Although the Canon Cine lens selection is just a small part of Canon’s overall lens lineup, these lenses deliver significant advantages for those who work in the cine side of things. Whether you are working with Canon’s Cine EOS line of cameras, a high-end digital cine camera, or even cameras such as Canon’s C70, The Cine EOS line of lenses has something to offer.
First, let’s go over the basics of cinema-style lenses, to point out why they are made the way they are, and how that helps you shoot your best.
Prime lenses, or fixed focal length lenses, are a staple of the industry and, with the increase of digital production, Canon created its Cine Primes to bring its extraordinary glass in a form suited to working productions in the cine field. Hallmarks of cine glass maintain a consistent front diameter for easy matte-box compatibility and T-stop across each lens lineup, although at the extreme ends of the focal length spectrum, this may not be possible; however, Canon has striven for consistency from lens to lens.
Cine lenses, unlike still photo lenses, require a different approach to their manufacture. While for the most part, still photos are viewed as individual frames without there necessarily being a relation from one image to the next, movies and videos consist of 24/30/50/60 frames per second to create the illusion of motion from one frame to the next. To create this illusion, cine lenses must maintain their exposure, especially when intercutting shots taken with different lenses. The color, contrast, and light transmission must be consistent from lens to lens within a series of lenses and also when using two lenses of the same focal length on a multi-camera shoot or on the same camera on different days.
The T-stop is also known as a transmission stop and denotes the amount of light that passes through the lens, striking your imaging surface. Lenses absorb a varying amount of light, and so to get an accurate exposure, cine lenses are marked in T-stops rather than the more theoretical f/stops used by still lenses. Where this becomes important is when using more than a single lens for capturing a scene.
Cine lenses are also built far more robustly than their still-lens counterparts, because they are expected to be swapped on and off a camera multiple times a day, and need smooth focus changes, or racking, to follow actors’ movements. While it may be fine to hunt for focus with a still photograph before taking the picture, in a film or video, focus hunting is very distracting and can take the audience out of the film. To keep the marks accurate, cine lenses tend to be extremely robust, sacrificing weight compared to their often optically similar, but mechanically different cousins on the still photo side. Cine prime lenses tend to feature mechanical focus construction, eschewing focus motors and plastic construction common to many still lenses.
The Canon Cine Primes were released to market as fully mature lenses, taking advantage of Canon’s years of experience designing and building lenses, while leveraging their experience in the cinema world.
The Cine Primes are available in EF mount and support 4K resolution with full-frame coverage, making them compatible with a wide range of cameras, including Canon’s cine cameras, such as the C300 Mark III, as well as Canon’s EOS line of still cameras. The Cine Primes can also be used on cameras from other manufacturers that feature an EF mount, or you can adapt the EF mount of the lens to work on cameras that have a mount with a shorter flange depth than the EF mount, such as MFT or E-Mount.
The Cine Primes are manual focus and manual iris lenses, as is standard in the cinema world, with 0.8 MOD gear teeth on the focus and iris gears. This allows them to work with the cine-industry standard focus and lens-control systems. The lenses have 300° of focus rotation, which helps in creating accurate focus pulls, and the focus scales themselves are angled to make it easier to confirm the settings, even when viewing the lens from the side. Common front diameter and gear positions across the focal length range make for easy and fast lens swaps. The Cine Primes are perfectly suited to studio productions, as well as for indie filmmakers or anyone who wants to invest in lenses that they won’t quickly grow out of.
The Sumire Prime lenses feature the same robust Canon design and manufacturing as the Cine Primes, along with the common lens gear positions and front diameter. The 7-lens Sumire set even matches the Cine Primes in focal length and T-stop settings. However, the Sumire (SOO-mee-ray) differ in that the lenses have been designed to capture the human face in a less harsh and more pleasing way than many modern lenses do.
The Sumire effect varies with the aperture, becoming less noticeable the more you close down the iris, but producing a beautiful organic feel to faces of all ages and ethnicities as you open up the iris. Another important difference between the Sumire Primes and Canon’s Cine primes is that the Sumire lenses come in a PL (Positive Lock) lens mount.
