Thread: The elusive "Unicorn Zoom" lens for EF mount

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  1. #1 The elusive "Unicorn Zoom" lens for EF mount 
    I'm finding it a bit surprising and frustrating that, what I think would be a high-demand lens, is so elusive since no one seems to want to sell it. I call it the "Unicorn Zoom", and it would have these specifications:

    - decent zoom range of about 20-100mm
    - manual focus with hard stops
    - truly parfocal
    - EF mount (for APS-C is enough)
    - affordable for the average videographer (e.g. ~ $5000 or under)

    There are so many products available that skirt around these traits that such a beast seems possible, but for one reason or another, each misses the mark in some key aspect:

    - Canon's CN7x120mm Servo Zoom -- all the features but NOT remotely affordable
    - Canon's CN-E 18-80mm Servo Zoom -- affordable, but lacks hard stops for the sake of AF
    - Sigma 18-35mm & Sigma 50-100mm -- limited zoom ranges requiring two lenses for same coverage
    - Sony's FE PZ 28-135mm & PZ 18-110mm -- great prices, almost ideal, but for Sony E mount only

    Please tell me I'm not alone in this.
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  2. #2  
    Senior Member
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    Jan 2013
    Southern California
    What about the Zeiss LWZ
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  3. #3  
    Senior Member DPStewart's Avatar
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    Feb 2015
    The Puget Sound

    You are NOT alone!

    I'd buy one.
    Cameras: Blackmagic Cinema Camera, Blackmagic Pocket Camera (x2), Panasonic GH2 (x2), Sony RX100 ii, Canon 6D, Canon T2i,
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  4. #4  
    Quote Originally Posted by soarprod View Post
    What about the Zeiss LWZ
    It's close but still a bit too expensive IMO.
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  5. #5  
    And to give a better picture of what I'm after, the Canon 18-80 and Sony lenses mentioned are the closest to ideal, particularly price. It's just that they frustratingly miss out on one key detail apiece. Plastic bodies are fine (don't want to pay more for machined metal), and while a constant aperture is great, it's not a show-stopper as much as the other requirements.
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  6. #6  
    Senior Member Frank Glencairn's Avatar
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    Apr 2012
    I have an old Canon 17-100 f2.0 TV Zoom (V6-x17 -c-mount) here, that works well with the Pocket and BMCCs.
    It's not only constant, but even parafocal.
    It was 50 bucks on Ebay, and is actually not that shabby. Softish wide open, but if you close it down a bit, not bad at all.
    Only downside is, near distance 1.4 meters.

    And yeah I get it, not HD ready yadda yadda... it has a vintage look to it, is not super sharp, but at least it works like sort of a OPLF on the Pocket :-).

    For some (artsy-fartsy narrative) projects, it's a pretty cool lens though, a Pocket (or BMCC) and that Lens is all you need to carry to cover everything.
    Last edited by Frank Glencairn; 09-29-2017 at 10:19 AM.
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  7. #7  
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    May 2013
    Virginia, US
    What about PL lenses adapted to EF? I'm pretty sure Cooke makes a lens with about that range if I'm not mistaken. The price may be a little over what you're looking at but you could luck out on a deal if you're patient. Hell, I just picked up an Angenieux 7-81mm T2.4 HR and it's pretty much the unicorn zoom I've been looking for on my Pocket camera!
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  8. #8  
    Quote Originally Posted by Frank Glencairn View Post
    I have an old Canon 17-100 f2.0 TV Zoom (V6-x17 -c-mount) here, that works well with the Pocket and BMCCs.
    Using a B4 2/3" lens with an adapter has been a consideration, but haven't been able to find a pairing in the price range.

    I should also note, for me, this lens would be for an URSA Mini 4K EF. And therein is the main point -- there are a fair number of cameras now with EF mounts, and the new Panasonic EVA-1 will be joining that crowd, so why are there so few lower-cost manual parfocal zooms available, given such a beast is technically feasible based on similar, "close-but-not-quite" lenses?

    It's as if there is a conspiracy to dance around this product.
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  9. #9  
    Here are some other thoughts on the situation:

    - The Canon CN-E 18-80 -- It lacks hard focus stops because of autofocus, per a statement from a Canon. If only they gave it hard stops, it would be suitable. But Canon wants to take advantage of their remarkable AF technology in their cameras, so it's obvious why they did this. Plus, it doesn't hurt that it also avoids cannibalizing their outrageously expensive true manual focus lenses.

    - The Sony lenses -- Almost ideal if they weren't E-mount only. The short flange distance makes them impossible to adapt to EF mount (at least not without a theoretical optical adapter of some type which doesn't exist). If only Sony made these with longer back focus and adaptable to other cameras, but that would be to their disadvantage marketing-wise, and would probably be a completely different optical design.

    But overall, both of these lenses demonstrate what can be achieved in this price range. Neither Canon nor Sony has any incentive to design something different, so it would be up to the third-party lens makers like Sigma, Tamron, etc. There has been some good effort there -- the Zeiss LWZ is a good example of that -- but just a bit more in the "affordable" range is needed from these companies.
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  10. #10  
    Quote Originally Posted by PeopleCanFly View Post
    What about PL lenses adapted to EF?
    That's another possibility, although PL lenses almost always come at a premium price unless you're lucky. Still, I do keep my eye out for deals there.
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