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28mm Lenses: The Secret Ingredient For Achieving A Film Look

For those of you that follow this blog regularly, you know that achieving a filmic look when shooting digitally is very important to me and something I often write about. My recent article ‘How To Make Video Look Like Film’ outlined a lot of basic techniques that when implemented can drastically help to improve your digital cinematography and truly make it more film like. But something that I didn’t delve into in detail in that article was lensing choices – specifically wide angle vs. telephoto.

Probably one of the biggest misconceptions about achieving a filmic look, is that long telephoto lenses and shallow depth of field are a necessary part of the equation. Since the 5D was introduced and razor shallow depth of field became easily achievable, just about every low budget indie film went down the path of shooting a lot of long lens shallow DOF shots in an attempt to make their film ‘more cinematic’. The irony though, is that since so many filmmakers went crazy for the ultra-shallow DOF look and used it to death over the past 5 years, it’s now become one of the biggest giveaways that a film was made on a DSLR and probably on a very low budget. Unfortunately, shooting on wider lenses (and for some even normal lenses like the 35mm) has become a lost art. This is really a shame because one of the most used lenses in the history of cinema and therefore one of the keys to unlocking a cinematic look when shooting digitally is the 28mm wide angle lens.

Goodfellas 3

Before we discuss the seemingly magical 28mm focal length, it’s important to recognize why shooting long lens/shallow DOF throughout your film can be the furthest thing from cinematic.

Any 35mm film camera is capable of getting razor thin DOF in just about any circumstance. But how many blockbuster or large-scale independent films can you remember where every other shot was teetering on the brink of being out of focus as so many micro-budget films are? Every film is different and every DP has their own way of working, but in general most substantial films are shot between f4 – f8 the majority of the time. Shooting at that kind of aperture allows for optimal lens performance and smoother focus pulling and is a very far cry from shooting wide open at 1.4 on a full frame DSLR. Sure, for insert shots, extreme closeups, low light, and other specialty shots, there are many cases shooting wide open may be necessary or the right choice – but not for the majority of the film.

So what is the right focal length for the rest of the film? Where is the sweet spot? Ultimately that is up to you as the filmmaker, but for many filmmakers the 28mm lens is the secret ingredient. In fact Spielberg, Scorsese, Orson Wells, Malick, and many other A-list directors are have cited the 28mm lens as one of their most frequently used and in some cases a favorite. And while on paper it may not seem or sound like the most exciting lens choice, keep in mind that the 28mm lens has been a gold standard in shooting motion pictures for over a century, being used to capture some of the most recognizable moments in cinematic history. And if you are truly attempting to emulate the look of motion pictures, than the 28mm lens is a focal length that you absolutely can not ignore.

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When we go to the movies we want to have an experience that emulates reality in many ways, but also is fantastical and surrealistic. That’s where a lens like the 28mm comes into play. It’s just off center. Just barely wider than our regular field of vision, but not too wide that it becomes distracting. It’s different enough from a ‘normal’ focal length like the 50mm that it let’s us subconsciously feel like we’re in a new world, but it’s also close enough to realty that we aren’t lost by any noticeable distortion that we would experience from a more extreme lens choice, like a 12mm. Conversely, shooting on a medium telephoto lens (like a 65mm), would also would be just off center from our normal field of vision, but it could never work as universally as the 28mm lens. If you had to shoot an entire film on a single lens, it would be a lot easier to use a 28mm than a 65mm, unless you’re doing something really specific. The 28mm would allow for wides, closeups, landscape shots and more, all while maintaining a unique and original look. The 65mm would paint you into a corner in some cases, making establishing shots, masters, or medium-wides quite difficult. That said a normal focal length like a 35mm or 50mm may seem to be the more natural choice as that field of view is closest to human vision, but the 28mm’s ability to add that slight bit of surrealism to the picture is exactly what we want.

large_north_by_northwest_blu-ray4

A final thought that I’ll leave you with is that shooting on a wide lens is a great way to make sure you don’t get lazy as a DP or Director. If you have a poorly lit scene or a crappy location, it’s pretty easy to just slap on a long lens, frame out all the ugliness. make the background blur out and get a pretty decent image. But that’s not always the answer and more often than not it’s the easy way out and won’t yield the best possible results. You can’t cheat your way out of every shot and you especially shouldn’t attempt to shoot long lens out of convenience if your scene doesn’t call for it. By shooting with wider lenses you are forced to take into consideration your lighting, composition, and production design much more thoroughly. And this is a very good thing for a lot of independent filmmakers who often skimp out in these areas. Personally, I would prefer to capture a shot with a wide lens and deep DOF that has beautiful art direction to it and loads of detail, than a long lensed shallow DOF shot where the environment is essentially lost in the bokeh.

The bottom line is there are no shortcuts in achieving a filmic look. Following practices that have been used and implemented on films since the early days of cinema is the only way to truly achieve the look you’re after, and one of those practices is making use out of the 28mm lens. And yes that’s might mean setting up more lights, carefully blocking your scene, and spending time on the art direction so that you can shoot on your wider lens and still capture a beautiful image, but once you put in the extra time and effort, you’ll be happy you did.

Keep in mind that in order to emulate that magical 28mm field of view, these lenses are best suited for camera with a Super 35mm sensor, or APS-C in DSLR terms. A 28mm lens on a full frame camera will offer a noticeably wider focal length than in the examples above, and conversely on cameras with larger crops (such as MFT cameras) they will translate to a much longer focal length.

A 28mm lens on a Super 35mm sensor is really the sweet spot, so if you are working with a full frame camera or a sensor with a substantial crop, you will want to look for lenses that will deliver a 28mm while taking into account the crop factor.

Here is a rough guide for which focal lengths you might want to look for on several popular sensors:

Full Frame – 40mm

Super 35mm – 28mm

Micro Four Thirds – 20mm

Super 16mm – 14mm

Below are three lenses that I recommend in the 28mm focal length.

#1 – SIGMA 28MM F1.8 – $449 at B & H

The perfect choice for shooters in need of a faster 28mm lens for low light shooting.

#2 – ZEISS 28MM F2.0 – $1283 at B & H

Zeiss 28mm

 

An excellent and beautifully sharp Zeiss lens that is well built and worth the larger price tag for those looking for a longer term solution.

#3 – NIKON NIKKOR 28MM F2.8 Manual Lens – $539 at B & H

Ideal for Nikon shooters, or any DP who is partial to Nikon glass. This lens gives full manual control in a rugged body, while producing gorgeous images.

UPDATE: For those of you looking for some more cinematic tools, be sure to check out my 6 brand new Cinematic LUT packs, all of which have been carefully designed to help you achieve an organic, filmic look while keeping post-production time to a minimum. Click here to learn more!

 

About Author

Noam Kroll is an award-winning Los Angeles based filmmaker, and the founder of the boutique production house, Creative Rebellion. His work can be seen at international film festivals, on network television, and in various publications across the globe. Follow Noam on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more content like this!

194 Comments

  • Christian
    June 9, 2021 at 7:23 am

    Seeing as 28mm is 28mm is 28mm and 40mm is 40mm is 40mm etc. I’ve been I’ve been wondering if getting a “true” 28mm look on FF for example would be to shoot at 28mm and then cropping (my S1H has a s35 sensor crop)
    While 40mm on a FF sensor would get you a 28mm field of view, wouldn’t the other characteristics such as distortion and compression (since 40mm is more tele than 28mm) get lost by shooting at anything other than true 28mm?

    So to get the 28mm look you would have to shoot at 28mm on at least a s35 sensor size or larger, seeing as you can’t enlarge the 20mm for example on m43 sensors and you effectively ve shooting at 20mm even though FOV would be 28mm on s35.

    Reply
  • Amal
    January 3, 2021 at 8:31 am

    Hi, I regard your website as the reference for budget filmmaking, and I always suprise to find yet another great/old article that I miss. Like this one.

    I’m using sigma fp and have been messing around with number of lenses (sigma 24mm 1.4, Rokinom 85, Sigma 45mm CN) with mix results. I am ready for my first real Cine lens and have the following couple of questions:

    1. Should I invest in L-Mount, EF or PL (I have both adapters). There some new L mount cine lenses(*)

    *I sometime use gimbal with it, and so lighter lense offer big advantages (PL adaptor is heavy).
    However I might move on to another camera in the future and want to keep my lenses

    2. You mentioned in this article that 28 mm is the most cinematic focal length, but not many FF lenses come as 40mm equivalent. What should I choose? (Sigma has the only one probably).

    Thanks again Noam for lots of unconventional ideas and info.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      January 14, 2021 at 2:25 am

      Thanks so much for the note. To answer your questions –

      1. It really depends what you’re shooting. For general use, you can’t go wrong with EF since it’s so universal at this point. But PL is great if you are primarily shooting cinema.

      2. Anything around 40mm can work, so even if you find a rare 38mm or 44mm lens for example, those are options!

      Hope this helps…

      Reply
  • Natan Vance
    September 17, 2020 at 6:32 am

    Very well written and interesting article.
    Not to diminish it; I have however been wondering if, when A-listed directors state they prefer the 28mm – if in fact they indeed mean a 28mm lens versus 28mm focal length? If it’s the latter (I know it may seem the same but hear me out), they already did the math and then I believe they mean using a 40mm anamorphic with 2x squeeze which gives them 20mm (horizontal length), which in turn becomes a 28mm considering the Super 35 crop.

    Evidently I have no proof of what I’m suspecting but I strongly believe that a director will speak about the focal length that is rendered on screen. In turn the DoP will then know what lens to use, depending on the format and such.

    Reply
  • Dimitri
    June 30, 2020 at 6:47 pm

    After doing some research, I realized that the super 35mm film is equivalent to full-frame. For example, my nikon z6 is 35.9 x 23.9 mm, which is full frame (CMOS Sensor). So why did you say APS-C is the equivalent to super 35mm? Am I missing something?

