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Canon announce $33K US 17-120mm ENG style servo lens for large sensor cameras

By technical editor Matt Allard:


Canon have pre-released information about their new Cine-Servo Zoom Lens. Designed for ENG, documentary and narratives this new lens features an incredible range of 17-120mm, at a bright T2.95 (although it drops to T3.9 at 120mm). This is a direct competitor to the popular Fujinon Cabrio range. Canon seem to have traded the extended zoom range with the loss of the constant aperture at the long end.

Canon say it’s optics have been designed for 4K performance. It has an eleven blade iris for smooth bokeh and features a removable servo zoom.  The lens mount is interchangeable between PL and EOS mount, but only at an authorised Canon service centre. This is a drawback when compared to competing lenses like the Zeiss Compact zooms which have a user changeable mount. Why Canon don’t do this is I assume due to different electronic interfaces.

The lens weighs 2.9kg and projects an image size with a diameter of 31.7mm. This is basically Super35mm and not a full-frame (Vistavision) sensor. It will vignette slightly on larger sensor cameras like the RED EPIC Dragon in 6K. The PL version is 25.5 cm long.

Drawing on its years of servo zoom ENG broadcast lenses the new Cine-Servo Zoom incorporates a unique LCD display equipped Digital Drive unit. This allows operators to easily access the various digital functions, a 16-bit high-precision microprocessor contained within the Digital Drive unit enables operators to pre-program focus and zoom position/speed, as well as iris settings if desired – allowing for precise, repeatable performance. The microprocessor also provides the capability of a very high-speed zoom of 0.5 seconds end-to-end, to a very slow and consistent zoom of 300 seconds. Having used numerous Canon ENG zoom rocker lenses in the past I would imagine the new Cine-Servo lens to be very smooth.

The Canon 17-120mm rigged for run-and-gun on a Sony F55
The Canon 17-120mm rigged for run-and-gun on a Sony F55

It also features a 12-pin B4 serial connector that can provide power and trigger functions with a wide range of cameras. The lens can also communicate via the mount using the Cooke i-technology protocol on the PL version or Canon’s own electronic EOS mount. This means cameras from Canon’s EOS mount C series cameras can receive lens data, aperture and zoom length in the viewfinder, but strangely Canon’s own C300 and C500 PL versions do not have the necessary Cooke i-technology.


Another strange anomaly of this lens is that for it to function properly on a Canon Cinema EOS camera (or Sony PMW F3 or RED) it requires external power. Only Ikegami, Arri Amira/Alexa and Sony F5/F55 supply the necessary power for the lens directly.

Using the 17-120mm with a Canon C300 or 500 PL requires external power to the lens
Using the 17-120mm with a Canon C300 or 500 PL requires external power to the lens

The lens also features a shorter 180 degree focus barrel rotation which suits manual focus by hand on the barrel for documentary shooting. The lens has a 114mm front diameter for clamp-on Matteboxes or Canon’s own sunshade and a 112mm filter thread. Below is a look at the lens from AbelCine.

It will be interesting to see how well this lens will balance on a C300/C500 hand held.  It looks like it would be more at home on a Sony F5/55 or Arri Amira.  Using this lens on a F5/55 with the 2K centre crop mode would give this lens an incredible range, boosting the 17-120mm to very useful 34-240mm. This would really be a one-lens-does-all package on those cameras if you can live with the variable aperture. 

This is a very exciting release by Canon and one which will no doubt attract a lot of interest from news and documentary shooters who have switched to digital cinema cameras.

Here is the press release from Canon USA:
MELVILLE, N.Y., April 2, 2014 – Shallow, creative depth of field, high-resolution and optimal low-light shooting capabilities are just some of the many reasons that large, single-sensor digital cameras have been kitted and rigged for use in nearly every application involving video capture. Further enhancing the versatility and adoption of these cameras into markets such as ENG (Electronic News Gathering), documentary, narrative production and special event coverage is the new CINE-SERVO 17-120mm T2.95 zoom lens from Canon U.S.A., Inc., a leader in digital imaging solutions.

Designed to perform in a shoulder-mounted application or as a traditional cinema lens, the Canon CINE-SERVO 17-120mm T2.95 zoom lens has an ENG-style Digital Drive handgrip with zoom rocker switch, which can also be detached to allow for manual cinema operation. The new CINE-SERVO lens features high 4K optical performance throughout the broad focal length of 17mm to 120mm within its compact and lightweight body, a three-group inner focus system to help minimize focus breathing and provide a stable angle of view, an 11-blade iris to help achieve creative depth-of-field manipulation and natural “bokeh” background, user-friendly design features, support for matte boxes, follow focus and other accessories, and rugged reliability. Designed to work with single-sensor cameras, the lens will be available in either PL- or EF-mount.

