Could the new Canon power zoom PZ-E1 adapter and 18-135mm lens provide us with the future of amateur filmmaking?

Canon has just announced a new 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens that merges Canon’s Ultrasonic Motor technology and the company’s stepping motor lens technology for smoother, faster, quieter and more accurate focusing. The should make the lens more suited that normal AF lenses when being used for filmmaking. However, that isn’t the interesting part about the lens.

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On the underside of the lens are electronic contacts that allow the new Canon Power Zoom Adapter PZ-E1 to be mounted. This device adds an electronic power zoom control, which uses gears to mechanically control the zoom facility of the lens.

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The speed of the zoom is adjustable, which is great for filmmakers, but the most interesting part is that the device can be controlled via wifi. So filmmakers can set the camera up and then connect to Canon Wifi app to a compatible camera, and the camera can then communicate with the Power Zoom Adapter to allow the zoom lens to be controlled via the app on a smartphone or tablet. Presumably the new adapter will work with a series of lenses and not just the 18-135mm, so we could expect to see further additions to the lens line-up in the future.

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Whilst this is obviously only the first generation of the Canon Power Zoom Adapter, and the accompanying app, it does have a lot of potential to bring the features used on large film productions to the enthusiast filmmaker. For example, you could program in exactly the precise focal lengths that you wish to zoom between, and the duration of time that you wish the zoom to take. This in turn opens up the potential to perform Dolly Zoom (or Vertigo Effect) shots, by knowing exactly how long it should take to move the camera, whilst the lens is zoomed. A more straightforward use for the optional adapter is for wildlife filmmakers to be able to zoom in whilst working remotely. Although 135mm focal length of this initial zoom lens wont be of much use for wildlife filmmakers, it will be interesting to see how Canon evolve these products.

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The EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM is expected to be available in May and will cost £439, and the Power Zoom Adapter PZ-E1 will be £129.