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      August 5, 2020 at 4:00 pm

      Super 35mm film is not equivalent to Full Frame – one is a motion picture format and the other is a stills format…

      Reply
  • Dimitri
    June 29, 2020 at 8:24 pm

    Isn’t a 28mm full-frame lens the equivalent of a 28mm APS-C lens, so in that case why is a 40mm lens for full-frame the equivalent to a 28mm APS-C? Why is 40mm full-frame the equivalent to 28mm APS-C?

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      August 5, 2020 at 3:58 pm

      A 28mm lens on a full frame camera will have a much wider field of view than a 28mm lens on a cropped APS-C/Super 35mm sensor. So to achieve that similar look, you would shoot 40mm on full frame.

      Reply
  • Sebastian Jo
    April 2, 2020 at 10:03 pm

    Would you go with a 28 and a 65 if you had two prime lens? 65 on APS-C

    Thanks for the outstanding article

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      August 5, 2020 at 3:31 pm

      Yes! I think that’s a perfect combo.

      Reply
  • David
    May 5, 2019 at 2:26 pm

    Hi Noam!

    Superuseful and interesting article master! What do you think about using the sigma 16 1.4 qith the sony a6500? I am using at this moment the sigma 30 and I felt I needed something wider for achieving the cinematic style.

    Thanks man and great work!

    David

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      May 17, 2019 at 10:28 pm

      The 16mm is a great lens! Definitely try it out if you think you need a wider angle… Don’t own one myself, but have only heard good things.

      Reply
  • Lutz Leonhardt
    April 20, 2019 at 8:08 am

    Hi Noam

    I’m wondering what lens was used for that famous shot in “north by northwest”. I think its much wider than a 28mm lens (which is 40mm in super35) If you look at the picture, almost everything is sharp, from the foreground to the two actors until the very last telegraph pole. This cannot be a 40mm equivalent. Must be something wider. And there is a lot of room between the two man, there is even more space at the side of each of them. I would guess it is a 25mm to 28mm lens (FF)

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      May 17, 2019 at 10:08 pm

      I don’t know for sure, but will keep an eye out for it next time I watch the film… Which will hopefully be sooner than later 🙂 I’m a big Hitchcock fan.

      Reply
  • Link
    February 16, 2019 at 7:46 pm

    I know this article is old but here is the correction for Super 16mm:

    Super 16mm sensor sizes are 2.88, not 2x (hence your 14mm recommendation).

    Therefore the lenses should be 10mm, which wouldn’t just look right. However, typically it’s best when combining with a Speedbooster of say .58 to this sensor, which turns the crop factor into 1.75x.

    As a result, Super 16mm + Speedbooster becomes 1.75x which means 16mm would be an ideal lens to achieve the 28mm focal length film look.

    Does this make sense?

    Figured I’d leave this here for future micro users as Super 16mm sensors can be confusing when it comes to math with speed boosters. Thanks for the article by the way!

    Reply
  • Silvan
    February 5, 2019 at 10:29 pm

    I have a question: If a full-frame sensor on a DSLR is more or less the equivalent of 35mm film, why would you use a 40mm lens instead of 28mm to get „the 28mm look“? Why not just an 28mm lens? Isn‘t the crop factor the same with full-frame and 35mm?

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      March 5, 2019 at 5:12 pm

      Mainly because the 28mm look I’m referring to is on a Super 35 camera (which is a crop). So technically 40mm on FF is actually the same as 28mm on S35.

      Reply
  • Charles
    January 27, 2019 at 4:46 am

    Wanted to say thanks for this story, really took the pain out of lens selection.
    I wound up buying the Canon 28mm f2.8 image stabilized lens for my C100 II and it is fantastic, makes every actor look like a star, and image stabilization gives a very nice floaty look to handheld shots.
    Thanks again.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      March 5, 2019 at 5:07 pm

      Amazing, so glad to hear it worked out for you Charles!

      Reply
  • Bruce Searl
    October 18, 2018 at 7:54 pm

    Hi, I’m getting a new Nikon z7 Full Frame Z mount, I’ll have the adapter. From what I’ve been able to gather, a 42mm Full frame F mount lens should get me the look of a 28mm on Super 35 that you are talking about… but all I can find on the Nikon range of lenses is their 40mm f 2.8 macro lens. Is the difference between it and the new 35mm 1.8 S ( Z Mount and much better video focus when in auto focus mode) that much different? I can’t find a 40 or 42mm 1.8 or faster lens than the 2.8. So… will I be fine with the 35mm or is that really too wide for the look you are talking about here? Oh, I mostly shoot music videos actually but having a good film look kit of lenses is probably a good idea. Thanks! Bruce

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      November 14, 2018 at 5:32 am

      Hey Bruce! I think the 35mm will look great. It won’t be identical to the 28mm look, but it will be close. And at the end of the day, it’s all about how you use it!

      Reply
  • Anders
    June 1, 2018 at 3:44 pm

    Keep in mind that you can use Sony’s “clear image zoom” to magnify footage on full frame cameras without loss of quality up to 2x. That means you can buy a 35mm lens and magnify 1.2x to get to 42mm which is virtually identical to the magical focal length Noam is describing (28mm on APS-C). So you don’t need to buy a 40mm lens… just buy a 35mm if you’re on a Sony full frame system and you can get that magical distance easily without loss of quality.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      June 13, 2018 at 3:51 am

      Cool suggestion, Anders. Thanks for sharing.

      Reply
  • Uli
    May 23, 2018 at 3:13 am

    Just came across this article and read various posts after all this time. Glad you’re responding to questions after five years. 🙂 I just purchased an almost brand new Sony F3, and was looking into getting CineMod Zeiss ZF.2 lens. Though, from what I see its a full frame lens. Knowing that the F3 is Super35 with a 1.6 crop, would I need to get 18mm to get the 28mm equivalent? Thanks in advance for responding to this question.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      June 13, 2018 at 3:35 am

      Actually, since you are shooting Super 35 all you need is a standard 28mm lens! It’s only if you are shooting FF or a larger crop that you might want to adjust your focal length. Your sensor is the same size as motion picture film.

      Reply
  • Jim Lazos
    May 18, 2018 at 11:55 pm

    Hi Noam,
    I never realized how popular wide angle lenses are in cinema. I can’t help but wonder about the risks of getting distorted faces even in moderately close shots. I would think that theoretically a telephoto used from a distance would give a healthier compression of both people and environments. Is there something I’m not getting?

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      June 13, 2018 at 3:30 am

      No, you are correct – there is definitely some distortion on faces at 28mm… But I think that’s the appeal of the lenses too. The distortion can be subtle and gives the image a unique quality, different from the standard 35mm look.

      Reply
  • Oli Laf
    April 18, 2018 at 3:30 am

    I’m by no means an expert (lots to read and gather here!). But if a lens is labeled 28mm say for Full Frame sensor, and another lens is labeled 28mm for APS-C. Are they engineered as the same focal length? What I mean is, optically, are they the same? Because here’s what I’m thinking : is the crop factor a zoom? Because we’re comparing the FOV from the same distance. Ex.: to get a 50mm FOV of a full frame camera with a 2x MFT camera at the same distance, we need a 25mm.

    But the optics of the 25mm are they not different from a 50mm? To get the equivalent of a 28mm Super35 “look and feel”, shouldn’t we use a 28mm, and compensate by physically reframing (with distance)?

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      May 4, 2018 at 7:43 pm

      To answer your main question – a 28mm lens is a 28mm lens, no matter if it’s for Full Frame or Super 35. The only difference is that some 28mm lenses may not cover Full Frame (if it’s designed for a smaller format), but both lenses placed on the same smaller format body should look nearly identical. Hope this makes sense 🙂

      Reply
  • Tran
    March 26, 2018 at 9:34 pm

    Hi Noam Kroll,

    I hope you still reply to this thread! Awesome article, helps a lot!

    I have one question would like to ask. I have a Canon 5D (full frame) so does that mean the movies’ 28mm is my 40mm lens?
    I’m only an amateur photographer, I like movie screenshots and cinematic photographs, so I’m looking for my ideal set up to learn.

    Thank you beforehand for your answer!

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      April 2, 2018 at 4:13 am

      Yes, you are correct Tran. 40mm on FF is more like a 28mm… Hope this clears it up!

      Reply
  • The D
    March 18, 2018 at 11:41 pm

    Interesting article. 🙂 Some random thoughts:

    I know Deakins is a fan of 28mm. I *think* he means as far as spherical lenses on super 35, too.

    I have the F2 28mm Zeiss ZF in the article. It’s a good lens. I know the Contax Zeiss 28mm F2 is considered the ultimate 28, did you ever try it? There’s some controversy over how different it is optically to the ZF/ZF.2 one. I think it’d make a great ‘normal-ish’ lens on the BMPCC/BMMCC (Speedboosted) or 5D Mk IV.

    Voigtlander make/made a great 28mm. I feel it actually looks more 3D, even stopped down, than the Zeiss.

    I think the Micro 4/3, the closest lens to this look is the Voigtlander 17.5mm on GH4/BMCC. It’s about 40mm with the 2.3x crop. Probably not too much less with GH5 and IBIS active. None of the other M43 lenses around that length even compare as far cinematic look, IMO.

    Do you ever use the lens at 28mm as a wide on full frame? I can’t really get into it for photography, though it’d probably be good for street. Moviewise, I do think it’d be good for tracking behind the subject style wide shots.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      April 2, 2018 at 4:04 am

      I have used the Contax Zeiss 28mm and love it. As for full frame, I love the look of 28mm on a large format… I don’t use it often (and don’t shoot FF often for that matter), but it certainly works well when you need something super wide, or as you said for tracking shots!

      Reply
  • Allan
    February 10, 2018 at 2:22 am

    Hi Naom
    Thank you so much for your excellent article. I am about to shoot my first drama feature film on a budget. The film has a lot of locations and actors. I own the Zeiss 35.50 & 80- 1.5 compact lenses and I am thinking of selling them and buying the new Sigma 18-35 T2 and 50-100mm zooms to speed up shooting times. Half the film is to be shot on stationary gear on tracks and the other half on the New Movi Pro gimbal. In light of what you have said on the 28mm lens, do you think I am on the right track. I don’t want the problem of different lens coloring, hence selling the Zeiss compacts (also their larger dia isn’t so good on gimbals.)

