Exploring Canon's cinema lens range

Canon's cine lenses are the culmination of half a century of experience in cinema lens design. But which zoom, prime or servo lens is right for you?
A filmmaker stands behind a cinema camera with a Canon Flex Zoom lens attached.

The robust CN-E20-50mm T2.4 L F / FP (pictured) and CN-E45-135mm T2.4 L F / FP Flex Zoom lenses are built to impeccable standards and are designed to work seamlessly together, with identical weight, dimensions, focus gears and front diameter.

Although the Cinema EOS system made its public debut in 2011, Canon's history of cinema lens design can be traced back decades. It began in 1969, when Canon accepted a request to build a cinema zoom for Hollywood filmmakers, and two years later the K5x25 macro zoom lens was born. This was soon followed by the iconic K35 Prime Series, which were recognised with an Academy Award in 1976 and are still appreciated in the industry today.

The latest Canon cine lenses are the culmination of half a century of experience in the construction of cinema lenses. With their combination of outstanding optical performance, class-leading build quality and trusted reliability, Canon's Cine Primes and Flex Zooms are equally at home capturing natural history in HDR as they are on high-end drama sets.

"Canon has been at the forefront of optical technology since the 1940s, pushing the boundaries, reimagining the possibilities and revolutionising the ways in which photographers and filmmakers shoot," says Ram Sarup, Canon Europe Product Marketing Specialist.

"Over the years, we have introduced a string of innovations and set new standards in image quality, handling and performance. With the introduction of the Flex Zoom series and the wide-angle CN8x15 IAS S E1/P1 Cine Servo lens, we are once again pushing those boundaries, reinforcing our commitment to filmmakers to provide the very best tools for their productions."

Close-up of a filmmaker attaching a Canon Sumire Prime cine lens to a camera.

Shooting an action film with Canon's Sumire Prime cine lenses, cinematographer Freek Zonderland was delighted with how easy it was to swap lenses when he needed different focal lengths, thanks to the closely matched sizing, ergonomics and consistent gearing on all the lenses in the family.

Consistency is one of the key advantages of the Canon cine lens system. Whichever lens you're using, you can be confident the colour balance will remain the same. "If you decide to swap the CN-E14mm T3.1 L F Cine Prime for the CN-E30-300mm T2.95-3.7 L S Cine Zoom or the CN-E45-135mm T2.4 L F / FP Flex Zoom, for example, you won't see any noticeable colour shift because all our cine lenses are designed to work together," says Paul Atkinson, Canon Europe Product Specialist.

"There are other shared features, too. The gearing is the same on the lenses, and the front diameters and filter threads on the Cine Primes, Sumire Primes and Flex Zooms are also identical, making it easy to change lenses with minimal adjustments to your rig setup.

"Ultimately it just comes down to finding the lens that's suitable for the look you want, your shooting environment and your budget. The opportunity to choose anything from 14mm right through to 1500mm and know that you're going to get a consistent level of performance gives you incredible flexibility," adds Paul.

To help you make an informed decision as to which Canon cine lens is right for you, here's a guide to the different types of cinema zooms and prime lenses that are currently available.

A man with a large video camera filming a woman holding a teacup.

DoP Ian Murray has more than 20 years' experience as a cinematographer. On an advertising shoot he switched between a CN-E135mm T2.2 FP X Sumire Prime and the Canon CN-E20-50mm T2.4 L F / FP Flex Zoom at the 50mm end of its focal range and was impressed with the result. "The Flex Zoom looks like a prime lens because you've got that really crisp, sharp resolution and smooth focus fall off. Colour and resolution matched too," he says.

A side profile of a Canon CN-E31.5-95MM T1.7 L S / SP lens.

There's much to Canon's Flex Zoom lenses that filmmakers will appreciate on set, including consistent gear positions for smooth pairing with third-party accessories, luminous markings for easy operation in low light and an adjustable flange back mechanism that enables quick adjustments of the back focus system using a flathead screwdriver.

Flex Zooms

Canon's first series of premium full-frame and Super 35mm cinema zoom lenses is ideally suited to a wide range of high-end productions, including cinema. The Flex Zoom range launched with two lenses – the Canon CN-E20-50mm T2.4 L F / FP and the CN-E45-135mm T2.4 L F / FP, which between them cover the popular 20-135mm focal range. Canon's other full-frame cinema lens ranges, Sumire and Cine Prime, are prime lenses and users would need almost seven of those to cover the focal range of these two Flex Zooms.

DoPs and filmmakers working on Super 35mm productions can take advantage of the CN-E14-35mm T1.7 L S / SP and CN-E31.5-95mm T1.7 L S / SP, which between them cover a useful focal range of 14-95mm.

