Putting Canon’s Dynamic Lens Duo To Work

compact-servo lenses

I reviewed Canon’s then-brand-new CN-E Compact-Servo 18-80mm T4.4 zoom lens back in January of this year, and I found it to be an innovative take on the Compact-Servo zoom lens, inventing a new category, the low-cost, Compact-Servo AF S35 lens.

I had a chance to put a prototype of the Canon CN-E 70-200mm T4.4, the new big brother to the 18-80mm, to work on several client shoots, mostly run-and-gun documentary-style shoots, and I have to say, the new lens is pretty much more of the same goodness that I found in the 18-80mm—not perfect, but a very good value for the money.

compact-servo lenses

We used both lenses on a Canon EOS C300 Mark II digital cinema camera, as well as my own new C200, and the 70-200mm T4.4 is pretty much a longer focal-length version of the 18-80mm. The operational and visual characteristics were quite similar to the 18-80mm, and operationally, they felt the same. The resulting images had a warmer bias to the skin tones, but beautiful and flattering to our subjects. Shooting landscape and wider frames of distant subjects gave us more of the same, with excellent sharpness and good color with minimal lens breathing.

compact-servo lenses
On location with the Canon Compact-Servo lenses—the CN-E 70-200mm T4.4 and the CN-E 18-80mm T4.4.

Users will notice that neither lens has hard stops for the focus mechanism. Hard stops are typically used by ACs to hit accurate and repeatable focus points when shooting narrative style. Since this lens is Dual Pixel Auto Focus-capable, working with ACs and hard stops isn’t really the intention of these lenses. Some feel that the lens’ relatively slow (F4.0/T4.4) speed is a concern, and it could be, depending on the situations you mostly shoot in. In order to make the lens significantly faster, the cost would have gone up considerably, as well as the size and weight, and Canon wanted to hit a certain size, weight and price point. Most modern digital cinema cameras now are very usable with increased gain, making the T4.4 not as much of a hindrance as it was on previous generations of cameras.

compact-servo lenses

If you’re interested in either the CN-E 18-80mm T4.4 or the CN-E 70-200mm T4.4, I highly recommend that you also purchase Canon’s ZSG-C10 servo grip. While the lenses come with an integrated set of buttons for the servo, they don’t allow for the fine, variable-speed control that ZSG-C10 allows. I also recommend that you pick up the Zacuto Right Angle Cable. On both lenses, the stock Canon servo cable juts down from the bottom of the lens, preventing the camera with the lens and cable attached from being set down on a flat surface. The Zacuto cable mitigates this issue.

In using them on several client shoots, the Canon CN-E Compact-Servo lenses made a nice complementary pair of optics, covering the entire typical working focal-length range with high-quality images and convenient operational flexibility.

Writer, producer and cinematographer Dan Brockett’s two decades of work in documentary film and behind the scenes for television and feature films have informed his writing about production technology for HDVideoPro Magazine, Digital Photo Pro Magazine and KenStone.net. Visit danbrockett.com.

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