    Your comments will be very much appreciated.
    Allan

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      February 27, 2018 at 11:36 pm

      Congrats on getting your feature off the ground! I definitely think the Sigmas are the way to go. I used them on my feature last year and loved working with them, and as you said – they match beautifully. As long as they can balance okay on your gimbal, you should be good to go!

      Reply
    • Matthew Herbert
      August 28, 2018 at 2:41 am

      Many thanks, Noam. I appreciate you sharing your knowledge.

      Reply
  • Matt
    February 4, 2018 at 5:01 pm

    Does the design of the lens have to be considered for “equivalent focal length” conversion?

    Canon EF-S lenses are designed specifically to focus the circle of light onto a cropped sensor, so there is no crop-factor (if I understand this correctly) — a 21mm EF-S lens on an APS-C sensor should look identical to an 21mm EF lens on a full frame sensor. Wouldn’t it be a similar case that Steven Spielberg used cinema lenses designed for cinema cameras and film formats (not full frame lenses)?

    If this is true, then a 21mm lens designed for full frame camera would not project the same size image as a 21mm lens designed for a Super 35 camera. Meaning, a 21mm lens designed for full frame photography on an APS-C sensor would not produce the same results that Steven Spielberg got using a 21mm cinema lens.

    Yes or no?

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      February 27, 2018 at 11:30 pm

      I believe most lenses actually use the real focal length, not an equivalent. For instance, my 8MM film camera uses a 6MM lens, which is equivalent to a much longer focal length (I believe about 24mm), but it is still labelled as 6mm. There may be some lenses that adjust their labeling for the crop factor, but none that I’ve ever used!

      Reply
      • Matt
        March 3, 2018 at 7:45 pm

        Thanks for your replies and expertise (and patience).

        So to understand this better — a lens has a set focal length and creates a constant |perspective|, but the resulting |framing| depends on the sensor size, right?

        i.e. You are standing in one spot and snap a shot with a 35mm lens on a full frame camera. Then you snap a shot with a 56mm lens using a 1.6 crop sensor camera. The resulting images will be framed the same, but the perspective will be different?

        Conversely, if you take a picture from one spot with each camera, this time both using the same 35mm lens, the perspective will be identical, but the framing will be different?

        Reply
        • Noam Kroll
          April 2, 2018 at 3:47 am

          Yes – I think that is actually a great way to put it! There will be differences in the image characteristics in many ways (most notably depth of field) based on the sensor size, and the perspective will always be a little different too, based on the camera and lens combo. And to add more confusion, two different lenses of the same focal length (let’s say 50mm) will likely look a bit different from each other with regards to perspective too… It will be more subtle, but no two lenses are identical, even when shooting them on the same format.

          Reply
  • Maya Nogradi
    February 1, 2018 at 8:35 am

    Hi Noam,

    I have a little bit of a cheeky question: I have a Canon 5D mark iii, in this case following your advice it’d be good to get a 40mm lense to macth the 28mm film look. However, I do think that in other cases it might be more useful for me to own the 35mm lense, so I thought of a solution that might be creative or it might be crap:

    If I have the 35mm, isn’t it an option to shoot with it on the full frame camera, and then in post-production crop the extra width this lens gives, thus create the 40mm/28mm look?

    Thanks so much for your opinion,
    Maya

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      February 27, 2018 at 11:21 pm

      Hi Maya – I think that’s a great idea! At the end of the day, every sensor size/lens combo is always going to give you a slightly different look/field of view. The 35mm cropped in post should definitely give you the best of both worlds – the 28mm (equivalent) look when you need it, but the versatility of 35mm for other purposes too. Good luck!

      Reply
  • Otis
    January 23, 2018 at 8:59 pm

    Actually, 1.235 is SMPTE combined with 20th Century Fox (calculated to be 44.1 degrees).

    There is also CEDIA’s at 43 degrees (even wider).

    I couldn’t find an exact ideal for THX, but all standards appear to be wider than the photography standard.

    Reply
  • Otis
    January 23, 2018 at 8:46 pm

    There are standards for this in cinema, and these can be applied for photos since we are usually viewing photos on the same devices.

    THX standard ideal distance and SMPTE standard ideal have an average of 1.235 screen widths combined.

    I calculated that this is equivalent to:

    5″ mobile at 14cm viewing distance
    10″ tablet at 27cm
    23″ monitor at 63cm
    48″ TV at 131cm.

    Now, we need to calculate what focal length gets this horizontal angle of view. If we use this lens, the screen will become our natural window to the world. The lens projection will match the angle of viewing of our eyes in the screen area.

    On a full frame camera, the lens I calculated is 43.8mm
    On a Nikon crop factor camera, the lens is 28.9mm.
    On a Canon, it’s 28.6mm.

    So, the old standards are indeed not wide enough for our age of big screen and immersive viewing. 35mm on a crop factor is not wide enough, and 50mm on full frame is also not wide enough. If the distance of viewing becomes smaller, such as in architectural photos printed on large sizes, we technically need to go wider.

    Note that is the ideal focal length for cinema. At most homes the TVs are set to greater distances (double the ideal in most cases), so greater focal lengths are normally required for TV shows, News etc.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      February 1, 2018 at 3:47 am

      Thank you for this, Otis! Appreciate you sharing it here for everyone.

      Reply
  • Jonas
    September 29, 2017 at 2:31 pm

    Question – I’ve got normal Canon FD (I guess Full Frame) Lenses – also a 28 mm and a 50 mm lens – can I use Thema on apsc like a6500 as 28 and 50 or more like on a a7s II oder C100 as 28 and 50 mm?

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      September 29, 2017 at 5:39 pm

      Yes, you can absolutely adapt these lenses to mirrorless bodies like the Sony a6500, although I don’t think it would be possible on the C100…

      Reply
  • Paulo Paixão
    September 28, 2017 at 3:22 pm

    Hello Noam!
    Nice article and nice blog. Brand new to it, but i’ll surely continue to follow.
    So, let’s see if i understood the article. For Micro 4/3 sensor the equivalent to a 28mm look (super 35mm) is a 20mm? I have a GH5 that’s why i’m asking this.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      September 29, 2017 at 5:37 pm

      Thanks Paulo! I believe on the GH5 you would want to use a 14mm lens, since the crop is about 2x. I know the crop is based on full frame cameras, but by that same token a 28mm lens is technically longer than 28mm even on a Super 35mm camera. Make sense?

      Reply
  • Jos
    September 15, 2017 at 5:50 pm

    Great article. Thank You.
    I have a Sony A7s II and a sony FE 28mm f2 lens, it means I have to set the camera in APS-c mode to achieve this film look. What would be the difference with a 40mm in APS-c mode? Thanks again!

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      September 22, 2017 at 1:59 am

      Yes! If you set it to APS-C mode you will achieve this exact look. The 40mm will be really close too, but you may see some differences in terms of the depth of field at certain distances/F-stop settings.

      Reply
  • M
    August 18, 2017 at 9:47 pm

    great article. Thanks.

    Reply
  • ibrahim
    August 12, 2017 at 11:54 pm

    Many thanks Noam for your informative article.
    Does this mean that on my canon 5D mark III I should shoot long shots preferable at 40mm (for it to look like its shot at 28mm on super 35mm camera)?
    Does this mean that the corresponding focal length on a canon 600d with the crop factor 1.6 is set at a focal length of 25mm?

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      August 19, 2017 at 4:18 am

      Yes, you are correct that a 40mm on the MK III would be closer to a 28. You could also go with a 25mm on the 600D, but a standard 28mm should also work since the difference in crop is so minimal. Good luck!

      Reply
  • msnyderfilmz
    July 22, 2017 at 3:52 am

    Great article. I use a Canon 6D for my journalism DSLR vid work (primarily with the 24-105 L) and a BMPCC with just recently obtained Leica R lenses for the rest. Main lens there ( for now ) is the 28-70 Vario- Elmar. It will be the brain on a Steadicam Merlin 2 as soon I get them balanced. I read with interest your opinion on the Rokinon 14, and will likely grab one to test. This was a very pleasant blog to read!

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      July 26, 2017 at 5:02 am

      Thanks so much for the feedback! Appreciate it, and best of luck with your work…

      Reply
  • Patrick
    July 6, 2017 at 9:56 pm

    So I have the Sony 28mm f2 and an a7ii, which means I would need to set the camera to crop mode to achieve the look?

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      July 22, 2017 at 2:40 am

      Exactly – you would want to shoot in Super 35mm (APS-C) mode.

      Reply
  • Ken
    June 16, 2017 at 4:26 am

    Noam, Your post is rippling into 2017, man. Well done.

    I got what I needed. I am not technical, but I have spent 10 years searching for the kind of story I want to tell, and the way I need to tell it. After two full years, I have finished my first script.

    Now I face the reality that what Ive written is so unconventional, no one with money is going to help me make this thing. And I enter the world of technicalities, which is so difficult for me to begin with, because I think best visually and conceptually. I need someone who has that knowledge of application, to simply tell me to use a 28mm, and thats all I need. Personally, I dont need to know why. I just need the right tool for the right look.

    Heres a question, if its not too much to answer: My plan involves making my own set up to make short films that are montage, Malick-like shorts. What set up would you recommend? For a budget of 3 to 4,000.

    Thankful for your post.

    If youre interested in reading a fresh 100 page script, I dont believe youll be disappointed. Just putting it out there.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      June 22, 2017 at 8:24 pm

      Hey Ken! So glad this was helpful. In terms of your setup, you might want to consider something like a Canon C100 or URSA Mini as those types of cameras will help you achieve a nice cinematic look, but will also offer the ergonomics you’ll need for that handheld style it sounds like you are after… Best of luck with your script! Feel free to send it to info@noamkroll.com if you’d like.

