What Lens to Use on Your Project

by | May 22, 2018

As a professional San Diego Video Production company, every time Fool’s Errand Films takes on a project, lens choice is a major factor. When working on live streaming or video production projects it is important to choose a lens that ticks all the boxes. So in order to give our Southern California clients the best product possible we look at all aspects of a lens before choosing one from our collection or renting one for a video production job. Considerations include focal length, effective focal length, aperture, sensor size, adapters, cine lens, and other lesser considerations. The great part is everything we take into consideration when choosing a lease for a project, applies to any video project, including the ones you are working on!

Focal Length

Focal length is the key consideration when choosing a lens for a video production or live streaming project. Focal length is the first number denoted on a lens body and is measured in millimeters. A lens with a lower focal length provides a wider angle of view with less compression allowing you to see more in frame. A lens with a longer focal length allows for tighter shots from with more compression and a shallower depth of field. When used intentionally on a video production project a lenses focal length can be used as a very effective storytelling device setting the mood for a scene and making our Southern California audience feel certain ways.

Lenses between 24mm and 115mm are the most common lenses used in video production projects. Although there is some debate about this, it is widely accepted that a 35mm or 50mm lens is the closest approximation to the field of view from the human eye. Certain projects lend themselves to longer lenses often when shooting a live event such as a surf competition on a beach in La Jolla, Southern California or live streaming a conference at the San Diego Convention Center we will often use a Canon 70-200mm F2.8 lens or longer depending on how far away our subjects are.

It is important to choose a focal length appropriate for the project focusing on a projects goals and restrictions. Will the subject be far way? If so we need to choose a longer lease to keep up with the action. Do we want to make the audience feel uneasy? We might use a wider lens and allow the distortion to do our work for us. Is it important to make our audience feel comfortable and familiar? If this is true a focal length of 50mm or longer might be the right choice.

Effective Focal Equivalent

Effective focal length and focal length go hand in hand. When choosing a focal length it is important to take camera sensor size into account. The San Diego based team here at Fool’s Errand Films uses a wide variety of cameras with sensors ranging from full frame which means the effective focal equivalent is equal to the number on the lens to Super 35 and Micro Four Thirds cameras that give you a crop factor of 1.5x and 2x respectively. The smaller sensor size effectively creates a zoom, so a 50mm lens on a Full Frame Camera, such as our A7RIII will be equivalent to 50mm, but on our GH5 it is effectively a 100mm lens. So a Just like when you choose a focal length it is important to consider your effective focal equivalent to that the lens you choose pairs works for the project at hand. This is a valuable consideration when we are planning a San Diego Video Production shoot, or Live Streaming a conference.

Prime vs Zoom

Prime lenses have a fixed focal length while zoom lenses offer a range of focal lengths depending on the specific lenses. Both lens types excel in different situations. Prime Lenses tend to be faster (operate better in low light conditions, such as a public speaking event or corporate conference) with a wider maximum aperture. They usually are made up of less elements which means they tend to be sharper than similar zoom lenses. They work well in low

light situations and on sets where you do not have to reposition the camera frequently. The primes that we tend to use on our San Diego video productions are geared with large teeth at the Focus Rings and aperture ring allowing us to use accessories such as follow focuses.

Zoom lenses also have there uses. They tend to have longer focal lengths than most primes allowing you to film subjects that are much farther away. This makes them favorable for event coverage. The wide array of focal lengths you can get with a zoom lens also means that they can make set up and break down faster on a set where you do not have much time, saving valuable time and money for our San Diego video production clients, because you do not have to switch out lenses every time you want a different focal length.

Often when using a zoom lens you have to refocus after you zoom in or out, but there is a special type of lens specific to making videos and films that keeps focus even when zooming. this is called parfocal and is a must if the project requires you to keep a subject in focus while zooming during a shot.


The aperture is the opening inside a lens that allows light through to hit the sensor. The wider the aperture or lower the f-stop the more light that is let in and the smaller the depth of field plane is. This means that if you have an f-stop of 1.5 you will be able to work in conditions with much lower light and that when your subject is in focus everything else will be booked out. This can be used to help reduce distraction and focus your audience on the subject.

The aperture is created by overlapping blades inside the lens the more blades there are inside a lens the more circular the bokeh is in the background. This is often considered more appealing and aesthetically pleasing but is an important consideration depending on the project. On a very professional corporate shoot, such as a San Diego based company commercial, you would ideally want a lens with 11 or more blades, creating a very smooth bokeh. Lenses with fewer blades are typically reserved for films or creative pieces, as they can cause very distinct bokeh which can be distracting.

Zoom lenses are often variable aperture meaning they might be f4 when fully extended and f2.8 when wide open. This is a consideration because if you are switching between wide and tights in the same scene you will need to re-expose. Some zoom lenses have constant aperture which makes them much more useful for video and film application because they allow you to reframe mid shot without having to re-expose. These types are lenses are what we prefer for San Diego live streaming events.

Other Considerations

When choosing a lens for a project it may be important to have one or all of these features: Auto Focus – Means that when turned off the camera and lens will work together to make sure your subject stays in focus. Some cameras have better autofocus then other but this can be a powerful tool if used in the right situation.
Internal Stabilization- Some cameras have internal stabilization but many photography lenses and some more video focused lenses have internal stabilization. This tend to reduce shake and jitter when a camera is being run hand-held and can completely remove micro jitters from camera operation when the camera is mounted to a tripod
Aperture Control- is an important consideration as apertures that are electronic or not declicked often have set stops forcing you to choose a specific aperture even when a something in between might be better.


As you can see lens choice is a crucial part of any project and everything you have read in this article can be applied to any of our following services.

  • Promotional videos
  • Live streaming events
  • Commercials
  • Real Estate
  • Non-profit videos
  • Interviews

Thanks for reading. If you have any questions regarding lens choice or having Fool’s Errand work on your project please feel free to contact us below.

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