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Header image for article Behind the Lens: Canon 45-135 Flex Zoom & Cine-Servo 15-120

Behind the Lens: Canon 45-135 Flex Zoom & Cine-Servo 15-120

Lens testing is like learning – it never stops! Keeping up with the latest technology can be a daunting task, but one that’s important in our field. Back in 2017, I did a Behind the Lens series looking at a wide range of documentary zooms to see how they can achieve specific needs for a project. The options for cinema glass have certainly grown since then, so I decided to add a few more lenses to the list.



When I first did the Behind the Lens series, I focused pretty heavily on the technical aspects of a lens. Seeing the nuances of chromatic aberration, edge sharpening, and the like certainly has its advantages, but I also felt it took me further away from the creative analysis of the particular lens – to me, the real purpose of this kind of test. With this round, I decided to pull back on the clinical testing and instead focus on how they look and feel in a real-world shooting environment. At the end of the day, this is what we’re ultimately after when deciding which lens to use for a project.

For the test, I chose to look at the following elements:

  • Build & Functionality
  • Color
  • Sharpness
  • Flares
  • Minimum Focus



Canon recently introduced the Flex Zooms, 20-50mm T2.4 and 45-135mm T2.4, their first full frame cinema zooms, so this seemed like a great place to start. Full frame shooting has really come to the forefront in the last couple of years, so having some options that are hand-holdable was a real plus for the series. Though I only shot with the 45-135 this time around, it really gave me a great sense of the features of both focal lengths. With all of my experience with Canon glass, I am confident the look and feel of the longer lens will translate equally to the wide.

Canon also released the Cine-Servo 15-120, a “new and improved” version of the industry-standard 17-120. This is a fantastic documentary lens that ticks most, if not all, of the boxes required for documentary shooting. The biggest upgrade with this lens is the addition of a 1.5x teleconverter that not only extends the shooting range in Super35, but also allows the lens to cover Full Frame sensors as well.



The tests were shot on the Canon C500 Mark II in DCI 4K. This is the camera I own and mainly shoot with, so I wanted to see these lenses in context of what I know and am comfortable with. This helped me contextualize the creative look of the lenses into a world I am used to seeing, as well as ergonomically on a rig I am used to holding.



The Flex Zooms offer a great zoom range with exceptional build and glass qualities that cover full frame sensors with an incredibly fast and consistent T2.4 aperture. The look you get out of them is very clean, but cinematic, making them a great choice for high-end documentary work.

The 15-120mm allows for an exceptional zoom range from 15mm to an effective 180mm with the teleconverter engaged in Super35, but also allows for Full Frame coverage from 22.5mm to 180mm. This effectively assures that you will never need to change lenses on a shoot in either format. The macro function is great in giving you the ability to get incredibly close focus shots without needing to add diopters or changing lenses. The look is clean and sharp, giving you impressive image quality for any shoot.


I hope this review was helpful in your search for the right lens for your next documentary project. Happy shooting!


Matt Porwoll
Contributor | www.mattporwoll.com

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