Why Filmmakers & Rental Houses Carry Canon Lenses

Posted by Andrew Collings on 

Every once in a great while, we of Deck Hand Camera Rentals get a call for Nikon lenses, of which we have zero. None. We carry Sony E-mount glass, PL lenses, and even some Micro Four-Thirds stock. But the vast majority of our lens rental inventory is all Canon EF, and specifically L-series, that we adapt over to every other camera that we can.

The person on the other end of the phone inevitably sighs and grumbles about how nobody seems to have Nikons anymore. And they’re not wrong – Canon L-series zooms have become somewhat of a de facto standard for fast, lightweight shooting. My friends that own/operate RED cameras use EF lenses. And while Sony is catching up quickly, you are still just as likely to see some of their native E-mount glass as you are to see a Canon 24-70 mounted on an FS7. DSLR glass is spectacularly adaptable and travels very well from one camera system to another.

Before we go into it, I want to be clear that we are comparing Canon to Nikon, and nothing else. Sony E-mount lenses are not nearly as adaptable, and Micro Four Thirds… well, good luck using that on a full frame or even Super35 sensor.


Misconception #1: Canon lenses are better… right?

Nope, not really. I mean, a lot of it comes down to how you define “better,” exactly, but by any reasonable standard Nikon is neck-and-neck with Canon on the image-quality front. Results may vary when you’re comparing lens-to-lens directly, but in the grand scheme of things both systems are valid and respectable choices. Shop around, do your homework, but know that you can’t go too wrong no matter which brand you end up choosing.

Misconception #2: Canon lenses are just more adaptable!

Again, not reaaaaally the case. Both Canon and Nikon have long flange distances and a plethora of third-party adapters to their name. Both work very nicely with MFT cameras, with Sony E mounts, and both are available as mounts for Red and Arri cameras. That covers all of the most popular bases and as far as I can tell they both come out just fine. Old-school DSLR glass is pretty easy to adapt onto modern mirrorless systems, no matter who made it.

It is true, however, that Nikon lenses can be easily mounted on Canon cameras, but not vice versa. So I guess that’s a point for Nikon.

Misconception #3: Only Canon brings the AF motors to go

There’s a grain of truth to this one. Nikon used to keep the AF motors in the camera bodies, while Canon has always stuffed them into the lens. That meant that a Nikon lens without a Nikon body was dead in the water.

Canon, on the other hand, put the motors directly in the lens from day one. All the lens needs from the body is power and directions on where to focus. Any decent electronic adapter can supply that. Easy point for Canon, right?

Here’s the catch: Nikon used to go body-only. But since the late 90’s Nikon has moved to the in-lens option just like everyone else, so this unfortunately is no longer relevant – as long as you stick to decently modern lenses. Sorry.

So then what happened?

We can’t ever truly know the one defining moment that made Canon top dog, but I have a hunch: September 17, 2008 – the day the Canon 5Dii was released. By 2009 major productions like Saturday Night Live and House were already beginning to take it seriously as a compact, yet powerful, video production tool. Shooting on a Canon DSLR naturally led to buying Canon lenses, and by the time Nikon figured out what was happening they had been left in the dust. The early bird gets the brand loyalty, Nikon.

Epilogue: The oncoming wave of E-mount

It is important to note that Sony E-mount lenses, despite their tiny tiny flange distance, are coming up strong. They possess a distinct advantage because of their white-hot Alpha series of cameras. The A7s, the A7r, and the A9 are all capable, popular, even groundbreaking cameras that have created a huge opening for Sony. Everybody and their mother has one of their cameras – now they just have to be convinced to switch over to their native lenses too.

Quality is certainly no concern. By partnering with Zeiss, Sony has managed to bypass the growing pains phase and skipped straight to the part of the story where they do great work and just have to wait for the market to come around. I, for one, expect it is only a matter of time before they take the #2 or even #1 spot on the sales charts.

Rent Camera Lenses Near Los Angeles

To find out more about our professional camera lens rentals, visit www.deckhand.com/la-rent/lenses/ or contact Deck Hand Camera Rentals near Los Angeles at (818) 557-8403.. We offer in-store pick-up or nationwide shipping for an extra fee.