New generation of Auto Focus lenses now available with E and EF Mounts


This is not an opinion piece on whether a migration away from cine lenses to auto-focus is a good thing, nor an attempt to compare one manufacturer’s lenses with another, this short article seeks to make operators aware of new lenses which are now available for hire.

Auto Focus is here to stay and whilst this is not a panacea to force all focus-pullers to retrain, the increased adoption of Full Frame (which necessarily makes focussing more critical than S-35 or APSC formats) and the enhanced development of the technology, makes this functionality more useful. As a result, we are noticing an increased interest in it.

I heard of one production where a DP was shooting dogs in Full Frame… He found out that the face detection auto focus function also worked with dogs, so wanted to use this for a documentary featuring dogs.

Stress-free Autofocus?

The days of your heart being in your mouth, worrying about whether the auto focus may choose to ‘hunt’ and throw a perfectly well-focussed shot into a defocussed mist for several seconds are OVER and in its place are various modes of operation where DPs can choose to use AF but on THEIR TERMS.

Face detection is now commonplace on AF cameras. A simple AF on/off has been replaced with refinements featuring alternative modes now allowing the cinematographer to keep the focus UNCHANGED if face detection is suddenly lost, which is to me, a seismic improvement.  This means that if the subject’s face disappears behind a post, or looks away, or any of a hundred different potential situations, then you can remain confident that the focus will be ready to capture them, when their eyes return in shot and throughout this, the image will remain in focus.

Other program modes allow the operator to use their finger (or mouse) to click on a person’s image which is not in focus and watch the system pull focus in real time.

Speed and ramping settings allow these to be manipulated and set in advance, so that changes in focus can be rapid, or slow, harsh or smooth.

…but who will use it?

We see small crews and reality shows being able to use this sort of shooting operation to their advantage but DPs will also want to be able to use a range of lenses and until now, the available choice of AF glass has been limited to Canon and Sony only.  However, Sigma have joined Canon and Sony to release some really nice lenses which are both compact, whilst also offering AF functionality. All three manufacturers now produce high quality, fast primes and zooms which VMI stock, to give operators more choice in the field.

Even better than this, existing film lenses made by Sigma including Sigma film primes and Cine zooms have been released now as DSLR lenses which share the same optical elements and coatings as the popular film lenses only now, with AF functionality and in more compact housings too.

Sigma EF-mount AF ART Lenses

Frankly, Canon ought really to start the introduction of specific lenses, owing to to their immensely impressive heritage of developing the EOS technology. Instead, I am starting with Sigma, since as well as making superb film lenses in native PL and EF mounts, they now also manufacture native E mount lenses compatible with Sony auto-focus cameras and also native EF mount lenses compatible with Canon EOS auto focus cameras too.

We have written a previous article about Sigma’s superb film lenses, so I shall not repeat myself here.

However, the autofocus systems work as well as native Canon or Sony , as can be seen in the examples below:

In case you are wondering, the ART description means that it is the highest quality of Sigma DSLR lenses. Apparently, the DG-DN refers to the factory where it was made – no, I don’t understand why they would share that information either!

Sigma High Speed FF ART Primes are now available in Autofocus EF Mount

Extremely fast (F1.4) Sigma Art prime lens set in EF mount offering 4K lens quality to EF mounted DSLR and large sensor cameras with Full Frame (FF Φ43.3) and S35 coverage and autofocus capability. These lenses are ideally suited for documentary and other applications where size, portability and the capability of auto focus assist the operator. All feature a 9-blade aperture diaphragm for a beautiful full rounded bokeh.  Whilst these lenses use the same optics as the Sigma High Speed Cine Prime lens series, their compact form factor and lack of manual operation make them less suited for cinema applications.

Sigma Art Lenses Full - 5 lens set

Additional focal lengths in the series, all of which cover FF and feature a native EF mount with AF capability include:

Sigma High Speed S-35mm Cine Zooms are now available in Autofocus EF Mount

Extremely fast (T2) Sigma cine zooms with 18-35 and 50-100 focal ranges are small, compact, 4K and achieve an impressive T2 aperture.

These popular lenses cover S-35 ONLY (not Full Frame) but even if you use a Canon C500 Mk II, you can still use these in S-35 4K crop mode, or alternatively the Canon C300 Mk III.

sigma_18_35mm_t2_cine_zoom 3-2

These have been redesigned and built into lightweight DSLR housings featuring an autofocus function and native EF mount and using exactly the same optics.

