Non-extending outer barrel (internal zoom/focus)
    * Constant field of view
    * Constant f-stop aperture
    * Rotational zoom ring

    While few lenses possess all the above features, a good video lens will make up for any deficiencies with solid performance in other aspects.

    * Manual aperture ring

    Lenses that lack a manual aperture ring are problematic for video.

    Vintage manual-focus lenses all have manual aperture rings, and most can be set to an auto-iris mode for in-camera control of aperture in shutter-priority mode. Many auto-focus lenses have eliminated the manual aperture ring, relying entirely on camera controls to set aperture in manual mode. This includes all Lumix, Zuiko Digital, Canon EOS, and Nikon G-type auto-focus lenses, as well as most currently manufactured lenses by Tokina, Tamron, and Sigma.

    * Direct-coupled focus ring

    Lenses with an electronic focus ring are problematic for video.

    While all auto-focus lenses can be manually focused, not all of them are truly manual. The focus rings on Lumix, Zuiko Digital, and many Sigma HSM lenses are not directly coupled to the lens' internal focusing mechanisms. As a result, their focus rings continue to rotate uselessly beyond max and min focus limits. Lenses like this cannot be used on rigs with follow focus attachments, since focus ring position is completely uncalibrated.

    * Proper focus ring rotation

    Lenses with contrary focus ring rotation are problematic for video.

    When mounted on a rig with a follow focus attachment, the focus ring rotation of the lens will determine the rotation direction of the follow focus wheel. Regardless of which side of the lens the FF wheel is mounted on, it's important that focus-pulling direction be consistent among all lenses used on the rig.

    With Lumix, Zuiko, EOS, and Sigma lenses, infinity focus is at the counter-clockwise end of focus ring rotation. With Nikon and Pentax lenses, infinity focus is at the clockwise end of focus ring rotation. Tokina, Tamron, and Samyang/Rokinon lenses are usually built with the appropriate focus ring rotation for each type of lens mount. Sigma lenses, however, always rotate in the Lumix direction, regardless of the lens mount. For follow focus use, I prefer lenses that rotate in the Nikon direction because it pulls focus closer as I rotate the FF wheel toward me.

    * Non-extending outer barrel

    Lenses with an extending outer barrel are problematic for video.

    Most zoom lenses, both manual and auto-focus, are designed with outer lens barrels that extend when the lens is zoomed and/or focused. While the barrels on most vintage prime lenses do not rotate, they usually extend when focused. A lens whose length changes can be awkward to use on a rig with a matte box.

    * Non-rotating outer barrel

    Lenses with a rotating outer barrel are problematic for video.

    Most vintage zoom lenses are built with the focus ring on the outer lens barrel. This causes any attached lens filter to rotate as the lens is focused, making these lenses unsuitable for use with polarizer and anamorphic attachments. Most modern auto-focus lenses use internal focusing mechanisms that avoid these issues.

    * Constant field of view

    Lenses that breathe noticeably while focusing are problematic for video.

    The focal length of almost all lenses will change slightly as the lens is focused. This effect, known as "lens breathing", alters the framing of a shot when pulling focus, making the lens appear to zoom as well as shift focus. This can ruin a shot if it is noticeable enough to be distracting.

    * Constant f-stop aperture

    Lenses with variable f-stops are problematic for video.

    On many zoom lenses, the actual aperture will vary when the lens is set at its widest f-stops. This will cause zooming at wide f-stops to visibly affect exposure settings, which can ruin a video clip.

    * Rotational zoom ring

    Lenses with push-pull zoom rings are problematic for video.

    Virtually all modern zoom lenses use individual focus and zoom rings. Many vintage zoom lenses were designed with a combined zoom/focus ring which zooms by sliding along the length of the lens barrel. Lenses like this are usually impractical to use on rigs with follow focus attachments.

    In the next post I've reviewed a list of video-friendly manual-focus lenses that I've found well-suited for use with Lumix DSLRs. In addition, you can find a list of auto-focus zoom lenses for Lumix DSLRs at the following link:
  • 210 Replies sorted by
  • I'm not sure the 20mm support AFC. Here's the compatibility reference that I use...nothing there for GH5, yet.

  • Did anyone rank the AFC quality on the 14mm 2.5 and 20mm 1.7? I would think that qualifies as a fast lens for low light shooting.

  • Someone using Sigma 28-105mm f2.8-4 with GH2?

    Please, share some opinion and samples!

  • Ok fine. I asked about brightness as in many respects it determines whether a lens is friendly or not for video.

