Best lens for close-ups

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    • #37077

      I’m going to be filming several scenes for a film trailer in the coming weeks. I’m using a Panasonic PV-GS250 (I know, but it’s all I’ve got at the moment). This is mostly a learning exercise for me in the various aspects of film production. However, I also want to make it look as good as I possibly can.

      Several of the scenes I’m shooting require close-up shots that will either focus on a single person, or focus on a primary target in the foreground with another character behind them. I’m wondering if there is a lens that might be better for such close-up shots? I realize there probably aren’t a lot of options for this camera (the filter diameter is only 43mm) and I can’t seem to find a straight answer out there on the web.

      Any additional pointers for such shots (f-stop / iris settings and so forth) would also be very welcome. My past experience with this camera includes a few weddings and loads of home movie shooting but very little manual control.


    • #164364


      Good filters for close ups are the diffusion filters from tiffen. I don’t know about the filter sizes they offer, but this filter helps make peoples faces and appearance to be more smooth with less imperfections. I haven’t used them, but I wouldn’t recommend investing in them unless your in the modeling business or something. You can check them out here:

      (BTW, for a cheap "pro-mist" filter just stretch panty hose over the lens)

      A more practical technique would be using a longer lens (zooming in). A short lens, or a wide angle lens, can distort peoples faces and make them look unpleasant. Using longer lenses make the talent more pleasant looking. It also compresses the background.

      If you want the persons face in focus, and the background out of focus, you would want a shallow Depth Of Field, or DOF. To achieve this, use a longer lens (zoom in all the way), and open up the iris as much as possible.
      If you need to, shorten the shutter speed or apply an ND filter to compensate for the wide aperture. This would give it a more traditional film look.

      With a longer lens, you’ll also have to move the camera further away from the talent, so you’ll definitely want to have some sort of external mike.

      Outside of the camera, you’ll want to learn or practice what you know about lighting. To make someone look more beautiful and pleasant, use softer light. This lighting will fill in the wrinkles and etc, while hard lighting would create shadows in those areas. You can do this with a softbox or any type of diffusion. Hard light makes someone look a little more sinister.
      You might want to check out some articles or videos about 3 point lighting.

      In the end, you should zoom in as much as possible on your talent, to provide a pleasant traditional looking close up.

      If any of this doesn’t make sense, or you have a question, post it. and goodluck with the trailer

    • #164365

      Thank you for the reply. I’ve found several ND filters for my size camera so that will work out nicely.

      I’ve done a short film in the past (with a much older camera in much worse lighting conditions) so what you’ve said makes a great deal of sense. Lighting is definitely something I need some practice with and it’s one of my main focus points in this trailer. I have several of the halogen work lamps on stands and one that’s attached to an extra tripod via c-clamp. I’m sure there are ways to diffuse those a bit; I’ll research that.

      Fortunately, I’ve got a shotgun mic and a boom so the audio won’t be an issue.

      Again, thanks – very concise and informative and – best of all – very usable information.

    • #164366

      No problem. Here’s a good thread about the halogen lights:

      The pictures won’t load unless you’re a member, so here they are:


      I got the idea from a post I saw somewhere else, but it’s basically an aluminum "turkey plate" or whatever they’re called, with wax paper taped on it.

      It’s not perfect, but it helps diffuse the light a little. Even though it doesn’t appear so, the light shines straight through more or less.

      Another cheap source of diffused light are china balls. You can pick up the lamp part from walmart for about 6 bucks for 200 watts. It looks like this:


      And then a china ball for $6 at Ikea.

      For me, it makes a better soft light than the wax-paper set up, but it isn’t as bright.

      *Oh yeah, ND filters, or Neutral Density filters, only cut down light (make the image darker). I mentioned these because when you open up the aperture, the image becomes brighter. To compensate, you can use the ND filter OR shorten the shutter speed. You won’t need these if you shorten the shutter speed.

    • #164367

      Would an external telephoto lens (like this for example) be of value for the close-ups? I ran a test shot with my lens zoomed all the way in and the iris as open as I could get it, but it didn’t quite achieve the effect I was looking for.

      I realize with this camera there’s only so much one can do to achieve a decent film look.

      I did test drive the night-time settings described in this thread and I’ve got to say, they worked like a charm. Had to close the iris a bit to make it darker but it was a very convincing look and definitely more practical than buying a $200 DFN filter (at least for the moment).

      I was also wondering, would it be practical, to achieve a softer effect using those harsh halogen work lights, to simply bounce it off a reflector versus trying to diffuse it?

      Thanks again for the advice.

    • #164368

      So, it sounds like you’re looking to establish a shallow depth of field for your interview, with the subject in focus, but the background blurry.

      With such a small lens (and a smaller still CCD), depth of field is going to be a bear, but it’s not impossible.

      A telephoto lens adapter might help, but befor you rush out to drop $50 on it, try this (if you haven’t already):

      Use manual settings to turn off any light boosting, and open your aperture as wide as it goes.

      Put your subject as far away from the background as possible.

      Put your camera about 1/3 the distance to your subject as they are to the background of the shot. (You might have to play with this a bit to get it right)

      Zoom in all the way, as far as your optical lens will allow you. (Disable, or at least don’t extend into the digital zoom range, it will mess stuff up.)

      Zoomed in all the way, adjust your camera so you get the shot you want. Physically move the camera (don’t zoom out) until your subject is in the frame.

      If you’ve done all of this, you should have a much shallower depth of field, and by manually focusing, you should be able to blur up the background.

      Now, I’ve got to admit, that’s a very crude guerrilla method to depth of field, but it’s a lot easier than trying to figure out all the math, and it works well for me.

      You might want to add a lot of light to the scene as well, as zooming in will cut down your total light hitting the CCD, and you need a lot of light to really pull off a good DOF.

    • #164369

      hmm, why didn’t I think of that?

      Reflecting the halogen light would definitely work.

    • #164370

      Jim – thanks! I didn’t try that blow-for-blow in my first test run so I’ll give it a whirl. It’s a film, not an interview, but you’re correct as to what I want – blurry background with focus falling on the character closer to the camera. In that vein, I’m thinking I might want to further complicate things by switching focus – blurring the foreground and focusing on the character in the back about mid-way through the shot. I know it’s a pretty standard thing but with cheap gear standard is so high tech. 😉

      Spencer, thanks for the confirmation. I think the reflector might work particularly well in this shot, though it might not be practical for wider shots where more coverage is needed. In those cases I’ll definitely apply diffusion as you mentioned above. Couldn’t find any china balls on Ikea’s website – do they go under another name by chance?

      My continued gratitude!

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