Sigma FF Zooms now available in Autofocus EF Mount

The outlier is the new Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Sports – E Mount (AF).

It is a native E mount ultra-telephoto AF zoom lens for Sony FX9, FS7, A7S etc with Full Frame coverage and a very impressive range within an extremely compact form factor (for its range).

Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Sports - E Mount (Auto Focus)

Canon EF Mount EOS Lenses

We have sung the praises of Canon’s auto-focus capacity in a previous article to explain how the latest generation of Canon EF lenses increase functionality of their latest cameras, such as Canon C70/5D/C300 III/C500II etc., so I shall not delve into this here.

Suffice to say that Canon’s latest incarnation of EOS really works and the improvement in functionality of both the primes and zooms, working with their latest cameras have been enough motivation for us to replace all of our earlier generation lenses to the latest versions.

If you are using older versions of AF lenses with the latest C300 Mk III/C500/II/C70 etc, then please check functionality in advance of shooting, else you may find that some new features will not work.

Canon’s L USM Prime Set is a DSLR prime lens set optimised for cinema use with 80mm fronts and external lens gears. These work superbly and a wide variety of focal lengths are available in the set.

See all Canon L USM Primes

Canon L USM 20-85mm Set

Canon’s L USM Zooms are extremely well-regarded zooms, spanning a very impressive range of focal lengths.

All L-USM zooms and primes cover both S-35 and full frame, so whereas some of the cinema lenses only cover S-35 (like the CN17x7), you don’t need to worry about checking DSLR L USM lenses, as all are designed to cover Full Frame.

The latest generation zooms offer the best functionality of the latest generation cameras for EF, like the Canon 70-200 series II (right).

See all Canon L USM Zooms

Canon Cinema Zoom with electronic servo zoom. Unlike other L-USM DSLR zooms, Canon’s 4K Cinema zoom lens features a removable zoom servo pack, so that you can operate the zoom control on the camera body (like the Sony GMaster zooms) to facilitate ENG shoulder-mounted operation. These EF mount lenses are extremely well-regarded zooms, spanning a very impressive range of focal lengths, though as they are physically quite small, have a slower T4.4 maximum iris.

Canon 18-80 3-2

Sony GMaster AF Lenses – no more Metabones…

Sony have now caught up with Canon and manufacture a wide range of zooms and primes which cover S-35 and Full Frame, so that cinematographers have a wide choice of lenses with native E mounts.

In the early days of the Sony FS-7, operators were obliged to use Metabones and similar adapters to fit DSLR lenses with Sony cameras and only had access to limited auto-focus functionality. Happily, this is no longer the case.

Sony GMaster lenses have received wide acclaim and have won many fans amongst our clients, encouraging us to increase our stock levels considerably and we now also stock the full range of Sony GMaster E-mount primes as well.

We haven’t made a video about Sony autofocus yet but Sony’s video with Alistair Chapman, gives a good grounding in their range of lenses and an in-depth guide to the Sony AF technologies and operating modes.

Sony GMaster E-Mount Primes

Sony’s G-Master G-Master Primes offer Full Frame, fast, autofocus prime lenses with native E-mount, designed and built for Full Frame, Super-35 mirrorless sensor and APS-C (E Mount) cameras and ideally suited to working with Sony FX9FX6 and FS7 series cameras without using any lens adapter.  This set encompasses 5 lenses (focal lengths 24-100mm), all with a maximum iris of 1.2-1.4, so easily capable of generating a shallow depth of field, made considerably easier by the auto-focus capability of compatible cameras.

Probably all that is needed to add to this is that they work brilliantly with Sony cameras like A7S Mk III, FX6, FX9, FS& II …

See all Sony G-Master Primes


Sony GMaster E-Mount Zooms

There are presently three zooms in the range and all cover Full Frame in native E Mount and unlike other zooms, these are all power zooms, so as well as auto focus, compatible Sony cameras can also control the servo-assisted zoom from the camera.


Autofocus lenses are now available in a range of mounts for most popular cameras made with native E or EF lens mounts.

Be careful to ensure that the generation of the lens is compatible with your camera model, otherwise certain AF modes may not be available to you.

They work better than they have ever worked before, so in my opinion it may be worth having a fresh look to see if they might be able to work for you.

Barry Bassett
November 2021

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