Topic: The best lenses for your DSLR

UPDATE! - (8-2-16) I have created a video version of this write up if you would rather watch then read

https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7635/16867549167_418828e979_c.jpg

There has been a lot of talk lately about using vintage Russian lenses for animation, and while these lenses are neat, and create a unique visual style I do not believe they are ideal, or even practical for most stop motion applications. However vintage lenses are great for animation if you get the right ones, the question is which lenses are best.

It is pretty much agreed that vintage Nikkor lenses are the best option for stop motion, it's what most of the professional stop motion animators use and the lenses are widely available and are much cheaper then modern prime lenses. When you look for stop motion lenses you don't need to worry about getting really fast lenses (those cost more anyway) the two things I look for (apart from optical excellence of course) is a short minimum focal distance and the ability to stop down to f/22. It's easy to get to much bokah when photographing stuff at minifig scale, so I often find my self at f/8 - f/16, and sometimes even f/22 when I am using extension rings or want deep focus.

You can pretty much do anything you need with these three lenses:

Micro-Nikkor 55mm f/3.5 Very useful, runs for $45-$90 on Ebay, you need to own this lens! With a minimum focal length of 9.5 inches it is a VERY useful lens, you will likely use it more then any other lens.

Nikkor 35mm f/2.8 Very useful, trending on Ebay at $92 just make sure to get the AI or AI-s version that can stop down to f/22

Nikkor 24mm f/2.8 Somewhat useful, the AI-s versions tend to run from $120 - $200 on Ebay, I have a non-AI version that only stops down to f/16 and am a bit disapointed in it, don't settle for a non-AI version and save up some extra cash and get an AI-s version. Really you could fill this slot with any lens from 18mm to 28mm, you will sometimes want a wider lens then your 35mm, but whatever you fill this spot with will likely be your least used lens, keep in mind the wider then lens, the worse it will play with extension tubes.

In addition to those three lenses you will want a set of extension tubes, lost of folks use these, I don't own them, but I hear the quality is alright, nothing amazing. I have a very nice set of the Nikon PK-1,2 & 3 which are no longer made and cost far more, I had no idea off brands existed when I picked them up, live and learn, although the build quality of the Nikon tubes is impeccable. You will use them to further decrease your minimum focal distance, I find the longer your lens is the better they play with the extension tubes. I find that on lenses 24mm and shorter they are more or less unusable. As you add more tubes to a lens your depth of field will decrease, this is why you should only buy lenses you can stop down to f/22 (or ideally f/32)

If you are using a Canon EOS body you will need an adapter to use Nikkor lenses, I have a cheap $30 apaptor which has a slight jiggle which is mostly un-problematic, if you want a nicer adapter Dragonframe recommends Fotodiox Pro Lens Mount Adapter, which I have not used.

If you are using a Nikon camera you may want to half unscrew the lens when you animate, this will stop the camera from opening the aperture every frame and will eliminate light flicker from inconsistent aperture.

Now that I have given you my recommendations I will review all 8 vintage Nikkor lenses I own and rate the usefulness of each one for stop motion along with an image taken with that lens at it's minimum focal distance. All photos were taken at f/5.6 1/5s shutter speed at 400 ISO on my Canon SL1.

Nikkor 18mm f/4: Too expensive and specialized for most animators The 18mm f/4 is optically one of my best lenses and can be used for some specialized situations to great effect, however these tend to be few and far between, on top of that this lens is expensive, I can't find any on Ebay now but last I saw they were running about $400+ used so I wouldn't really recommend it, but if you have the money (and a full frame camera) go for it, it's sort of wasted on an APS-C sensor.
https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8818/16867280007_ab66147b06.jpg




Nikkon 24mm f/2.8 non-AI: Get the AI-s version, it will be less used but in regular rotation The 24mm f/2.8 is a reasonably useful wide(ish) lens for stop-mo, my non-AI version's range is f/2.8 to f/16, ideally you want lenses that go to at least f/22, and there are 24mm AI Nikkors that range from f/2.8-f/22 you should spend the extra money on one of those rather then saving on a cheaper non-AI like I did. The AI-s versions tend to run from $120 - $200 on Ebay
https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8820/16454537143_129df7d54f.jpg




Nikkor 35mm f/2.8: Very useful will be in regular rotation This should be the second lens you get. Plays alright with extension tubes for more options. Trending on Ebay at $92
https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8688/16867279547_b1801825ef.jpg




Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 (Nifty Fifty) Poor choice for stop motion, mostly useless It has a really long minimum focal distance, this would be great for live action video as it is fast and cheap. Anything it can do in stop motion the 55mm Micro can do better.
https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8827/16867279297_e2b26d899a.jpg




