Photo Lenses for Video

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Sensor Size and Lens Loss

What photographers refer to as “full frame” means the sensor is the size of 35mm photographic film: 24x36mm (43.3mm diagonal). On a full frame camera a 50mm lens gives the field of view expected of a 50mm lens.

A crop frame (a.k.a. crop sensor) camera has a sensor roughly 50% smaller than a full-frame sensor, so lenses appear to give an image 50% longer than their actual focal length. (They have a 1.5 crop factor, here referred to as "lens loss".) A 50mm lens on a crop frame camera gives the same field of view that a 75mm lens would on a full-frame.

Olympus and Panasonic 4/3 systems use still smaller 17x13mm sensors which have a crop factor of 2X: a 50mm lens shot on a 4/3 camera would give the same field of view as a 100mm lens shot on a full frame camera.

And just for total chaos, Canon’s 1D III and 1D IV have 1.3x crop cameras--right between full-frame and crop-frame.

Sensor sizes of the commonly used video SLRs

  • Full Frame: Canon 5DMk II, Nikon D3s
  • 1.3x crop frame: Canon 1DMk IV
  • 1.5x crop frame: Canon 7D, 60D, T2i; Nikon D300s, D90; Sony A550, A580 (Note Canon cameras actually crop to 1.6, rather than 1.5. But close enough.)
  • 2x crop frame: All Panasonic and Olympus cameras

22 Responses to “Photo Lenses for Video”

144Jim said:

"This list isn’t the coolest lenses or the best special effects lenses or the sharpest lenses. This is a list of lenses that give nice sharp images, work well, don’t cause frequent problems, and don’t require special alterations of technique."


Jason Attaman said:

will you consider a blog post "Video lenses for photo?"

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Actually I've been thinking about just that. There are a few interesting combinations worth a quick blog.

Michael Underwood said:

What an awesome article. I have been trying to figure out which of my Canon lenses are parfocal for a while now. Thank you, thank you THANK YOU!

Nick Junkersfeld said:

This is a great piece of reference material, thanks for posting. I do have one inquiry however, I've heard that the older Tokina/Angenieux AT-X PRO 28-70 f2.6-2.8 is also a parfocal lens, is it possible that deserves inclusion here or can you confirm it is NOT a parfocal lens? Thanks!

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Nick, I don't have information on that lens, although older designs are more likely to be parfocal than newer lenses.


Alex said:

The Tokina AT-X Pro 28-80mm 1:2.8 lens is parfocal, and it is also internal focus and internal zoom... I know this as I have one, (although it 'really' needs a service... parfocals are like that I believe... the BMW's of lenses...) Hope the service doesn't cost more than the lens though! :-)

Jacob said:

My 24-105L is definitely parfocal. I've been reading that most of the Canon L series zooms are parfocal except for a couple, along with a few standard ones.

Photoxication said:

I can also attest to the fact that the 24-105L is parfocal. The zoom/focus rings are a bit tight to turn, we'll see how this changes once I use it a bit more over the years. Definitely a keeper, even though there is a bit of barrel/pincushion distortion throughout it's range. Sharp wide open.

Eugene Powers said:

I guess according to you Sigma 12-24mm (both versions) is not compatible with my 5D2.
What a shame I guess I have to put it on the shelf and just enjoy looking at it.

Eugene Powers said:

I don't think 24-105mm is parfocal but it changes focus very little with the zoom so as far as video it could be considered as parfocal. Nevertheless it does change focus with the zoom.

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:


I'm not sure where you got that - the article doesn't have anything about compatibility in it. The Sigma 12-24 (both versions) are certainly compatible with the 5D II.

Buck Brinson said:

Tamron 17-50 2.8 and Sigma 50-150 2.8 are parafocal and work well for video.

Harry Rabin said:

I don't believe that any of the 4 Canon 70-200 zooms are parfocal. At least that is what I have read in several articles. Also the 24-105 is varifocal but minimal OOF issues compared to other Canon L Glass like the 24-70

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

This article is now a bit dated and I just want to point out to everyone that lenses that appeared parfocal on a camera with, say, a 2/3" sensor may show themselves WAAAAYYYYY not parfocal when you're filming on a full-frame sensor. Depth of field is dramatically different nowadays.

Chris Lawes said:

So... this list does not apply when using full frame cameras? What about smaller sensors above 2/3" like APS-C?

Sami said:

The new EF 24-70mm 4L IS is parfocal -(at least very close).

Richy Lacey said:

The Tamron 17-50/2.8 I own definitely isn't parfocal. There are fairly dramatic shifts in focus between wide and long. Or at least there were until the zoom ring broke...

Charles O. Slavens said:

I made my living behind a motion picture camera in the 60s and 70s, and I've shot to a limited extent with professional video cameras. Now, while basically in retirement and doing private projects, I'm using a Canon 5dMK2. It delivers stunning quality images, but the compromises you have to make are very frustrating. Budgets aside... any serious undertaking would warrant the use of pro video gear.

Jacob said:

Very curious about the Canon 70-200mm f2.8 - I'm looking at putting that on an EF-mount BMCC.

Anybody know if that would be parfocal on a BMCC EF mount, based on sensor size?

And same question for that lens but with an EF->MFT metabones speedbooster on a BMPCC....

Thank you!

Marco said:

The Tokina 11-16 doesn't seem to be parfocal at least with metabones.

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