    Anyway, here is another lens that along with the Canon FD 35-105mm, has also been referred to as a "stack of primes": SMC Pentax-A 35-105mm f/3.5 constant aperture"stack of primes" lens.

    On the downside though, it physically extends when zooming. (info provided to me by someone else):

    First ring, closest to camera is aperture ring. The next ring allows zooming from 35-105mm. The final ring controls the focus from 1.5m to infinity and also in macro mode. Apart from lens extending issue, great for video as suffers from minimal focus breathing

    Length of lens at 35mm and infinity = 98mm (from mount flange) Length of lens at 105mm and infinity = 107mm Length of lens at 105mm and closest macro = 120mm

  • Oops! If further 35-105mm discussion is needed, we can make a new thread on it.

  • @all

    Check LPowell notes.

    This topic is for making good list of video friendly lenses and with very tight discussion restrictions. Do not turn it in all-in-one.

  • @JuMo Thanks for the reading about the calibration process. i'm buying the Speedbooster specially for the 35-105mm and the FD 85mm f1.8.

  • @Qadri I use a metabones speedbooster, so the 35-105mm becomes a 24-75mm f2.5, so that extra stop of light and that extra width in FOV really helps for indoors.

    The Panny 35-100mm would be longer focal length and slightly darker (when compared to the FD with Speedbooster), plus the focus ring on the Panny is focus-by-wire, which you may or may not want.

    Personally, I like the character of older glass, and I like using my Speedbooster on all my FD lenses, but that's entirely a personal decision. To each their own!

  • Thanks JuMo. But if it's really expensive then I guess one could just go for the Panasonic 35-100mm f2.8 constant aperture instead?

    How do you find f3.5 on the Canon on video indoors (evening time)? Probably safe to say that you would not want to go over ISO 400 on the G6 to maintain picture quality.

  • @xenogears, @HillTop1 Unfortunately the calibration process is not as easy as setting back focus on ENG lenses (which usually just entails turning a screw) - you'll probably need rails and a lens support bracket, or at least SOME way to keep your lens supported horizontally when you do this.

    Rather than write up the process myself (I'm super busy today) I'm going to copy and paste a post by @Balazer made on the mflenses forum that describes the process pretty well (thanks Balazer!), and is where I learned to do it:

    "To make the Canon FD 35-105 mm f/3.5 lens be parfocal, more than likely you need to adjust the back focus (lens-to-flange distance), and nothing else.

    Just in front of the aperture ring is a black plastic ring with "35-105mm" in green letters, an orange line, and a serial number in white. It has three Phillips head screws with the heads painted black. Remove the three screws. The black plastic ring can now slide forward, revealing four more Phillips head screws. With the lens pointed downwards, loosen those four screws. They'll be tight, so push in with a lot of force so that you don't strip the heads while removing them. With those four screws loosened, the lens's mount and aperture ring are free to slide up and down. If you didn't have the lens pointed downward, the mount could slide off completely, leaving you to figure out how to slide it back on. So don't remove it. You just want to be able to slide it up and down a bit, and then re-tighten the screws when you have it in the right position.

    Mount the lens to your camera. Set the aperture to the widest setting and the zoom to the maximum. Focus on a distant object. Set the zoom to the minimum, and adjust the lens-to-flange distance until the picture has sharp focus. Note that with the four screws loosened, the mount can tilt, so be careful to keep the mount's axis aligned with the lens's axis while you're making your adjustments. If in doubt, check for equal focus at the four corners of the image. Repeat these steps until no further adjustment of the lens-to-flange distance is required to have sharp focus across the zoom range with the focus ring in the same position. Re-tighten the four screws that hold the mount in place. You'll want them to be quite tight, as they are supporting the lens's entire weight."

    @Quadri check out Metabones Speedbooster (google it), saving you the technical details, basically it's voodoo magic for your lenses - it makes them wider and brighter. It's not cheap, though there are some cheaper variations coming out of China (Mitakon is one), but it's an investment worth considering if you're serious about using older manual lenses on a M4/3 camera.

  • Thanks Jumo, and what's the "speed booster"? (sorry for my ignorance).

    Yes, I'll be using it on my G6 for interviews/podcasts at the short end and conferences at the long end so great to hear that. I'll be Indoors most of the time with not so great lighting.

    The Panasonic zooms are quite slow at the long end so going for this as no alternative.

    Costing me about $100 in excellent condition (no caps and will have to get them myself. No case or hood either). Can't seem to find it cheaper.

  • @JuMo also interested in reading how to calibrate the FD 35-105mm for parfocal please.

