Ever struggled to keep your subject in focus while zooming in or out during a shoot?

That’s where a parfocal lens comes in handy, maintaining sharp focus throughout the zoom range.

We’ll jump into the mechanics of parfocal lenses, revealing why they’re a game-changer for photographers and videographers alike.

Stick with us as we explore the benefits and applications of these precision optics, ensuring you’ll never miss a moment in perfect clarity.


parfocal lens

What Is a parfocal lens?

A parfocal lens is a lens that retains focus when the focal length (and therefore magnification) is adjusted.

To explain what this means, let’s quickly review some terms. The focal length of a lens determines its magnification, or how much of an image it can fit into the frame.

A short focal length — such as 18mm — will bring in a lot of the scene in front of the camera, and therefore have a low magnification.

A long focal length — such as 200mm — will capture only part of the scene, and therefore have a high magnification.

A zoom lens is one that has variable focal lengths, allowing you to adjust the amount of magnification by rotating the zoom ring on the barrel of the lens.

However, most zoom lenses are not parfocal because they don’t retain focus when you change focal lengths.


What Is A Parfocal Lens

In the world of filmmaking, a parfocal lens is a powerhouse tool we often rely on for efficiency and precision.

These lenses allow us to adjust the zoom without losing focus on our subject.

Imagine shooting a fast-paced scene.


You’re zooming in to capture that intense close-up, and with a parfocal lens, the image remains sharp.

The subject’s expressions are crisp and clear, keeping the audience engaged.

For videographers, a parfocal lens means less time adjusting and more time capturing the story.

It’s perfect for scenes where refocusing would mean missing the action.

Features of parfocal lenses include:

  • Consistent Focus – Whether you’re filming a whispered conversation or a bustling street, the focus remains locked on your subject.
  • Quick Transition – Moving from a wide shot to a tight shot is seamless.
  • Time Saver – Reduces the need for multiple lens changes or focus recalibration.

From documentaries to feature films, maintaining focus during zoom is critical.

A lens that holds the focus aids in crafting a film that looks professional and polished.

With advancements in lens technology, parfocal lenses have become more accessible, making them a staple in our filmmaking toolkit.

How Does A Parfocal Lens Work

Understanding how a parfocal lens operates is key to unlocking its full potential in filmmaking.

It’s built on a complex system of lens elements that move in a synchronized fashion.

As we zoom in or out, the elements adjust to ensure the focus remains constant on the subject.

This precision requires exact engineering and makes parfocal lenses a premium choice for professionals.

also, parfocal lenses rely on intricate mechanical movements inside the lens.


Unlike varifocal lenses, these movements are specifically designed to hold focus throughout the entire zoom range.

These mechanical workings include:

  • A series of grouped lens elements,
  • A tuned focus mechanism that compensates for changes in magnification.

Consider the iconic film Lawrence of Arabia and its sweeping desert landscapes.

A parfocal lens allowed the cinematographer to maintain sharp focus on moving subjects amid dramatic zooms, an impossible feat with lesser lenses.

So, when we opt for a parfocal lens, we’re not just choosing a tool.

We’re choosing assurance that every zoom is purposeful and every transition is seamless.

Benefits Of Using A Parfocal Lens

Parfocal lenses provide significant advantages that are particularly beneficial in the demanding world of filmmaking.

Utilizing these lenses translates into smoother workflow and elevated production value.

One of the primary benefits is the time efficiency they offer.


By maintaining sharp focus while zooming, there’s no need to pause and refocus, allowing for quicker shot transitions.

This can be especially crucial in fast-paced environments where every second counts.

The precision of parfocal lenses is an asset that can’t be understated.

Filmmakers rely on the lens’s ability to hold focus which ensures that the critical moments are captured with the utmost clarity.

These lenses minimize the risk of soft footage which can compromise the integrity of a scene.

Enhanced storytelling is another reason we opt for parfocal lenses.

The creative possibilities are expanded with the ability to execute dramatic zooms without sacrificing focus.

Films like Lawrence of Arabia utilized this to great effect, engaging viewers with fluid, sharp imagery that supports the narrative.

