The best lenses for video in 2023

Matty Graham and the AP team pick out the best lenses for video, with options for Canon, Nikon, Sony, Panasonic, Fujifilm and plenty more.

Picking up the right lens for video is a hugely important part of any vlogger’s journey – one that’s critical to get right. Someone who wants to shoot run-and-gun vlogs on location is going to have different lens needs than someone shooting simple pieces to camera in the studio. Every camera system has its own set of lenses with their own set of advantages, and there are many things to consider when choosing yours.

We have a whole guide on how to shoot great video with your camera where we cover technique settings, and technical terms – in this piece, we’re focusing on how to pick the right glass. It doesn’t have to cost a lot. There are plenty of good, cheap lenses for every system that will do a brilliant job, just as there are premium lenses that will do a better one. The trick is to balance your needs and your budget and find the right lens that works for you.

Here’s a quick glance at the best lenses in this article: 

As you can see, we’ve aimed to provide a broad range of choices, with options for all the major mounts that video content creators are using right now. If you’re not sure where to start with all the technical jargon, don’t worry – before we get into the main list, we’ve put together a quick FAQ and guide on how to choose a good video lens, so start there if you’re feeling lost.

Read on to learn more about all things to do with video lenses. And don’t forget to check out our guide to the best cameras for video, vlogging and videography.

What makes a good lens for video?

A big, wide-focus ring

There’ll be times when you’re filling scenes with a shallow depth-of-field when you’ll want to take more control over the focusing system and switch to manual focus (MF).

In these scenarios, you want to have as much physical control over the lens as possible.

Thus the lenses to avoid are ones that have impossibly thin focus rings that are very unergonomic and hard to get precise control over.

Instead, look out for optics with a big, wide focus ring that you can get a good grip of.

Better still, focus rings with a pronounced rubberised texture will further aid your hold and prevent your digits from slipping off the focus ring.

A de-clicked aperture ring

An aperture control ring enables users to change the aperture setting via the ring on the lens, rather than needing to fiddle about with the camera body’s dials or menus.

This is important because when you are capturing footage, you’ll be using a set shutter speed, such as 1/100sec.

So, in order to balance an exposure level, you’ll want to adjust the aperture instead (although you can also use ISO and ND filters to balance exposure too).

Some aperture rings are ‘clicked’, which means you feel a physical click or step as you turn the ring.

It’s more advantageous for a video-friendly lens to have a de-clicked aperture ring, that will turn freely without resistance, allowing you to balance the exposure more easily.

Man holding a Sony camera

Most camera bodies now have in-body stabilisation systems.

Stabilisation

Shaky footage is no good to anybody and while there are other options to stabilise footage – namely in-body image stabilisation (IBIS) within a camera body or the use of a gimbal so the videographer can move around while keeping the camera steady – using a lens with Image Stabilisation technology adds to your ability to keep things steady.

Most IS-enabled lenses offer the user the ability to switch the stabilisation off and on, giving the user even more control.

For the ultimate in stabilisation, pairing an IS lens with a camera body with IBIS will extend the compensation limits.

Lightweight dimensions

Big, heavy lenses are OK for video as long as you are happy to lock off the camera on a tripod, but this usually delivers static and uneventful, uninspiring footage.

If you are going to capture motion by using the camera on a gimbal, or other device, then you want to reduce the load on the gimbal motors… this means using a lightweight and compact lens.

Pancake optics are ideal – for example, Sony’s 16mm f/2.8 not only measures just 62×22.5mm but also tips the scales at a mere 67g, making it a gimbal-friendly choice for videographers on a budget.

Advanced coating

When shooting video, you’ll more than likely want to shoot a lot of ‘contre-jour’ (literally shooting ‘against the day’) shots when you shoot into the light to capture backlit subjects.

These high-contrast lighting situations can flummox inferior lenses and produce huge amounts of flare and specular highlights.

When looking for a lens that you can use for stills and video, make sure it has a decent level of coating to protect against these issues.

Most modern cameras offer a wide array of video shooting features

Most modern cameras offer a wide array of video-shooting features

A fast maximum aperture

For those beautiful, shallow-depth-of-field shots that add a heavy layer of cinematic style to your footage, you’ll need a lens that offers a fast maximum aperture.

Regular kit lenses often have a variable aperture so at best, you may be able to use f/3.5, but if you zoom in, you’re more likely to have a maximum aperture of f/5.6, which won’t give you the shallow depth-of-field you’re looking for.

Instead, look for lenses that have a maximum aperture of f/2.8 or faster.

A mid-telephoto focal length

One common mistake many photographers make when moving into video for the first time is to select a lens that’s too wide.