“Since the launch of the Cinema EOS system, Canon has been a part of the large-sensor camera movement that has taken many video markets by storm. Each day the markets that employ these dynamic tools are growing, as is the way professionals are using them in the field,” explained Yuichi Ishizuka, president and COO, Canon U.S.A. “We remain dedicated to providing the equipment and service that enables professionals to reach the full potential of their talent. With the CINE-SERVO 17-120mm T2.95 zoom lens, we sought to arm them with a lens that is equally as versatile and adaptable as they are, and just as comfortable shooting a feature documentary as it would be shooting a corporate event or an interview for the evening news.”

Lens-Camera Communication
Compliance of the Canon CINE-SERVO 17-120mm T2.95 lens with industry-standard camera-to-lens communication protocols helps ensure its compatibility with multiple brands and models of 4K, 2K, and HD cameras. These standards include 12-pin serial communication (common to major broadcast camera brands), Cooke’s /i Technology, and Canon EOS technology (employed by the EOS C500, EOS C300, and EOS-1D C Cinema cameras, and the EOS C100 Digital Video Camera). Specific types of data-management functions involving focus, zoom, iris and other settings can vary, depending on camera brands and models. In the case of the Canon EOS system, precise lens data – including aperture setting – are displayed in the EOS camera’s viewfinder, as well as recorded in the video file as metadata along with the model name of the lens and focal length setting.

Dual Operability
With its Canon Digital Drive handgrip unit attached, the CINE-SERVO 17-120mm T2.95 lens is ideal for shoulder mount camera configurations commonly employed in ENG, broadcast, or cinema shooting. Attaching the Digital Drive unit does not require manual adjustment of the focus, zoom, and iris gears on the lens, and a rubber cap prevents dirt from entering the Digital Drive unit connections when it’s detached. Together with Canon’s unique LCD display equipped on the Digital Drive unit that allows the operators to easily access the various digital functions, a 16-bit high-precision microprocessor contained within the Digital Drive unit enables operators to pre-program focus and zoom position/speed, as well as iris settings if desired – allowing for precise, repeatable performance. The microprocessor also provides the capability of a very high-speed zoom of 0.5 seconds to a very slow and consistent zoom of 300 seconds, from wide-end to telephoto-end. Three 20-pin connectors on the Digital Drive unit enable the use of zoom and focus demands or the precision integration of images from the lens and its accompanying camera into a variety of virtual set systems.

In addition to its removable ENG-style Digital Drive unit handgrip that gives users a choice between programmable broadcast-style or fully manual cinema-style operation, the new Canon CINE-SERVO 17-120mm T2.95 zoom lens integrates strategic design features for intuitive, convenient operation by a wide range of camera operators. These features include an ergonomically designed compact and lightweight Digital Drive unit that fits into an operator’s hand and brings the palm closer to the center of the lens barrel which can contribute to lessening fatigue on the operator’s arm. The lens barrel markings are clearly engraved in both feet and meters on both sides of the lens barrel, and focus indicators on the front side of the lens are marked on an inclined surface to make them easier to see from the back of the camera, especially when mounted on an operator’s shoulder. Additionally, luminous paint is used for the scale display on one side of the barrel to help make the markings visually identifiable in the dark.

Combining both broadcast operability and the accuracy required by cinematographers, the lens features a 180 degree focus rotation angle. Both 0.8 type and 0.5 type gear module focus accessories can be used, with the 0.8-pitch gear positioned in front of the focus ring to preclude any interference with the Digital Drive unit or a connecting cord. Major power-driven accessories, matte boxes, and other standard options used by filmmakers can all be mounted. Lens support shafts for support rods as well as a lens hood unit are also included with the lens.

As a symbol of inheriting the optical technology that was developed for other Canon Cinema lenses, a red alumite identity color is used for the mount area. A structure enabling the lens’ EF mount to be replaced with the PL mount, or vice versa (electrical system included), is also incorporated. This conversion upgrade can be provided at authorized Canon service centers.
Pricing and Availability

The Canon CINE-SERVO 17-120mm T2.95 zoom lens (CN7x17 KAS S/E1 in EF mount and CN7x17 KAS S/P1 in PL mount) is expected to be available in August 2014 for a suggested list price of $33,000. For more information, please visit the Canon U.S.A. website www.pro.usa.canon.com/cine-servo.


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