Bexel Stockpiles Canon’s Image-Stabilized Portable HD Zoom Lenses

Canon U.S.A. has introduced the HJ15ex8.5B portable HD zoom lens, the world’s first portable HD zoom lens with built-in Optical Image Stabilization. Designed to maintain stable images even when the camera is subject to jolts and vibrations, the HJ15ex8.5B uses a refined version of Canon’s patented Vari-Angle Prism Image-Stabilizer (VAP-IS) technology to achieve a high level of steadiness from wide-angle to telephoto settings.

As HD video production activity with portable 2/3-inch cameras and camcorders continues to increase, so does the need for effective image stabilization in many situations. Camera shake is more noticeable in HD because of its greater picture resolution and considerably larger display size, and Canon believes the new lens can provide the necessary stabilization.

Bexel (a unit of the Vitec Group’s Services Division) has now added the HJ15ex8.5B to its equipment rental inventory.

“We have five of Canon’s standard-definition VAP lenses and they have been a good rental product for us,” says Bexel COO Tom Dickinson. “We’ve been looking for an HD replacement for those and have found it in Canon’s new HJ15ex8.5B lens. It’s a very good product that many discerning clients will need for specific projects.”

Bexel evaluated the Canon HJ15ex8.5B before purchasing it by spending a week shooting HD video in different situations.

“As owners of Canon’s standard-definition VAP lenses, our engineering department knew all the stress points to put it under and how to test it,” says Dickinson noted. “We were very pleased with how well the new HJ15ex8.5B performed. Canon has done a lot of work on providing switches on the lens that are specifically designed for certain situations.”

The HJ15ex8.5B lens provides four selectable stabilization modes to allow camera operators to optimize the degree of correction under diverse outdoor shooting conditions. The can stabilize a wide range of vibration frequencies. Examples range from the low-frequency vibrations encountered on a camera operator’s shoulder in a jostling crowd situation, to tripod-mounted operation on shaky platforms, to the higher-frequency vibration that cameras are subject to when operated inside TV news helicopters, motor vehicles, motorbikes, or boats.

Bexel was also impressed with the optical quality of the new Canon HJ15ex8.5B portable HD lens. “VAP-IS is a very sophisticated technology,” he says. “We were concerned whether HD would amplify its challenges. It turns out we were pleasantly surprised. Canon actually did a very good job of achieving excellent image-stabilization in the HJ15ex8.5B lens while also maintaining very high picture quality. We think that clients are going to be very pleasantly surprised with the optical brilliance of this lens.”

Canon’s VAP-IS technology comprises a prism that is flexible in two dimensions. This entails a novel optical group made up of two flat glass elements joined by a sealed bellows containing a high-refractive-index liquid. It is positioned directly in front of the lens-input focusing group. Physical perturbations to the lens, in the form of jolts or vibrations, are sensed and this information is processed in a high-speed microcomputer, which in turn generates two control signals that are converted to drive two actuators that grip the VAP unit. These, in turn, flex the bellows horizontally and/or vertically proportional to the amplitude of the lens perturbations. The associated distortion of the liquid instantaneously alters the direction of the transmitted light rays in a manner designed to counter the incoming light-ray displacements created by these disturbances. The system has been optimized to operate at very high speed, achieving close to real-time compensation for image instabilities arising from all forms of lens-camera operational unsteadiness. The new lens helps eliminate image unsteadiness when operating with any of the major HD 2/3-inch cameras and camcorders.

Canon’s VAP-IS technology allows the compact HJ15ex8.5B portable HD lens to weigh-in at only 4.4 lbs., which is considerably lighter than other image-stabilization solutions for portable ENG-style HD cameras.

“We also like Canon’s new HJ15ex8.5B portable HD lens because it’s a complete, self-contained item,” Dickinson says. “It’s convenient to provide to our clients. This is a lens that fits a perfect niche, so it’s ideal for rentals.”

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