Of course, there will be times when a wider angle view will suit the scene, but going too wide all the time can leave subjects in the frame looking too small and lost.

A mid-telephoto focal length, such as 50mm, is a great place to start as this focal length is similar to the natural perspective of the human eye.

A fast motor

Picking a lens with the right motor system is crucial when selecting a video-friendly optic.

Sluggish motor systems will not only struggle to keep up with a moving subject in the frame, but they will also create ‘lens hum’, which can be picked up on your microphone and ruin your audio.

By contrast, a lens with a fast, modern motor system will be quiet, fast and accurate… thus leading to more usable footage.

How to overcome common video headaches

Practice makes perfect with videography.

Familiar filter thread size

ND filters can prove useful when shooting videos as well as stills.

With your shutter speed locked in at 1/50sec or 1/100sec, it can be easy to overexpose a frame, particularly if you wish to employ a fast aperture like f/1.4 to create a shallow depth-of-field.

A video-friendly lens with a familiar filter thread size (such as 67mm, 72mm or 77mm) will mean you probably already have a ND filter (whether it be a screw-on or via a filter holder) that you can use to balance your exposure level.

So, with all that out of the way, let’s get started with our list of the best video lenses…

Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM

Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM review image by Michael Topham

The Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM is small enough to take anywhere. Photo credit: Michael Topham.

At a glance:

  • Mount: Canon RF
  • Focal length: 50mm
  • Lens construction: six elements in five groups
  • Max aperture: f/1.8
  • Closest focusing distance: 30cm
  • Price: $159 / £209
  • Canon’s ‘nifty fifty’ lenses have been highly acclaimed for years by photographers using the brand’s DSLRs to shoot stills and video, but with Canon’s introducing a full-frame mirrorless range with cameras like the EOS R6 and EOS RP, a new version was needed. The result is the RF 50mm f/1.8 STM – a lens that balances price, size and a fast maximum aperture beautifully to produce a must-own optic for Canon video shooters.

    Measuring 69.2×40.5mm and tipping the scales at only 160g, this lens will balance nicely with cameras like the EOS R6 when paired with a gimbal like the Ronin-SC. The 50mm will give a natural perspective close to that of the human eye and the lens features Canon’s STM motor technology for fast autofocus that will be quiet and won’t pick up on your audio track.

    The RF 50mm enables videographers to capture frame-filling footage of smaller subjects thanks to a closest focusing distance of 30cm and features Canon’s Super Spectra Coating to enhance quality. The 50mm lens is also great for talking head video.

    Pros:

  • Tremendous value for money
  • Knurled focus ring offers secure grip
  • Super compact
  • Cons:

  • No AF/MF switch
  • Focusing isn’t completely silent
  • Read our Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM Review

    Nikkor Z 17-28mm f/2.8

    Nikon Nikkor Z 17-28mm f/2.8

    The Nikkor Z 17-28mm f/2.8 is cheaper and lighter than many similar f/2.8 zooms. Photo credit: Angela Nicholson

    At a glance: 

  • Mount: Nikon Z
  • Focal length: 17-28mm
  • Lens construction: 13 elements in 11 groups
  • Max aperture: f/2.8
  • Closest focusing distance: 19-26cm
  • Price: $1,196 / £1,109
  • The Nikon Z system now includes plenty of cameras with impressive video spec, from the mighty Nikon Z9 and its 8K 30p recording capabilities, to the affordable and vlogger-friendly Nikon Z30. There’s no shortage of excellent Z-mount lenses to choose from when it comes to crafting a video setup, but we’ve opted for the well-balanced Nikkor Z 17-28mm f/2.8. More affordable than you’d expect a zoom with a constant f/2.8 aperture to be, the lens is weather-sealed with a robust construction. There aren’t many on-body controls to speak of, though the focus ring can be assigned to control a preferred function when autofocus is engaged.

    While the Z 17-28mm doesn’t have Nikon’s premium S-Line designation, we found it to be a very respectable performer nonetheless. Sharpness is consistent throughout the aperture range as well as the whole of the zoom. Focusing is very quick and practically silent. Flare is controlled-for very nicely too, so you shouldn’t have too many problems shooting into the light. It’s a lens that mostly just works, and keeps out of the user’s way.

    The only real issue that might give some video shooters pause is the lack of built-in image stabilisation. If you’re using a full-frame Nikon Z camera, this won’t be a problem as you’ll have the camera’s built-in IBIS. The APS-C models, including the vlogger-focused Z30, lack stabilisation, meaning you’ll likely need to invest in a gimbal.