The PL mount is a simple design, extremely strong and durable, and the standard in the film industry for decades. Although a more robust mount than the EF, PL mount lenses can also be used on cameras with shallower mounts with available adapters. Because of the PL mount, to use the Sumire Primes on a Canon camera, you will need a PL mount version of that camera. You can also use the Sumire Primes on the Canon EOS C70 with an optional RF to PL adapter. Sumire lenses can be found on productions from large to small, providing a crisp technical look when closed down, and a more inviting look when opened up.
Canon made a splash in the cine world with its Cine Zooms. Consisting of four different parfocal lenses—a 15.5 to 47mm, 14.5 to 60mm, 30 to 105mm, and 30 to 300mm, each one is available in either EF or PL Mount. The Cine Zooms are an excellent choice as the main lenses for any cine production because they provide speed of use and flexibility, and their mechanical and optical characteristics make them excellent complements to the Canon Cine and Sumire Primes.
With fast (for cine zoom lenses) maximum apertures, the Cine Zooms also match the look of the Cine and Sumire Primes by using an 11-blade iris that renders round out-of-focus specular highlights. The Canon optical glass and coatings also contribute to the zooms matching the primes in color and contrast, making it easier to cut between the lenses.
Mechanical focus and zoom lens control rings, instead of built-in motors, help keep the weight and size of theses zooms down, for a slimmer package. As with the Cine Primes, the focus ring has a rotation range of 300 degrees, allowing for precise focus marks, well suited to productions that rely on a separate follow focus operator. Canon has paid special attention to minimizing heat expansion, which can throw off focus marks as the lenses heat up and cool down, by utilizing special glass and construction methods to minimize barrel expansion.
The 15.5 to 47mm and 30 to 105mm are also available in a PL Mount that ships with an EF mount conversion kit, although swapping the mounts has to be done at a Canon Cinema Lens Factory Service Center, due to the electronic conversion work involved.
Full-frame camera users take note: the Cine Zooms, Compact Cine Zooms, and Servo-Cine Zooms are limited to covering Super 35mm and APS-C sized sensors, but they all support 4K resolution for extremely crisp and sharp images.
Cine Servo Zooms
Available in either EF or PL mount, the Cine Servo Lenses, available in 17 to 120mm EF / 17 to 120mm PL, 25 to 250mm EF / 25 to 250mm PL, and a 50 to 1000mm EF / 50 to 1000mm PL with a built-in 1.5x extender, marry the best features of cine lenses with the functionality of ENG lenses. The optical characteristics meet Canon’s stringent requirements, supporting 4K resolution throughout the zoom range, allowing these lenses to intercut well with Canon’s other Cine zooms. The servo zooms cover sensors up to Super 35 and feature a detachable servo unit that allows you to use the lens as a standard cine zoom, or as an ENG-style lens with the servo unit attached.
Expanding on the Cine Servo Zooms’ flexibility are the electronic and control connections, that allow you to connect and control the lens via the 12-pin connectors, like ENG lenses, as well as through electronic contacts in the mounts themselves, that will allow select cameras to have servo lens control. The EF mount lenses support Canon’s EF electronic metadata communication, while the PL mount zooms supports Cooke /i technology for metadata.
These two lenses are available only in EF mount and have a zoom range of 18 to 80mm and 70 to 200mm. Smaller and slower than the Cine or Servo-Cine zooms, these lenses are an alternative to primes, and feature fully integrated servos in a small form factor. However, the compact size and built-in servo control makes these lenses suitable for 4K production of event and concert coverage, as well as house of worship use.
In addition to servo control similar to ENG lenses, each lens is also optionally available with a serial port for RS-422 control, simplifying integration into a PTZ setup. The lens does not ramp exposure while zooming, maintaining a maximum T4.4 across the zoom range, which is a benefit for matching cameras, especially when live switching.
Sharp, Crisp, and On Point
Canon Cine lenses are designed for production work ranging from studio films to indie production, as well as events, concerts, and houses of worship.
Please feel free to share your experiences with any of the Canon Cine lenses mentioned in this guide in the Comments section. We would love to hear what kinds of productions in which you are using these lenses. For more information on Canon Digital Cinema Lenses, visit the B&H Photo Website or, if you're in New York City, visit The Studio at the B&H Photo SuperStore.