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.

Vlogging camera: What to look for when buying a camera

What to look for when buying a vlogging camera

Before getting into this topic, you need to understand that you need a vlogging camera that suits what you want to do. It is perfectly acceptable to just use to your phone. These days smart phones have good cameras and their mic’s are decent too. I personally think that this is the best way to start vlogging. That way you can see if you enjoy it or not before you spend money on equipment that will never be used.

Image Quality

Resolution

Resolution is not as important as one thinks but it should still be decent. Even though 4K video is becoming popular vlogging at 1080p (Full HD) is still more than good enough, especially if you are getting started. You might even get by with a camera that does 720p video but I would not recommend doing that.

Low light performance

Low light performance generally refers to ISO. ISO is a setting to make a camera more sensitive to light, in other words, the higher the ISO is the more light your camera will capture. One down side with high ISO is an increase in noise and grain. Noise and grain will reduce image quality, and depending on high you push the ISO it can dramatically reduce the image quality.

This is another setting that might depend on the type of vlog that you want to make. If you are going to have full control over your lighting then this is not too much of an issue since you will have enough light to be able to use a lower ISO. If you are going to be walking around then you will generally have little to no control over your lighting. Depending on the settings of you camera, you might find that it will increase the ISO when you go into an area with low light. So it is just something that you need to watch out for, and if you know that you are going to be doing vlogs where you are moving to very different lighting situations then you would be better off with something that can handle higher ISO.

Lens selection

Lens selection will depend on camera and on brand. If you go for a compact camera it will only be able to use the lens that comes with the camera. If you go with something like a mirrorless or DSLR camera then you will be able to choose from many lenses, again the amount of lenses depends on camera brand and type of camera.

DSLR and mirrorless cameras will allow you to use interchangeable lenses. This means that you can change the lens on your camera. This also allows you to buy lenses that suits your vlogging style and gives you more control by giving you constant aperture, depending on lens, or being able to give you an ultra wide focal length.

For more info about lenses, I have done another post with more in depth information about lenses and what to look for.

Video autofocus

When looking for a good vlogging camera make sure that is has autofocus for video. This feature is a deal breaker. If it does not have autofocus look else where.

Trying to vlog and manually focus is a complete and utter nightmare. It can also waste a lot of time. If you have filmed most of your day and then when you get in to edit all the clips that you have shot only to find that they are out of focus and unusable is really not something that you want to experience.

Mic

Strangely enough, sound quality on videos is more important than video quality. For e.g. people would much prefer watching a video at 720p with good sound quality than watching a 1080p video with poor sound quality. Sound quality can make or break a video, which can hurt your vlogging channel. Unfortunately sound equipment can be expensive but there are also cheap alternatives that can give good sound quality while being inexpensive.

Just like cameras and lenses, there are different types of microphones. Depending on the style of vlog you want to make, you might need a different type of mic. 

Flip out screen

A vlogging camera needs a flip out screen otherwise it will be near impossible to vlog. Flip out screens will help you view the camera screen while you are recording you vlog. This allows you to get your focussing and exposure correct. It will also allow you to monitor your audio levels, if the camera has that ability.

Vlogging Camera: EOS 77D BCK LCD
Canon 77D

Tripod/Handle

When vlogging you will need to put you camera on something when you are holding it, or when you are just sitting and talking to the camera. A tripod or a handle will help depending on the type of vlog you are making.

If you are going to be making vlogs while walking around or going about your day to day tasks then you should probably get a handle. A handle will make easier to hold the camera further away.  Having this kind of control can help you create different effects or looks to your video. Being able to hold your camera out further with a wide angle lens can help you to get more of the environment in the shot. At the same time, being able to hold a camera further away will allow you to use a longer focal length that could have less distortion or could help give you a tighter and more close up shot.

If you are going to be shooting a lot of your vlogs at home, or somewhere where you will be sitting down a lot, then a tripod can be a huge help. You could use a table or something along those lines but a tripod will give you far more control. You can raise or lower a tripod by adjusting the height of the legs, or you can tilt the camera up and down or left and right. This provides a lot of flexibility while filming.

Vlogging camera: gorilla pod

Size

This is another point that depends on the type of vlog you are or will be making. If you vlog from a desk or in your lounge while seated then going for a bigger heavier camera is not a problem. However, if you plan on walking around a lot make sure that you think about the size and weight of the camera, lens and all the other accessories.

Some bigger DSLR cameras like the Canon 7D mark ii can weigh up to 2lb(910g) and that is without a lens. A lens could weigh up to or more than a than the camera depending on the lens.

So getting a lighter setup can improve your vlogging experience. Carrying heavy gear around can potentially stop one from doing something because of how uncomfortable it might be, or it might just tire you out faster.

Budget

This is probably the most important point just because it puts a limit on to what you can buy. When buying a vlogging camera don’t always go for the cheapest setup that you can find. If you are wanting to do that then I would suggest that you use you smartphone instead.

Smartphones have decent cameras as well as decent mic’s and getting started like this is probably the easiest and cheapest way to start vlogging.

When looking for the perfect vlogging camera, look at cameras out of your price bracket and see what video features that they have, do some research about those features and then try and find a more affordable camera that has as many of those features as possible.

If you are going to go with a mirrorless or DLSR camera, remember that do not always come with a lens. When you are looking at these cameras make sure that they don’t say  it is body only.

Desired vlogging camera specs:

  • Lightweight, depending on your vlogging style
  • Video autofocus
  • Good ISO performance
  • Flip out screen

Examples of good vlogging cameras:

Canon G7X:

Vlogging Camera: Canon G7X

Canon 200d:

Vlogging Camera: Canon 200d

Sony A7R II(Body only link):

Vlogging Camera: Sony A7R II

Check out my Ultimate guide to buying a vlogging camera