VMI evaluates the Canon Sumire Primes – the first Canon lenses designed with character

Canon’s latest lens group, the Canon ‘Sumire’ lenses have landed at VMI and 2 sets of 14mm-135mm primes are now complete.

Canon have produced these lenses in tribute to their immensely popular K35 series of lenses which have a legendary look that lens makers have been aspiring to recreate. 

Modern Vintage Lenses?

In case you are interested, ‘Sumire’ is a Japanese word which describes an orchid or beautiful flower and is pronounced SOO-MI-RAY!

The first difficulty for lens makers is of course that ‘vintage’ lenses were made with lead-based glass no longer allowed for lens manufacture.

The second difficulty is that Canon, as a Japanese manufacturer, subscribe to the ‘Kaizen’ mantra, which means that they always aim for excellence and continual improvement in all things measurable.  For film makers though, sharper, higher resolution images are sometimes in conflict with making pleasant bokehs to create lenses with ‘character’ …

We all really like the images which have warm colour tones with pleasing colourimetry, no perceptable focus breathing, attractive bokehs and a character which we all admire“.

Barry Bassett, VMI

The Sumire lenses however are a real departure for Canon, since for the first time, they are manufacturing lenses which do not seek to maximise their performance.  Instead, they have decided to concentrate on ‘character’ and this means that lens aberations have been deliberate created in their design in order to produce a more pleasing look. An anathma for Canon but we are really pleased that they did so! 

So, this 7 lens prime set as a modern ‘vintage’ primes, though the term modern ‘vintage’ is purely descriptive, since they are of course a brand new design of modern lenses.  However, they are designed to recreate some of the character of the popular Canon K35 and other similar lenses, whilst maintaining Full Frame coverage, 4K+ image quality and matched T1.5 aperture (20mm-85mm are all matched T1.5).

Canon Sumire Full Frame prime set

The specially designed Canon ‘Cinematic look’ is described by Canon as a “unique optical design offers a nuanced look at the lens’ wider aperture settings, subtly modifying textural renderings for pleasing bokeh with superb expressiveness”.  What this means to us, is that universally, we all really like the images which have warm colour tones with pleasing colourimetry, no perceptable focus breathing, attractive bokehs and a character which we all admire.

4K and Full Frame Coverage too

They deliver 4K resolution of course, (which vintage lenses definitely do not) but they incorporate the flavour and character of much older lenses.  Most importantly for modern productions however, they fully cover Full Frame (FF) and since every manufacturer seems to have a different idea of how large Full Frame should be, the image coverage graphic below is more useful for showing compatibility with the most popular cameras today.

Large Image Circle which fully covers Full Frame.  

Don’t be put off by the design or ‘CN-E’ on the lenses

Irritatingly, Canon decided to call these lenses ‘CN-E’, which is the name of the original Canon Cinema Primes range, which is more ‘professional’ and less ‘cinematographic’.  This doesn’t really do them justice, since they have been completely redesigned from scratch. 

We tried hard to persuade Canon to brand them with another name but… they didn’t listen!

Canon also made the focus scales a bit ‘busy’ for our liking too but make no mistake, these are really beautiful lenses which shoot really beautiful images.

Multiple Mounts but no i/Data

Sadly, there is no i/Data capability with these lenses, so wireless lens control systems working with i/data PL lenses won’t be able to read the lens data – this is a shame and a lost opportunity in our view.

Also, whilst the initial sets will be PL mount only, Canon have plans to manufacture EF mounts for these lenses which will require a lens service workshop to change from PL to EF.

We fully support Canon’s decision to make this new lens set and hope that you too will like the images that they make.


Canon Sumire 5- lens PL Prime Lens Set 

  • Canon Sumire PL Prime 18mm/T1.5 CF 8″ 
  • Canon Sumire PL Prime 24mm/T1.5 CF 12″
  • Canon Sumire PL Prime 32mm/T1.4 CF 12″
  • Canon Sumire PL Prime 50mm/T1.4 CF 12″
  • Canon Sumire PL Prime 85mm/T1.4 CF 3’2″

Other focal lengths also available

Canon Sumire Lens Primes

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