Micro-Nikkor 55mm f/3.5 Short min focus distance and cheap! Great optics too! With a minimum focal length of 9.5 inches it is a VERY useful lens, you will likely use it more then any other lens. Runs for $45-$90 on Ebay, you need to own this lens!
https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8713/16454536353_abce65a3e4.jpg




Nikkor 105mm f/2.5: Spend some extra cash on a micro version, but I use it quite a bit If you are interested in telephoto having a 105mm will be great and cover most of your telephoto needs for LEGO, just don't save money getting a non-micro version like I did, a micro version will be way more versatile, but even non-micro plays great with extension tubes. Micro version trending at $280, but I've seen them go for as low as $200
https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7601/16887132860_7f9c03d27e.jpg




Nikkor 135mm f/2.8: The 105mm micro invalidates this lens, poorish minimum focal lenth If you really like telephoto lenses these are cheap! Tend to run from $40 - $100 on Ebay I feel like my 135mm has better color then my 105mm f/2 for what it's worth. I love how much throw the focus ring has.
https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7585/16454535923_fd5cf30b0c.jpg




Nikkor 300mm f/4.5: Costly, rare, with min focal distance of 8 feet This is a lens my dad found in a box at the school he works and and gave it to me for free, after looking it up it seems to run about $400+ used, but I can't find any on Ebay now. This lens has a STUPID long focal length which is not useful for much, I like using it to shoot miniatures so they look very far away, however with a minimum focal distance of 8 feet it will be unusable for may LEGO animators, that on top of the price make it impossible for me to recommend to animators. However the optics are wonderful and photographers and videographers would love it. (fun fact this lens was used while filming Bricks In Motion: The Documentary)
https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8730/16454535743_2e368bc084.jpg

Re: The best lenses for your DSLR

Oh wow. I will keep all this in mind when looking for lenses for a DSLR.

Thanks you!

"Bless you for making this." -Sloth 2016 * on "Chicken Shaped Lighthouse Attacks Police"
http://bricksafe.com/files/harborlightpro/400x100%20BRICKSINMOTON%20PIC%202.jpg
Ephesians 4:29 -"Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers."

Re: The best lenses for your DSLR

Absolutely fantastic guide. Bricks in Motion Best Of, definitely.


I just realized that I actually have the Nifty Fifty instead of the Micro-Nikkor 55mm. Whoops! The Nifty-Fifty has served me well enough, though I've definitely gotten the most use out of my 35mm. I suspect I will have to make some purchases in the future.

Re: The best lenses for your DSLR

With extention tubes you can make the nifty fifty work but once you have a micro lens  it's more or less invalid.  The great thing about the 55mm micro is that it's not super useful for most real macro photography, macro photographers will want lens at least 100mm or longer which is, I think, why the 55mm micro is so affordable. That is also why the Micro-Nikkor 105mm is a bit more pricey, macro photographers don't need auto focus and the old lenses are opticly as good as the new lenses which might put the best telephoto option out of the price range of a lot of animators.

Re: The best lenses for your DSLR

Excellent topic, brilliant and thoroughly well written!
I have begun looking around for the Micro-Nikkor 55mm online ever since you recommended it to me. I'll probably keep snooping around until I find one that is nice and cheap mini/smile

Re: The best lenses for your DSLR

Yeah I've most achieved my close-up shots originally with multiple dioptors on the 35mm, but now I've mostly switched over to extension tubes. But I'll definitely need to pick up a Micro-Nikkor 55mm soon.

Darn it Sloth, making me spend more money... mini/tongue

Re: The best lenses for your DSLR

Thanks for this, the samples with an actual LEGO setup are invaluable. Did the camera position change a lot? I'm particularly interested in the working distance - if you wanted to get tighter than the Micro-Nikkor 55mm f/3.5 sample (just head and shoulders, say) would you just shoot it like this and crop later?

If I understand correctly, mounting these on a Micro Four-Thirds camera would basically result in an image with the outer 1/4 of each side trimmed off?

Re: The best lenses for your DSLR

Jay, the 18mm, 24mm, and 35mm are at more or less the same position, I did move the 35mm slightly closer as it seems to focus just a bit closer then the other two. The 50mm has something like a  2.5 feet min focal distance so it's a foot and a half back from the other lenses. The 55mm micro is about 2.5 inches closet then the 18mm-24mm group. The 105mm is 3 feet back, so it's about 6" behind the 50mm and 2 feet behind the first 3. I think the 135mm is 5 feet from the set and the 300mm is through the door, 8 feet from the set. It would also be a good idea to use extention tubes to create a series of images where the minifig stays the same size and the perspective changes, maybe later.

