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Andrea Allen
December 16, 2010 by Andrea Allen PRO

Step 3: Choosing a lens

Believe it or not, the biggest investment you’ll make when it comes to shooting video with a DSLR camera is on the lenses. When you’re starting out, you can easily shoot with just one lens and there are some easy ways to adapt different brand lenses to whatever brand camera you have. 

Before we start, here are some things you need to know for this lesson:
Aperture is the size of the opening within your lens that allows light onto the image sensor. Aperture is measured by f-number or f-stops.
F-stop is a term used to describe the size of the aperture opening in your lens. The lower the F-stop number, the bigger the aperture. If the aperture is low, more light is able reach the image sensor. F-stop settings are normally displayed with a forward slash.

Common f-stops are: f/1.4, f/2, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, and f/22.

Kit lenses are usually sold with the camera and aren’t always the highest quality, but are better than having no lens at all! So if you have a kit lens, it’s fine to use, but it is a good idea to start saving money for nicer lenses.

It’s good to review often. Here’s a handy link to the Vimeo Glossary of Common Video Terms.

If you’re new to DSLR shooting, a good starter lens for a camera with a full frame sensor is a 50mm. If you have a camera with a cropped sensor, you’ll want to get a 30mm lens to achieve the equivalent look. Remember that a cropped sensor actually makes your field of view smaller than a full frame sensor using the same lens. Here’s the difference between a 50mm lens on a full frame vs cropped sensor. For more about crop factor check out this lesson.

When you buy a zoom or telephoto lens (for shooting things far away or getting extreme close up shots), be sure to get one with an image stabilizer. It will be a little more expensive, but it’s well worth it. That way when you’re shooting things from a distance like a wild bear in the forest or a Chicago Bear on a football field, your videos will look pristine!

*E***For extra credit:** Join the DSLR Lens Database Group on Vimeo. It’s an awesome Group for learning what older lenses look like on your sweetacular new DSLR camera!

We’ve just touched on a few different types of lenses in this lesson, but there are literally millions of lenses out there that you can use. Do some research, see what other lenses people are shooting with and figure out the lenses that work best for you.

Ready for a challenge?

So do you feel confident enough to go out and shoot something? Philip has a great starting challenge for you called “An Object.” Find an object and film it so that it’s interesting! Use all the techniques you learned, keeping in mind your white balance, ISO settings, and frame rate. Keep your video under two minutes and really push your boundaries with framing and DOF. Watch Phil’s example video here.

Accept this challenge
  1. 1.
    Accessories are important as you start shooting. Learn about what you definitely need and things that you'll want for awesome looking videos.
  2. If you're new to shooting with a DSLR, here are some things you'll need to know about lenses.
  3. 3.
    New to shooting with a DSLR? Maybe you're thinking about getting one? We'll teach you the differences between DSLR cameras and help you decide which one's best for you!
  4. 4.
    Shooting at night with your DSLR? This lesson will give you the tips for making your low light shots awesome.
  5. 5.
    Recording high quality sound for your DSLR can be tricky business. Here are a few ways to help you record.
  6. 6.
    This lesson covers a few simple changes you can make to your camera settings in order to get the best looking footage for your DSLR!
  7. 7.
    Keys to understanding your camera settings and how to start shooting great video with your DSLR.
  8. 8.
    Learn how to make a basic timelapse video with your DSLR.


Anthony Pierre

Thanks for sharing this information! Andrea is perfect! I love her sense of humor!

Zak Sommers

What's up with the dude at 0:24??? Creepy.

Gehtdichn Scheißdreckan

very "helpfull", this video. i also like how you focused on your images that much that you totally fucked up the audio. nice job!

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