What’s the Point of Canon’s New Cinema Lenses?

What’s the Point of Canon’s New Cinema Lenses?

With seven new lenses hitting the market, Canon is updating their CN cinema glass to RF mount. They’re almost identical to the original EF mount lenses that debuted in 2011.

The biggest benefit to shooting on Canon’s CN line is that the electronics communicate with Cinema EOS cameras. These new RF lenses are no different. Users will still have the Dual Pixel Focus Guide, which is an incredibly handy tool for solo shooters. Chromatic aberration correction and peripheral illumination correction remain as well, which don’t work when shooting raw footage.

Distortion Correction has been added to the new RF glass. A nice feature for smaller crews. Again, users can’t record raw footage if they want to utilize this.

Gains and Losses

What you gain with those features, you lose with versatility. They’re exactly the same as EF lenses, except there’s an adapter bolted on. Canon admitted this in a YouTube comment recently.

The new lenses differ from the EF version in adding a native RF Mount (eliminating the need for adapters), and the ability to engage distortion correction on RF-mount Cinema EOS cameras.

In some ways, this is great. Users with an existing CN-E lens set can add the new CN-R lenses and expect the same qualities. Canon isn’t messing with an already lauded set of lenses.

However, an EF lens can be adapted on a lot more cameras. You can use drop-in filters between an EF lens and a mirrorless sensor. Locking mounts are available for EF glass.

If you’re a solo shooter or part of a small crew, the CN-R lenses will be a wonderful addition to a C70. However, more professional sets will shoot raw footage, focus manually, utilize a test chart for distortion, and appreciate the versatility of an EF mount lens. For a $25,000 lens set, I think Canon’s going to have a hard time selling these reboot lenses.

The Future of RF

Canon’s dominated the lens market with their EF mount glass through the 2010s. Their RF mount may prove to be as popular, but it’s not there yet. In fact, RED has more RF mount cinema cameras than Canon does.

Is this CN-R release reassuring to EOS cinema camera users? I don’t think so. Not utilizing the RF upgrade to downsize these lenses is puzzling. Even Zeiss’ Compact Prime series got a downsize over the years.

The move from EF to RF isn’t going to happen overnight. Being in the middle of this transition without any real flagship cinema camera and an apathetic update to the cinema lenses isn’t a good look. For now, it's still reasonable to invest in EF and PL mount glass.

Stephen Kampff's picture

Working in broadcasting and digital media, Stephen Kampff brings key advice to shoots and works hard to stay on top of what's going to be important to the industry.

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This makes a lot of sense. Building out a brand new collection of cinema lenses is time and expense. I'm sure they'll do it, but they'd also be leaving money on table if they didn't have an RF cinema lens set to offer right now. This gives them breathing room to create a modern, truly native collection of RF cinema glass.

The problem Canon have is they built an industry around their EF mount and then when they eventually started making serious mirrorless cameras with their new mount, the dilemma of what to do about transitioning over to the new RF mount would eventually have to be addressed. I can certainly see Canon just coming up with a solution to minimise the cost of having to produce completely new cine lenses and adding a built in adapter seems the most cost effective and logical. It's certainly better than just releasing new RF cine glass slowly one by one. Also the bigger size of the lenses is more important for cine rigs. Making smaller cine lenses, especially primes could make them trickier to mount on a rig if they're not big enough. I've certainly struggled in the past to mount some photography lenses to a rig with follow focus and a matte box if they are too small in both the length and diameter. There's a reason cine lenses are the size they are. Social media videographers can still use photography lenses and likely won't need a full rig anyway.

When Sony started to be taken seriously with their FF mirrorless, a lot of third party companies were initially 'converting' their lenses simply by adding an in-built adapter. I'm sure over the next decade or so we could see proper RF cine lenses appear.