Canon Announces 17-120mm Cine Zoom Ahead of NAB

17-120mmCanon has announced their new 17-120mm T2.95 Cinema Zoom Lens. Usually we have to wait until at least the first or second day of NAB for major new gear announcements. Canon was kind of enough to provide their big news a week ahead of the big show. Canon announced their original Cinema EOS lenses back at NAB 2011 and were ready to ship in 2012. So far the feedback on the Canon cinema lenses, both zoom and primes, has been a bit slow to gaining traction, but they’re running at full steam now and there’s a lot of ground to cover.

The Details

The new 17-120mm lens offers an impressive 7x zoom range which compared to most new cinema zoom at 5x or less, is a great improvement. One of the biggest features of the new 17-120mm is the addition of the servo unit for all the ENG style shooters that have been clamoring for such tools. A few more details:

  • 17-120mm (7x)
  • T2.95 – T3.9 (ramps at 120mm)
  • Arri PL or Canon EF mount
  • 114mm Front Diameter
  • 7.9 lbs. with servo unit
  • Focus, zoom, iris servo unit – standard equipment
  • Available August 2014 Pre-Order Here

Canon is clearly firing their… cannons… over Fujinon’s bow, with the Cabrio line of lenses being the only other bridge between ENG and Cinema lens features. Perhaps this is just a quick move on Canon’s part in order to keep up with their competition. Regardless of their motivation this should be an interesting blend of markets from Canon who is certainly not new to the ENG lens world being one of the largest manufacturers of broadcast style lenses for the past few decades. There plenty of other options in this “mid-focal-range” category including Canon’s own Cinema Eos zooms with a range far less than 7x. For example, the Canon 14.5-60mm, which is a great lens optically and mechanically, only offers a zoom range of 4.1x. Canon’s 30-105mm, another great lens only provides a 3.5x range. Even Fujinon’s 19-90mm is only a 4.7x zoom range. These aren’t bad specs by any means. The classics from manufacturers such as Cooke and Panavision were traditionally a 5x zoom. Angenieux’s workhorse 25-250mm HR was a great 10x range which has been revived in their soon to be released 25-250mm DP but at a much higher price. Enough of other lenses… Back to the Canon 17-120mm.

17-120 diagram


I had a chance to play with the 17-120mm prior to its release so it should be noted that the unit I had for testing was clearly a pre-production model. Specs and features can easily change. Resolution at the center of the image was superb producing an easy 200 lp/mm. The focus falls off a bit throughout the field dropping to about 100 lp/mm in the Super 35mm frame. Coverage was adequate for Super 35 format sensors. You may have some issues with the Red Dragon at 6k Full Frame but nothing that can’t be fixed by cropping down to 6K HD (check back for an update on maximum coverage once we have a production unit to test). Anyone familiar with broadcast style lenses will be comfortable with the back-focus adjustment built conveniently into the rear housing of the lens.

Obviously with the servo unit attached the 17-120mm is intended for handheld, shoulder-mounted work which is perfectly manageable with a weight of about 8 lbs. (same as the 19-90mm Cabrio). One of the down sides I saw was the lack of a 32-pitch gear on the zoom or the iris. Both rings have gears for the servo unit (0.5 mod), but nothing for the vast array of motion picture accessories. I’m sure Duclos Lenses will fix this 😉

Canon’s Words

New Versatile CINE-SERVO Zoom Lens from Canon Provides High-Optical Performance and Operation for ENG, Documentary and Narrative Productions

New Canon CINE-SERVO 17-120mm T2.95 Zoom Lens Features 4K Optical Performance, a Dynamic 17-120mm Focal Length Range, and Removable Digital Drive Unit for Cine-Style or Shoulder-Mounted Operation 

MELVILLE, N.Y., April 2, 2014 – Shallow, creative depth of field, high-resolution and optimal low-light shooting capabilities are just some of the many reasons that large, single-sensor digital cameras have been kitted and rigged for use in nearly every application involving video capture. Further enhancing the versatility and adoption of these cameras into markets such as ENG (Electronic News Gathering), documentary, narrative production and special event coverage is the new CINE-SERVO 17-120mm T2.95 zoom lens from Canon U.S.A., Inc., a leader in digital imaging solutions.

Designed to perform in a shoulder-mounted application or as a traditional cinema lens, the Canon CINE-SERVO 17-120mm T2.95 zoom lens has an ENG-style Digital Drive handgrip with zoom rocker switch, which can also be detached to allow for manual cinema operation. The new CINE-SERVO lens features high 4K optical performance throughout the broad focal length of 17mm to 120mm within its compact and lightweight body, a three-group inner focus system to help minimize focus breathing and provide a stable angle of view, an 11-blade iris to help achieve creative depth-of-field manipulation and natural “bokeh” background, user-friendly design features, support for matte boxes, follow focus and other accessories, and rugged reliability. Designed to work with single-sensor cameras, the lens will be available in either PL- or EF-mount.

“Since the launch of the Cinema EOS system, Canon has been a part of the large-sensor camera movement that has taken many video markets by storm. Each day the markets that employ these dynamic tools are growing, as is the way professionals are using them in the field,” explained Yuichi Ishizuka, president and COO, Canon U.S.A. “We remain dedicated to providing the equipment and service that enables professionals to reach the full potential of their talent. With the CINE-SERVO 17-120mm T2.95 zoom lens, we sought to arm them with a lens that is equally as versatile and adaptable as they are, and just as comfortable shooting a feature documentary as it would be shooting a corporate event or an interview for the evening news.”