When it comes to live events and documentary filmmaking – both scenarios where reshooting isn’t an option – parfocal lenses are invaluable.

They enable us to ensure that pivotal moments are not only captured but also rendered with the sharpness they deserve.

Key advantages include:

  • Consistent focus across the zoom range,
  • Seamless shot transitions,
  • Ability to capture spontaneous moments without compromise,
  • Elevated production quality.

Investing in a parfocal lens means investing in the quality and professionalism of a film’s final output.

We experience fewer interruptions during shoots and a noticeable improvement in our footage, which are important factors that contribute to our overall success in filmmaking.

Applications Of Parfocal Lenses

Parfocal lenses have become essential in various filmmaking scenarios.

They’re particularly crucial where precision and speed are non-negotiable.

In wildlife documentaries, these lenses allow filmmakers to track fast-moving subjects.

Imagine capturing the swift flight of a hawk without losing focus; that’s the power of parfocal lenses.

Narrative filmmaking benefits immensely from parfocal lenses for seamless storytelling.

Directors can change focal lengths dramatically in scenes without cuts, keeping the audience engaged and the narrative flowing.

For live event coverage from sports to concerts, parfocal lenses ensure uninterrupted clarity.

Operators can zoom in and out, reacting to the action instantly, guaranteeing crisp, clear images.

In television production, parfocal lenses Help the fast-paced environment.

Whether it’s a live broadcast or a scripted show, focus disruptions are a non-issue, thanks to the consistency parfocal lenses provide.

Independent filmmakers often work with limited resources and time constraints.

Parfocal lenses offer a practical solution:

  • Cost-efficiency – reducing the number of takes needed,
  • Flexibility – allowing for creative shots even with a small crew.

Educational and corporate videos demand both clarity and a professional look.

Parfocal lenses help to achieve this by minimizing disruptions during zoom-ins on subjects or products.

Notably, the use of parfocal lenses isn’t confined to professional settings.

Amateur filmmakers and content creators have also recognized the value they add to the production quality of their projects.

Drones equipped with parfocal lenses elevate aerial videography.

They capture expansive landscapes and detailed close-ups without the need to land for adjustments.

Overall, the integration of parfocal lenses across various genres and formats of filmmaking bears testament to their versatility and their role in enhancing visual storytelling.

What Is A Parfocal Lens – Wrapping Up

We’ve seen how parfocal lenses are indispensable tools in the filmmaker’s kit, offering unparalleled convenience and quality across a wide array of video production scenarios.

Their ability to maintain focus while zooming saves time and allows for creative freedom, making them ideal for capturing those fleeting moments in wildlife documentaries or the fast-paced action of live events.

As we continue to explore the boundaries of visual storytelling, parfocal lenses stand out as a smart investment for professionals and enthusiasts alike, ensuring that every shot is as sharp and dynamic as intended.

Whether you’re flying high with drone videography or crafting an intimate narrative piece, these lenses are sure to elevate your work.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are Parfocal Lenses Used For In Filmmaking?

Parfocal lenses are used to maintain focus on a subject while zooming in or out during filmmaking, crucial for scenarios like wildlife documentaries, live events, and narrative films.

Why Are Parfocal Lenses Important In Wildlife Documentaries?

Parfocal lenses are essential in wildlife documentaries because they allow for smooth transitions while zooming without losing focus on moving animals in their natural habitats.

Can Parfocal Lenses Be Used In Live Event Coverage?

Yes, parfocal lenses are ideal for live event coverage as they provide the flexibility to adjust framing quickly without sacrificing the sharpness of the image.

How Do Parfocal Lenses Benefit Independent Filmmakers?

Independent filmmakers benefit from parfocal lenses due to their cost-efficiency and the professional-quality footage they can produce, even with limited equipment.

Are Parfocal Lenses Suitable For Educational And Corporate Video Production?

Absolutely, parfocal lenses are suitable for educational and corporate video production, offering a versatile tool to produce clear and impactful videos without constant refocusing.

What Is The Role Of Parfocal Lenses In Aerial Videography?

In aerial videography, particularly with drones, parfocal lenses enable videographers to zoom in and out on a subject while flying, maintaining focus and capturing high-quality footage.