    Pros:

  • Good price and balance for an f/2.8 lens
  • Image quality excellent throughout zoom
  • Cons:

  • No built-in stabilisation
  • Paucity of on-body physical controls
  • Read our Nikon Nikkor Z 17-28mm f/2.8 review.

    Sony E 11mm F1.8

    Sony E 11mm F1.8

    The Sony E 11mm F1.8 is a lightweight wide-angle that’s built to suit vloggers. Photo credit: Amy Davies

    At a glance: 

  • Mount: Sony E (APS-C)
  • Focal length: 16.5mm (equivalent)
  • Lens construction: 12 elements in 11 groups
  • Max aperture: f/1.8
  • Closest focusing distance: 15cm (AF), 12cm (MF)
  • Price: $498 / £499
  • With a wide field of view and a compact build, the Sony E 11mm F1.8 is a prime lens that excels at shooting in confined spaces. Excellent for vloggers and run-and-gun filmmakers, it’s a lens that keeps out of the way and gets on with things. It gives you an f/1.8 aperture that’s excellent for low-light work, as well as for separating your main subject from the background.

    The lens has mostly a plastic construction – not everyone’s favourite, but arguably a necessity for keeping the weight down to 181g. It balances well with Sony’s vlogger-oriented cameras like the Sony ZV-E10. Autofocus is snappy and extremely quiet, which is just what video shooters need, and its sophisticated internal construction delivers sharpness that’s a cut above what you might expect from a lens of this type. It also goes some way to explaining the price, which at £500/$500 is a little higher than you might have expected.

    Lightweight and capable, the Sony E 11mm F1.8 is a well-judged prime for general-purpose vlogging and video shooting. Be aware that it has no stabilisation, so you may want to pair it with a camera that does.

    Pros:

  • Extremely compact
  • Quick, quiet autofocus
  • Pleasing image quality
  • Cons:

  • No stabilisation
  • On the pricey side for this type of lens
  • Read our Sony E 11mm F1.8 review.

    Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25mm F1.7 ASPH.

    Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25mm F1.7 ASPH

    The Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25mm F1.7 ASPH.

    At a glance: 

  • Mount: Micro Four Thirds
  • Focal length: 20-50mm (equivalent)
  • Lens construction: 17 elements in 12 groups
  • Max aperture: f/1.7
  • Closest focusing distance: 15cm (AF), 12cm (MF)
  • Price: $1,497 / £1,699
  • An enduringly popular Micro Four Thirds lens, the Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25mm F1.7 ASPH covers a useful equivalent focal range of 20-50mm equivalent. With a constant aperture of f/1.7, it’s a highly capable lens in low light, and Panasonic has also stuffed it with plenty of features to appeal specifically to video shooters.

    These include a mechanism to minimise focus breathing – changes in focal length that occur when an object is brought sharply into focus. It also has stepless aperture control, and a micro-step drive system in the aperture control that keeps exposure adjustments smooth when the brightness of a scene changes. Focusing is silent, too, thanks to the inner focus drive system.

    Even though it’s on the pricey side, this has proved a favourite les among Micro Four Thirds vloggers. So much so that Panasonic later introduced something of a spiritual successor, the Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Summilux 25-50mm f/1.7, for those who want a tighter focal length.

    Pros:

  • Well optimised for video
  • Fast maximum aperture
  • Quick, silent focusing
  • Cons:

    Panasonic Lumix S 18mm F1.8

    Panasonic Lumix S 18mm F1.8

    The Panasonic Lumix S 18mm F1.8 is a lightweight full-frame lens. Photo credit: Jon Devo.

    At a glance:

  • Mount: L-mount
  • Focal length: 18mm
  • Lens construction: 13 elements in 12 groups
  • Max aperture: f/1.8
  • Closest focusing distance: 18cm
  • Price: $897 / £799
  • Another wide-angle, fast-aperture prime, but this time it’s for the L-mount, and is engineered to work well with Panasonic’s Lumix S full-frame mirrorless cameras. The Panasonic Lumix S 18mm F1.8 is something of a unique prospect in the L-mount family. Similar alternatives exist, particularly from Sigma, but they tend to be much more expensive and considerably heavier, like the superb but weighty Sigma 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM | A.

    With a focal length of 18mm and an aperture of f/1.8, the Lumix S lens is well-suited for general day-to-day vlogging. It delivers plenty of sharpness where you want it, and silky bokeh in the defocused areas of an image. It has also been designed with videographers in mind and there are plenty of clever, useful features to this effect. For instance, the lens includes a mechanism that suppresses focus breathing, meaning it can automatically rack focus smoothly, without appearing to zoom in or out.

