Zeiss CP.2: New Cine Lenses for DSLR

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Video-enabled DSLRs are a viable and compact option for shooting high-quality video. The season finale of the TV program House was shot entirely on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II. Now, Zeiss is offering cine-style lenses specifically designed for video-enabled DSLR cameras that overcome the issues associated  with shooting motion with lenses designed for still photography.


One of the major selling points of DSLRs, aside from their relatively low price, is the sheer number of compatible lenses they accept. Unlike dedicated cinema lenses which give you greater aperture control and extreme focusing accuracy, the vast majority of DSLR lenses was designed for taking still photographs and not video, so everyday functions like follow-focus become a chore. If you wanted to attach a cine-style lens to your DSLR, you’d have to modify the body to accommodate the lens. And who wants to do that to a Canon 5D Mark II? Now, Zeiss comes to the rescue with its brand-new CP.2 line of cine-style prime lenses, each of which has been designed specifically for use with DSLRs.

Based on the design of its PL mount lenses for the RED camera, the CP.2 brings all the features of a cine-style compact prime to DSLRs. The lens mounts have been pulled inside the barrel so that the rear elements don’t interfere with the DSLR’s mirror. With these lenses, there’s no need to modify your camera in any way. What you get are improved ergonomics, the standard iris and focus-gear positions you're used to on cinema cameras—and you're shooting on a comparatively low-priced DSLR. 

These lenses are configured in an EF or a PL mount, with an F-mount version coming soon. For total inter-system flexibility, the mounts are interchangeable, so if your current camera requires an EF-compatible mount, but there is a PL-mount camera in your future, it’s as simple as swapping out the lens mount. Common knowledge dictates that lenses are the biggest investment you have to make, so it’s comforting to know that with these babies, you won't be locked in to any one camera type.

The CP.2 compact prime lenses come in 18, 21, 25, 28, 35, 50 and 85mm focal lengths, configured for either EF or PL mounts, and offer full-frame coverage (24 x 36mm). These lenses boast an iris comprised of 14 blades—which should render some nice out-of-focus highlights and smooth bokeh.

The entire set of lenses is also available as a seven-lens package for DPs who wish to cover the full focal range.

Shooting high-quality HD video used to be limited to super high-end cameras. Today, you can achieve sparkling HD with a whole range of DSLRs, for a fraction of the price. Now with the CP.2 lenses, Zeiss is putting high-end filmmaking within the reach of smaller production companies and indie filmmakers alike.

Have you tried these lenses, or had any experience modifying your camera to accept cinema-style lenses? I'd love to hear your success or horror stories in the Comments section below!

[Please note: Due to the overwhelming demand for this specialty item, there may be a delay in processing orders.  —Editor]

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 Recently purchased a Zeiss 35mm f2 ZE lens from B+H, but never tried it for video on a Canon 5D mark ii.  I supplied a review of the lens (stills only) and found it to be excellent.  Resolution and  image quality on a par or better than the 50mm f1.2 L lens from Canon.  It has a quality that I can't put into words.  It does lack autofocus and that slows it down, but I wouldn't call that a fault because I'm no longer a professional, and don't need the speed autofocus affords.  Besides, the focus can be pre-set, if it needs to be.  I wish I had the 35mm Canon lens to offer a comparison and give an estimate of which is better (if someone was on the fence deciding between the two).  Personally, I'm very pleased with the quality of the Zeiss 35mm.

However, I may be off base because I don't think my lens has the CP.2 designation to it.  Anyways, hope this helps someone.