      Reply
  • Louis
    June 15, 2017 at 7:47 pm

    Thanks Noam,

    Funny enough I had the exact same 28mm nikon lens you listed that I adapted on my a6300, which I naturally gravitated towards when deciding to try out my mother’s older nikon lenses from her photography days.

    I’m wondering however to emulate 35mm lens film look on the A6300 APS-C, would I just get a 35mm lens?

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      June 15, 2017 at 10:18 pm

      Yes, absolutely use a 35mm lens since the sensor size (as you said) is APS-C, which is very close to Super 35mm. Good luck!

      Reply
  • William
    April 30, 2017 at 1:13 am

    Hello Noam,
    As others have stated, this is a great article. I use the 20mm LUMIX lense amongst others with my AF100. Yes, that’s right AF100. For me it’s an oldie but goodie. I have in addition to the 20mm a rather complete set. The 15mm PanaLieca, the 25mm PanaLieca, 42.5 Nocticron and the 45-175 LUMIX. I almost returned the 20mm… But as time went on, it has become my most often used lense. It’s surprisingly sharp. Something about that 40mm focal length that just looks good. I must admit that I have my eyes on the Veydra series of lenses for the declicked iris as well as the 300 degree focus throw. I know that this is purely subjective, but how would you rate the Veydras vs. the PanaLeicaLumix lenses in terms of a cinematic signature? Not sure how else to pose the question… Aesthetically speaking. More aperture blades help with bokeh rendition, but is there an intangible quality that the Veydras have that others do not in its price range? Apologize for the long winded post. I do enjoy your take on things and writing style.
    Cheers!

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      May 2, 2017 at 4:07 pm

      Hey William – thanks for the note! And great question with regards to the lens comparison. Although the lenses are very different physically (the Veydras are true cinema lenses, and the PanaLeicas are not), they both do produce amazing image quality. I would say that the Veydras have a bit more character to them, but that doesn’t necessarily make them better or worse. From my experience the PanaLeicas are very neutral, but still organic looking which makes them really versatile. If you’re happy with them, I’d say stick with them! But when you are ready for a change the Veydras are an excellent choice and will add some interesting/unique qualities to your images.

      Reply
  • Sheldon
    April 26, 2017 at 11:57 pm

    Hi Noam,

    Great article! Loved the read.

    I’ve recently purchased the GH5 and just order 3 Veydra Mini Prime lenses for the camera.

    I ordered the 12mm, 25mm, and 50mm. I read that you’ve worked with the Veydra’s before and was wondering if there are any other lenses I should look into.

    Other options include the 16mm, 35mm, 85mm. Your thoughts on the best 28mm Super 35mm equivalent?

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      April 27, 2017 at 8:00 pm

      Congrats on the GH5 Sheldon, and thanks for the note! I would suggest picking up the 35mm out of the three that you mentioned, as that will fill in a nice gap between the 25mm and 50mm. The 85mm would be awesome too, although will likely not be used as frequently since it’s a relatively long lens. As for 28mm lenses, you would be looking for (approximately) a 14mm lens… I would suggest checking out the Rokinon 14mm Cinema lens, or even something like the Tokina 11-16, which will be really versatile and will allow you to zoom into the 14mm focal length.

      Good luck!

      Reply
      • Sheldon
        April 27, 2017 at 10:30 pm

        Thanks! Appreciate the response. I will definitely check out the 35mm Veydra and will look into the Rokinon 14mm and the Toking 11-16mm. Thanks again!!

        Reply
  • Tomas
    April 20, 2017 at 9:49 am

    Great article and discussion… thanks for setting it up.

    Could you pls explain what the difference would be on the GH5 between the lumix vario G 12-60, set to a close zoom or some suitable 20mm pancake lens?

    would the look you describe be similar or would it be better with the 20mm?

    if so, what would you recommend for the GH5 ?

    thanks,
    Tom

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      April 20, 2017 at 8:00 pm

      Good question Tomas. If you are set to 20mm on the Lumix Vario, you should have nearly an identical image to the pancake lens. The only exception is that on the 20mm pancake, you can open up the aperture a bit more if you want a really shallow depth of field. In terms of field of view though, they should both look really close!

      Reply
  • Cristo
    April 10, 2017 at 2:59 am

    Thank you Noam,

    Good to know their is no effect if I post edit crop.

    I am using my 28 mm with excellent results!!!

    Thanks for all your hard work and time in answering our questions.

    Take care,

    Cristo

    Reply
  • Howie Alex
    April 4, 2017 at 9:51 pm

    Should focal length choice be adjusted when there’s an aspect ratio change from 1.78, 1.85, 2.35, etc..?
    Does a 2.35 aspect ratio “enable” a 50-60 lens which might seem claustrophobic in a squarer 1.33 frame? Similarly, does a 35-40 lens have a diminished effect in a wider 2.35 frame ?

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      April 6, 2017 at 11:28 pm

      Great question Howie. Your aspect ratio may or may not dictate your lens choice, as really what it comes down to is the framing of your image. In other words, if you want to capture an image in 2.35 and leave a ton of negative space on one side and have an actor on the other side of the frame, you could effectively achieve that look with almost any lens. With a wider lens you could be physically closer to the subject, but you could have a similar framing (although different look) with a longer lens if you would just step back. I know that’s a pretty basic answer and I’m sure you already understand this, but my point is that in most instances your framing choices will have a larger affect on the aesthetic when compared to the relationship between lens/aspect ratio, since that can always be adjusted by re-framing your image.

      Reply
  • Howie Alex
    April 4, 2017 at 8:03 pm

    FIrstly, great discussion. Wrestling with focal lenth “looks” of 40mm v 50mm, I wonder if aspect ratios throw another variable into the mix.
    Does a wider aspect ratio (2.35) “enable” a 50-60 lens which might seem too claustrophobic in a squarer 1.33, 1.78 frame?
    Similarly, does a shorter 35-40 lens have a diminished effect in a wider 2.35 frame than it would have in a squarer 1.33, 1.78 frame?

    Reply
  • Cristo
    April 3, 2017 at 10:39 pm

    Hi Noam,

    I really enjoyed this article. Well done!!

    I am a keen photography I have started to use 28mm focal length to emulate the cinematic look in my pictures. I am seeing great results!

    Just a question Noam regarding cropping in post editing:

    If I take a picture using 28 mm focal length I generally crop my photos to 16:9. Will this have a bearing on the end result? How does cropping what ever the ratio affect the 28 mm look and its field of view? And can you please explain the reason for the answer given?

    Thank you Noam and really enjoyed your clear concise explanatio in your article. Well done!

    Cristo

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      April 6, 2017 at 11:22 pm

      Good question Cristo – and thanks for the kind words!

      I’m not sure what camera you’re shooting on (and which sensor size), but assuming you are shooting on an APS-C sized sensor and simply want to crop your photos to 16:9 from 3:2, you can still absolutely go with the 28mm lens. The field of view would be the same as if you shot video in the 16:9 ratio in camera (which would crop it internally). Hope this helps, and good luck!

      Reply
  • matt hatton
    February 17, 2017 at 7:51 pm

    Hi Noam,

    Stumbled on this article and just wanted to say great stuff! Both the article itself and your answers in the comments are fantastic. I’m a technical idiot, and I appreciate that it’s the focus (haw!) of the article and all, but hopefully it’s not too presumptuous (and late/redundant) of me to take slight issue with the approach.

    My personal argument would be that it’s a bit dangerous to be talking all these lenses and specs without properly prefacing them with what I would say is the REAL reason that old stuff looks cinematic. Which is that both the directors and great cinematographers then and now are not thinking lens lengths first. They’re thinking story, character and tone, and that is what dictated the technical considerations all the way down the line. And that THAT is what makes a movie feel ‘cinematic’ more than any ‘general’ approach to lenses and dof. And I agree with Guy that great directors like Kurosawa can turn the generally accepted thinking on its head.

    You almost/began to get into it when talking about reality/heightened reality and “fantastical and surrealistic” (oof – fantastic and surreal wouldn’t have said precisely the same thing? Sorry for the nitpick) approaches. But the thing is why and when to me. Context and intended tone. And while sure, directors like Spielberg who have a flashier approach may favour a slightly wider lens even for general use and dialogue scenes, I’d argue that those decisions still come from an inherent sense of tone and narrative.

    And of course you’re right this can be abused as in the DSLR example. But I would say the problem is precisely because people are looking at lengths and numbers first so they can mimic something – but not looking at why those technical choices were made in the first place. And would also offer that’s why we get standard tropes where even now the usual thinking about action is to shoot low angle wide lens like a Bay film. Which is as abused as the long lens bokeh thing. And again Kurosawa shows it doesn’t have to be that way.

    And if this piece can be considered a tutorial, I always find the best are the ones that tell you why, not just what and how. I just felt when reading that maybe saying there’s a “secret” and then implying it’s a technical thing rather than a creative and narrative approach manifested in use of certain tools, is in danger of people just accepting a new/different set of parameters to the last instead of really saying *why* it might be more inherently cinematic.

    Anyway my apologies if this all seems quite arrogant. Especially for my first comment! I just work with many technical people from pre to post and feel it’s very easy to miss the forest for the trees, let the tail wag the dog and so on. So I always feel the creative and narrative concerns cannot be overstated. Personally I jumped headfirst into the digital and technical worlds in my own small capacity back in the day, but it’s only ever been a technical means to a creative end to me.

    Thanks again so much for the great piece, and I’ll definitely be coming back now I’ve discovered the site! Cheers!

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      February 23, 2017 at 2:26 am

      Thanks for the note Matt! Great points here, and I fully agree with virtually everything you’ve written. I am all for making creative choices that serve the story and characters best, and that is certainly how I approach my own work. At the end of the day, some scenes will be best served on a 28mm lens, some a 135mm, some a fisheye, and so on. Lens choice for any given scene should be made with the intention of capturing the most powerful and appropriate visual language, not relying on a certain focal length for purely technical reasons.

