To create the CN-E's, Canon started with their exceptional still photography prime lenses. They swapped out their 8-blade irises for 11-blade irises, gave them proper cinema housings, and a new recipe of lens coatings that delivers a slightly warmer look than their still photo predecessors.
They are sharp even wide open, have high contrast, and they flare quite beautifully. With their high performance and relatively low cost, they are still a very popular choice.
Moderate SA throughout. Center cleans up around T2.8.
Moderate SA, CA throughout. Center cleans up around T2.8.
Significant SA, CA throughout. Cleans up around T4-5.6.
Significant SA, CA throughout. Cleans up around T2.8.
Significant SA, CA throughout. Cleans up around T2.8
Canon CN-Es were ahead of the game when it came to full frame coverage. Their large image circle is thanks to their still photography roots. CN-Es are based on Canon's wonderful, modern, L series autofocus primes. Canon changed the recipe of their coatings, and swapped their original 8-blade irises for 11-blade irises.
They have nice housings with 114mm fronts, and matching gear positions. Their only big downside for me was that they were only offered in EF mount. However Duclos Lenses can convert them to PL for you. Originally their was no fast wide-angle lens in the set, but then Canon added the 20mm T1.5, which rounds out the set nicely.
I think they have a nice look. Sharp and warm, and the flares are pretty nice for modern lenses. Fast, full frame, sharp...they deliver a lot for a very reasonable price.
Canon has a long lineage of glass from the K35s, to the FDs and their CN-Es. What I love about the CN-Es is there modern build and functionality but their glass is the same as their L-series stills lenses which almost anyone who has been a photographer or cinematographer is familiar with.
The lack of PL mount as an option is a bit of a bummer but I can understand the reasoning why.
Warmer in skin tones and sharp from edge to edge, the CN-Es are a great entry-to-mid-level lens set that offer a nod to their lineage but represent modern optics of today's cinematography standards.
The Canon CN-E primes, while based on the Canon L-Series glass, do provide a consistent color balance across the range. Their contrast and resolution aren’t quite as consistent as I’d expect considering their price point.
The mechanical build of these lenses is decent but the lack of a PL mount option makes them a bit less attractive. Fortunately the set that we had on-hand for the test was converted to PL mount by Duclos Lenses which made the process much smoother without the need to swap camera mounts.
The widest in the CN-E line, the 14mm does suffer from pretty significant aberrations. But I can overlook that knowing that the 50mm and 85mm are a T1.3! Wide open I did observe a pretty steep drop-off in resolution but overall this gave the CN-E primes a bit of character that was missing in some of the more clinical lens sets.
The revolutionary 1970s DNA in the Canon FDs and K-35s carries through Canon lenses to this day and though it has evolved and improved over the subsequent decades, I still see its fingerprints in the more modern CN-E line, which are derived from their L-Series still-lens counterparts.
And though lens manufacturers have had to abandon the use of lead and thorium in their glass types for the newer lenses, the Sumire lenses strive to acknowledge their 70s Aspherical/K-35 lineage, albeit with mixed results, by detuning the lenses in the attempt to induce some aberrations and evoke a more vintage feel.