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Sony NXCAM NEX-FS700 CineAlta
4K EXMOR sensor with SDI, slow-motion recording.


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Old July 20th, 2012, 08:04 PM   #1
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Lenses for Storytelling

Hello All,

I am new to the forums and just getting back into filmmaking after a much too long hiatus (around 4 years). I recently purchased the sony nex-fs700 and have been playing with it for the last week and a half and am really enjoying it. I'm mostly interested in narrative storytelling but can easily see myself making documentaries or experimental films with the fs700 as it seems to be quite versatile. Currently I have the stock lens, LA-EA2 adapter, and 16-50mm 2.8 Sony Alpha 1650 lens. I realize that for making the best dramatic films I should probably get some higher end glass.... I am wondering if you guys have any advice regarding this.... I've been looking at some of the test footage on Vimeo and notice some really good footage with the sony alpha g lens 70-200mm (2.8), the sony alpha zeiss lens, but have also have noticed some really great footage with the canon l lenses. Or would it be best to get a pl mount and rent some cinema lenses? Which lenses do you guys think would be the best for the purpose of drama with the fs700?
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Old July 22nd, 2012, 07:52 AM   #2
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Re: Lenses for Storytelling

Lenses don't care about content: they don't think and can't tell the difference between documentairy, experimental films and fiction, or good or bad images :-p

However lenses do create a look with focal length and aperture.
Lenses differ in terms of (maximum) speed, sharpness and ability to pull focus precisely.

I'd say: play around with the lenses you have now and do some tests with different focal lengths to see what works for you.
You already have a fast 16-50mm lens, so you may consider a fast zoomlens from 50mm to ...mm to complement your range of 2.8 lenses.

You can spend fortunes to buy the ultimate lenses: primes and/or zooms, but you need to discover what you really need.
I know this is a rather 'filosophical reply'.
However, I expect other replies to be more technical about different lenses :-)
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Old July 22nd, 2012, 10:52 AM   #3
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Re: Lenses for Storytelling

One of the biggest learning points we've had in the move to S35 and Photo lenses is that 'Glass is the New Film Stock'.

By that, I mean that lenses have character.

You rent or buy a crate of expensive PL mount Cine lenses in a range of focal lengths because they will all look and act the same. The same flare, the same contrast, the same sharpness, the same bokeh.

You could buy two or three zoom lenses and treat them as 'variable primes' - but you'd be best served by getting your lenses from the same stable - Nikkor, Canon-L, Canon FD, and so on.

A vintage Canon 50mm f1.2 used at f2 is going to look (and feel in use) very different to a Sigma f1.4 used at f2. Nikkors, whilst focusing in a contrary direction to everything else, have a clarity and a sharpness that has a special character all of their own - different to, in my experience, Canon L. But I lean towards Canon L images and love their 17-55 and 24-105 lenses, so go figure.

Most quality lenses, 3-4 stops up from their base aperture, are absolutely fine and virtually indistinguishable from each other, so you're paying for performance at their widest aperture and their mechanical handling characteristics. Hence, you can buy a Tokina 11-16 wide, or the Duclos 11-16 which is the same glass in a different body, aimed at the strictures of professional narrative productions with a crew and a budget and a schedule (and contractual obligations).
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Old July 23rd, 2012, 08:34 PM   #4
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Re: Lenses for Storytelling

Thanks Matt and Walter for your informative answers!

I'm probably gonna stick with what I have now until I make some more shorts and get some more experience. Eventually though I'll probably opt for the Sony Alpha (70-200mm 2.8) in order to stay within the same stable unless I try some other lenses and find I like their "look" better with at the wider aperture!

Thanks again for your help!
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Old July 24th, 2012, 02:03 AM   #5
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Re: Lenses for Storytelling

Prime lenses can change the way you shoot and as a result change the look of your productions. If your using primes and you need to adjust the framing you can't just zoom in or out and you must instead move the camera. A film shot with a single prime lens, re-framed by moving the camera will have a very different look to a film shot with a zoom where the focal length keeps changing. Prime lenses also tend to have fewer aberrations and less flare so often have higher contrast. I like the look you get when you shoot with just one or two fixed focal lengths. Of course you can simulate that look by not using the zoom and treating a zoom as a prime lens.

Walter's advice is good. Figure out what you need using the lenses you have, but I have to say that right now I'm really impressed with the results I'm getting from my Samyang lenses. They are low cost, have manual iris rings are fast and yet produce really nice crisp images. I have the 14mm and 35mm and have my eyes on the 24mm and 85mm to complete my set.
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Old July 24th, 2012, 07:45 AM   #6
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Re: Lenses for Storytelling

Alister, I've been looking at those lenses as well. Did you go with the Sony mount? I'm considering the Nikon version since I already have the Nikon mount for the F3.
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Old July 24th, 2012, 11:31 AM   #7
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Re: Lenses for Storytelling

Initially I had Nikon mount, but I'm switching to Canon mount as I'm fed up with focussing back to front with Nikon fit lenses. The Canon fit Samyang's still have iris rings and focus the correct way.
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