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Canon bolsters dSLR video options with new lens and power-zoom accessory

A new, faster-driving version of its 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 IS STM lens is accompanied by an accessory that provides a zoom control for the lens.

Lori Grunin/CNET

Continuing its trend of enhancing the appeal of dSLRs for shooting video, Canon rolled out a new version of its 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 lens with a couple of important upgrades over the current model. The Canon EF-S18-135mm f3.5-5.6 IS USM incorporates a new motor designed to provide quiet video performance, much like its STM stepper-motor lenses but with the improved still-photo focus speed of its higher-end ultrasonic motor, along with a connector to support the company's new power-zoom adapter accessory.

The new lens will be priced at $600 (directly converted, £420, AU$836), only $50 more than the STM version (which currently runs £320, AU$590), and will ship in March as a kit lens for the EOS 80D. The Power Zoom Adapter PZ-E1 will follow in June for $150 (directly converted, £105, AU$210).

Canon dubs the motor tech "Nano USM," and says that it provides STM-like smooth autofocus, but offers 4.3x faster focus at 135mm and 2.5x faster AF at 18mm.

The power-zoom adapter is a unit that locks to the bottom of the lens and allows you to drive the zoom via a camcorder-like zoom switch that mechanically turns the zoom ring, at speeds from 2.4 to 14 seconds to traverse the entire focal range. There's a manual-zoom override, and it runs on 4AAA batteries. It will only work with lenses equipped with the connector, which for now means just the 18-135mm USM.

It does zoom quite smoothly, and though clunky looking makes a good handhold or rest to prop up the camera. Unlike most power-zoom lenses for mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras, it doesn't compromise the optics to collapse into a smaller package, which means ultimately support could be incoprorated into higher-end lenses. And you'll be able to control it via Canon's remote-shooting app. The one thing I wish it had was the ability to program start and stop focal lengths.

Now playing: Watch this: A dSLR power-zoom solution

It's an interesting approach, but it also feels like a stopgap; that there should be some more elegant solution forthcoming, one that might support legacy lenses instead of just future lenses. Especially since I doubt Canon will start putting the connector on all upcoming lenses, just selected ones.

Canon also introduced an accessory directional microphone, the Directional Stereo Microphone DM-E1, which it plans to ship in June for $250 (£175 and AU$348, directly converted).