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Canon plans cine-friendlier lens upgrade

The Japanese SLR powerhouse plans to endow its 300mm and 400mm telephotos with preset points with motorized focusing. Also: expect lighter 500mm and 600mm superteles.

Canon's new second-generation 300mm F2.8 lens
Canon's new second-generation 300mm F2.8 lens
Stephen Shankland/CNET

COLOGNE, Germany--Canon, adapting to the high-end video revolution its SLRs are helping to fuel, plans changes to its cameras and lenses to make them friendlier in cinema hands.

The company already announced that two of the company's newest lenses, Canon's updated professional 300mm and 400mm F2.8 models, are equipped with a mechanism to permit smooth, steady, motorized focus changes. And at the Photokina show here, the company said further adaptations are coming. Specifically, the camera maker is working on an ability to set specific focus points the lens can move between.

That sort of feature is suited to the cinematographer crowd. Today, even with the new lenses, they must physically mark two focus points and manually change focus until they reach their desired spot.

However, the feature will require updated camera bodies to work, said Mike Burnhill, a Canon Europe representative here.

The new 300mm and 400mm lenses, each costing thousands of dollars and due to ship later this year, are staples for sports photographers and other professionals who need long telephoto views and wide apertures for maximum light-gathering ability.

One major feature of the new lenses is a new optical formula that reduces the lens weights considerably--down 8 percent and 28 percent, though still weighing more than 5 pounds and 8 pounds, respectively. The weight gains came in part through use of new fluorite lens elements, which can replace heavier glass elements.

Canon is working on new 500mm and 600mm F4 telephoto models, too, which it's displaying at Photokina. Burnhill said they'll benefit from similar new designs as well, with the 500mm model shedding about two-thirds of a pound from its present weight of 8.5 pounds.

The change is expected to be more dramatic for the 600mm model--something like 25 percent, which would cut its present weight of 11.8 pounds to something less than 9 pounds if all goes to plan. Brunhill cautioned that the plans aren't final yet, however.

Also at Photokina, Canon showed off its upcoming 8-15mm fisheye lens, which is due to ship in January for about $1,400. The second-generation 300mm F2.8 and 400mm F2.8 models come with list prices of $7,000 and $11,000, respectively.

Finally, the company had its 70-300mm F4-5.6 lens on display, an upgrade that brings the zoom range into Canon's professional-grade L series of lenses. In this case, that means the lens is designed to be rugged and weatherproof.

Canon's 70-300mm F4-5.6L lens
Canon's 70-300mm F4-5.6L lens, here mounted on Canon's new EOS 60D SLR Stephen Shankland/CNET
Canon's 8-15mm fisheye lens
Canon's 8-15mm fisheye lens Stephen Shankland/CNET