      I often write articles on this site that are completely non-technical, but also write many that have a heavy technical bias such as this one. My goal is always to help the reader expand their mind a bit and broaden their horizons, not necessarily tell them what will look good or bad. My intention for this piece was to speak to those filmmakers that may rely too heavily on one approach (most commonly the long lens, shallow DOF look), and provide a different perspective… Although your point is certainly noted that even in this context it is important to reinforce how technical choices should be driven by creative intentions.

      Either way, appreciate the thoughtful note and hope to see you around soon!

      Reply
  • Guy Duckr
    February 12, 2017 at 9:32 pm

    Hi Noam,

    A very interesting and well written article, thank you.

    I do feel the need to make a couple of points, however. I’ve directed films on 16mm and 35mm and my general experience going back 15 years or so is that my DPs have tended to favour stops around T.2 or 2.8, rarely getting past T.4. But that’s just my experience.

    I also have to say that while many of my favourite filmmakers are wide lens directors, there are also some notable exceptions. Kurosawa used to work wonders with long lens master shots and Ken Loach never shoots wider than 35mm, preferring to move the camera around the location, rather than capture it all at once. Paul Greengrass too seems to favour the long end of the zoom, as does Michael Mann.

    This is not to disagree with your point; I think your article is a good corrective to the excessive used of shallow DOF. However just because long lenses and shallow DOF are abused, does not mean that they are intrinsically uncinematic.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      February 23, 2017 at 2:07 am

      Great points Guy! I agree with you that long lens/shallow DOF is a great technique when used tastefully. My point with this article was really to speak to some of those budding DPs/Directors that feel like everything needs to be shallow and on a long lens. It’s really all about choosing the right look for the scene or mood you are trying to capture, and understanding how different lens lengths can affect the viewers emotional perception. Great points and thanks again for sharing.

      Reply
  • Dan
    January 23, 2017 at 5:58 pm

    Hi Noam,

    Superb article (as usual!).

    Any idea of the “right” lens for this particular cinematic “wide-normal” look for the Panasonic GH5, which will now use the entire width of the micro 4/3 sensor for 4k video? Glad I skipped the GH4 since its 4k read-out had a fairly severe crop factor.

    I currently have a Samsung NX1 (and it does have a very close to Super-35 sensor), but Samsung decided to drop out of the camera market (no support or updates now – Argh!) and its limited 8 bit depth and baked-in “looks” are killing me when it comes to color grading in post.

    Would you still recommend something like the new Metabones Ultra Speedbooster for micro 4/3 mounts? I’ve also been interested in the new-ish Veydra micro 4/3 cine style lenses for their price vs. performance compared to Rokinon’s to go with the GH5 instead.

    Your thoughts or comments or your real world experiences (or all of the above) would be most appreciated. 🙂

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      January 23, 2017 at 9:34 pm

      Thanks Dan! To answer your question –

      I definitely still think the Metabones Ultra Speedbooster is a great product for MFT users. At the same time, if you don’t own a lot of Canon glass, going with the Veydra lenses might be an even better solution. Personally, I don’t love using adapters and always prefer to use native glass whenever possible. I’ve used the Veydras a few times and have been extremely impressed by them… I’d say rent them for a weekend if you can to test them out, and hopefully that will help make your decision for you!

      Reply
  • Kyle
    January 1, 2017 at 3:45 am

    Hey Noam,

    This is incredibly helpful information presented succinctly and efficiently, so thanks for the post!

    Do you think the Canon 24mm f2.8 pancake could pull of this “look.” It’s a bit wider than that sweet spot of 28mm of course, but with optics that good at a mere $130, it’s hard to pass up, especially on a budget.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      January 4, 2017 at 7:43 pm

      It’s certainly possible! I don’t think there would be a world of difference between the two, so I’d say of for it…

      Reply
  • Russell Bolding
    December 7, 2016 at 11:19 pm

    Hey Noam! So, I was sort of skimming this article a little earlier and as I was skimming, the main thing I noticed was everyone talking about DSLR cameras as well as movie cameras. But here’s my question. I’m pretty new to all of this stuff, too, and my main tool for filmmaking is my iPhone 6S. I recently purchased a Beastgrip Pro with DOF adapter. I know I can use DSLR lenses with my iPhone now and I know it’s possible to get a very filmic look from all of this. I’m on a budget, unfortunately, but I still know that Golden film like look that everyone is looking for can be achieved on a budget.

    That being said, my assumption, based on pricing I did today for 28mm lenses, achieving a 28mm lens might be a long process. I’ve been looking at 50 mm lenses with an f stop of around 1.8. To make a short story even longer, what would you recommend, on a budget, to achieve the look I’m going for? Thanks in advance for your speedy reply.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      December 9, 2016 at 5:03 pm

      Hi Russell – first of all, good for you for taking the tool you have (an iPhone) and making it work for your needs. If you are trying to get a true 28mm look, I would recommend looking into a low budget DSLR or mirrorless camera with an APS-C sized sensor. Something like the Sony a6500 might be a good option as it has a Super 35mm sized sensor and can adapt lots of great 28mm lenses from different manufacturers. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  • Sam
    December 1, 2016 at 9:00 pm

    Hey Noam

    I’ve spent ages trying to research this and read through the comments but i fear i’m still a bit confused so i thought it best just to ask. I have a canon 600D with a APS-C sensor, and i own a 28mm that i use with an adapter, as it was designed for a SLR, full frame Olympus camera. Is this the desired effect i want, full frame lens on a crop sensor giving me something equivalent to 45mm, or am i right in thinking i need to buy a EOS lens designed for my sensor? sorry for the stupid question i just didn’t want to get the wrong idea in my case.

    Thank you very much,

    Sam

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      December 2, 2016 at 10:53 pm

      Hi Sam! If the lens you are using is a 28mm lens, you should be getting the right field of view on your APS-C sensor. For the most part, all lenses use the same naming conventions for their focal lengths. A 28mm full frame lens is the same as a 28mm APS-C lens. The only difference is the full frame lens will be compatible with the larger FF sensor size. But in short, it’s good news – the lens you have should work perfectly for a true cinematic 28mm look.

      Reply
  • Mikkel
    November 25, 2016 at 12:51 pm

    Hi Noam

    The retrofocus lens design (longer physical length, than optical length) was patented by eastgerman Carl Zeiss Jena, and french Angénieux in 1950. Before that time It was normal to use short tele lenses for movie making. Take a look at films from the thirties and fourties and try to analyse the angel, and you will see. It was due to the (rolling mirror) shutter who occupied space and prevented use of shorter (focal length) lenses. I know all this is way back in a other millennia, but it is an example of how technical development changes esthetics.
    You are absolutely right about the popularity of the “Hollywood” lens (Distagon 2/28), but apart from the angle, maybe also the “Zeiss pop” (spacious qualities) and the beautiful Zeiss colors made it a winner.

    Kind regards

    Mikkel

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      November 25, 2016 at 4:54 pm

      Very interesting stuff Mikkel! I didn’t know this… Appreciate the note.

      Reply
  • Ryan Taubert
    November 7, 2016 at 8:16 pm

    Hi Noam,

    I’ve recently purchased the Sony a7sii, which has a APS-C setting, and I’m wondering if all it’s really doing is creating a digital zoom to mimic the crop factor. What I’m trying to understand is, would a 28mm with APS-C set to on and a 40mm full frame still look different due to perspective, or does the crop factor influence the perspective? Is it the perspective that gives the cinematic look with the 28mm, meaning background gets pushed further back compared to the 40mm on full frame?

    Sorry I know this is a noob question. Just trying to figure out the difference in using the APS-C ,zooming 1.5, vs using a 40mm on the Sony a7sii.

    Thanks,
    Ryan T

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      November 12, 2016 at 6:37 am

      Great question, Ryan. I would say that if you want the most “authentic” 28mm look, you would want to use a 28mm lens on the APS-C setting. There will be some visual differences between a 40mm on full frame and a 28mm on an APS-C sensor, in particular with regards to depth of field. That said, difference won’t be dramatic, and I would argue that a 40mm on a full frame sensor is still going to look really great and will give you a nearly identical field of view. If you own an A7S II, I might recommend going with the 40mm as it may be more universal for you, especially if you alternate between full frame and APS-C often.

      Hope this helps!

      Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      November 12, 2016 at 6:41 am

      By the way – are you the same Ryan from Anomaly? If so, great work on that film! I did an interview with Jens a while back on the blog too… I was super impressed with what you guys were able to pull off.

      Reply
  • Vishal
    November 4, 2016 at 10:18 am

    Hi Noam

    Have just ordered a canon 70 d kit with 20.2 MP 18-135 mm IS STM lens for shooting our short film, will try shooting at 28 mm zoom on its 26.7 mm APS-C sensor. Will they blend well (28mm zoom with 26.7mm sensor).
    Besides what aperture in normal daylight settings shall I choose.
    Is there also a way to maintain a little film grain look before going to post production for achieving that cinematic look.

    Kindly advise.

    Thanks and Regards
    Vishal

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      November 12, 2016 at 6:22 am

      Hi Vishal! Congrats on the new camera. To answer your questions –

      Your aperture in daylight can really be set to any value. It all depends on the look you are going for, since different apertures will give you different depths of field. That said, if you are shooting wide open in daylight, you will also need ND filters to keep your exposure in check. You’ll also want to set your white balance to approximately 5600K.

      As for film grain, you will be best off adding some grain in post, during the editing phase. I am actually releasing some film grain stocks soon through this blog, so be sure to check back soon!

      Reply
  • Matthew finnigan
    October 5, 2016 at 10:54 pm
    • Noam Kroll
      October 6, 2016 at 5:05 pm

      I’ve had a couple people flag this. Will need to follow up with them. Thanks for letting me know!

      Reply
  • Santhosh Nataraja
    September 12, 2016 at 7:59 am

    Hi its a great article ..

