more »" />

Best Nikon lens for filming video on a DSLR

December 10, 2010

Nikkor 50mm 1.2Now that Nikon has a decent mid level video DSLR the search is out for the most cinematic lenses.

The easy answer would be the manual focus Zeiss primes. Although they may win in quality, have an aperture ring (required for full manual video control), and a manual focus ring; it’s too easy to just point to the lenses with the highest price tag. When you have the option of 3 very good primes for the price of one great prime, I’d put my money on the 3 very good primes any day. It’s also important to note that these primes may well be out of  the price range of the average D7000 owner, especially if the purpose of the lens is based solely around video applications.  As the D7000 is cropped sensor you can get a darn nice Nikkor 35mm DX 1.8 for $185. But then again you loose the aperture ring and a focus ring designed for manual focus. Honestly I think your best bet is to meet in the middle and opt for a manual focus Nikon AIS lens. Still a bit more expensive then the 35mm dx, but the aperture ring, manual focus ring, and amazing sharpness are worth it.

After I came to this conclusion I picked up a Nikon NIKKOR 50mm f/1.2 AIS Manual Focus Lens from BH for $650. I’ve had it about 2 weeks, and thus far it has been an absolute joy to shoot with!

Did I make the right decision? I honestly  have no idea, but the footage looks pretty damn good. This was shot entirely on f/1.2 with terrible lighting: and this was shot at night with lots of bright lights: Hopefully I’ll have some test footage soon with daylight.

Now I’m thinking about pick up the NIKKOR 28mm f/2.8 AIS Manual Focus Lens.

Any other Nikon users out there have a favorite lens that pairs well with video?


  • I definitely like shooting with my Nikon AF 50mm f/1.8 D. Cost only $125 and has manual focus. It has an aperture ring, but it’s disabled when used with most modern DSLRs (like my D90), but honestly how often do you have to adjust aperture in the middle of shooting? So that’s my favorite lens for shooting static/setup shots and by far looks the best

    For shooting in more of casual ‘camcorder’ kind of stuff, prime lenses just aren’t practical. Zooming with your feet running around the room doesn’t always go over well at parties. For that stuff I use my Nikon 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-S DX VR ED. 18-105mm is pretty much the perfect range for shooting practically anything you could possible want, and with f/3.5 at wide open 18mm, it still looks very good (though for low-light shots you’re obviously going to end up cranking ISO and getting grainy). But it’s a great lens for turning the camera into a very flexible camcorder in a pinch.

  • Alex says:

    I also use the Nikon AF 50mm f/1.8 D – for stills, and very soon with my D7000. Personally I like moving a prime around the room with my feet. But, does the f1.2 really get you that much more than the f1.8? More light, but $500 worth? Seriously… I’m curious.

    • kelseywynns says:

      It does get you quite a bit more light (the scale is logarithmic I think? too lazy to look that up)…but then you have to worry about an extremely shallow depth of field…so there is a trade off for sure.

      You would also get an aperture ring…while using the D7000 once you are in live view you can’t change the aperture without a ring :( I’m assuming they could potentially fix that with a firmware update though.

      • Mike Tesh says:

        Yeah I’m thinking we should start a petition to make them fix that with a firmware upgrade. Doesn’t seem like there should be any reason not to able to do that. In fact it’s one of things that has made me second guess my purchase of the D7000, thinking maybe I should have gotten a Canon or Panasonic GH2 instead. Those cameras can do that and seem better suited for video.

        That said, I’ve always loved Nikon. Even though I’m a pro video guy by day and this camera (of all HDSLR’s in it’s price range currently), is probably the worst for video, it’s still pretty amazing what it can do with video. Plus I’ll probably use my personal D7000 for more stills work.