The four Flex Zoom lenses are available in EF or PL mount for use with Canon cameras such as the EOS C500 Mark II and EOS C300 Mark III, plus non-Canon cameras, and support metadata communication including Cooke /i Technology and Zeiss eXtended Data as well as EF mount communication. Regardless of the camera used, the Flex Zooms offer a standardised gear position and front diameter by which you can utilise the same matte box.

"The Flex Zoom series is designed to provide high optical performance," explains Jack Adair, Canon Europe Product Marketing Specialist. "The lenses feature 11 iris blades resulting in beautiful bokeh, plus the depth of field fall-off is really smooth."

Producing a sharp and clean look just like Canon's Cine Primes, the high performance of the Flex Zooms is future-proofed for 8K productions, and well suited to today's 4K productions where it's common practice to enjoy the additional detail and flexibility that shooting in higher resolution brings. "With regards to the look of the lenses, there is the unified Canon colour, so even if you are mixing and matching with our other cine lenses, you have the same natural colours and beautiful skin tones," Jack adds.

The shallow depth of field afforded by the large maximum apertures of the full-frame and Super 35mm Flex Zooms contribute to their cinematic look. "The constant T-stop values are unheard of for cine lenses at these focal lengths,” says Jack. “With the full-frame Flex Zooms you have a constant light transmission of T2.4 and with the Super 35mm models, you get T1.7 throughout the zoom range, making them the fastest lenses for their focal lengths."

Living up to the Flex Zoom name, this series is the most versatile and adaptable of Canon’s cine lenses. Users not only have the option of changing the mount from EF to PL and back again at Canon authorised service centres or authorised third-party companies, but the lenses can also be converted from Super 35mm to full-frame and vice versa.

Using the relay kit, a Canon authorised service centre is able to convert the CN-E14-35MM T1.7 L S / SP and CN-E31.5-95MM T1.7 L S / SP to give a full-frame image circle, or change the Canon CN-E20-50mm T2.4 L F / FP and CN-E45-135mm T2.4 L F / FP to Super 35mm. The conversion can also be reversed. Having the option to alter both the mount and the relay on the premium Flex Zooms brings an even greater level of flexibility and value to high-end film productions.

The Canon EOS C500 Mark II with a CN-E30-300mm T2.95-3.7 L S lens.

Canon's Cine Zoom range is designed for EF and PL mount Super 35mm cameras such as the Canon EOS C500 Mark II, pictured here with a CN-E30-300mm T2.95-3.7 L S lens. EF mount integration brings a number of advantages, such as peripheral illumination correction and the opportunity to use the Dual Pixel Focus Guide for accurate manual focusing.

Cine Zooms

Canon's Cine Zoom range is separated into two distinct groups of lenses – Top End Cine Zooms and Compact Cine Zooms. Both classes of lens are designed for EF and PL mount Super 35mm cameras and offer outstanding 4K image quality for high-end film productions.

The brace of Top End Cine Zooms – CN-E14.5-60mm T2.6 L S/SP and CN-E30-300mm T2.95-3.7 L S/SP – offer a complementary range of focal lengths for comprehensive coverage across a wide range of subjects. "The CN-E30-300mm T2.95-3.7 L S/SP in particular has an impressive zoom range, and it's being used in wildlife, drama and sports," Paul says. "It's a really versatile lens with a long reach and a generous maximum aperture for its size."

Where the ability to be more mobile with smaller cameras is important, the Compact Cine Zooms are a better choice. "While the original Canon EOS C700 with its Super 35mm sensor would be a natural match for the Top End Cine Zooms, the Compact Cine Zooms would perhaps suit the proportions of the Canon EOS C300 Mark III better," Paul suggests. The CN-E15.5-47mm T2.8 L S/SP and CN-E30-105mm T2.8 L S/SP are more lightweight and portable than the pair of Cine Zooms, although Paul advises using them on a rig with a lens support.

Each of Canon's Cine Zooms offers exceptional optical performance, with the inclusion of large aspherical lens elements and 11-blade diaphragms, plus inner focusing and minimised focus breathing to reduce changes in the angle of view during focus pulls.

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Cinematographer Laela Kilbourn photographed on an urban street with a camera rig on her shoulder.

Cinematographer Laela Kilbourn has been a camera operator on television shows such as Castle Rock and Jack Ryan, as well as shooting numerous award-winning documentaries, and says advances in technology are breaking down barriers to entry into the industry, particularly for women. Photograph by Constance Brimelow.

The CN-E50mm T1.3 L F lens.

Cine Primes, such as the CN-E50mm T1.3 L F, are full-frame lenses that are engineered to give a highly defined, high-contrast image, with beautiful bokeh courtesy of an 11-blade diaphragm.