    But I have a doubt Plz clarify me I own a camera sony a6000 & lens 16-55 if I fix my lens on 28mm can I able to bring the same effect as equal to the 28mm lens u r talking abt ? or is there an any difference? if its there any difference how negligible it is ? I don’t have budget to buy new lens But however I want a make a short film with film look … apart from 16-55 I own canon 50mm lens as well ..

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      September 19, 2016 at 2:38 pm

      Thanks Santosh! You should definitely be able to get close by setting your zoom lens to 28mm. The A6000 has a Super 35 sized sensor, so you will get a similar field of view and focal length as you would on a proper cinema camera.

      Good luck!

      Reply
  • Steve
    September 3, 2016 at 7:38 pm

    Hi Noam,

    Great read.

    I don’t work in narrative, but I can see some good applications here for the commercial and editorial work I do. I’m a huge fan of tilt-shift optics (when used judiciously, not for goofy miniature effects). I shoot an fs7 rig with some standard sony glass but my question for you is what (if any) tilt-shift optics might fit the bill.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      September 6, 2016 at 5:32 pm

      Hey Steve! Thanks for the note. I haven’t shot much with tilt-shift lenses, but I will definitely look into this and get back to you in the future if I can make any suggestions.

      Reply
  • Sam
    August 24, 2016 at 12:19 pm

    Im not sure I got it Naom… If I buy Nikon Nikkor 28mm F2.8 for GH4 will I get that focal or do have to combine it with speedbooster?

    Or

    Can I just buy 20 mm (Micro Four Thirds – 20mm) and I will get same focal? Please correct me if I am wrong

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      August 25, 2016 at 7:15 pm

      Hi Sam! If you are using a speedbooster, a 28mm should work well on the gh4. Otherwise a 20mm (with no speedbooster) will get you close when you consider the crop factor. Both could work, but the speedbooster might be preferable since it will also have an affect on your depth of field, not just your field of view.

      Reply
  • Kashif
    August 17, 2016 at 8:14 pm

    HI
    I completely agree with 28mm – good article
    What do you think which would do better with 28mm
    A 50mm or 85mm

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      August 23, 2016 at 10:28 pm

      I would say 50mm! So versatile, and my personal favorite focal length… In addition to 28mm of course.

      Reply
  • […] URL: noamkroll.com/28mm-lenses-the-secret-ingredient-for-achieving-a-film-look/ […]

    Reply
  • Samuel
    July 16, 2016 at 10:28 pm

    Hi !
    I would like to ask you a question.
    First of all, congratulations for your wonderful work .
    Sorry I use Google Translation and I hope you understand me 😉
    I own a Sony A7RII and if I had to choose a lense, what have I to take ?
    I think that filming with the Super 35 crop mode, a 28mm lens could match my expectations.
    If I understood correctly , in the full frame: 28mm equivalent to 40mm ?
    On the Sony A7RII , with the ability to shoot in Super 35 crop mode or full frame, it would be the ideal goal , right?
    What do you recommend ? Do you have a lenses not too expensive that might suit my Sony A7RII ( to get a “cinematic look”)

    Thank you very much for your answer.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      July 19, 2016 at 2:02 pm

      Hi Samuel,

      You are correct. A 40mm lens is what you would be looking for on the A7R II if you are shooting full frame. Have you looked at the Canon 40mm F2.8 pancake lens? It’s only about $200 USD and should deliver pretty good results, although you would need to use an adapter to get the EF lens to work on an E Mount. You could also use the A7R II in Super 35mm crop mode, in which case you could use any other 28mm lens out there. Hope this helps!

      Reply
      • Samuel
        March 30, 2017 at 10:10 am

        Hi Noam,
        Many thanks for your help and recommendations.
        I am very happy with this Canon 40mm F 2.8 pancake.
        It’s perfect !

        Reply
        • Noam Kroll
          April 3, 2017 at 12:16 am

          Awesome! Very happy to hear that Samuel.

          Reply
  • Steven Norquist
    May 18, 2016 at 6:35 am

    Great article. This is something I have learned myself as a Micro Four Thirds user.
    I do exclusively landscape and architecture and have found over time, after using may focal lengths and lenses, that the Voitlander 15mm Super Wide Heliar III which produces a 30mm field of view in 35mm equivalent terms which is very close to 28mm. For me it is the perfect wide lens focal length on M4/3. It is also distortion free which is very rare in such a wide angle lens.

    What I have found is that it most perfectly represents the field of view of my eyes. I came more and more to understand this. I would look at a composition and pull up my camera to frame and be surprised that 30mm was that exact composition. I did not have to back up or move forward. What I saw from where I stood was exactly what the lens saw. Additionally the 30m focal length performs an important artistic function. It renders the scale of a composition with the drama the eye sees it. If a skyscraper seems huge, at 30mm it looks huge, but at 21mm it looks smaller, less dwarfing. Again, 30mm is capturing the scale as my eye sees the scale. In another sense you might say the 30mm focal length is a large scale portrait lens. A large scale object is rendered correctly at 30mm in the same way that a 50mm or 85mm lens renders a human face in correct scale.

    You can view my 30mm Heliar work here: https://500px.com/stevennorquist

    Reply
  • Sheridan
    May 13, 2016 at 11:00 am

    Hello Noam,

    Very interesting article.

    I know that you had to clear up what you were initially saying by referring to 28mm being ideal for a crop sensor, but I must say that I find it very satisfying on a full frame. I never feels ‘too wide’ on a full frame, and even close ups don’t look too distorted.

    On a 1.5 crop factor it’s not far off being a 50mm, which is still very nice, but a bit too tight for a lot of indoor shooting? I mean, I found the 28 to be a little tight within itself indoors. It’s the focal length where it seemingly mimics the anamorphic look ( on a full frame camera).

    24mm for a crop sensor would feel more ‘Hollywood’

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      May 16, 2016 at 7:36 pm

      Good points Sheridan! Thanks so much for sharing this.

      Reply
  • Thomas V. Dahl
    February 26, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    Hi Noam – I think I got it now ! (Just dish my previous notice)

    Have now read the comments closer and can see You mean 28mm for an APS-C …

    Since there appear to be different cropfactors for different cameras with APS-C
    (some say 1,6 for Ursa Mini 4,6K and 1,5 for C-100) does this affect the result ?

    1,6 x 28mm equals approximately 45mm & 1,5 equals 42mm, both less than our
    standard view of field at 50mm . So if the “Cinematic/surreal” look is based on
    42mm on FF, then 1,6 would demand a 26mm (42:1,6) … A 24mm would be too
    wide at 38mm (24 x 1,6) on Ursa Mini 4,6 K .

    Thanks for great articles

    Thomas

    Reply
  • Thomas V. Dahl
    February 26, 2016 at 10:55 am

    Dear Noam

    Thank You very much for this revelation into Cinematic (hard) work !

    However there are still some dummies like me who are in doubt about
    the relation between focal length, crop factor and formats ….

    Should I understand Your definition of WHEN the 28mm is “Cinematic”
    (or “THE secret ingredient”) is WHEN it’s put on a FullFrame-camera ?

    At least this is what is claimed here :

    techradar.com/news/photography-video-capture/cameras/best-canon-wideangle-prime-lens-1292417

    “28mm is the ‘classic’ wide-angle focal length for full-frame cameras,
    and it makes a handy 45mm focal length on an APS-C Canon like the
    1200D or 70D. ”

    But then again Oliver asked You :

    “If I buy the URSA mini pl with 4.6k sensor (super 35) and I wanted to
    make a Cinematic movie say something like pulp fiction or 310 to
    Yuma on a tight budget. Are you saying that I could use a 28mm lens
    as the best all in one option?”

    Somehow Your answer to that leaves me uncertain; sorry !

    If FullFrame has no cropfactor (or 1,0 ?) then cameras like URSA mini
    with 4.6k sensor should find a lens on 42mm (28 x cropfactor 1,5 for
    EF-mount) to be “Cinematic ” ?

    Or is it 18 ,67mm (28 : cropfactor 1,5 for EF-mount) ? And maybe the
    Ursa Mini 4,6K EF is another cropfactor like 1,6 ? Or the PL-version ?

    So TechRadar is right/wrong ? The UM4,6K EF is “Cinematic” with ?

    Thanks for You great articles anyway !!

    Thomas

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      March 6, 2016 at 5:47 pm

      Hi Thomas. I think the short answer to this is that both are true. I think in photography, a 28mm lens can work beautifully on a full frame camera – especially as a walking around lens for street photography. For film though, I prefer to use 28mm on a Super35mm sensor. Keep in mind, before the DSLR revolution, no one really referred to S35mm film as “cropped”. It is of course cropped on a technical level, but even though the relative field of view is different than a full frame camera, 28mm lenses still seem to work beautifully on an APS-C or S35 sensor. Hope this makes sense!

      Reply
      • Keith Hammond
        May 16, 2017 at 12:25 pm

        Actually its not cropped at all, in the cinema world its normal sized and the 35mm in enlarged. Referring to everything relative to 35mm is not accurate either as before that was 5/4 and 6/8. Too many people are obsessed with full frame equivalence.

        Reply
        • Noam Kroll
          May 16, 2017 at 7:42 pm

          I agree with you Keith – it gets confusing since FF is of course from the photographic world.

          Reply
  • Jean
    February 15, 2016 at 8:34 am

    .. But I like it on full frame ofcourse.

    Reply
  • Jean
    February 15, 2016 at 8:33 am

    This is interesting but I remember in Photo school the 28 mm was considered as a bastard lens, we used 14, 20,24 ,35, 50, 85, 105, 135.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      February 16, 2016 at 8:41 pm

      Haha! That’s interesting… Never heard that, but thanks for sharing.

      Reply
  • Oliver
    February 12, 2016 at 8:43 am

    Hello, I am new to all of this. This is definitely a cortex stimulating article especially with all the math involved. If you will, just a few questions to help me out.

    1.) Is the sensor size in a digital camera supposed to replicate the width of film?

