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Don't Let Photo Lenses Ruin Your Colors

Key Contributor

As we all know, photo lenses can be fraught with imperfections (focus breathing, distracting lens flare, etc), but we use them on smaller projects when we don't have the budget for a set of Arri Master Primes.

And while we can't make a $2,000 photo lens look like a $40,000 cinema lens, we can at least make the look of our project more consistent by using a color chart to correct lens color shift.

If you think it's not a big deal, take a look at these two stills:

Canon 70-200_1.7.1.jpgSony 24-70_1.6.1.jpg

Both were shot with the same camera, the same white balance, and the same lighting. The same base grade was applied to both files.

Despite the Canon lens' intense blue shift, you might say—with some grading, no big deal, no one will notice.

But imagine if you were using these two lenses for a documentary. You'd be cutting back and forth between the wide and close up for the entire project. You'd have to do an intense amount of finessing to match these shots for every single interview or else the audience would be distracted by a color shift on every cut.

It only takes a few seconds to put a color chart in front of a camera, but it will save you hours in the editing room.


Top Contributor

White balancing off a white/grey card rather than relying on presets will greatly reduce differences like this and ensure cameras are better colour matched than they will be by just relying on presets.

Alister Chapman

Top Contributor

Is there any particular color chart that you like best?

I've only used the MacBeth chart, simply because of its prominence. Ironically however, it wasn't originally created for video purposes and I'm sure there are better alternatives.

Top Contributor

This has a lot to do with the longer lens catching the light. I would have liked to see at 24-70mm side by side from the same angle comparison. My guess is that if you flagged that light you wouldn't have had such an extreme color shift. Look at the floor highlight in the wide, its the same color as the long lens shot. I think you're experience flare from the light more than anything else.