    It feels like a natural companion for the lighter members of the Lumix S family: the Lumix S5 or Lumix S5 II. But it’ll pair well with any member of the range, and deliver a fast and silent video-shooting experience.

    Pros:

  • Compact and lightweight
  • Excellent optical quality
  • No lens breathing
  • Cons:

  • Some comatic aberrations at f/1.8
  • Read our Panasonic Lumix S 18mm F1.8 review.

    Sony E PZ 10-20mm F4 G

    Sony E PZ 10-20mm F4 G

    The Sony E PZ 10-20mm F4 G pairs well with APS-C bodies., Photo credit: Andy Westlake

    At a glance:

  • Mount: Sony E (APS-C)
  • Focal length: 10-20mm
  • Lens construction: 11 elements in 8 groups
  • Max aperture: f/4
  • Closest focusing distance: 13-17cm
  • Price: $648 / £749
  • Sony’s ‘PZ’ designation means lenses that have a powered zoom design, rather than a mechanical one. This makes any lens with this feature extra well-suited to video as it enables a raft of features that are useful for videographers. The Sony E PZ 10-20mm F4 G can therefore hold focus on a subject when zooming, with the composition remaining appropriately centred. The zooming and focusing action is all entirely internal, meaning the lens stays balanced, making it handy for shooting on a gimbal.

    Focus breathing is also minimal, which means that there will be little to no change in angle of view from the minimum focus distance up to the infinity focus setting. The minimum focus distance also stays pretty much the same, from 13cm at the wide end to 17cm at the tele end. A zoom lever on the side of the lens enables proportional action, which allows zoom speed and intensity during video to be fine-tuned very precisely.

    In our testing, we found this lens to optically perform very well throughout its zoom and aperture ranges. It’s hugely intuitive to use, thanks to extra features like the Linear Response MF, a manual focus control that makes it easy to make precise adjustments to the focusing. The only real strike against the lens is its lack of built-in stabilisation – it’ll pair best with Sony bodies that have stabilisation built in, like the Alpha 6500 and Alpha 6600.

    Pros:

  • In-depth zoom control
  • Well balanced
  • Intuitive manual focusing
  • Cons:

  • No stabilisation
  • Cheaper Sony options are available
  • Read our full Sony E PZ 10-20mm F4 G review

    Fujinon XF 10-24mm F4 R OIS WR

    Fujinon XF 10-24mm F4 R OIS WR review image by Michael Topham

    The Fujinon XF 10-24mm F4 R OIS WR is a redesigned version of a popular lens. Photo credit: Michael Topham

    At a glance:

  • Mounts: Fujifilm X
  • Focal length: 10-24mm
  • Lens construction: 14 elements in 10 groups
  • Max aperture: f/4
  • Closest focusing distance: 24cm
  • Price: $999 / £899
  • Fujifilm users who want to shoot video have a narrower lens selection than those who use other brands. However, the XF 10-24mm F4 R OIS WR is a lens that comes recommended by Fujifilm as one of the best X-mount lenses for video, and it considerably impressed us in our review. It’s durable and weather-resistant, which is useful for on-location shoots, and its sharpness impresses throughout the zoom range.

    The manual focusing experience – an important consideration for video – is first-rate on the XF 10-24mm F4 R OIS WR. The ring is finely grooved, with a fluid feel, and you can take precise manual focus control by rolling your thumb over it at any time.

    A lightweight lens, the XF 10-24mm F4 R OIS WR provides an equivalent focal length of 15-36mm when mounted to one of the X-series APS-C mirrorless cameras. It’s a highly credible all-purpose lens for video, and any Fujifilm user with an inclination towards video should think about giving it some space in their kit bag.

    Pros:

  • Hardy, moisture-resistant build
  • Effective optical stabilisation
  • Lightweight
  • Cons:

  • Some low-frequency clicking of diaphragm blades (under certain conditions)
  • On the pricier side
  • Read our Fujinon XF 10-24mm F4 R OIS WR review

    Samyang 85mm T1.5 VDSLR AS IF UMC II

    Samyang 85mm T1.5 VDSLR AS IF UMC II

    Samyang 85mm T1.5 VDSLR AS IF UMC II

    At a glance:

  • Mounts: Nikon F, Canon EF, Pentax K, Sony E, Sony A, Fujifilm X, Micro Four Thirds
  • Focal length: 85mm
  • Lens construction: 9 elements in 7 groups
  • Max aperture: T/1.5
  • Closest focusing distance: 110cm
  • Price: $269 / £295
  • A purpose-built cine lens from less than £300? You’d better believe it and if you are starting to take video seriously, it could well be worth taking a good look at this Samyang optic. Available for Nikon F, Canon EF, Pentax K, Sony E, Sony A, Fujifilm X and Micro Four Thirds mounts, the Samyang 85mm is a manual focus optic that features 9 elements in 7 groups including an aspherical element.

