Photography / Buying Guide

Lenses for the Hybrid Shooter

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With high-quality video now standard in DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, a number of hybrid stills/video shooters have popped up. Unfortunately, video and photography have different concerns when it comes to lens selection, and since most of us can’t fork out the dough for two separate lens sets, it is fortunate that lens manufacturers have been working to fill the need of hybrid shooters. If you want lenses that can work for stills and filmmaking, here’s a list of appealing options.

Modern Zeiss Optics

If one company perfectly understood the needs of photographers and filmmakers, it is Zeiss. The company has long made high-end cinema lenses, sought after by cinematographers everywhere, as well as a wide range of stills-centric optics. Lately, however, Zeiss has overhauled its various lens lines for DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, and with it has incorporated features to make videographers very happy.

The Milvus line for Nikon F and Canon EF mounts is, perhaps, the best example of this, with outstanding optics, electronic communication to help with automatic stills modes, and excellent focusing rings that make manual focus easy for stills and smooth for video. Nikon versions of these lenses also feature a de-click option for the aperture, permitting clean aperture pulls while mid-shot. On top of all this, the lenses can accept Zeiss Lens Gears to become compatible with standard follow focus systems.

Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 ZF.2 Lens for Nikon F

For mirrorless shooters, specifically Sony E-mount camera owners, Zeiss has created the completely manual Loxia line, which includes a 21mm, 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm, all with long focus throws, de-clickable aperture rings, a uniform outer diameter, and 52mm filter threads. Electronic communication also helps out here and can even automatically activate focus assist functions on the cameras. And, Zeiss Lens Gears can be used to enable use of a follow focus.

Loxia 21mm f/2.8 Lens for Sony E Mount

Classic Nikon Lenses

Another popular option for photographers and filmmakers are Nikon’s classic manual focus primes. These lenses are solid, and since the Nikon F mount has a large flange distance, they can be easily adapted to any number of camera systems. Though originally designed exclusively for stills shooters using SLRs, these lenses are prized for their beautiful look, and the fact that you can get a whole set new, meaning you don’t need to scrounge eBay and message boards looking to complete your lens setup. Obviously, they are great for stills, but the durability and manual focus mechanisms of these lenses are of the highest quality, making them great for video shooters, as well.

Nikon NIKKOR 50mm f/1.2 Lens

Mini Cine Primes for Mirrorless

While they definitely fall on the cinema side of the spectrum, Veydra’s Mini Primes are excellent, compact choices that should do well for stills and video. Designed for mirrorless cameras, these lenses are, as you would expect from the name, quite small. This makes them easy to carry in your regular camera bags, and manageable for more conventional still photography. Compared to photo-centric options, these lenses come standard with lens gears on the focus and aperture rings for complete support for advanced filmmaking systems. If you are curious about these lenses, read our Hands-On Review: 3 New Veydra Mini Prime Cine Lenses for Sony E Mount.

Veydra 50mm T2.2 Mini Prime Lens

Rokinon’s Vast Variety

Known throughout the industry for making affordable optics, Rokinon has dramatically improved and expanded its lens selection, including features like color consistency, across the line. If you couldn’t tell from earlier choices, tactile manual operation is crucial to video shooters. It helps users pull off focus pulls mid-shot without getting shot-ruining jumps or stutter. The stills lenses are also very good optically, delivering sharp, colorful images. Rokinon has taken other steps to appeal to videographers, including a Cine DS line with integrated lens gears and more precise T-stops for exposure. The aperture ring has been de-clicked, as well, and there are focus and T-stop scales on both sides of the lens.

Rokinon 12mm f/2.8 ED AS IF NCS UMC Fisheye Lens for Canon EF Mount

Hybrid Options from Voigtlander

The last entries in this roundup are from Voigtlander, who makes many unique lenses for a variety of different systems. Starting with the latest additions to its line, we have a trio of ultra-wides for Sony E-mount cameras: a 10mm, 12mm, and 15mm. These benefit from a super-compact design that is optimized for manual operation with scalloped focusing rings and de-clickable manual aperture gins. These also feature electronic communication for more advanced functionality. Voigtlander also makes an interesting line of f/0.95 Micro Four Thirds lenses, complete with stepless aperture adjustment and smooth focusing rings, including a 25mm, 42.5mm, and 10.5mm.

Voigtlander Heliar-Hyper Wide 10mm f/5.6 Aspherical Lens for Sony E

Hopefully, this helps you make your next lens decision, but don’t forget that any number of different lenses can work well and there are many that just barely didn’t make the list, such as Tokina’s new FiRIN 20mm. And if you are a photographer who came here because you are looking to get started in video, be sure to check out this series about Moving from Stills to Video.

Tokina FiRIN 20mm f/2 FE MF Lens for Sony E

Have any favorite hybrid lens? Tell us about them in the Comments section, below. 

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I'm looking for the correct fish lens for my Sony NEX-VG30 video camera.  Norm Wright

Hi Norm,

There are a couple fisheye options for your NEX-VG30. The only native option however is the FE 28mm f/2 Lens with the dedicated 16mm Fisheye Conversion Lens. This lens is the best choice if you require AF, auto aperture, and auto exposure functionality with your camera. If you are looking for something different, there are a ton of third-party options that are fully manual, including some added variety of focal lengths. You can find everything compatible with your camera right here.

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