DSLR Lens Basics

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As houses of worship take their first steps into videography and broadcast, many are looking at DSLR cameras as a potential solution. If this is the route your house of worship is considering, it’s important to also factor in the different type of lenses available.  Determining the best lens for your situation isn’t always easy. Hopefully, this article will help demystify this issue.

The aperture of your lens determines how much light the lens will allow through to the sensor at peak performance. A lot of light allows the camera person to keep shooting in darker conditions without having to worry about the image blurring. Aperture is clearly stated on all lenses as a number and the smaller the aperture number, the more light entering the camera.

The lowest aperture number is around f/1.2, which would make the lens very bright. However, an aperture number between f/2.4 – f/3.2 will suit most users. It’s important to note that the lower the aperture, the higher the cost. Telephoto lenses typically have higher aperture. Zoom lenses usually have two numbers listed, one for wide angle (the smallest number), and the larger number to indicate the amount of light that will be available at maximum zoom.

Focal length is equally as important as aperture. Given in millimeters, it specifies whether the lens is telephoto or wide angle. If you are going to be using your DSLR for a lot of close, zoomed in shots, a telephoto is the best option. It’s important to also note that telephoto lenses keep faces and bodies more proportionate than wide angle lenses, which tends to distort slightly. These lenses typically have lower brightness and less depth of field, which also means they tend to blur a bit if the camera is shaking. However, if you are doing lots of close-ups and want to be able to have a blurrier background, this shouldn’t be a problem.

Wide angle lenses capture more of the background, and typically offer more in terms of depth of field and brightness. Smaller and lighter than telephoto lenses, they are easier to move and less likely to blur out during movement. However, they ARE wide angle, which means they can distort slightly, throwing off distance and bending the edges of the image slightly.

You can also choose a normal lens, which has some telephoto capability and some wide angle capability, and doesn’t tend to distort images. A normal lens is 50mm in the 135 format; anything with a smaller focal length is considered a wide angle and anything with a higher focal length is telephoto. The size of the camera’s image sensor is directly related to the focal length; DSLR lenses with a 3x zoom has a focal range that runs between 35-105mm in the 135 format.

For houses of worship, a zoom lens that offers several focal lengths is the best option. A zoom lens will always have two focal lengths listed. This is the zoom range of the lens. Dividing the largest number by the smallest will give you a rough idea of the zoom.

When choosing a lens for your DSLR, it’s important to understand how you plan on using the camera and what type of video you will be shooting. Understanding the above few simple terms will guide you in your decision making process, and help you choose the best lens for your needs.

as seen in the August 2019 issue