Zoom Lens Advantages
Zoom lenses allow you to shift magnification smoothly and continuously, usually from normal or wide angle to telephoto, while maintaining focus and f stop. Magnification is altered by either rotating the zoom collar of the lens or by pushing a button which produces a motorized zoom. Most modern video camcorders come equipped with a zoom lens. Camcorders with interchangeable lens mounts readily accept both zoom lenses and fixed focus lenses.
The quality of zoom lenses has improved over the years to rival the quality of fixed focus lenses and offer videographers great flexibility. This is of particular advantage for videographers who must shoot on the fly. If you are shooting documentaries, weddings, public events or anything else where you may have only one chance to get a shot, knowing how to make the best use of your camcorder zoom lens will be indispensable.
To execute the zoom be sure to set focus while in telephoto (zoomed in) on your subject. This way if you are in wide angle (zoomed out) and zoom in, you will be in sharp focus. This is because the depth of field in telephoto is shallower than in wide angle.
Also check to be sure that you can handhold the camcorder well enough in telephoto to get a steady shot or put the camcorder on a tripod or brace yourself on a wall or table.
If uninterrupted coverage of the scene is not needed, you can zoom in and out at will and later cut out all the zooms. This is a technique that can be used for fast moving or short lasting events. When you have more time, you'll still probably get better shots by physically moving yourself and your camcorder around to get a variety of shots and angles. Even if you are shooting and zooming, you should try to move around even though the camcorder may be shooting video continuously.
If you are going to use these techniques, practice them first, including editing the shots. You need to have a feel for how this works before you can use it with confidence. You also need to get over the initial period of "enthusiasm" so that you can settle down to using the technique sparingly.
Always keep in mind that, if you have the time, you can probably get a better cut by cutting away to another shot or by cutting to a different angle of the same subject. If, for example it is just a shot of a bride and groom dancing, you can move to a different angle and to a closer or wider shot, and get a shot that will cut (or that you can throw out, since it is not essential to have two angles of them dancing). However, if you are shooting the bride and groom cutting the first piece of the wedding cake, you may wish to use the whip zoom. Whip in for a close shot of the couple, and/or whip out from a close shot to a broader shot of the reception. Later, you might also grab a cutaway shot of the guests from the reverse angle to cover yourself in case the zoom doesn't cut. This way you can cut from say bride and groom long shot to reverse angle of guests to close shot of bride and groom.
Why Not Do Slow Zooms and leave Them
How to Disguise a Zoom
Using a Zoom Controller for Tripod and Remote
Use a Zoom Lens to Frame
The best use of your camcorder zoom lens is to help you get the shots you want, not to distort perspective and distract the viewer from the subject by showing a zoom during a shot. Generally speaking, don't show a zoom in your final product, unless absolutely necessary.
© 2000, 2002 Garry Hood
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