    2.) I f I buy the URSA mini pl with 4.6k sensor (super 35) and I wanted to make a cinematic movie say something like pulp fiction or 310 to Yuma on a tight budget. Are you saying that I could use a 28mm lens as the best all in one option?

    3.) You had mentioned 2 – 28mm lenses above one is f1.8 and one is f2.0. Is one faster than the other?

    4.) Will the above size specs result in a recording that will be exactly the size of a standard
    motion picture film, if not what kind of editing will be involved?

    5.) Does the URSA mini have a lens included?

    Thank you.
    Oliver

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      February 16, 2016 at 8:35 pm

      Hey Oliver! To answer some questions –

      1) Super 35mm digital sensors are very close to real Super 35mm film.

      2) 28mm lens is a great option, but you also might consider a 40mm depending on the aesthetic you are after.

      3) F1.8 is faster than F2.0

      4) Provided you are using a Super 35mm sensor, then yes it should be the same frame.

      5) No, it does not.

      Reply
  • Sergey
    January 24, 2016 at 7:11 am

    What about BMPCC? With 2.88 crop and MFT.
    It should be 9-10mm or 14mm?

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      January 26, 2016 at 7:20 pm

      I believe it would be 14mm on that camera.

      Reply
  • Great website and blog
    December 27, 2015 at 11:16 pm

    About to buy your cinema tutorial, but here i just wanna get a simple answer. On a sony A7s mkll full frame when you say a 28mm you actually mean a 28mm lens right not a 35mm. Sorry but the reply from the guest are all very confusing and I am french so can you imagine loll.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      January 3, 2016 at 9:01 pm

      Hey Jojo –

      Sorry for all the confusion! A 28mm Super 35 look on full frame would actually call for a lens around 40mm or so. In other words, when I say 28mm lens is the secret ingredient, that’s assuming you are shooting on a Super 35mm camera which is technically a “cropped” format. Hope this helps clear things up!

      Reply
      • Marzio
        September 22, 2016 at 4:56 pm

        I have a question:

        I own same camera Sony A7S II, so you say that 40mm is right lens because camera have full frame sensor…
        But if i crop video to 16:9 in 2.35:1, I keep using 40mm lens?
        Samyang 35mm cine is good compromise (cropped in 2.35) in your opinion?
        Or I must choose different lens as 40mm canon pancake or 28mm lens (keep in mind 2.35 crop)for achieve same results…

        Reply
        • Noam Kroll
          September 28, 2016 at 10:09 pm

          Hi Marzio! The 40mm focal length is what you are looking for regardless of whether or not you crop your image to 2.35 in post. That said, a 35mm Rokinon will get you pretty close to the same field of view, and it’s a great lens. Personally, i would choose the Rokinon over the 40mm Canon pancake, as I think it’s a better overall lens.

          Reply
  • Derek
    December 18, 2015 at 2:26 am

    This was a really good read, informative & interesting. I particularly liked that you pointed out how 28mm is slightly off from our field of view and what likely pulls us into the other world of a film. I also agree that more time, energy and effort should be put into what is in the frame instead of relying on bokeh to carry the look. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      December 21, 2015 at 7:19 pm

      Thanks Derek! Glad you enjoyed it.

      Reply
  • […] 28mm lens has long been one of my favorites. In fact this is now the second article that I’m writing about this almost magical focal length, which can deliver so much […]

    Reply
  • gpyoda
    August 21, 2015 at 6:09 pm

    Films were/are shot in a Super 35 format (24.89mm x 18.66mm) and then converted.
    21.95mm x 16mm is Academy 35mm film.
    28 mm (Super 35mm film) is around 39mm (35mm or FF equivalent – crop factor is appr. 1.4).
    Link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_35
    Aloha.

    Reply
  • Rodger Marion
    August 10, 2015 at 6:06 pm

    I have a Zeiss Distagon T* 2/28 mounted via an adaptor to my E-mount Sony NEX-EA camera. It gives a very nice image. My last film was shot primarily with a 35mm Sony E-mount lens and I often wanted a bit wider or a bit narrower. Next film will be mostly the 28mm and switching to a 58mm for close-ups as that longer lens lets the camera be outside the actor’s personal space. Good article. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      August 14, 2015 at 12:23 am

      Thanks a lot Rodger! Appreciate you sharing this.

      Reply
  • Clinton
    August 9, 2015 at 4:55 am

    So how did they shoot cinemascope? I know for cinerama they used three cams, and that now we use anamorphic, but how did they shoot so wide? And does that change is the 28 is optimum?

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      August 14, 2015 at 12:22 am

      I still think that a 28mm anamorphic lens would look excellent and be a great alternative to a spherical lens. Both will give the same relative focal length, but of course the anamorphic will come will all of the usual benefits of that format.

      Reply
  • Chris 2
    July 29, 2015 at 9:36 pm

    I recently picked up the Zeiss 28mm F2.0 (Canon mount on a RED Scarlet.) I was very hesitant, especially coming from an L-series zoom lens world. I also wanted something faster for low light in door shooting, so I was really looking at a Sigma 24mm f1.4. The Zeiss is not the fastest out there, but there really is something special about this lens. If you can afford it, I definitely recommend it. It really will add “pop” to your images.

    Reply
    • Chris 2
      July 29, 2015 at 9:53 pm

      PS It really has become my favorite lens of my kit.

      Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      August 14, 2015 at 12:15 am

      Great suggestion Chris! I absolutely love that lens… Has an almost 3D quality to it that you don’t see with most other lenses at that focal length.

      Reply
  • Rallo
    June 21, 2015 at 2:25 am

    Hey Noam, I really appreciate that your sharing this information with us. I really love the 24mm rokinon lens on the Canon rebels. I think it looks really cinematic based off the youtube videos i’ve seen that show it’s focal length. Does the 24mm focal length have any history in cinema and would you use it?

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      June 22, 2015 at 4:55 pm

      Anytime Rallo! The 24mm definitely has a lot of history in traditional cinema and is a very standard wide angle option.

      Reply
  • Hayley
    May 15, 2015 at 12:06 am

    Great article! I actually bought a 28mm yesterday and then stumbled on this article today looking for examples of 28mm usage. I’m even more excited to use it now!

    I have to agree…I fell for the shallow DOF too but now I’m looking to make my stuff look different and stand out from what’s out there now so I’m aiming for a very traditional methodology now. I don’t shoot narrative very often but I did buy the 28mm to shoot a commercial where I’m trying to emulate a 1960’s look and now I’m so glad I did.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      May 18, 2015 at 12:01 am

      Glad to hear Hayley! Thanks so much for the note.

      Reply
  • Andy Zou
    April 21, 2015 at 1:52 pm

    Hey Noam! Very informative article that aligns with dome research I’ve been trying to do. I wonder how this article relates to the use of 2x anamorphics. I recently got the SLR magic 2x anamorphot and am looking for one solid taking lens. Im using a gh4 with a Speedbooster at 4k, do at 16:9 its approximately a 1.6 crop. I like the 30-35mm range for a normal look on the Speedbooster, but with gh4’s upcoming firmware of 4:3 24fps shooting, I think the crop will increase a little more so I should opt for something around 28mm on the Speedbooster, or 20ish native mft. I’m guessing these guys used mostly 28mm Ana lenses? Any recs?

    Reply
    • Jul
      July 12, 2016 at 7:29 am

      I am curious about that too !

      Reply
  • Hristo
    March 4, 2015 at 11:21 pm

    I still don’t get it.If a have a full frame camera (5d for example) What lenses should i use to be close to this?

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      March 6, 2015 at 5:27 pm

      A 40mm would be great on full frame.

      Reply
  • rohan
    January 31, 2015 at 11:29 pm

    so i have the canon 5d mark iii and the sigma 28 lens from this page but can you tell me how to film a tracking shot and i mean a tracking shot like goodfellas and boogie nights . because you have to turn the lens while filming that can be quite difficult .

    thanks for the help

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      February 7, 2015 at 9:05 pm

      Hi Rohan – It sounds like you need a 1st AC. For complex camera moves, you would usually have at least 1 AC on set who would help you to pull focus/roll the iris as you operate the camera.

      Reply
    • AJ
      May 21, 2015 at 3:16 am

      I know Scorsese loves the 24mm when he’s moving the camera, so for the 5D I’d personally use a 35mm lens. The 28mm on the 5D will give more of a Kubrick vibe, but that could be cool. So for the 28mm, I would slap the camera on a Steadicam, stop the lens down to F/4, and focus to 3 ft. That way everything from 2 to 6 ft. would be in focus, and I wouldn’t have to pull focus on the lens; I would just use my feet to get what I want in focus. With the low light capability of the 5D you should be okay bumping up the ISO to compensate for the f/4 aperture, even in a dark environment like a club.

      Reply
      • Noam Kroll
        May 26, 2015 at 6:52 pm

        Thanks for sharing this AJ – great points all around.

        Reply
      • William
        April 30, 2017 at 2:05 am

        I recently did a shoot involving runway models where I incorporated this exact technique of keeping a 3-5 foot distance from the subject with a 20mm lense set to f2.8 or 3.4. This was with a M4/3 camera. One model commented that she felt like she was in a dance with me. She was more right than she knew. As a camera operator, the importance of footwork is often overlooked. As in dancing, you really have to practice to get good at it. Anticipating the subjects moves, shadowing, stopping, kneeling, bending, twisting, leaning, walking backwards and sideways all while maintaining that 3 foot focus window. I don’t think most folks even think about what the camera operator did or what it took to obtain a particular shot while watching a film or video. Which is the way it should be. So yeah, using your feet is a great technique! 🙂

        Reply
        • Noam Kroll
          May 2, 2017 at 4:08 pm

          So true! It’s sometimes funny for people who aren’t DPs themselves to watch a cinematographer at work – especially shooting this kind of material. It very much feels like a choreographed dance, and there is certainly an art to the movement. Thanks again for sharing.

