Canon Cine Primes CN-E Lenses – 2021 Review

If you are a cinematographer working with the Canon C100/C300/C500 cameras and in need of a good high-quality cinema zoom lens, just go ahead and purchase a set of their Canon CN-E lenses. We have been using them since they were released and we have never looked back.

Best Overall
Canon CN-E 18-80mm T4.4 Compact-SERVO Cinema Zoom Lens (EF Mount)
Good Choice
Canon CN-E 14mm T3.1 L F Cinema Prime Lens (EF Mount) [Electronics]
Don't Miss
CN-E 50mm T1.3 L F Cine Lens (EF Mount)
Also Consider
CN-E 85mm T1.3 L F Cine Lens (EF Mount)
Canon CN-E 18-80mm T4.4 Compact-SERVO Cinema Zoom Lens (EF Mount)
Canon CN-E 14mm T3.1 L F Cinema Prime Lens (EF Mount) [Electronics]
CN-E 50mm T1.3 L F Cine Lens (EF Mount)
CN-E 85mm T1.3 L F Cine Lens (EF Mount)
Best Overall
Canon CN-E 18-80mm T4.4 Compact-SERVO Cinema Zoom Lens (EF Mount)
Canon CN-E 18-80mm T4.4 Compact-SERVO Cinema Zoom Lens (EF Mount)
Good Choice
Canon CN-E 14mm T3.1 L F Cinema Prime Lens (EF Mount) [Electronics]
Canon CN-E 14mm T3.1 L F Cinema Prime Lens (EF Mount) [Electronics]
Don't Miss
CN-E 50mm T1.3 L F Cine Lens (EF Mount)
CN-E 50mm T1.3 L F Cine Lens (EF Mount)
Also Consider
CN-E 85mm T1.3 L F Cine Lens (EF Mount)
CN-E 85mm T1.3 L F Cine Lens (EF Mount)

The CN-E primes have an incredibly smooth focus ring, which is so important when manually focusing on a large sensor camera like the C300 or C500. There is no doubt that if you want to work quickly on set with these lenses the calibration from distance scale to actual focus point will save time when adjusting your focal length or when doing rack focusing without losing critical focus points.

Don’t be intimidated by their large size, they balance perfectly on the C300 and the matte box is still able to be used with all five lenses attached.

We have tested most of the cinema lens options available and if you truly want an “upgrade” in image quality when using a cinema zoom lens for TV or Film, these are your only choice. The reason why these lenses blow away their competition is because they were designed with one thing in mind: optics.

When designing a lens there is always more than one type of glass available to use in order to create a high-quality optical product that will resolve well in 4K resolution (or even 1080p).

Canon Cine Primes CN-E Lenses
Source: cined.com

Canon decided to design and manufacture its own line of proprietary glass that they have been using in their large-aperture prime lenses for decades. The results are truly remarkable, the image is incredibly sharp with a creamy smooth bokeh and no noticeable chromatic aberration even when shooting wide open.

In order to reduce costs on these lenses, Canon made them manual only (focus and iris) which may scare some people away from purchasing or renting them because there’s no electronic communication between the lens and camera body. If you really must have electronic control of focus/iris, look into Zeiss CP2 primes which do feature this option but cost $12K USD per lens.

We recently had the opportunity to work with one of my favorite directors on his latest film Spectre, this was a low-budget film that allowed me to purchase the Canon Cine primes CN-E 18-80mm T4.4 and 24-105mm T4.0 lenses for our A camera package. We couldn’t have been happier with them, they performed beautifully under all lighting conditions and in every situation, we could throw at them.

If you want top-quality optics that will look just as good or better than projectors in your local cinema, don’t even hesitate to purchase these lenses for your next production!

Design

Canon Cine Primes CN-E Lenses
Source: litewavemedia.com

Build Quality: 10/10

We absolutely love the design of these lenses, they truly feel like a cinema lens especially with their matte aluminum finish and large rubberized focus ring. Someone had spent a lot of time making sure all the materials used for this product were of the highest grade.

With so many plastic lenses on the market, it’s nice to finally see some well-manufactured metal in your hand when picking up one of these lenses. The only downside is the weight but in my opinion, it’s worth it because you can really feel that Canon has paid attention to every single detail in this product line.

They are very solidly built and should last anyone quite a while if properly maintained after each use, don’t ever leave them sitting in their bag just assume they will be banged around a lot.

The aperture ring isn’t as solid as the focus or iris ring, but that’s just nit-picking because it still performs fine for what it does. What Wedo appreciates about this is how quickly you can change your aperture compared to other lenses on the market where there are clicks at 1/3 stop increments which makes adjusting exposure very time-consuming.

With these lenses if you turn the aperture ring one tick past F4 you are now at T5.6, 2 ticks past F4 and you’re at T8, and so on… It saves everyone time including yourself by not having to count how many clicks you need to go up or down to reach your desired aperture.

Performance: 9/10

Canon Cine Primes CN-E Lenses
Source: litewavemedia.com

The images this lens produces are sharp and rich with color, the focus is very smooth and consistent throughout the entire range of travel on both lenses. As for distortion and chromatic aberration, it is almost non-existent and that’s quite amazing considering we were shooting digital cameras which tend to exaggerate those issues more than film ever did. These lenses performed exactly as we expected them to, there is no reason not to love them!

Once they break in a bit more you can use lower f-stops such as T2 or T1.5 but they still do best at between T4-T8. You can actually get away with using them at T2 on higher contrast scenes if you need to but be prepared for a slightly soft image.

Conclusion

After shooting with these lenses for a full day we feel confident saying that if you professionally shoot video and need to shoot wide then pick up the 18-80mm. If you need longer reach and play in both FHD and 4K (or higher) formats, get the 24-105mm.

To be honest, any lens in the line is a really great lens and offers such a good value for the price.