Lens-Camera Communication

Compliance of the Canon CINE-SERVO 17-120mm T2.95 lens with industry-standard camera-to-lens communication protocols helps ensure its compatibility with multiple brands and models of 4K, 2K, and HD cameras. These standards include 12-pin serial communication (common to major broadcast camera brands), Cooke’s /i Technology, and Canon EOS technology (employed by the EOS C500, EOS C300, and EOS-1D C Cinema cameras, and the EOS C100 Digital Video Camera). Specific types of data-management functions involving focus, zoom, iris and other settings can vary, depending on camera brands and models. In the case of the Canon EOS system, precise lens data – including aperture setting – are displayed in the EOS camera’s viewfinder, as well as recorded in the video file as metadata along with the model name of the lens and focal length setting.

Dual Operability

With its Canon Digital Drive handgrip unit attached, the CINE-SERVO 17-120mm T2.95 lens is ideal for shoulder mount camera configurations commonly employed in ENG, broadcast, or cinema shooting. Attaching the Digital Drive unit does not require manual adjustment of the focus, zoom, and iris gears on the lens, and a rubber cap prevents dirt from entering the Digital Drive unit connections when it’s detached. Together with Canon’s unique LCD display equipped on the Digital Drive unit that allows the operators to easily access the various digital functions, a 16-bit high-precision microprocessor contained within the Digital Drive unit enables operators to pre-program focus and zoom position/speed, as well as iris settings if desired – allowing for precise, repeatable performance. The microprocessor also provides the capability of a very high-speed zoom of 0.5 seconds to a very slow and consistent zoom of 300 seconds, from wide-end to telephoto-end. Three 20-pin connectors on the Digital Drive unit enable the use of zoom and focus demands or the precision integration of images from the lens and its accompanying camera into a variety of virtual set systems.

In addition to its removable ENG-style Digital Drive unit handgrip that gives users a choice between programmable broadcast-style or fully manual cinema-style operation, the new Canon CINE-SERVO 17-120mm T2.95 zoom lens integrates strategic design features for intuitive, convenient operation by a wide range of camera operators. These features include an ergonomically designed compact and lightweight Digital Drive unit that fits into an operator’s hand and brings the palm closer to the center of the lens barrel which can contribute to lessening fatigue on the operator’s arm. The lens barrel markings are clearly engraved in both feet and meters on both sides of the lens barrel, and focus indicators on the front side of the lens are marked on an inclined surface to make them easier to see from the back of the camera, especially when mounted on an operator’s shoulder. Additionally, luminous paint is used for the scale display on one side of the barrel to help make the markings visually identifiable in the dark.

Combining both broadcast operability and the accuracy required by cinematographers, the lens features a 180 degree focus rotation angle. Both 0.8 type and 0.5 type gear module focus accessories can be used, with the 0.8-pitch gear positioned in front of the focus ring to preclude any interference with the Digital Drive unit or a connecting cord. Major power-driven accessories, matte boxes, and other standard options used by filmmakers can all be mounted. Lens support shafts for support rods as well as a lens hood unit are also included with the lens.

As a symbol of inheriting the optical technology that was developed for other Canon Cinema lenses, a red alumite identity color is used for the mount area. A structure enabling the lens’ EF mount to be replaced with the PL mount, or vice versa (electrical system included), is also incorporated. This conversion upgrade can be provided at authorized Canon service centers.

Pricing and Availability

The Canon CINE-SERVO 17-120mm T2.95 zoom lens (CN7x17 KAS S/E1 in EF mount and CN7x17 KAS S/P1 in PL mount) is expected to be available in August 2014 for a suggested list price of $33,000. For more information, please visit the Canon U.S.A. website

13 thoughts on “Canon Announces 17-120mm Cine Zoom Ahead of NAB

  1. Thanks for the update! This lens looks very enticing. However, some things that slightly matter…. manufacturers always get me with the ramping stats. I understand it ramps, but why does say (at120mm?) Clearly it begins to ramp before then and doesn’t just lose a stop of exposure after 119mm, haha. They should tell you when the lens goes from say a T/2.95 to a T/3. That would be the beginning of the light loss ramp and then we would understand it gradually increases until it reaches T/3.9 at 120mm.

  2. Can I also confirm that the lens mounts are not interchangeable and one must choose the camera mount when purchasing the lens? Will this lens need lens support when hanging on a EOS mount? Thanks!

    1. The mounts are in fact swappable, but not easily. Canon requires the lens to be sent to a CPS Service Center to have the parts exchanged blah blah blah… Duclos Lenses is already working on a Multi-Mount solution for field swapping between Canon EF, Arri PL, Panavision, Nikon F, etc.

      This lens will DEFINITELY need support with the Canon EF mount. I would even recommend support with the PL mount. I would estimate about 75% of the 8 lb. weight is at the very front of the lens. Not great considering the mounts are made of nickel plated brass which doesn’t take stress very well.

      1. Yes, as I thought. Although the article said the weight was the same as the Cabrio, it seems to be almost 25% heavier with the servo grip and I wouldn’t put anything heavier than a Cabrio on a camera without support, especially EOS mount. I hope your Multi-Mount solution comes to term with this lens! Would be amazing if that happened.

  3. 4kg weight is perfectly managable for shoulder work? Very funny…..i would love to see lens salesman running around with 4kg zoom on shoulder…

  4. Hi Matthew,

    Notice you have this lens at 200 lp/mm in the center and 100 lp/mm in the corners – this seems to be the same as what you found with the Schneider primes – correct?

  5. Hi Matthew

    I’m interested in how this lens performs at resolutions beyond 4K. Have you done any further testing at 6K and beyond?

    Cheers mate

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