Up until recently, there wasn't much competition for PL style lenses at the lower budget level. If you were lucky, some used Super Speeds or Standard Speeds would be a good catch. Now we've got brand new cinema lenses from Canon right in this range, the CN-E lenses, and even though they aren't PL mount, they cross off the other checkboxes in regards to giving you a professional solution. The team over at Magnanimous Media got a hold of the CN-E 24mm T/1.5, 50mm T/1.3, and 85mm T/1.3 primes from Canon, and compared them in a brief, unscientific test against the equivalent still lenses from Canon, the 24mm F/1.4, 50mm F/1.2, and 85mm F/1.2. Click through to watch their results.
Here is what they had to say about the non-scientific testing:
Scott Regan of Scott Regan Photo and Magnanimous Media's Jonah Rubash have some fun with Canon's CN-E 24mm, 50mm and 85mm Cine lenses while comparing them to their EF counterparts from the still world as well as a Lumix zoom. We shot on the Scarlet-X, 5D Mk II and the AF100.
No color grading or clean up (with the exception of tweaking LOOK on the Scarlet before shooting).
Here is their review:
A breathing test (watching the edges of the screen will tell you how much a lens is breathing):
Right off the bat one of the big reasons that these lenses are special is that they cover the entire full frame of the 5D Mark III, Mark II, etc. The only other professional lenses that are still currently being manufactured that do the same are the Zeiss CP.2 and Super Speed lenses -- which have the advantage of an interchangeable mount to any other major mount currently in use. With the introduction of the new Super Speeds, Zeiss actually has a lens set that can match the Canons in speed, except they are still missing a fast 24mm or 25mm lens at the wide end -- something Canon is already doing right now.
If you're wondering why these would be compared, as they said above, the cinema lenses are more or less rehoused and reengineered still lenses (just like the ZF/ZE lenses and the CP.2s). They may not use exactly the same glass, but the optics are not very far apart. So why do they cost so much more money? Build quality. These lenses will stand the test of time, much longer than still lenses (which take can a beating in their own right). Not only that, but the lenses have smooth operating aperture and focus rings, and are all the same size and share the same front diameter. This makes using them on a film set that much easier, since you just pop one out and attach the new one, and you're good to go.
As far as performance, it's a little too early to judge definitively, but they look great -- and they should, since they are some of the very same lenses all of you are already using. I think the cinema primes had a slight edge in overall definition, and in addition to this being attributable to build quality, they may also be using much higher quality handpicked glass in these lenses -- similar to the way Zeiss designs their lenses. The cinema primes will also have an advantage when it comes to matching exposure since they have T stops. As far as the breathing, it was an interesting test, but as they say on Vimeo, the breathing is less noticeable on Super 35mm rather than on the Full Frame Mark III.
These are cinema lenses, no question. If you're going to be shooting video, that are going to be leagues better in terms of usability. Trying to use Canon autofocus lenses on a movie is miserable, especially since they don't have hard stops and are only electronically controlled (that means not iris pulls during shooting), but these lenses have everything you'd want in a cinema lens, except for the missing PL mount. You also get full frame coverage, so these lenses can be switched out easily between a 5D and a C300, especially if you're on a multi-camera shoot, or you'd like to use the DSLR for extra coverage. Before long, we will also be getting a wider range for these lenses, a 14mm T/3.1 and a 135mm T/2.2.
At around $5,000 each for the three lenses, it may not be something you run out and buy today, but with so many cameras now featuring a Canon mount (like RED) or having the ability to mount EF with an adapter (like Sony), having PL isn't nearly as important as it used to be in higher-end digital cinema. These could be good lenses for an owner/operator investing in a C500, or maybe someone putting together a nice SCARLET package. In terms of rental, these should pair perfectly with Canon's own cameras, and will most likely rent for a similar price as the CP.2s.
What do you guys think? Would you rent these out to use on a shoot as opposed to Zeiss? If you are in the market for cinema primes, do these interest you?