I'm also a thinking of adding a bit more info on camera and frame grabbing and sticky-ing this as a general DSLR guide as there seems to be  very little centrilized info about shooting on DSLRs. That alright with everyone?

Re: The best lenses for your DSLR

Which of these would be decent with live action?

"Bless you for making this." -Sloth 2016 * on "Chicken Shaped Lighthouse Attacks Police"
http://bricksafe.com/files/harborlightpro/400x100%20BRICKSINMOTON%20PIC%202.jpg
Ephesians 4:29 -"Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers."

Re: The best lenses for your DSLR

Harborlight wrote:

Which of these would be decent with live action?

Generally speaking, the ones that aren't micro/macro. Nikkor lenses are a pretty good budget option for live action, I used them for Voices Wake Us and In Paradise (although the latter was in combination with an anamorphic adapter).

http://i.imgur.com/wcmcdmf.png

Re: The best lenses for your DSLR

Great article and guide.

I do have a question tho, how this work for Canon users? Is it similar in terms of lens?

I personally myself have always used Canon.

Sincerely,
Divine.

http://i62.tinypic.com/30kc9x3.jpg RELEASED! Check out my channel to watch it!
Check out my Youtube Channel New Vid every week: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCy5NKN … 7cRn8gsNaw

Re: The best lenses for your DSLR

Divine wrote:

I do have a question tho, how this work for Canon users? Is it similar in terms of lens?

You can use these Nikkor lenses with pretty much any camera, including Canon cameras -- you just need the proper adapter. Generally, Nikkor lenses are better than Canon lenses for stop motion purposes.

http://i.imgur.com/wcmcdmf.png

Re: The best lenses for your DSLR

Thank you for the guide. It's really useful to know what lenses to buy. mini/smile

Re: The best lenses for your DSLR

SlothPaladin wrote:

If you are using a Nikon camera you may want to half unscrew the lens when you animate, this will stop the camera from opening the aperture every frame and will eliminate light flicker from inconsistent aperture.

Never even thought of doing that! I got my DSLR a few years ago before I was considering to animate with it meaning all the lenses I have are the newer Nikon lenses with the dreaded automatic iris thus limiting me to only shooting wide open. Thank-you ever so much for helping me out how to solve it! mini/bigsmile

Re: The best lenses for your DSLR

This is the type of things you will learn if you spend 10 years on three stop motion forums, I think that tip comes from Nick Hilligoss over at StopMotionAnimation.com, for it to work you will need a manual apature ring otherwise you will only be able to shoot in f/22 or whatever your most stopped down apature is.

Re: The best lenses for your DSLR

I usually find that my lens is fine up to f8 but after there flicker becomes a big problem. I've often wanted to shoot at f22 but not been able to so even if I can't shoot in between f9 - f16 it's still a big help mini/smile

Re: The best lenses for your DSLR

Would you need an adapter for the Micro Nikkor 55mm f/3.5 to work on newer Nikon DSLRs since the lens is non-AI? If so, which ones are the best?

Last edited by UnknownBrick Films (June 29, 2015 (02:07pm))

"Animator Unknown" everywhere else.
https://c2.staticflickr.com/9/8103/28674610113_6522ac9c4c_o.jpg
YouTube | Flickr | Twitter

Re: The best lenses for your DSLR

UnknownBrick Films wrote:

Would you need an adapter for the Micro Nikkor 55mm f/3.5 to work on newer Nikon DSLRs since the lens is non-AI? If so, which ones are the best?

It depends on which Nikon camera you have. A camera like the D3100 doesn't need one, because it doesn't have a certain switch right on the ring of the camera that a non-AI lens would break. Higher up models may need an adapter.

YouTubeTwitterFacebook
http://bricksafe.com/files/rioforce/internet-images/discoctopus-sig-2.png
"Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." - 1 Corinthians 10:31b

Re: The best lenses for your DSLR

rioforce wrote:

It depends on which Nikon camera you have. A camera like the D3100 doesn't need one, because it doesn't have a certain switch right on the ring of the camera that a non-AI lens would break. Higher up models may need an adapter.

Thanks, rioforce! I just so happen to have the D3100, so I'll look into upgrading.

"Animator Unknown" everywhere else.
https://c2.staticflickr.com/9/8103/28674610113_6522ac9c4c_o.jpg
YouTube | Flickr | Twitter

Re: The best lenses for your DSLR

I guess I have a question regarding this too now, if I was to buy one lens, should I get the Helios 44-2 or one of these?  Which one would I use the most?

http://i.imgur.com/CSwoca1.png