BIRTV 2012: GL Optics Zeiss ZE cinema lens conversions for EOS mount

By site editor Dan Chung:

If you have been paying close attention to the photos of Tilta and Movcam rigs in the previous posts you might have spotted some rather interesting looking lenses attached to them.

There are a few well established firms such as Duclos lenses, TLS and PrimeCircle offering conversion of Zeiss 35mm stills photo lenses for cine style shooting. They mainly concentrate on adding follow focus gearing, lens fronts and the removal of aperture click stops. With modern Zeiss stills lenses this normally causes you to compromise – either covert ZF lenses in Nikon mount with focus rings that turn the ‘wrong way’, or convert a ZE lens that focusses the right way but has no manual aperture ring (you have to control from the camera body or a smart adapter which is not very smooth when opening or closing aperture during shot).

GL Optics cine converted Zeiss 25mm lens

Chinese firm GL Optics is going one further and adding a proper mechanical aperture to ZE mount lenses – as well as adding full cinema style modification with gearings and non-rotating lens front. This way you can have your cake and eat it – correct way round focus AND and manual aperture. The only other people I know who do this to EOS fitting lenses in the Japanese firm Technical Farm who do something similar to Canon zooms.

The end result is very nicely done, adds considerable weight and feels substantial in the hand.

The modification costs a pretty reasonable $650 per lens (on top of the lens itself), but the catch is it must be sent to China for modification. Sadly for most users I suspect this rules it out as a viable option. Hopefully the company will find US and European distribution soon to solve this.

GL Optics also offer a cinema conversion of the Tokina 11-16mm f2.8 lens to either an EOS or PL mount. At first glance it appears similar to the popular Duclos conversion of this lens but I have not had the chance to compare them directly.

GL Optics Tokina 11-16mm f2.8 cine conversion

Its worth remembering that there are other ways to get a lens that focusses the correct way and have a manual iris. The simplest is to buy the brand new Canon Cinema Eos or Zeiss CP.2 cine lenses. Alternatively there are vintage Zeiss/Contax or Leica lenses which can be adapted easily and also some older Canon FD lenses that can be converted to EOS by specialist such as the Lensdoctor in the UK. For news and documentary work I actually prefer converted stills lenses over cine lenses as I believe the throw distance (amount you have to turn the lens to focus) is too great on most cine lenses for running and gunning.

Subscribe to our newsletter