If you’re going to invest in anything, invest in fast glass. High quality prime lenses will out live their owner. Though this statement is somewhat cliche I can attest to it. I’ve had the pleasure of shooting with a beautiful, full set of match barrel Zeiss cine primes which were etched with their country of origin, West Germany. I don’t know exactly how old these lenses were but I can tell you that they captured beautiful images with what at time was the cutting edge Sony F3.
Shooting with primes will make you a better cinematographer. Many years ago I argued with arrogance that a fixed aperture zoom was superior to a fast prime. While the 24-70mm f/2.8 L glass is a remarkable lens it will make you a lazy shooter. You will use the zoom range to reframe instead of moving the camera to capture the image you desire. When you work with primes you learn how the world looks at various focal lengths. I shoot primarily with the Canon C300 which has a Super 35 sensor and EF mount. When compared to a Full Frame sensor the crop factor = 1.4x.
If you put a Canon 50mm f/1.2 L prime on the C300 the crop factor will make the field of view equivalent to 70mm. Crop factor is a key thing to remember when selecting your prime lenses. You may love the classic 35mm lens but with the crop factor you’re equivalent field of view is going to be 49mm.
Below are what I believe to be the best Canon still prime lenses for video.
This might just be my favorite Canon Prime. When used with the Canon C100 or C300 your effective field of view becomes 34mm, an incredibly versatile focal length. If you have been using zooms exclusively this is the prime lens that will have the biggest impact on the way you shoot. Note this is the widest prime I’ve included in this list. If you’re looking for something wider I and many others recommend the Tokina DX-II 11-16mm f/2.8.
The rumor mill had been churning that Canon was going to update their 35mm prime and sure enough they just did. Knowing the update was right around the corner I decided to hold off on adding this prime to my kit. I know I’ll be renting the new version sometime soon and I’m sure I will fall in love. Keep in mind when used with the Canon C100 or C300 your effective field of view becomes 49mm.
You want this prime, you want it bad. And there is no reason to deny the lust, this lens is legendary. This prime is more capable than you and can handle anything you throw at it. With the crop factor making the equivalent field of view 70mm on super 35, I love to use this lens for interviews and portraits. I often use it to isolate products or pick off smaller details.
What no 85mm f/1.2?! I must be a complete idiot to think a Canon prime list could be complete without the 85mm. The 85mm is a gem no doubt but with an equivalent focal length of 119mm on Super 35 I’m not rushing out to add it to my kit. So put down the pitchforks and pick up this versatile, low cost, macro prime lens. The 100mm f/2.8 is equivalent to 140mm on Super 35, includes image stabilization and obviously opens the world of macro videography. Be aware that the image stabilization motors in this prime can be a bit noisy.
This blog is titled, “The Best Canon Primes for Video”, I should confess it’s the best Canon still primes for video but that just didn’t have the same ring to it. Yes, if cost is not a factor Canon makes a very attractive set of Cine primes. Now just to provide a touch of perspective all four still primes I’ve listed above could be bought off B&H for $5,396.0o. Now that’s not nothing but the Canon CN-E 24mm T1.5 L F Cine Lens alone retails for $5,220.00. I always recommend you try before you buy and lenses are one of the cheapest rentals around. Support your local camera store if you’re fortunate enough to still have one in your city.