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The Focal Lengths and Lenses used by Great Directors

In this page I’m collating famous directors and the focal lengths they preferred. As and when I get new information, I’ll keep updating this list.

Here’s the video I made on the focal lengths and lenses used by 19 great directors:

Important: Information is either hearsay, guesses and some plain research from interviews, books, videos and so on. It could be completely wrong! Do not rely or use this information for any serious work or study!

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Specific lenses mentioned in the video:

  • Zeiss 50mm f/0.7 adapted for Barry Lyndon (37.5mm with wide-angle adapter)
  • Kinoptik 9.8mm
  • Cine-Pro 24-480mm T9 zoom lens

Links mentioned in the video and which could be useful to your research and study:

Focal lengths and lenses used by great directors

Here’s the list:

S. No.DirectorFocal length, Lens
1Orson Welles18mm (Touch of Evil), 25mm (Citizen Kane)
2Jean-Pierre Jeunet18 an 25mm lens, 14mm (Alien Resurrection), 25mm (Delicatessen)
3Roman Polanski18mm, 40mm anamorphic (Chinatown)
4Wes Anderson40mm anamorphic, 27mm (The Royal Tenebaums, The Grand Budapest Hotel)
5Quentin Tarantino40mm or 50mm anamorphic
6Steven Spielberg21mm
7Tim Burton21mm, never beyond 50mm. Long lenses as a punctuation
8Martin Scorsese25mm and wider, 32mm (The King of Comedy), long lenses for Raging Bull
9Joel and Ethan Coen27 and 32mm (Stays between 25-40mm)
10David Cronenberg27mm
11David Fincher27mm and 35mm
12Francis Ford Coppola40mm (Most of Godfather)
13Yasujiro Ozu50mm
14Robert Bresson50mm
15Alfred Hitchcock50mm
16Ridley Scott75mm and longer, zoom lens – anamorphic. Eventually shifted to spherical
17Akira Kurosawa35-50mm, tended towards longer lenses in late career, but occasionally
18Sidney LumetChanged focal lengths for every movie
19Stanley Kubrick18mm, Special lenses – Kinoptik 9.8mm, Zeiss 50mm f/0.7, Cine-Pro 24-480mm T9 zoom
20Terry Gilliam14mm (later work), earlier work is wider than 28mm
21Steven Soderbergh18mm (only recent work)

If you know the focal lengths preferred by directors I’ve left out, please let me know. Please also link to sources so I can confirm the information. I’ll be happy to update this list.

2 replies on “The Focal Lengths and Lenses used by Great Directors”

As a university lecturer in cinematography I find your online resources to be among the very best. I also have 35 years experience behind the camera so I can verify your information. Well done and keep it up!

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