Monday, 7 March 2016

LOW BUDGET LENSES : 3 PRIME LENSES FOR UNDER £50

When choosing Lenses a lot of it comes down to personal taste. For me, I'm shooting narrative film or music videos, mostly in dark/enclosed environments and so for me these things are important factors when looking for glass to put on my camera. 

The biggest problem I faced when I first started buying lenses for my Canon t2i 6 years ago was that after I picked up the very affordable Canon 50mm f1.8 for £100 (You can now get clones for around £50 on ebay) the list of affordable lenses ended. As a low budget filmmaker, finding cheap glass for the camera was tough going. Luckily the kit lens and the 50mm are more than enough to cover most narrative situations with the 'Nifty Fifty' acting as my work horse lens. I also picked up a zoom lens eventually, but in all honesty I must have used it about 4 times over the course of 5 features. The main problem I had always came when I needed wide angles at low light.

When I moved to Panasonic, after 5 years of shooting on a Canon, I was spoilt by the LX100's low light lens that was f1.7 wide open. Thats at its widest angle too, which solved a lot of those problems for me. The issues with it came with the form factor, main that it was a compact, fixed lens camera (although you wouldn't think it from the images it can produce) and as a result had a digital focus ring rather than manual. After working with manual focus for the last half decade, I found it a pain. The upside was the camera shoots 4K and so I was reluctant to move back to Canon.

Then Panasonic released the G7. The price was equivalent to upgrading to Canon's newest 'Rebel series' camera, but with the added bonus of shooting 4K and a better FHD Codec. It was a no brainer, except for the fact the camera had a Micro 4/3 mount. A mount that I hadn't used before and of course I thought back to how unaffordable Canon's lenses were for me when I started shooting on DSLR's. I didn't want to have to drop a bunch of money on getting a whole new set of glass for a new mount on top of dropping a chunk of cash on the new camera. So I started looking for a low budget solution. 

What I found was an extremely cheap and absolutely incredible set of Prime lens made by a company called Fujian (although search C-mount on Ebay for 'off brand' results) that covered almost everything I needed in terms of image and focal range and the amazing thing is I picked them ALL up for just over £50 (although they are available a lot cheaper).  I've broken them down for you all below. The prices are based on what is available this morning on Ebay.

25mm f1.4 CCTV (£12/$17) 
A solid wide angle lens, although the focal length is obviously not as extreme as Panasonic's native 14mm prime, it's wide enough for most situations. The wonderful thing about it is that it creates the most beautiful images of the 3 (which is pretty impressive as its the cheapest) and although it has soft edges at low aperture that only adds to the vintage film look that this lens puts out. 

The 25mm is my go to lens for most situations it's wide enough that it can achieve tracking, dolly and even steady-cam shots whilst giving enough depth of field to maintain that film look. The best part though is the price. I paid just £17 for mine and only because I needed it in a hurry, i've seen these tiny bad boys for as little as £10. If I had to pick just one of these lenses for a shoot, it would be this one.

Take a look HERE

35mm f1.8 CCTV (£14/$20)
This was the first lens I picked up, originally to fit it to a Canon Eos-M. When I moved to Panasonic I tried this out with a 99p adapter on my G7 and was instantly amazed at just how much better than the LUMIX kit lens it looked. It was what instantly inspired me to try the other C-mount lenses. 

It's not quite as durable under low light with it landing at only 1.8 (or 1.7 as is it says on the lens) when fully open, which you wouldn't really notice until you start using the 1.4 lenses more often, but a slight ISO shift should solve most problems in that regard. This is a great medium lens and fantastic for mid shots. I use this mainly for long conversation shots and action stuff where I want a tight image without losing the detail of what is happening in terms of movement. 

Take a look HERE

50mm f1.4 CCTV (£20/$29)
This is very similar to the Canon version in terms of the image it produces. I loved this focal length in my Canon t2i and only really bought the C-mount version to make lens changes faster on set, this is because the lens cost me £27 (once again, only because I needed it in a hurry), I have seen them for £15 at times. This is the most expensive lens out of the set and at £15/£20 that's not a lot.

The upside of trading the Canon 'nifty fifty' for this on was that I found I wasn't switching out adapters when I'm on set, I can just screw the 'Fujian' lens onto my adapter and its ready to go. There is also the fact that this 50mm is 1.4 wide open, making it just that little bit better under darker conditions. Its an incredible close up lens. 

Take a look HERE


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I was blown away by the quality of these lenses, like really, really blown away. They can feel a little cheap sometimes, as some parts are made of plastic and they sometime feel a little fragile, although they are more than durable. They are also Manual Iris which means setting the aperture by hand, I found this tricky at first (mainly just knowing if I was getting the right exposure), but in 3 short months its become second nature and I actually prefer it to an electronic one. On top of that any kind of auto focus is also off the table, but thats something I didn't use on my Canon so its not an issue for me here.

I've been shooting a feature using these 3 lenses since December and I love them, they look so filmic and make shooting in low light conditions an absolute breeze. The 25mm is wide enough for most long shots although I do have a 14mm Lumix prime (With wide angle adapter) in case I need and extreme wide, but I use it very rarely. I can say with great ease though that moving to Micro 4/3 has been a great decision for me as a no budget filmmaker.

Obviously this is bad news for anyone not shooting Micro 4/3 as the lens aren't compatible with Canon's standard FD mount, for me this was another reason that justified my move to Panasonic's brand of cameras. Although the Canon Eos-m (On Ebay for just over £100) has a smaller mount and takes them no problem, so if you're intent on sticking with Canon then it is an option and they really are just a mirrorless version of the the 'Rebel series'. 

In the end though, the kind of image you want comes down to several factors and its all about personal taste. This is what works for me and it may not be what your looking for, but at under £50 for 3 great prime lenses it certainly worth a look for anyone shooting on a budget who just wants more options.

MJ

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