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How to Choose the Right Lenses for Church Production

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Differences in Lenses

Any time you have the opportunity to buy new gear it's exciting. Often times though there can be so many choices it's hard to know what to buy! I know that I have experienced this over and over. In the world of lenses there are numerous choices to burden you down.  It is my desire that this article will help guide you in buying the right lenses for your churches lens kit. Many things contribute to the purchase of a lens. Who will be using it, how will it be used, what is the church budget, how many lenses can and should you purchase? Might I start off by saying that it is imperative to rent and test out lenses before putting down hundreds or thousands of dollars to buy one. Test it in low light, test it for photography, and videography and make sure it is conducive for all elements and surroundings. It is important for ease of use and over all quality of church production that you buy the right lens.

It is important before you buy that you also know the difference between the two types of lenses in the world. The two types are prime lenses and zoom lenses.

Prime vs. Zoom Lenses

What's the Difference?

I found that the video above is really good and educational, I hope you got a lot out of it too. As we leaned; in simplest terms a prime lens is a lens with only 1 focal length. There is no range with a prime lens. A 50mm is and can only remain at 50mm. Prime lenses tend to be cheaper and give you a wider starting aperture. By that I mean that you can use the widest aperture at any time while shooting. A zoom lens often has restrictions on it. With my 18mm-200mm I can only start at a f/3.5. Most prime lenses give you more range in aperture options. For example the 50mm can widen up to f/2.8 and lower, its not restricted.

A zoom lens has a range of focal lengths.  Zoom lenses give you more flexibility. You can "zoom"in to shoot something on the dime vs a prime lens where you're stuck on that particular focal length. Zoom lenses tend to be more expensive though. Each one has its own advantages and disadvantages. 

When choosing either lens type for your church consider the speed of the lens. What is the importance of having a faster lens? Faster meaning the widest opening is available to you. Whether you have a prime or a good zoom it is important to be able to open up to f/2.8 or wider. This wide of an aperture setting will give you a narrower depth of field which will in turn give you a better and more gorgeous bokeh. What is bokeh?

Light Ringlets

Bokeh 2
Credit: Pixabay

The blurred out background behind he girl is bokeh. 

Bokeh

Bokeh 1
Credit: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8a/Josefina_with_Bokeh.jpg

What is Bokeh?

Bokeh is an artistic term for an effect where the background is blurred out. Bokeh comes from a narrow depth of field. A narrow depth of field keeps the foreground or subject in focus and blurres out everything else. A large aperture setting will allow for this. Capturing bokeh can add artistic sparkle to your photography or videography. If you have lights in the background you can get some really nice light ringlets, such as in the examples above.

Instruction Video on Bokeh

Prime Lenses

Without further ado, lets start to look at the lenses that will most benefit you. First I'm going to review for you the prime lenses that will work best for you.

  • 24mm Wide: This is a super lens. One of the best things about a wide lens is that you don't have to keep the wide image captured you can crop down the image to create a "zoomed in" look. This lens is a good establishing shot lens or a great lens to capture a building, full room, or team. You can get a wonderful lens for a reasonable price of $130-$600. For church production on a small budget you don't need anything more expensive.
  • 35mm Medium Wide: This is a staple lens for many photographers/videographers. Its narrower than the 24mm so you can be more intentional with it.  But if you want to skip the 24mm this will still give you a great wide shot. You can purchase one for $550 to $1000. 
  • 50mm Medium. You will want to have a nifty fifty for your kit. It's a nicely blended medium focal length lens. This a super lens for head and shoulder shots or for doing announcement videos or teaching points  on instruction videos. You can get one for $110-$125 which is one of the cheapest buys! Of coarse you can buy one for more expensive but I have not discovered why yet.
  • 85MM Tight: This of coarse is a great portrait lens or good for capturing a close ups of your pastor on stage. This will be ideal for low light settings and to get a shallow depth of field. You can purchase this prime lens for $370. All in all this list will make a well rounded lens kit.
Lens Kit

Zoom Lenses

For zoom lenses, I encourage you to get an 'all in one' lens. I have a 18mm-200mm that serves me really well. Again there are some restrictions in the aperture. The widest aperture that I can have is f/3.5. But over all I really enjoy it and you can get one for around $600. But to be truly happy I suggest these lenses.

  • 24mm-70mm: This gives you a nice range for shooting. Most of the time you don't need to zoom in to much further.  A good "L" series lens will give you the aperture experience you're looking for. With the expense of this lens, you may only need this one lens. It can cost nearly $2000. Take a look at other brands, you can get a cheaper lens.
  • 70mm-200mm: Again get the "L" series lens to give you more flexibility with your aperture. This is a great lens for dim light settings or to capture beautiful bokeh. This would be a great lens for documentary footage or filming. I hope to take one of these with me on my next mission trip. It's likely to cost close to or higher than $2000.  If you can afford to buy both you will have a nice 24-200 range kit.

I hope that this article will give you some food for thought as you consider what purchases you want to make when choosing the right lens for better church production. 

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