Quick Look: Canon 50-1000mm Close Focus Performance

In this post, we're going to take a quick look at the Canon 50-1000mm Cine-Servo - a lens that some may consider impractical or unnecessary. I disagree! A few weeks back I had a client that was considering adding Canon's new super zoom to his kit. He does a lot of wildlife and nature documentary work but didn't think that 1,000mm was a reasonable range. If you asked me that same question six months ago I probably would have agreed. However, after some hands-on time with the lens here in the shop, I've definitely found the silver lining. Yes, it's a hefty lens. Yes, it's somewhat pricey. Yes, there are no standard zoom or iris gears. But once I had this lens on the projector and was able to really see the resolving power of this lens - the pros begin to outweigh the cons. As it is with all lenses, physics are limiting and compromises must be made. In the case of the 50-1000mm, yes - you get 1,000mm. But at the expense of maximum aperture and size/weight. Speaking of maximum aperture... At the wide end of the zoom range, you have a rather sluggish T5. You'll maintain a maximum of T5 all the way through the zoom until you creep up on 560mm. Beyond 5oomm, the maximum aperture drops to T8.9. While you would think that a minimum focus of 11.5' is not very impressive for a 50mm focal length, it is respectable for a 1,000mm focal length. And this doesn't even include the lens' built in Macro mode. This brings me to today's quick look: close focus image quality. Normally I would evaluate image quality on our test projector which accommodates a focus distance of up to 200'. But I really wanted to show the practical effects of ultra telephoto lenses and how focal length and field of view relate as well as how accurate Canon's flagship Cine-Servo is, even with a 2X extender attached. The Canon 50-1000mm has it's own built-in 1.5x extender which brings the maximum focal length of this lens to 1,500mm. I then attached one of our new prototype 2X tele-extenders giving me a focal length of 3,000mm. The test was shot on a Super 35 format camera with a relatively high ISO setting so that I could maintain exposure even with the light loss from the 1.5x dropping the max aperture to about T13, and the 2X taking the lot down to approximately T22. I know... It's not at all practical, but let's take a look. 50-1000 I intentionally left out the IQ samples between 400mm and 2,000mm simply because there really ins't much to see. It's the super tele end that I was intrigued by. Again, this was shot about 12 feet away from our aggressive alien big game friend here. I re-adjusted the focus just a hair once I was zoomed all the way in to 3,000mm - which, by the way, was extremely accurate with absolutely no lost motion to speak of in the focus barrel. There's no cropping at all in these samples, other than the horizontal split to fit all four scenes into one. Take a look at the difference between 100mm and 400mm. Not an uncommon focal length these days and there's quite a drastic difference in the field of view. However, once we get to the longer end of zoom here, in the 2,000mm to 3,000mm range, that's a difference of 1,000mm! And yet, there's very little difference in the field of view. Here's a good visual representation of how field of view and focal length relate to each other: FoVCurve   As with all "lens tests" on the web, take this with a grain of salt. There are infinite variables to consider and this is by no means a definitive test of the 50-1000mm Canon Cine-Servo. However, it does illustrate the versatility of this lens even with a 2x extender. If you can get over the size, weight, price, speed, and other cons - you may have a use for this lens which is definitely not lacking in the image quality department.


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