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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The 3-Lens Solution

Be prepared to work in any situation with an efficient set of high-quality optics that covers the majority of focal lengths

This Article Features Photo Zoom
All Pentax DSLRs are APS-C (except, of course, the medium-formant 645D), so a Pentax pro kit would include the DA 12-24mm ƒ/4.0, DA* 16-50mm ƒ/2.8 SDM and DA* 50-135mm ƒ/2.8 SDM. Alternatives would include the DA 16-45mm ƒ/4.0 and DA 17-70mm ƒ/4 SDM.

Sigma's DSLRs are APS-C (the pro SD1 model having a 1.5x focal-length factor and the others with a 1.7x factor). So a good pro kit would be the 12-24mm ƒ/4.5-5.6 DG HSM II, 24-70mm ƒ/2.8 EX DG HSM and 50-150mm ƒ/2.8 HSM. For Sony's APS-C DSLRs, you could replace the full-frame kit's Zeiss 16-35mm with the Sony DT 11-18mm ƒ/4.5-5.6, a little "slow" compared to the ƒ/2.8 zooms, but a good lens nonetheless (this would leave a gap between 18mm and 24mm in the three-lens kit). The new DT 16-50mm ƒ/2.8 SSM is weather-resistant and also a good choice, if 24mm (35mm camera equivalent) is wide enough for you.

The independent lens makers offer lenses specifically designed for APS-C sensors (you also can use lenses designed for full-frame and 35mm film cameras). Good Sigma APS-C choices include the 10-20mm ƒ/3.5 EX DC HSM or 10-20mm ƒ/4-5.6 EX DC HSM, the 17-70mm ƒ/2.8-4 DC Macro OS HSM and the 17-50mm ƒ/2.8 EX DC HSM, 18-50mm ƒ/2.8-4.5 DC OS HSM or 17-70mm ƒ/2.8-4 DC Macro OS HSM (OS lenses incorporate Optical Stabilization). Tamron offers the SP AF10-24mm F/3.5-4.5 Di II and the SP AF17-50mm F/2.8 XR Di II (with or without Vibration Compensation). Good Tokina APS-C options include the AT-X 11-16mm ƒ/2.8 PRO DX, AT-X 12-24mm ƒ/4 PRO DX II and AT-X 16.5-135mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 DX.

For Four Thirds System DSLRs.
Olympus' Four Thirds System cameras have a 2x focal-length factor, so a primary kit would include the 7-14mm ƒ/4.0, 14-35mm ƒ/2.0 SWD and 35-100mm ƒ/2.0. Lower-cost, but still pro-quality Olympus Zuiko Digital zooms include the 11-22mm ƒ/2.8-3.5, 12-60mm ƒ/2.8-4.0 SWD and 14-54mm ƒ/2.8-3.5. All of these lenses were designed specifically for the 17.3x13.0mm Four Thirds System image sensor.

Prime Lenses

Zeiss CP.2 prime lenses are available with EF or PL mounts. These high-quality, dedicated cine lenses are popular with DSLR filmmakers for their combination of image quality and relatively low cost.
Still shooters expanding into HD video may have been surprised by the emphasis on prime versus zoom lenses. It's not that videographers don't use zooms; it's just that prime lenses still reign supreme in sharpness, contrast and speed. We're accustomed to thinking about a maximum aperture of ƒ/2.8 as being a fast pro zoom—these are the zooms that get a manufacturer's elite rating with prices to match. But you can get an extremely sharp 50mm ƒ/1.4 for just a few hundred dollars, and that's 3 stops faster than ƒ/2.8!

Sure, you can use your pro zooms for video, but if you want to augment your collection with a few key primes, here's what we suggest for a good three-lens kit.

16mm ƒ/2.8
24mm ƒ/1.8 or 35mm ƒ/1.8
50mm ƒ/1.4

For full-frame DSLRs:
24mm ƒ/1.8
35mm ƒ/1.8 or 50mm ƒ/1.4
85mm ƒ/1.8

These kits give you a moderate wide-angle, a standard lens and a moderate telephoto. With a three-prime lens kit, you can cover a lot of scenes with very sharp, high-contrast, fast lenses that will give you a rich cinema look.

If you have the need and the budget to get a full set of true cine lenses, the Zeiss CP.2 set consists of a 21mm T/2.9, 28mm T/2.1, 35mm T/2.1, 50mm T/2.1 and 85mm T/2.1. (Note: Cine lenses use T-stops instead of ƒ-stops. T-stops are similar to ƒ-stops but they measure the actual transmission of light through the lens whereas ƒ-stops are strictly a function of the geometry of the aperture and focal length.)


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