        Just today I picked up a 35mm f1.8 lens to go with my stock 18-105 VR I got with the camera. $200 is pretty cheap and it seems to be a great lens. I’m just starting out buying SLR lenses (for the 20th time in my life) so the only lens I own from previously has been an old Nikon 50mm f1.8 manual focus for my Nikon FE. It’s got a horrible little focus ring on it and doesn’t seem to register its aperture at all with the D7000, but it takes nice photos and like you said it’s got an aperture ring so it wil work well with video.

        I really want to see more people use this camera for video work. All the other video guys rave about the GH2 and the Canon cameras and no one seems to care about this D7K. But as far as I can tell, even though this cam doesn’t have all the video options the other cams have, it’s video picture quality seems to be on par with the current Canon’s. I mean all one ever really needs is 1080/24p when using a camera like this.

        • kelseywynns says:

          Nice! I’m thinking about picking up the 35mm f1.8 as well…even though it doesn’t have an aperture ring, it would be a great addition for sure…

          I do know there is an i-petition for a firmware update to add more frame rates…surely there is one for manual aperture control as well.

          As I’m a photographer moving into the video world, the D7k is plenty to get me started…but would love 60fps as well as manual aperture control…

  • Bobby says:

    On your Nashville parade video, were you using some type of rigging? I’ve just gotten into using the Glidecam with my D7K, but it gets a little tiresome.

    Granted, we do very little shooting without controlled lighting, but I do want to look into getting a rig for the camera.

  • chanc says:

    Hey Bud can you reccomend a good tripod both for video and still photography? thanks

  • mark says:

    SLIK 504 QF II makes a good tripod with a fluid head. It handles smaller cams very nicely for under $200.

  • Frank Richmond says:

    I have picked up several older manual focus lenses with an aperture ring–including a couple of zooms, such as a 35-70. I traded in some of my old Canon stuff on a 10-24mm that I love to use for parades at Disney and for confined spaces where I need to fit a lot in the frame from up close. I also used it for some video at a beach resort in the Philippines. I really like it. I just bought a lens on ebay that I look forward to using. It is a 20mm 3.5 lens. It might not be the best lens for low light, but it will be good for scenic shots and video with manual focus, which I prefer.

    I’m really not thrilled with High ISO video in low light from my D7000, but I do have a couple of 35mm and 50mm lenses with large apertures. I just love the feel of the older manual focus lenses. My very first SLR was a Nikon, and I don’t mind the manual focus. Just wish I could shoot video while looking through the viewfinder. I am considering the purchase of a viewfinder that attaches over the LCD display.

  • Eric says:

    Okay, I am a newbie at shooting video with a DSLR as I have always used a video camera (Panasonic DVX100B). Am looking at purchasing the Nikon 5100 for my first camera. Some of the options are a 55-200mm and 55-300mm lens as a combo special. Would they work as well?

    Thank you for your help. I am trying to build background knowledge before I pull the trigger on the camera/lens.

    • Rob says:

      Hey Eric, my wife and I do wedding videography mostly. Our primary is a Sony EX1 but we got a d7K for the shallow DOF and look we can’t get with our primary. We have found primes are the way to go. I use a 70-200 on sticks sometimes during the ceremony, but mostly primes. Good Luck

    • Ive recently upgraded to the nikon D600 from the D5100 mainly because of the full frame option but the nikon
      D5100 is a great camera. I only use these cameras for music videos and reality shows but they are much better than the Canons.

      this was shot on the D5100 with a 35mm nikkor f/1.8 –
      this was shot on the D5100 with a 50mm nikkor f/1.8 –

      So to answer your question, the D5100 is a great camera

  • Rob says:

    This is a brilliant article. I’m working on how I am going to let my wife get both the 28 and 50 this season. We’ve had good luck with the 35 1.8, but having the ring on the lens is brilliant.


  • O2so says:

    I love the footages Kelsey. Great choice for the soundtracks as well

  • Josh says:

    Hey I’m really new to this videography field I have a nikon D3100 and I’m really tryna jump the gun in this field an dinned to know the best video editing software windows operated