7 Best Lens for Documentary in 2023

Are you shooting a documentary? here is a list of the best lens for documentary.

Are you looking for the best type of lens to capture all your interviews and b-roll while also giving an appealing look that can powerfully tell your story?

Picking the right lens makes a huge difference in creating beautiful and effective visuals.

You need something versatile that will help bring out the nuances of your film.

Luckily, various lenses are available today designed specifically for documentaries—each offering unique benefits.

Here we’ll break down what features you should consider when selecting an ideal lens for your project or career and provide reviews and recommendations for some of our favorite documentary lenses.

Is Zoom or Prime lens better for documentaries?

So you’re getting ready to shoot a documentary, huh?

One of the most significant decisions–and investments–you’ll be making in creating quality footage is choosing the right lenses for your camera.

While both zoom and prime lenses have their benefits, it’s essential to consider your shooting style first.

Zoom lenses offer a greater focal length and range, which makes changing focal points on the fly easier, especially for fast-paced shooting environments.

On the other hand, prime lenses may have a narrower focal range but provide higher image quality due to their more straightforward design.

Ultimately, the best lenses for your documentary will depend on your specific needs and budget.

So weigh the pros and cons, try them out, and see which suits you and your story the best. Happy shooting.

Best Choice
best lens for documentary

1. Canon EF 50mm f/1.2

The Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM is one of the best lenses for documentary shooting.

This lens’s fast f/1.2 aperture makes it ideal for low light and night scenes, allowing you to capture footage without needing a lot of artificial light.


  • Excellent Bokeh
  • Shallow Depth of field
  • Fast F/1.2 Aperture


  • Expensive

Its wide maximum aperture also allows you to create attractive images with beautiful bokeh and shallow depth of field, making this lens an excellent choice for many documentary filmmakers.

You can get the best quality even when working with an out-of-focus background while using the lens.

The standard lens has weather sealing and is perfect for every documentary work.

The Canon lens must be among your lens options for shooting single-person talking headshots.

This prime lens offers sharpness throughout the frame, and its fast autofocus system ensures you never miss a moment while capturing your story.

Best Value

2. Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8

The Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 is an excellent option for documentary filmmakers who want versatility in their lens selection.

This high-quality zoom lens allows you to shoot wide-angle shots and close-ups, which can be useful when shooting interviews or other tight spaces.


  • Versatile Zoom Range (24-70mm)
  • Fast F/2.8 Aperture
  • Good Build Quality


  • Heave & Expensive

Its fast aperture of f/2.8 ensures sharp images with excellent low-light performance.

Additionally, it has a fast autofocus system and an optical stabilization feature that helps reduce camera shake—making handholding your footage easier and smoother without sacrificing image quality.

Premium Option

3. Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L

For those who want to capture intimate and distant shots, the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM is an incredibly versatile zoom lens that offers fantastic quality at a reasonable price.

This lens has an impressive maximum aperture of f/2.8 throughout its entire focal range, allowing you to shoot in low-light situations while still capturing incredible imagery.


  • Sharp Optics
  • Fast Autofocus


  • Heavy and Bulky

The fast autofocus ensures crisp images without compromising sharpness or color accuracy, essential for documentary filmmaking.

It also features image stabilization technology that helps reduce camera shake and produces steady footage even when shooting handheld or at longer focal lengths.

You’ll appreciate the lens’s versatility and ability to capture scenes without moving your camera or switching lenses quickly.

Runner Up

4. Sigma 28-70mm

The Sigma 28-70mm f2.8 DG DN is a great all-around lens for documentary filmmaking.

This zoom lens offers excellent image quality and beautiful color rendering, perfect for wide-angle shots and close-ups.


  • Constant max aperture of f/2.8
  • Full frame format
  • Lightweight Body


  • No Image stabilization

The zoom lens is incredibly sharp with an outstanding manual focus.

It’s also lightweight—ideal for handheld shooting—and robust enough to use in any environment without worry of damage or wear.

The built-in autofocus ensures you always get the shot you want with sharpness and clarity, even when filming in low-light conditions.

It is one of the best lenses for documentary filmmakers because of its different focal lengths. The only problem might be that it doesn’t have image stabilization built-in.

