When shooting video should you choose a lens with wide aperture or image stabilization (IS)?

Very few IS lenses have apertures wider than f4.0 (there are now some f/2.8 and possibly lower, but there aren’t many) so it is a trade off between stabilization and shallow depth of field.

Obviously if you’re planning on getting really shallow depth of field, you want the widest aperture you can possibly handle. The question is will it be too shaky? (ignoring the trend of shaky hand held looking video to begin with)

Given that all other factors are equivalent, you should select the wider aperture lenses in two cases:

  • If you plan to always shoot with a tripod
  • If you plan to shoot in very low light

In any other situation, the IS lens will prove superior.

While it is true that f/4 lenses cannot always get a creamy bokeh, most often than not, it is enough to give your clip a distinctive cinematic look.

Don’t forget that most videos are shot between f/4-f/5.6 since using a wider aperture makes focusing more challenging. That being said, most advanced cinematographers like Shane Hurlbut, will shoot with a wide aperture of 1.2 to 2.8 if they possibly can.

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