Explaining the Difference Between Parfocal and Varifocal Lenses, and Why Filmmakers Should Care

Lenses in the still photography world are just one group of lenses out there, and if you haven't done much work in cinema or broadcast, then you might not have ever considered why you might want to invest in other kinds of glass. However, as more photographers are finding themselves getting into short film production, the benefits of using parfocal lenses should be considered.

As someone who has used broadcast camera systems for documentary projects, I can absolutely attest to the benefits of parfocal lenses. Being able to keep focus through your zoom allows for more opportunities of creative control, and way less missed shots due to bad focus. Honestly, breathing never bothered me too much when using still lenses, but on cheaper glass where the breathing is significant, it can be rather annoying.

The Fujinon MK 18-55mm T2.9 is the parfocal lens that is shown in the video, and is available for pre-order. I'm very excited to rent this on a future shoot, as it looks to be exactly what I want in a documentary lens setup. Check out this article for a write up that includes reviews and feature listings.

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4 Comments

Mateusz Antonowicz's picture

Nikon 28-80mm 3.3-5.6G lens [about 3.50$ used] is parfocal, I am always laughing at what this lens can do, tack sharp back to back, only with minimum distortions [1 click fix in LR]. Compared to 24-70mm 2.8G @ 35 ff4 both lenses are performing virtually identical on D600 and D750 bodies. I love it, it's cheap, it's light, it has ultra fast AF, only downside would be cheap material and not that shallow DoF [slow lens]. Still, I have managed to shoot WHOLE wedding from start to finish with this lens and my clients couldn't see any difference. I am thinking of making a dick move, and buy some cheap DX body, and never again worry about my shutter failing etc. Now I use 20 1.8, 35 1.8, 50 1.4 and 85 1.8G, and really, for most stuff I could just sell this all and shoot with that baby. But I am trying to produce best quality not as much for clients, but for myself, so cheap-o systems are just a concept in my mind. I offtopped a bit, but it doesn't matter I think, it's funny and practical lens [in my country it is 50x cheaper than 24-70 2.8, lol].

Justin Berrington's picture

Are fstoppers and petapixel sister sites or something? I'm constantly seeing the same content written slightly different only a couple of days apart. Sometimes fstoppers is first and sometimes it's petapixel.

Alex Cooke's picture

No, we're not sister sites. All the major photography blogs frequently share some of the same comment simply because if it's good and something we think is worth our readers seeing, chances are the other sites will feel the same as well.