Vlogging lens: What you should look for when choosing one

In this post I will be talking about what you should look for when you are trying to find your perfect vlogging lens.

Sensor Size

Before we start, I just want to talk about camera sensor size. This can be a pain point when learning about cameras in general and before we carry on you need to know that different sensor sizes might affect the type of lens that you want to be looking at.

There are two main sensor types that I want to talk about. One of them is the Full Frame sensor and the other is the APSC(known as a crop sensor) sized sensor. When you look at lenses you will see that each lens has a focal length, or a focal length range. So you could find a lens that says it is a 50mm lens, or a lens that says it is a 10-18mm lens. These numbers represent the focal length of the lens, the smaller the number the wider the lens is, the higher the number the more “zoom” the lens has.

This is where the problems of picking a lens starts. Those focal lengths are all based on Full Frame sensor sizes, which is great if you have a Full Frame camera. If you do not have a Full Frame camera and you have a APSC size sensor then you need to do some calculations. When it comes to APSC sensors you will generally multiply the focal length of the lens by 1.5 or 1.6 depending on the brand of camera that you are using. For e.g. if you have a 50mm lens and you use that on a camera that has an APSC sized sensor then your equivalent focal length will actually be around 75mm(1.5x) to 80mm(1.6x). This is not an issue but you need to pay attention to this. Buying the wrong lens is an expensive mistake.

Vlogging lens: full frame vs crop sensor size

Lens types

Prime

A prime lens is a lens that has a fixed focal length, meaning that you cannot zoom in or out. When I use the word “zoom” I do not mean see further away, I just mean you cannot change the lenses focal length.

These lenses generally allow for wider apertures which let in more light and will help if you are vlogging in darker areas.

Example of a prime lens:

Vlogging lens: EF 35mm f1.4L II USM FRA
Canon 35mm L lens

Zoom

A zoom lens is a lens that allows you to change the focal length by zooming in or out. Generally if you buy a DLSR kit, you will get a kit lens with it. This kit lens might have a focal length of 18-55mm.

The drawback of zoom lenses is that they generally have smaller apertures and their apertures are not fixed/constant.

Example of zoom lens:

Vlogging lens: EF 16-35mm f2.8L III USM FSL

I discuss apertures in the apertures section below. 

Focal length

When looking at lenses you will see a number with “mm” next to it. That number is the focal length. Like I said before a small number means the lens is wider which will get more of the scene in the shot or video and the higher the number is the more it becomes a telephoto lens, meaning it will allow you to see things that are far away.

Generally when Vlogging you want a wider angle zoom lens. When I say “zoom” in this context I mean the ability to change the lenses focal length. It is always useful to be able change the focal length while vlogging. When you are vlogging normally you might want to have the lens at its widest possible focal length and then when you want to have more emphasis, you can zoom in. In general it is better to use a wide angle zoom lens.

Having said that you might still want to look at prime lenses, or fixed focal length lenses. These are generally sharper in terms of image quality and usually have wider apertures, which produces a shallower depth of field and can help separate you from the background. They can also allow you to have better “bokeh”.

Having said all of this, I would suggest going with a wide angle zoom lens for your first vlogging lens. Something along the lines of a 10-18mm lens.

Aperture

When picking a vlogging lens one needs to consider aperture but it is not as important as it would be in photography.

The aperture of a lens is basically controls how much light the lens lets in. The wider the aperture the more light it will let in which can help when you are vlogging in doors or in a dark area.

Aperture also controls depth of field. Depth of field is basically how narrow your focus area is. The wider your aperture is, the narrower the focus area is. If this is used well it can be great and can add an extra dimension to your vlog. However it also makes focusing more difficult.

A vlogging lens generally doesn’t need a wide aperture. When looking for a lens make sure that it has an aperture within the range of 3.5 – 5.6. What this means is that when your lens is at its widest zoom the widest aperture of the lens will be 3.5 and when you are fully zoomed in then the widest aperture will be 5.6.

Dont let these numbers scare you. When you are looking for a vlogging lens, most of the lenses will be in this range.

Aperture chart to help visualize how aperture or f-stop value changes the aperture of a lens.

Vlogging lens: Aperture chart

Image stabilization

This is a very short but very important point when picking a lens to vlog with. Make sure that it has IS(image stabilization). When you are vlogging you will be moving around a lot and shaky video is not enjoyable to watch.

Image stabilization will help smooth out the video while you are recording it, making editing the videos easier.

Autofocus

This is another very important feature to look for when picking out a lens. Most lenses have autofocus for photography.

This does not mean that the autofocus will work in video. This is not only a lens issue. Your camera might not support autofocus during video mode with some lenses. So when picking up a lens, make sure that your camera will be able to use the lenses autofocus feature while recording video.

Desired vlogging lens specs:

  • Wide angle zoom lens. Something between 10-18mm(APSC sized sensor) or 16-35mm(Full Frame).
  • Aperture within the range of 3.5-5.6.
  • If you are holding the camera a lot then getting a lighter lens will be beneficial.
  • Image stabilization is a must.
  • Autofocus. This will depend on the camera and lens.

 

Conclusion:

Lenses are great and all but they are meaningless without a camera attached to them. If you need help finding the best camera, check out my vlogging camera buyers guide post.

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