Telephoto lenses are some of the best documentary-style lenses because they can shoot your subject at different angles and focal lengths.

Sigma’s lens also comes with a custom-engineered motor that provides fast and quiet autofocus, allowing you to capture every detail of your documentary without interruption.

Hidden Gem

5. Sony FE 20mm F1.8

The Sony FE 20mm F1.8 G is an excellent wide-angle lens for documentary filmmaking and photography.

This prime lens offers a wide field of view, ideal for capturing intimate moments or expansive landscapes without switching lenses.


  • A fast aperture of f/1.8
  • Compact and lightweight design
  • Aperture Click on and off


  • No image stabilization

Its maximum aperture of f/1.8 creates beautiful out-of-focus backgrounds, making it perfect for portrait shots and closeups.

Its impressive 11-blade circular diaphragm also produces attractive bokeh effects in your footage and photos.

You should expect compelling images and shallow depth when recording sit-down interviews with the Sony lens.

Sony’s lens also features a minimum focusing distance of just 0.17 meters—great for closeup shots—and fast autofocus, quickly capturing fast-moving subjects.

It is one of the top lenses on a budget, and it works with a Sony Camera with an E-mount system.

This lens is also incredibly lightweight and compact so that it won’t add extra bulk or weight to your production kit.

Hidden Gem

6. Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 Art

The Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 Art is one of the best wide-angle documentary lenses.

This lens has it all for capturing wide landscapes, stunning group shots, or powerful close-ups.


  • Versatile Zoom Lens
  • Constant F/1.8 aperture at all focal lengths


  • Not suitable for use with full-frame sensors

This lens offers a fast f/1.8 aperture and excellent image quality throughout its focal range—ideal for low-light conditions or when you want to create beautiful bokeh effects.

It can shoot at different focal lengths and angles, so you don’t need to change lenses throughout your documentary filmmaking process.

You can use a single camera; your lens choice will be the Sigma.

It will deliver incredibly sharp images when paired with any DSLR or Mirrorless camera.

It also features a unique Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM) that allows for silent autofocus so as not to interrupt your filming process.

The focus and zoom rings are well-built, with smooth movement and accurate focusing.

Hidden Gem

7. YONGNUO YN50mm F1.8

YONGNUO YN50mm F1.8 is an excellent prime lens for capturing amazing documentary footage.

The lens has a large f/1.8 aperture, allowing it to capture more light and create stunning low-light images with beautiful bokeh backgrounds.


  • Affordable Price Point
  • Fast Autofocus
  • Large F/1.8 Aperture


  • Narrow Focus Ring
  • No Image Stabilization

It’s also incredibly lightweight—ideal for handheld shooting—and robust enough to use in any environment without worry of damage or wear.

The built-in autofocus system ensures crisp images without compromising sharpness or color accuracy, which is essential for documentary filmmaking.

You can get the best quality even when working with an out-of-focus background using the YONGNUO lens.

This lens is an excellent choice for capturing single-person talking headshots as it offers sharpness throughout the frame, and its fast autofocus system ensures you never miss a moment while capturing your story.

What lens do documentaries use?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to lenses used in documentary filmmaking.

Documentary filmmakers need versatile and flexible tools to capture different angles and compositions depending on their specific project needs.

The best lens for documentaries will depend on the type of shots you plan to capture—whether closeups, wide landscapes, or low light scenes—as well as the budget constraints of your production.

Well-known documentary lenses include Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM, Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG DN Art, Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS II USM, Sigma 28-70mm F2.8 DG DN Art, Sony FE 20mm F1.8 G, Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 Art, and YONGNUO YN50mm F1.8.

Each of these lenses offers unique features and benefits that can make them ideal for your documentary project or career needs.


Regarding documentary filmmaking, your lens choice is as essential as your camera.

Your lens selection can mean distinguishing between a compelling and amateur story.

The right lens for your project will depend on various factors such as focal length, aperture, autofocus speed, and image quality.

We’ve gone over some of the best lenses for documentaries available today that offer both quality and value—these are perfect choices no matter what type of project you’re shooting.

So weigh your options carefully and find the right fit for your documentary needs!