Many people ask: “What is the best lens for a time lapse?”. The answer you have probably all heard is, well… “It depends” and unfortunately as obscure as this answer is, it’s the truth. BUT if there had to be a quick answer it would be this:
So keep in mind as you read that the truth is it depends, but for the most part you will always want a fixed focal length lens ( 16mm, 50mm, 200mm…). There are many ways to get creative with your time lapses but physically zooming is typically not one of them. Thus why you will have no need for a zoom lens. The alternative, a fixed focal length lens or prime lens offer more stability internally with less moving parts than a zoom, and partly because of that you will get a much sharper image.
Once you determine that a fixed focal length lens is the way to go your next step is to decide which focal length os best for your composition. If you’re used to using zoom lenses you may feel a little limited at this point not having the ability to zoom in and out until you see that perfect shot. Use a zoom lens to help you visualize if you like and once you find a focal length you’re happy with go with that in a prime lens. If you don’t have access to a lot of lenses you will find yourself moving closer to or further away from your subject to match the composition in your head with the lens you are given.
Also I didn’t mention this yet but having a lens with low aperture capability ( ~f/2.8) is always a nice option to have. This will give you a very shallow depth of field and can minimize exposure times which would allow lower shot intervals in dark environments if needed. Here’s a short list of a few nice lenses which would be great for time lapses.
- Canon EF 24mm f/2.8
- Canon EF 50mm f/1.8
- Canon EF 85mm f/1.8
- Canon EF 200mm f/2.8 II USM
- Nikon 20mm f/2.8 AIS Nikkor
- Nikon 50mm f/1.8G AF-S Nikkor
- Nikon 85mm f/1.4D AF Nikkor
- Nikon 200mm f/2 G ED-IF AF-S VR Nikkor