Canon Flex zooms, are they worth purchasing as an owner-operator?

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Sun Studios in Sydney Australia was nice enough to loan me a Canon Flex 45-135mm T2.4 zoom lens so I could find out. This lens sits in an interesting space, as it appeals to both owner-operator and rental houses. The lens retails for $21,999 USD, which is not cheap, but it’s about half the price of the ARRI Signature zooms or Fujinon Premista’s, and it’s slightly faster at T2.4.

There are two lenses in the Canon Flex zoom series, the 20-50mm T2.4, and the 45-135mm T2.4. The Flex Zoom Lens series was developed to facilitate cinema-style productions with greater workflow efficiency.

These large-aperture lenses are claimed to feature high-level optical design and performance while maintaining the style and ease of use of Canon’s EF Cinema lens series. With the introduction of the zoom lenses featuring focal length ranges of 20-50mm for wide-angle and 45-135mm for telephoto, Canon now offers zoom lenses that cover the same range as its six existing prime lenses.

The lenses also maintain a fast T2.4 aperture across their entire zoom ranges allowing for image capture in both natural light and darker environments.

The Flex series zooms have been engineered with an optical configuration that is claimed to create the optimal placement of lens elements, including a large aperture aspherical lens and an anomalous dispersion glass lens. This helps reduce the potential for color smudging and chromatic aberrations. It also enables them to maintain high optical performance from the center of the image to the periphery when paired with 8K cameras.

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In addition to supporting EF-mount data transmission, the new lenses are also compatible with /i Technology from Cooke Optics. This technology makes it possible to capture metadata such as focus, zoom, aperture, and lens model can be transmitted via the lens mount for visualization on the camera itself. This additional information helps to contribute to more efficient workflows not only during on-location recording but also during post-production and editing.

Canon touts the Flex series as being ‘A box of primes in one lens‘. The first thing that got my attention was the size of this lens, it’s big, and it is also reasonably heavy at 3.4kg / 7.49 lb. Compared to the Canon 25-250mm which weighs 3kg / 6.61 lb this lens feels a lot bigger.

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Above you you can see how the lens compares to the size of the Sigma Cine Primes.

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Firstly, I rigged the lens on a Sony VENICE to see how heavy this would be for handheld work. It’s surprisingly well-balanced. Yes, it’s heavy, but it sits very nicely. I wouldn’t want to shoot off the shoulder all day, nor would I go without an easy rig. Keeping focus on a full-frame lens shooting at T2.4 may be another issue altogether.

I do a variety of camera work, documentaries, promos, and reality TV so I wanted to see where this lens would fit in. The size and weight would limit the productions I would use this lens on but having a fast full frame lens is very appealing, I would need to work out the balance of when to use this zoom lens instead of primes. I will be honest I love prime lenses, but with limited time, fast turn arounds and not wanting to miss the action, primes aren’t always practical. Would this lens change my mind about using zooms as an alternate while still getting the look of a prime?

The first test I did was to compare the Canon 45-135mm T2.4 against Sigma 50mm and 65mm T1.5 cine primes. The results speak for themselves really, the Sigma has a slighter cooler look but in terms of depth and fall-off, it’s hard to spot the difference, except for the shallow depth of field that the Sigma’s provide.

For sit-down interviews, the Canon 45-135mm T2.4 does an amazing job, and to be able to zoom in and re-frame without changing lenses is a huge bonus. I really like the fall-off at 135mm. This was a very simple test only using one Titan tube with a snap-bag softbox. 

I also took the lens out for a few hours in Sydney to capture some shots. The limited zoom range of 45-135mm shows its limitations here. I know I’d get better results shooting S35 with the Canon 25-250mm. I was still impressed with the overall look of the lens, it’s very sharp and produces lovely images even at T2.4.

Overall, I would say this lens definitely has a place in a lot of products including mine.

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Using this with a 1St AC would be hugely beneficial, something I don’t get the luxury of very often. The lens is certainly manageable for solo operators and I will be looking to purchase one. I found the lens easy enough to use handheld, however, the focus diameter is 300 degrees which does make pulling focus from something close to far away difficult if you are doing it manually. The lens has no issues covering full frame 6K, 17:9 on the Sony VENICE. 

Rental houses I have spoken to see this as a great fit for TV dramas shooting Full frame on the VENICE and ARRI ALEXA MiniLF.


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Direct competition for the Canon zooms comes from ARRI, Fujinon, Angenieux, Leitz, Zeiss, and Musashi-Optical.

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The competing lenses for the CN-E 20-50mm T2.4 L would be the Angenieux 21-56mm T2.9, Fujinon Premista 19-45mm T2.9, ARRI 24-75mm T2.8 Signature Zoom, Leitz Cine Zoom 25-75mm, and the ZEISS 28-80mm T2.9 Compact Zoom CZ.2.

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The competing lenses for the CN-E45-135mm T2.4 L would be the Angenieux 37-102mm T2.9, Fujinon Premista 28-100mm T2.9, ARRI 45-135mm T2.8 Signature Zoom, Leitz Cine Zoom 55-125mm, and the no longer available Musashi-Optical Takumi 2 29-120mm T2.9.

Canon CN-E 20-50mm T2.4 L$21,999 USD
Angenieux 21-56mm T2.9$49,900 USD
Fujinon Premista 28-100mm T2.9$42,900 USD
ARRI 45-135mm T2.8 Signature Zoom$49,550 USD
Leitz Cine Zoom 25-75mm$56,300 USD
ZEISS 28-80mm T2.9 Compact Zoom$21,945 USD
Musashi Optical System Takumi 2 29-120mm T2.9$39,000 USD
Canon CN-E45-135mm T2.4 L$21,999 USD
Angenieux Optimo Ultra Compact 37-102mm$49,900 USD
Fujinon Premista28-100mm T2.9$42,900 USD
Leitz Cine Zoom 55-125mm$56,300 USD

The biggest advantage the Canon zooms have over their competition is that they are significantly more affordable than the majority of other options on the market. Above you can see how all of these lenses compete when it comes to price.

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