Canon EOS C500 Mark II with CN-E85mm T1.3 L F lens.

Canon's Cine Prime range contains seven lenses, offering coverage from 14mm to 135mm. The robust, compact CN-E85mm T1.3 L F short telephoto prime is light in weight, making it a versatile option on a compact camera such as the Canon EOS C500 Mark II.

Cine Primes

Significantly lighter in weight than zoom lenses covering the same focal length, Canon's Cine Primes feature a durable design and industry-standard controls, and are designed for cameras with a full-frame sensor. A natural fit for high-end productions, the full set of seven full-frame lenses covers a focal length range of 14mm up to 135mm, giving plenty of creative options to professionals who prefer the aesthetic qualities of cine primes. Each lens has been designed with consistent colour reproduction in mind, so there is no noticeable colour shift when swapping between focal lengths.

"These are very sharp, high-contrast lenses with exceptional bokeh," Paul says. "They have the advantage of having a wider T-stop of T1.5 in most cases – even T1.3 with the CN-E50mm T1.3 L F and CN-E85mm T1.3 L F. They also exhibit minimum focus breathing. Sometimes with photography lenses there's a discernible change in the field of view when you change the focus, but that's been significantly reduced across the entire Canon Cine Prime range.

"Because these lenses are designed for EF mount cameras, it means we have compatibility with the Dual Pixel Focus Guide for accurate manual focus assist, plus the ability to transfer lens metadata back into the file. It means that for a camera with Electronic Image Stabilization, such as the Canon EOS C500 Mark II, the camera will automatically detect the focal length and set up the stabilisation correctly when the function is activated."

A female athlete is filmed lying in a pool of golden glitter using Canon Sumire Prime lenses.

Sumire Prime lenses share the same focal lengths, T-stop and precise manual control as their Canon Cine Prime counterparts, but offer a more "cinematic" image. "It's just really about giving the cinematographer or the director of photography more choice in the look they want to achieve," Paul says. Filmmaker Freek Zonderland used Sumire Primes to capture fast-paced action in Golden Girl, the story of an athlete.

Cinematographer Freek Zonderland looks through a Canon Sumire Prime lens held in his hands in a woodland setting.

Freek loved the experience of working with the Sumire Prime range of lenses, thanks to their compact size, attractive flare and dreamy bokeh quality, plus their practicality: "If you change lenses and they have different sizes or different weights, then the balance changes every time," he says. "The Sumire Primes are not exactly the same, but they're close enough that within 30 seconds, you're ready."

Sumire Primes

Engineered to deliver sublime image quality with a noticeably different character to Canon's Cine Primes, the Sumire (pronounced "Soo-mee-ray") collection of full-frame prime lenses lends a more cinematic look to productions.

The Sumire Prime range, including the CN-E20mm T1.5 FP X, CN-E50mm T1.3 FP X and CN-E85mm T1.3 FP X, offers the same seven focal lengths and fast T-stops as the Cine Prime lineup. Both sets of prime lenses also share an identical colour tone, mechanics and construction, with a consistent 300-degree focus travel, 105mm screw-on filter thread and 114mm front diameter for matte boxes.

Where the Sumire Primes differ is that their optical formula produces a more cinematic look with a hint of softness, natural skin tones, subtle flares and rich, silky bokeh. These characteristics are particularly evident at wider apertures, with a smoother focus fall-off. They come with a PL mount that can be converted to EF at any local authorised service facility.

"Although both the Sumire and Cine Prime lenses have 11-blade diaphragms, the bokeh is slightly different with the Sumire lenses, especially towards the edges, where it becomes more elliptical," Paul says. "The Cine Primes have a more universal rendering in this respect."

The CN20x50 IAS H E1/P1 Cine Servo lens.

The four Canon Cine Servo lenses, including the pictured CN20x50 IAS H E1/P1, can be adapted for either a broadcast or cinema environment. The colour characteristics of the lenses are matched with the rest of the Canon cinema lens lineup, enabling them to be easily integrated into any production workflow.

Technicians adjust a Canon EOS C500 Mark II with Sumire Prime lens in a Russian Arm attached to the roof rack of a motor car.

When filmmaker Brett Danton was shooting a commercial for the F-PACE, Jaguar's luxury SUV, he used a variety of rigs including gimbals, drones and a U-Crane mounted on a second car. This was all facilitated by the versatile mix of Canon cine lenses available to choose from. © Brett Danton

Cine Servos

Blending stunning 4K optical quality with broadcast-friendly features, the four Canon Cine Servo lenses offer a versatile choice for broadcast and handheld applications where servo control is required. Available in both EF and PL mount, the lenses are designed for Super 35mm sensors, with the CN8x15 IAS S E1/P1 and CN10x25 IAS S E1/P1 also offering full-frame coverage when using the built-in 1.5x extender.