  • @JuMO How is the calibration process that you describe for the Canon FD 35-105mm?, greetings.

  • @Qadri I use this lens a lot with both my GH2 and my BMPCC, especially with my Speed Booster. With some careful calibration, the 35-105 is parforcal (it takes about 30 minutes to an hour to calibrate it properly if it's not set right). With the regular speed booster it has the light transmission qualities of an f2.5 lens and an FOV range of 24mm equivalent to 75mm equivalent. Pretty awesome for interviews.

  • It's a nice zoom that has constant aperture and two-touch zoom, so you can adapt the framing slowly and elegantly. Can still be found cheap, so why not go for it?

  • Thought I would see a bit more said here on the Canon FD 35-105mm f3.5 constant aperture.

    I can think of another zoom suitable for the M43 at a longer length even quite similar to this?

    I'll be using it for videoing conferences so need something a bit long that is flexible (where I cannot dictate where the tripod will go), so trying to avoid having 3 primes instead. Don't think it has to go as high as 105mm.

    A bit concerned about how f3.5 will be indoors in conference hall but hoping it will be sufficient.

    May use for casual photography too.

    Any views on this lens and on alternatives?

  • I've got a question about use of manual lenses in general. Why do my Canon FD lenses colour shift when I start recording on GH3? Its not even just colour shift but it seems to make a gamma shift as well. The Panasonic lenses don't do this. It can sometimes make people's faces really orange in low-light even when the WB is set quite low

  • @dreinz: I’m surprised nobody ever answered that here (unless I overlooked it) and I hope I’m not too late if you wanted to make a buying decision:

    Canon FD 50mm f/1.4

    • Manual aperture ring: Yes
    • Direct-coupled focus ring: Yes
    • Proper focus ring rotation: No
    • Non-rotating outer barrel: Yes
    • Non-extending outer barrel: No
    • Constant field of view: Yes
  • Has anyone tried the Tamron SP AF 17-35mm F2.8-4 Di LD IF? I know it's not constant aperture, but it covers a nice range for the GH2 and seems to have OK reviews.

  • I have a question about Sigma 30mm f/1.4 D EX DC HSM:

    I know this lens works great with Kipon EOS to m4/3 adapter, but if the lens is with Nikon mount, then how to get manual focus and manual aperture with GH2?

    Anyone using Sigma 30mm f1.4 for Nikon with GH2?

  • Thanks LPowell for the list. Very informative.

    Can anyone comment on zoom/focus rings of Tamron 17-50/2.8 and Tokina 28-70/2.6-2.8 ? I want to know if they produce any noticeable noise during rotation of the ring. As well as how smooth rings are?

    Looking for a video-friendly parfocal zoom which is reasonable quite, so that the mounted on camera shotgun does not pick it up while recording.

    p/s/ i have a bad experience with Nikkor 24-85/2.8-4.0 which happened to be extremely loud while rotating the zoom ring.

  • Konica Hexanon AR 35-100mm f2.8

    Manual aperture ring: Yes

    Direct-coupled focus ring: Yes

    Proper focus ring rotation: Yes

    Non-rotating outer barrel: Yes

    Non-extending outer barrel: Yes

    Constant field of view: ?

    (also) Parafocal: No

    I have the Konica AR 40mm f1.8 which I love, so I am wondering about this zoom. Does anyone have one? The only unknown (often not paid heed to with these photo lenses) is if it breathes when focusing or not. It is not parafocal, but I would just use a zoom as a "multi-prime" anyway. Thinking it might play nice with my Kowa anamorphic as it is an old lens with simpler optics (none of that aspherical mumbo-jumbo or nano-coating wizardry).

  • @sakattaq76 Check out the lenses listed in the second post of this thread.

  • Could you please help me? I like the old mechanical lenses, the metallic bodies and the smooth focus ring. I would like a zoom lens for handheld use with a follow focus. I like very much my minolta 35-70mm, but the body extends at different mm. So no use for FF. I also like my Vivitar Series 1 28-105mm, but it is an one touch focus and zoom, so not ideal. I have the Lumix 14-45mm but the focus ring is a disaster. I have some Canon FD primes, but I can't change lenses all the time in the middle of an event. I have also tried the Olympus 12-60mm f/2.8-4, it seems the ideal lens for the job, but too expensive (it belongs to my brother). So my question, is there a lens with usuable length, constant aperture, for use with follow focus, old and used enough so to be cheap (don't care about autofocus)? I usually cover social events like, weddings & narrative stuff.

  • Which perform better, Tokina AT-X 28-70mm f2.8 Pro I or Pro II?