Canon's most challenging lens design ever: The 50-1000 Cine-Servo
Back in 2014, Canon stunned pro videographers with an absolute monster of a lens. Pro-grade resolution at 4K, with a wide angle of 50 mm and a zoom up to 1,500 with a built in range extender, the Cine-Servo put top-grade glass behind camcorder-like controls to offer unprecedented flexibility. And it only came to be after a wildlife videographer laid down a challenge.
Wildlife videographers have some of the most challenging working conditions you're likely to come across. After all, there's no telling when an animal's going to catch the right light or do the thing you want to film. You've got to be ready at all times. That's why Ivo Nörenberg, a veteran wildlife videographer who's worked on a ton of films, decided to set Canon a challenge. He wanted a Super 35 lens he could leave on his camera pretty much all day.
It needed to be able to full-frame a 4-ft-high (1.2-m) wild animal from a safe distance of 350 ft (107 m), but it also needed to be able to take wide-angle setup shots. It needed to resolve at a pro level even at 4K resolution, and it needed to have a smooth servo zoom so you could use it a bit like a camcorder with a one-man crew. Oh, and it had to be something portable and weatherproof.
That's a brutal set of specs, but Canon took it on as a challenge to produce this: the Cine-Servo 50-1000mm T5.0-8.9PL lens. The rest is history.
Measuring 15.9 in (40 cm) long and weighing just 14.6 lb (6.6 kg), the Cine-Servo offers superzoom flexibility with pro level quality and minimal chromatic aberration on a Super 35mm video camera. At the wide end, 50 mm is a very useful standard focal length for landscape setups. At the long end, it's a thousand millimeters - yes, 1,000 mm.
If that's not enough, Canon built in a range extender that clicks it up to 1,500 mm when required. It's got a nice little servo drive on the side to smoothly zoom in and out with, and it works fast enough to haul glass from wide to full zoom in just 1.5 seconds. The servo grip also lets you easily manage focus, but you can pull it off to use it as a full cinema rig if you've got somebody else around to do the handiwork.
It uses Canon's popular PL mount, so will fit to a wide range of cameras, and it can be converted to an EF-mount to fit things like DSLR cameras as well. Canon calls it "the most challenging project ever undertaken by the Canon optical design team," and we're inclined to believe it.
How much for this beautiful beast, you ask? Take a seat before reading further. In US dollars, you're looking at a 70 grand beast right here. But hey, when it came out, it was nearly $80k, so it's pretty much a bargain in 2018.
Obviously, it's not for everyone. But it's nice to see what a company like Canon can do when it pulls out all the stops. Canon has just released a short video looking back on the huge challenge this lens presented. Enjoy it below.