          Reply
  • Keano
    January 31, 2015 at 8:01 pm

    I shoot full frame D750 do would the 35mm be a better voice then the 28mm?

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      February 7, 2015 at 9:04 pm

      I think so… I love shooting full frame but the 28mm is a bit on the wide side for my taste. 40mm would be great.

      Reply
  • NLL
    November 27, 2014 at 8:59 am

    Hi ,

    Would the 24mm be too wide to give the effect ?

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      November 27, 2014 at 8:25 pm

      Not necessarily! Depends on your camera’s sensor size… On a MFT camera for instance, that may be just right.

      Reply
  • bradbell.tv
    October 20, 2014 at 9:44 pm

    The 28mm has both a normal perspective – length of diagonal of sensor – but also replicates the socially comfortable distances between human bodies. A wider angle would be in the subjects face, for example, and a very long lens would necessitate a non-social distance.

    My problem is with M4/3, a 16mm standard lens is too wide to produce good depth of field, it’s in people’s faces, and it distorts people’s faces. And the 28mm becomes a bit long. The Super35 sensor is integral.

    Reply
  • dnguyen
    June 12, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    Orson Wells used a Angenieux 18.5 exclusively for a few films for a “modern” look shot on 35mm. When interviewed, it was going for a modern look, and he always shot in singularity. If everyone was shooting wide, then he’d switch to 75mm for a chance. He was always exploring what people weren’t. You can’t just say that 28mm is the answer for the film look. Traditional cinema alone utilizes 28-35-50-85-135. Bokeh is not an issue… it’s just a result. No one is pulling focus at 1.4 or 1.2. You know how difficult that is? Unless you’re Kubrick shooting 0.7 for Barry Lyndon. Bokeh is a RESULT. It’s not a conscious decision. That’s what makes film look like film. Conscious decisions.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      June 12, 2014 at 5:58 pm

      Very good point and I couldn’t agree more that breaking the rules or going against the grain is a fantastic way to force innovation. That said, this article isn’t suggesting that you shoot everything at 28mm or that there is a one size fits all approach to lensing – simply some food for thought to get the wheels spinning. Thanks for visiting the site.

      Reply
  • Jesus Rubio Govea
    January 16, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    I’m new to this, I would like to buy the lens Rokinon 14mm T3.1 Cine Lens, any frame used for GH3? Greetings.

    Reply
  • Liam Martin
    January 3, 2014 at 10:52 pm

    I know it was a while ago now but I love this article. It’s great to get some perspective when so many people just think 5D’s are the best cameras out there or spend hours looking at bokeh. I’m a GH3 user and have the 14mm prime amongst others but rarely use it since it’s such a pain to focus manually. Do you have any tips on using it properly or any work arounds? That fiddly tiny little focus ring just stops me wanting to use it.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      January 14, 2014 at 6:37 pm

      Thanks Liam, this was one of the most popular of the year. I’m glad you enjoyed it…

      Yes the focusing ring can be quite annoying to deal with, but have you looked into adding a follow focus gear to it? That might help matters a lot!

      Reply
  • Wolfgang Tröscher
    January 3, 2014 at 8:08 am

    Not to forget Orson Welles Citizen Kane! Welles used wide angle lenses and sometimes larger-than-life props to get a huge depth of field.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      January 14, 2014 at 6:36 pm

      Good point – one of my all time favorite films… I should update this post at some point.

      Reply
  • Cavner
    November 28, 2013 at 1:15 am

    Many years ago I shot a short on DV. All of the wide angle stuff looked great (back then). There were people that thought it was shot on 16mm.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      December 3, 2013 at 9:24 pm

      I could definitely see that. I shot my first few shorts on the DVX 100 and to this day am still so impressed with what that camera was capable of.

      Reply
  • Steve
    November 27, 2013 at 6:29 am

    Are you saying that 28mm is the magic length against a full-frame still sensor (a la DSLR), or were Spielberg et al shooting 28mm against a standard 35mm film frame, which is a 1.59 crop?

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      November 27, 2013 at 5:02 pm

      Yes in DSLR terms I would say 28mm is the ideal length when shooting on an APS-C sensor (Super 35mm equivalent). The full frame look can be gorgeous and definitely has it’s place, but I’ve always found it just a little bit too wide for my taste.

      Reply
  • timur civan
    November 27, 2013 at 3:55 am

    Deakins cites the 28mm 32mm and 40mm as responsible for a bulk of his shooting. I completely agree with you. 32, and 40mm are my go to lengths.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      November 27, 2013 at 5:01 pm

      Thanks Timur – I didn’t know that, but very good to know. Deakins is one of my favorite DP’s, so it’s reassuring to hear this.

      Reply
  • Kase
    November 26, 2013 at 11:58 pm

    Any lens recommendations for an APS-C sensor with a 1.6 crop factor? T3i, 7D, etc?

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      November 27, 2013 at 4:59 pm

      Actually Kase the ASP-C sensor size is perfect for using a true 28mm lens. The reason being that full frame sensors (like the 5D) are actually bigger than Super 35mm. The closest sensor size to Super 35mm film is in fact the APS-C sensor, so a regular 28mm on there would be perfect!

      Reply
      • Kase
        November 27, 2013 at 6:42 pm

        Which in full frame terms is approximately 45mm, correct?

        Reply
      • Kase
        November 27, 2013 at 6:44 pm

        Which in full frame terms is approximately 45mm, correct? And thanks for the response by the way.

        Reply
  • Stacy Muller
    November 26, 2013 at 9:20 pm

    EXCELLENT points made in this article!
    Reminds me of the great results I’ve gotten
    using the last lens mentioned on my GH2!
    It’s reassuring that zoom lenses that aren’t
    that fast (but “fastest” on the wide end)
    could work well set to 28mm, while a fast
    28mm prime that might be set to a less
    fast aperture could work well too!

    I’m hoping to achieve some specialty shots
    with both the GH2 and Nikon 1 V2 with such
    fast primes, and with a power zoom lens on
    the Nikon which I believe works better than
    any power zoom equivalent on the GH2
    (with faster phase detection focus and
    stepless aperture) – otherwise I’d use the GH2
    for that as well! (Not that I would want to
    go zoom-happy on a film-like production).

    – Stacy.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      November 27, 2013 at 4:58 pm

      Thanks Stacy – glad you enjoyed the read! Using a zoom lens set to 28mm can definitely be a great option, especially if you already own the glass. I went through a phase where I would only shoot on primes, but lately I’ve started using zooms again on many shoots out of convenience and am really happy with the results. A nice zoom lens on a really good camera can look as good as anything else. I think my next purchase will be the Sigma 18 – 35 F1.8, which also may be a great option for your GH2/Nikon. Thanks for visiting!

      Reply
    • Aminur Rahman
      May 13, 2020 at 8:59 am

      Did you use the Nikon Nikkor 28mm 2.8 on the Panasonic Lumix GH2? If so, I thought the recommendation on this website was 20mm on MFT cameras, which would be the Panasonic Lumix 20mm 1.7, no?

      Reply
  • Xiong
    November 26, 2013 at 8:05 pm

    Yeah I also agree about the use of shallow depth of field to “cheat” that film look.

    From the article:
    “The bottom line is there are no shortcuts in achieving a filmic look. Following practices that have been used and implemented on films since the early days of cinema is the only way to truly achieve the look you’re after”

    This is the biggest take away for me, there’s a reason why those filmic images stand out so much and that’s due to the time and effort it takes to achieve them. Now a days with the idea of everything being so quick and easy to grab with a DSLR: With a hit of a button you can capture, manage, delete all entire scenes from the camera so fast and quick, that it is in this philosophy that we have accidentally spliced into our own way of shooting. “We can just reshoot that, we’ll edit it in post.” there isnt that tension we had with actual film, where every shot counted, every shot was money spent.

    Just my opinion though, just fuel to the fire of conversation 😉

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      November 27, 2013 at 4:54 pm

      Totally. Sometimes it’s important to just remember that narrative films shouldn’t always be shot on the fly, documentary style as so many low budget indies are. There are cases where this can work (for example the film ‘Detachment’), but typically if you want that cinematic look, it’s all about emulating what’s been done for ages on larger scale productions.

      Reply
      • David Johnson
        October 5, 2018 at 2:27 pm

        Claiming shallow depth of field is a cheat is how self proclaimed pros respond to being threatened by the development of quality by amateurs, through more affordable technology.

        There are plenty of examples of shallow depth of field being used by cinematography masters in Hollywood.

        Watch the candle lit scene in Barry Lyndon and this scene from There Will Be Blood – https://goo.gl/images/tAQAmb

        Reply
        • Noam Kroll
          November 14, 2018 at 5:21 am

          I love shallow DOF and use it constantly 🙂

          Reply
        • Frank Davis
          October 10, 2020 at 7:30 pm

          The reality though, is shallow depth of field isn’t a new development. It’s always existed in photography (of course lenses had to be developed, but the optics always existed). It is a cheat. I’ve done it, and so have many others when I started out in film (I work alongside IATSE in film and theater and am in my mid 40s). But it DOES take away from the artistry.

          Someone like Roger Deakins understands this, and while he uses digital cameras from ARRI – with TONS of flexibility vs celluloid, he sets performs his cinematography as if he is still shooting on film. He uses tons of wattage from lights and just enough to accentuate the shadows he’s so well known for. He just doesn’t crank the ISO up and decrease stops for more light – he PLANS accordingly.

          That’s why his work is well received, because it’s planned out instead of just having an idea and shooting gorilla style. I blame Doug Liman and Oliver Wood (The Bourne Identity) for making that shaky/shallow DOF so mainstream.

          Reply
          • Noam Kroll
            January 14, 2021 at 2:11 am

            Very well put, thank you.

      • Manny
        March 4, 2019 at 9:21 am

        Any idea what The founder used for focal length? Looks wide

        Reply
        • Noam Kroll
          March 5, 2019 at 5:29 pm

          I don’t know unfortunately, but perhaps someone else may be able to respond and let you know…

          Reply

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