The CN20x50 IAS H E1/P1 is a particular highlight. Its expansive 50-1000mm 20x ultra-telephoto zoom makes it a perfect fit for wildlife, sport and live performance. "Certainly, if you look at anything that's being produced for natural history at the moment, the lens that you will most likely see in behind-the-scenes segments is the CN20," Paul says.

"With its built-in 1.5x extender it effectively becomes a 75-1500mm, allowing you to frame a shot without encroaching too much into the subject's space. It produces an excellent image at that focal length too."

Removing the servo drive units from the lenses enables them to be operated like classic cine zooms. "You can then connect an external focus/zoom demand should you wish to do so," Paul says. "The 25mm-250mm CN10X25 IAS S and 17mm-120mm CN7x17 KAS S E1/P1 in particular are very much multi-use lenses. The latter is perfect for documentary, for feature, for drama – it's just a great all-rounder. You can envisage putting it on a Canon EOS C700, where you'll get the best of both worlds – cinema-style image quality with the option of documentary-style shoulder-mounted shooting."

A man studies the monitor on a large camera rig. A figure in a black cowboy hat can be seen in the foreground.

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The <a href="tcm:12-2218183">CN8x15 IAS S E1/P1</a> Cine Servo lens.

When it comes to choosing a broadcast lens, support for virtual systems is an important consideration. The CN8x15 IAS S E1/P1 features the same 16-bit absolute encoder that's used in Canon's other Cine Servo and BCTV lenses. It's also available in EF or PL mount and has a robust and durable design that's perfect for the demands of on-location live production, ENG, documentary and cinema shoots.

The <a href="tcm:12-2218183">CN8x15 IAS S E1/P1</a> Cine Servo lens attached to a Canon EOS C300 Mark III camera.

Its wide-angle to telephoto focal length makes the CN8x15 IAS S E1/P1 a versatile option for large format productions. The drive unit enables shoulder-mounted operation, but it can also be detached, allowing the lens to be used in a cinematic camera rig with third-party focus accessories.

With its wide-angle focal length, the CN8x15 IAS S E1/P1 brings additional flexibility to an enormous range of live and pre-recorded TV productions. The lens meets the needs of broadcasters working in large format, as it provides a native focal length range of 15mm-120mm on Super 35mm sensors. The built-in 1.5x extender increases that reach to 22.5mm-180mm for full-frame coverage.

The CN8x15 IAS S E1/P1 delivers excellent image quality for both 4K and 8K capture and is equipped with an 11-bladed iris for smooth bokeh. "It's a versatile zoom lens for productions looking to create content with a more cinematic look," says Ram.

"Another advantage is the advanced metadata communication it offers," he adds. "The CN8x15 IAS S E1/P1 is our first Cine Servo lens to feature ZEISS eXtended Data protocol on top of the Cooke /i Technology already included in the Cine Servo range. This, along with the built-in 16-bit encoder for positional information, makes it a fantastic choice for XR and virtual productions."

A Canon EOS C200 camera with CN-E18-80mm T4.4 L IS KAS S lens.

Compact Cine Servo zooms are large format EF-mount lenses that are designed to meet the needs of productions with smaller budgets, without compromising on optical quality. They benefit from three modes of image stabilisation and fast autofocus via Dual Pixel CMOS AF. Pictured, an EOS C200 with a CN-E18-80mm T4.4 L IS KAS S lens, from Canon's Compact Cine Servo range.

Compact Cine Servos

Similar to their larger Cine Servo stablemates, the leaner, lighter Compact Cine Servo zoom lenses are designed for 4K Super 35mm cameras and feature built-in servo control. However, their more compact construction means that they're easy to use handheld or shoulder-mounted on shoots that move at a fast pace.

"These are workhorse lenses for filmmakers who shoot documentaries on a compact cinema camera such as the Canon EOS C200," Paul explains. "Both the CN-E18-80mm T4.4 L IS KAS S and the CN-E70-200mm T4.4 L IS offer the convenience of cine-servo operation in a conveniently small-sized package. They're ideal for the run-and-gun shooter who wants a quality optic without the hassle of having to rig up a bigger lens. For added convenience, you can even program the joystick on the Canon EOS C200's grip to become the zoom controller.

"The maximum aperture of T4.4 is slightly slower than that of other zooms in the Canon cine lens range, but with the performance of today's sensors it's not an issue. The added convenience of precise autofocus, image stabilisation and cinematic optical quality make these lenses highly appealing."

Both affordable Compact Cine Servo lenses are stabilised and offered exclusively in EF mount, so they benefit from three modes of image stabilisation and Canon's accurate and reliable Dual Pixel CMOS AF.

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