Canon CN-E Lenses

Having shot with regular Canon L and non-L glass for years, I got super excited when back at 2011 Canon announced the Canon CN-E lenses. We already had the Zeiss CP.2 option but variety is always a good thing.

The CN-E line of lenses consists of primes and zooms. I have not used any of the zooms so this post is only about the primes. The lenses are sort of the same as the L series ones. The difference is that they’re handpicked so you get the best glass available and the coatings are a bit different so you get better color accuracy across the board. Also, the housing is massive to accommodate the cinema-style needs of an operator and their assistant. Last but not least, you get a wonderful focus throw and a de-clicked aperture, pretty much what you’d expect from any cine glass.

This immediately rises one concern. We have still glass, rehoused. So… I shot with a full frame camera and the conclusion is simple. They are lovely to use, they have a great image but they breath and they vignette. A lot. Maybe on a S35 sensor the breathing won’t be that noticeable and the vignetting would probably be non-existent. But… I can not justify their price.

I love the warmer image of the Canons so I may use them again if I have to. Not that I don’t like them, don’t get me wrong. But for their price I was expecting something more. You can rent a set of 3 of them for around 300€ for 3 days. For that money, you could rent a set of 4 Samyangs/Rokinons for almost two weeks. Would the Canons perform better? Absolutely. Would you notice the better image quality on a 5D? Meh. We did shoot raw with the camera so we did get better resolution out of it, so who knows? Maybe the CN-Es did help us after all! {AND their bokeh is totally bad-ass!}

Next thing I’d like to try is their zoom siblings. Zooming is usually reserved for special projects but you can always use a zoom as a variable prime lens, for speed optimization. You may lose a stop or two {or even more if you think about the T1.3 50mm & 85mm} but most of the time you’re not going to shoot wide open anyways.

Either way, if you have the chance to rent them for your next project, don’t hesitate. You’re going to love the image and you will enjoy the feeling of a true cinema lens, albeit on a budget.

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