    The lens features an aperture (A) ring, although on a cine lens the aperture is prefixed with T instead (for example T/1.5) and there’s also a wide geared focusing ring, that will allow videographers to pair this up with a follow focus system, enabling precise adjustments to the focus setting.

    Sporting a dust-proof design, the lens also offers Samyang’s Ultra Multi Coating (UMC) technology for better image quality and to provide protection from flare. Other features include an 8-bladed aperture to make the most of the bokeh created from that fast T/1.5 maximum aperture and a 72mm filter thread.

    Pros:

  • Loads of mount options
  • Geared focus ring
  • Dust-proof design
  • Cons:

  • Manual focus only
  • No optical stabilisation
  • Sigma 85mm F1.4 DG DN Art

    Sigma 85mm F1.4 DG DN Art review image - Michael Topham / AP

    The Sigma 85mm F1.4 DG DN Art mid-test by our reviewer. Photo credit: Michael Topham

    At a glance:

  • Mounts: L-mount, Sony FE
  • Focal length: 85mm
  • Lens construction: 15 elements in 11 groups
  • Max aperture: f/1.4
  • Closest focusing distance: 85cm
  • Price: $1,199 / £999
  • The exceptional optical performance of Sigma’s Art series has been well-known for a while now, but what you may not be aware of is that the Art series shares a lot in common with the construction of Sigma’s Cine lenses, making them perfect for filming video without the additional price-tag.

    The 85mm F1.4 DG DN Art gives videographers a lens that can capture tighter scenes and the maximum f/1.4 aperture will create an incredibly shallow depth-of-field that’ll bring a cinematic feel and a higher production value to your movies.

    The 85mm f/1.4 Art lens packs in no less than five Special Low Dispersion (SLD) elements to deliver that optical quality but there’s far more to this lens than the glass because the lens also features a de-clicked aperture ring, enabling users to change aperture and balance exposure levels during a live take.

    The AF system employs a stepping motor, which is optimised for both phase and contrast detection. Despite these pro features, the 85mm isn’t a lump and weighs in at 630g while offering a familiar filter thread of 77mm, which allows users to add ND filters to further control exposure levels.

    Boasting dust and splash resistance, the 85mm f/1.4 Art also features an oil-repellent coating and the build features a mix of aluminium and TSC (Thermally Stable Composite) to keep the construction strong, yet light.

    Pros:

  • Sophisticated optical path
  • De-clicked aperture ring
  • Bright maximum aperture
  • Cons:

  • Fixed focal length will limit real-world video use
  • No focus distance marks on the barrel
  • Read our Sigma 85mm F1.4 DG DN Art Review

    Fujinon XF 18-120mm F4 LM PZ WR

    Fujifilm 18-120mm lens review

    The Fujinon XF 18-120mm. Photo credit: Amy Davies.

    At a glance:

  • Mounts: Fujifilm X
  • Focal length: 27-183mm (equivalent)
  • Lens construction: 15 elements in 12 groups
  • Max aperture: f/4
  • Closest focusing distance: 60cm
  • Price: $899 / £899
  • An impressively wide-ranging all-in-one zoom, the Fujinon XF 18-120mm F4 LM PZ WR is a great idea on paper, a one-size-fits-all lens to take everywhere. How does it measure up in the real world? Well, in our review we were overall quite impressed. The lens is not without its problems, but it does deliver something unique in the X-mount range and will suit vloggers and video shooters who want to be prepared for all eventualities.

    Weighing under 500g, the XF 18-120mm lens slots into a kit bag without causing much fuss. The aforementioned zoom range is hugely useful; some video users might wish for a little more width at the short end, but it’s still a commendable achievement. One unfortunate thing to note for video use is that the zoom mechanism is quite noisy, as is the autofocus. In most cases, it won’t be an issue, but if you’re shooting somewhere with very little ambient noise, odds are it’ll be picked up.

    This power zoom lens isn’t the sharpest, but it does a good job in the optimal settings – zoom in a little and stop down to around f/5.6.

    Pros:

  • Very flexible zoom range
  • Lightweight
  • Weather-resistant
  • Cons:

  • Noisy operation
  • Not the sharpest
  • Read our full Fujinon XF 18-120mm F4 LM PZ WR review

    Text by Matty Graham, with contributions from Jon Stapley.

    Further reading

    Follow AP on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

    amateurphotographer.com

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *