Canon’s HJ15 HD Zoom Lens Scales Pikes Peak

Freelance videographer Sam Allen’s Allen recently shot the 2010 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb and deployed Canon’s HJ15ex8.5B portable HD zoom lens with built-in Optical Image Stabilization to capture the HD video.

Capturing HD video of racing cars roaring up a twisting mountain road – as he shot from the open door of a helicopter using a shoulder-mounted ENG camera – was a challenging production assignment. Buffeted by high winds at an altitude of more than 10,000 feet and shaken by the steady vibration of the aircraft’s engine, Allen was “very impressed by performance of the HJ15ex8.5B portable HD zoom lens.

“It was one of the roughest days I’ve ever had over that mountain,” says Allen. “Flying can get very tricky up there. High-def video’s greater picture resolution reveals more of everything, including camera shake. With the HJ15, however, there was no vibration in the video.”

The world’s first portable HD zoom lens with built-in Optical Image Stabilization, the Canon HJ15ex8.5B is compact in size and weighs only 4.4 lbs. The lens is lighter and smaller than other image-stabilization solutions for portable ENG-style HD cameras. The HJ15ex8.5B uses a new version of Canon’s patented Vari-Angle Prism Image-Stabilizer (VAP-IS) technology to maintain stable images even when the camera it’s mounted on is subject to jolts and vibrations. This high level of steadiness is maintained all the way from wide-angle to telephoto settings.

“I learned about the new Canon HJ15ex8.5B portable HD zoom lens at a post-NAB open house at Telecorps Sales and Leasing in Denver earlier this year,” Allen notes, adding that he contacted the company to rent its new HJ15ex8.5B lens immediately upon being assigned with the Pikes Peak helicopter shoot.

“We had been waiting for some time now for an HD solution for image stabilization,” says Kay Baker, Sales/Operations VP, Telecorps Sales and Leasing. “HD image stabilization is essential for aerial photography, motocross sports, rodeo, and everywhere that HD cameras are subject to a lot of erratic and high-impact motion. With Canon’s history in SD image-stabilization lenses, it seemed a natural that their new HJ15 lens would be an excellent option for rental houses and for end-users needing to rent or purchase such a lens. Canon’s reputation for image stabilization lenses has been nothing short of excellent for as long as they have manufactured these products. Also, the price of the HJ15 is very moderate compared to the features and the quality it provides. Looking at the lens elements and how it was built, the HJ15 is clearly robust for challenging environments.”

Designed for 2/3-inch ENG/EFP HD cameras, Canon’s HJ15ex8.5B portable HD zoom lens can stabilize a wide range of vibration frequencies, which makes it ideally suited for use in a diverse range of outdoor shooting situations. 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 aircraft and motor vehicles, on motorbikes, and in boats. The lens provides four selectable image-stabilization modes to allow operators to optimize the degree of correction under diverse, and sometimes unique, shooting conditions.

“The controls and buttons on the new HJ15 are easy to access,” Allen says. “The button to turn image-stabilization on or off is out in front. This is a good place for it, so you don’t accidentally press it if you’re not used to using this lens.”

The Canon VAP-IS technology used in the HJ15ex8.5B portable HD zoom lens incorporates a novel optical group made up of two flat glass elements joined by a sealed bellows containing a high-refractive-index liquid, selectively placed in front of the lens’ overall optical system. Physical perturbations to the lens – in the form of jolts or vibrations – are detected by two motion sensors that signal a high-speed microcomputer. Calculations are made and two digital outputs in turn create proportional control signals that drive two voice-coil motors that apply a yaw and pitch squeezing of the bellows. 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 for fast closed-loop correction that provides almost real-time compensation for image instabilities arising from all forms of lens-camera operational unsteadiness.

“The HJ15 lens gives our rental customers the most – and best – options for dealing with difficult shooting scenarios in which having larger image-stabilization hardware is just not feasible,” Baker says. “The HJ15 lenses are solid and reliable equipment that our customers will request over and over again. We are very excited about this lens and I’m pleased it worked well for Sam and his client, and that we were able to make it available in time for this particular project.”

“The Canon HJ15 is also a very clean, sharp HD lens that responded well and did what it was supposed to do,” Allen says. “Having it to shoot the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in HD from a helicopter buffeted by various winds was tremendous. I thank Canon for developing this image-stabilization lens, because if it weren’t for their people designing it we would all still be back in the 1960’s.”

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