The Difference Between Camera Lenses

Every single shot you see in a motion pictures is methodically planned. Each shot serves a purpose, and exactly how that shot is captured with a camera is meant to evoke a certain feeling, look, or style. One element of photography that can drastically change how a shot is captured is what lens is being used on the camera. But do you understand how it all works?

It’s easy to see with your own eyes how a shot looks different from one to the next, but you may not know how a certain shot was achieved if you don’t understand how camera lenses work. Thankfully, cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel (Drive, The Usual Suspects, X-Men, Three Kings) sat down to explain how three different camera lenses work, and what the shots captured them convey when taken into consideration with image composition, lighting and camera movement. Learn about the difference between camera lenses in movies below.

The Difference Between Camera Lenses in Movies

Newton Thomas Sigel first explains the basic science of how a lens helps a camera capture an image a certain way. This is important for when he explains the physical difference between the lenses and how they effect a shot in question. Then he dives into the specifics of a wide angle lens, a telephoto lens, and a normal lens, and how each of them impacts the depiction of the characters and the environment they are occupying.

If a scene between two characters feels up close and intimate, it’s helped by a standard lens. Meanwhile, a telephoto lens puts some distance between the viewer and the character in question, giving an almost voyeuristic feel to the shot. And somewhere in the middle, a wide angle lens allows you to feel like you’re in the same room with the characters without being extremely close to them.

You can see plenty of examples in the video above from Sigel’s work on films like Drive, Three Kings, and Bohemian Rhapsody. If you’re not an expert on photography, this is the perfect crash course in how the images you love in a film are captured in such a meticulously and thoughtful fashion.

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