At the CP+ show in Japan, Canon were showing their newly announced EF-S18-135mm f3.5-5.6 IS USM lens and optional Power Zoom Adapter, the PZ-E1. The combination was designed specifically for DSLR video and the PZ-E1 zoom servo has two speed settings – slow and fast. It can be controlled via switches on the lens, or via the Canon Camera Connect app on a tablet or PC.
The zoom unit is detachable has a motorised gear and contacts that mate with dedicated contacts on the 18-135mm lens. It is powered by four AAA batteries inside the unit. The zoom unit only works with this lens at the moment, and both of them together can only currently be mounted on the new 80D, so for the time being you can’t use the motorised zoom option on any other Canon DSLR or Cinema EOS C series camera. When Dan Chung asked a Canon representative about this at the BVE show in London he was told that support for some Cinema EOS cameras will come at some point. The very fact it detaches is a pretty good indication that it will be able to be used with other Canon lenses that may be released in the future.
The 18-135mm and PZ-E1 reminded me a lot of the Sony PZ 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS Lens. The speed of the zoom even in the fast setting was not that quick, and it looked to perform at a similar speed to Sony lenses that feature a built-in servo zoom function. What’s nice about the Canon version is that the speed ramps smoothly when you first start to zoom and it then starts to gradually slow down towards the end of the zoom range. It allows you to do very slow, smooth zooms. There is also a switch that lets you override the servo control and switch it to manual operation.
One of the quirks of the PZ-E1 is that you can only use it when the 80D is in video mode. In stills mode the servo zoom powers down completely. On a positive note the combination worked really well on the 80D and coupled with that camera’s new auto focus capabilities you could zoom in and have the focus track your subject.
The PZ-E1 is a positive step from Canon, and even though Sony has had several servo zoom lenses available for quite a few years, it is good to see that Canon has tried to do something a little different. The disappointing part for most shooters is that you can’t use this combination on the camera that you currently own. I think Canon could have made more lenses compatible wit the PZ-E1 from launch. As it stands it’s a detachable servo unit that can’t be attached to any other Canon lens or used on any other camera.