I love to frequent tradeshows that have all the new gizmos and gadgets. I also enjoy sharing information with fellow videographers and hearing about their experiences with new equipment. But I'm always first to show off my latest piece of equipment. Taking a cue from Oprah's "Favorite Things" show, this is the first in a series of "Jenny's Favorite Things" columns.
When I make an equipment purchase, whether it is costly or inexpensive, it needs to fill one of three objectives:
• Will it save me time?
• Will it make me more money?
• Will it make my job easier?
This first "Favorite Things" installment will look at camera lenses.
I love this brand of lens because of the extremely sharp, high-quality image it produces and the simple bayonet mount for quick interchanging of lenses.
Century's .65x Wide Angle Converter is my standard lens; I keep one on all my cameras 99% of the time. I love the 35% wider view it gives me—especially when shooting in confined areas—and the full zoom-through lens doesn't reduce light or quality. As with all wide-angle lenses, it gives you a greater depth of field and also helps to reduce shaky camera work.
Century's .3x Ultra Fisheye Adapter lens provides an extreme fisheye effect and a high degree of barrel distortion. This lens is fun to use and produces awesome results. You just float when walking with it, which makes the video look like you used a steadicam device. I've sampled other fisheye products but to date have not found one with the visual clarity this lens offers. When used properly, this is a valuable piece to add to your equipment inventory.
The .2x Tele-Converter helps me get those far-away balcony shots by doubling the indicated focal length. There is vignetting (tunnel effect) in the mid to wide range, but this is common with all tele-converter lenses. Again, the image is extremely sharp edge to edge. I recently shot at a large reception site with a balcony and had my second videographer working from the balcony for most of the reception shooting extreme closeups of people.
The +4.0 Achromatic Diopter is essential for those close detail shots. This macro lens delivers such a clear image that you can count the threads on a wedding dress and read the inscription inside a wedding band. As I often say, it's the details that make the difference, and with this lens you can capture those extreme details. I also use this lens for shooting photos, invitations, and other decorations.
Now if they could only make a third hand to help with all the lens-swapping I endure throughout the day . . .
Storing, Cleaning, and Labeling Your Lenses
Century Optics lenses are expensive but worth every penny. You'll want to take the utmost care of these products to preserve your investment.
I use a Hobart Satchel pouch made by Kavu to store and carry my lenses. I prefer to keep the cumbersome lens caps off at all times, and this fleece-lined pouch won't scratch or mar the glass. It comes in black and has removable shoulder straps that fit comfortably across my body. It holds a single large lens and has a smaller pocket for the diopter lens.
If you need to carry more lenses along with other accessories, I use and highly recommend the Porta Brace Slinger. I will talk more about that in my next column.
It's very important to have clean lenses for those clear, crisp images. It's very easy to get smudges, flecks, and dirt on the lens and not detect them in the viewfinder, only to discover them later in post. Wide-angle lenses grossly exaggerate smudges and glare since they have such a greater depth of field.
Basic lens cleaning tools include a blower or canned air, a microfiber cloth, lens tissue, and lens cleaning fluid. I clean my lenses thoroughly before every shoot and periodically throughout that day. Start by blowing dust off of the lens. Apply the wet cleaner to the tissue (never apply the cleaning fluid directly on the lens) and use a circular motion to wipe the lens clean. Moist towelettes used for cleaning eyeglasses do an excellent job of cleaning lenses and can be obtained at an optical glass supplier. Camera stores are another good source of these supplies.
One additional way to protect your investment is by marking each lens with some form of identification. Many times during a hectic shoot we'll set down our lenses and forget about them. If you do lose a lens in the frenzy of a live shoot, by applying a small, thin, adhesive label with your name and phone number around the barrel of the lens, you will greatly increase your chances of getting it back.