Fixed-Lens vs. Zoom Lens

Today I did my last exercise where I shoot a scene once on a zoom lens and then get the same shots with a fixed 50mm lens. As always in the filmmaking world things didn’t go to plan. I was prepared to shoot it at home yesterday evening. I had cleaned and set up my lounge room as a film set but my actors decided they couldn’t come at the last-minute. Luckily Sam and Matt offered to help me out this morning. I edited the script so I could shoot a scene with two people and used RMIT as a location instead. Both Sam and Matt had their own last-minute editing/assignments and I didn’t want to hold them up too long. This resulted in me shooting quicker than I originally would have liked.

To recap the shoots purpose was to compare shooting a scene using a Zoom lens at convenient focal lengths and shooting it with a fixed-lens, in this case a 50mm.  Below is the script/shoot list I made in preparation. I was originally planning to shoot indoors however I made the decision to shoot outside so we couldn’t be kicked out of a classroom halfway through. Unfortunately I had some more technically difficulties with the sound. I had hired a shotgun mic to use but for some reason I didn’t work and this resulted in the sound being picked up by the DSLR on-board mic which is terrible. To make this worse the internal mic sounded worse than usual as if it was broken so I had to ditch the audio all together.


Class Room or Outdoor alley

Sam enters a room/outdoor space and meets up with Sam. They move around anxious


Are we safe?


Wait and see.


There’s going to be trouble isn’t there?


Don’t worry, I’ve taken steps.


# Shot Type Camera Angle Camera Movement Description
1 MS EL PANS Matt paces the room anxious. Sam knocks.
2 CU EL Matt turns and looks anxiously at the door.

MCU of Matt

EL Focus pull to Sam Sam enters, looks out the door before closing it.
4 OTS EL Matt anxiously ‘are we safe?’
5 OTS EL Sam ‘wait and see’
6 MCU HA Tilt downwards Matt sits down in concern ‘ trouble’
7 CU LA Sam looks down on Matt says ‘i’ve taken steps’


I found that it took more work to replicate the same shot using the 50mm when I had used a noticeably higher or shorter focal length when using the Zoom Lens. For instance when shooting over the shoulder on the 50mm I didn’t get the same frame. However if had moved Sam closer to Matt then I could have easily of obtained similar framing.

Fixed, 50mm
Zoom, 100mm

I feel as if the perspective between the two scenes are not that noticeably different, and if they are it’s because I messed up obtaining the same frame. You can pretty much use a standard focal length like a 50mm for any shot if you use it correctly. The primary difference between using the two lenses was my train of thought. When  using the zoom lens I’d just set up the camera at any distance from the subject and start shooting. However when using a fixed lens you have to think more carefully about where to place the camera. You have move around more, manually choosing your desired perspective. I think this is a good thing for an ammeter filmmaker. Zoom lenses can make us lazy and we often don’t even look what focal length we are shooting on. I think using the same focal length throughout a scene gives the shots a certain uniformity that they wouldn’t have otherwise. If I had used dramatically wider focal lengths when using the Zoom the difference of perspective of the two scenes would look noticeably more different.


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