Photo Lenses for Video

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In the video world, lenses of many different brands are all compatible with a few mounts. A lot of different manufacturers make lenses in PL mount, for example, and lots of different manufacturers make cameras that accept them.

In the photo world, every brand of camera has a proprietary mount. And many brands have more than one mount. The problem gets compounded when you consider third party lenses made by Sigma, Tamron and Tokina. Each of those manufactures make lenses in Canon, Nikon, Sony and 4/3 mount, so you have to get the Sigma for Canon mount, for example.

Even within the correct mount, however, some lenses only cover crop-sensor cameras, the image circle won’t cover full-frame. The manufacturer’s often use cryptic terms to announce whether a lens covers full frame or only crop frame cameras. Canon EF lenses are full frame, for example, while Canon EF-S lenses are crop frame. Nikon FX lenses are full frame and DX crop frame. Sigma DG lenses cover full frame, DC cover crop frame. And on and on.


  • Crop Frame (7D, 60D, T2i): all Canon mount lenses work
  • Full Frame (5D Ml II): Canon EF lenses work, EF-S lenses do not. Most wide-angle Sigma, Tamron, Tokina lenses do not.


  • Crop Frame (D300s, D90, D7000): All Nikon mount lenses work
  • Full Frame (D3s): FX lenses work. DX lenses work badly. Most wide-angle Sigma, Tamron, Tokina lenses work badly.


  • Alpha Full Frame (A850, A900): Not used for video that we’re aware of. Full-frame Alpha lenses work, of course.
  • Alpha Crop Frame (A550, A580): All alpha mount lenses work. NEX lenses do not work.
  • Sony NEX: All NEX lenses work, Alpha lenses do not.


The SLRs and cameras that are used for video are basically Micro 4/3 mount. Only Micro 4/3 lenses will mount. Other Olympus and Pansonic lenses do not work.

Using Adapters

All those different mounts have different flange-to-sensor (or flange-to-focal) distances. A lens from a camera system with longer flange-to-sensor distances can be mounted on an adapter to a camera with a shorter flange-to-sensor distance, but not the other way. That’s why you can mount a Nikon lens with adapter to a Canon body without corrective glass elements, but not the other way around.

Mount Flange-to-sensor distance
Sony NEX 18mm
Micro 4/3 20mm
Standard 4/3 38.7mm
Canon 44mm
Sony Alpha 44.5mm
Nikon 46.5mm
Arri, PL 52mm

As you can see from the table above, Micro 4/3 and NEX cameras can use almost any other lens on the proper adapter. Nikon cameras can’t use other lenses with adapters -- except PL in theory, but we know of no adapter for that.

Most adapters do not transfer electronic controls to the lens, and many lenses have electronic aperture controls. So it may not be possible to shoot the lens other than wide open (the default). But most people shoot wide open aperture most of the time so its rarely a major problem.

The following adapters are readily available:

  • I know my stuff

    Nikon 24-70 f/2.8g is not a parfocal lens. I just tested it on the D800. Not the worst performance, but the focus does shift as you zoom.

  • Marco

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

  • http://www.punch-drunk.com Jacob

    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!

  • Charles O. Slavens

    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.

  • Richy Lacey

    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...

  • Sami

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

  • http://chrislawes.com Chris Lawes

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

  • Roger Cicala

    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.

  • http://onthewaveproductions.blogspot.com Harry Rabin

    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

  • Buck Brinson

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

  • Roger Cicala


    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.

  • Eugene Powers

    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.

  • Eugene Powers

    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.

  • http://www.photoxication.com Photoxication

    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.

  • http://www.bluebridgemediagroup.com Jacob

    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.

  • http://N/A Alex

    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! :-)

  • Roger Cicala

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


  • Nick Junkersfeld

    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!

  • http://www.underwoodpix.com Michael Underwood

    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!

  • Roger Cicala

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

  • Jason Attaman

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

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  • 144Jim

    "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."