Hot Rod Mods Canon EOS PL

Adapter or Surgery

There are two ways to put a PL mount on a Canon EOS camera. The painless way is a PL-to-Canon mount adapter, leaving the mirror and electronics of the camera intact. This works with a select set of lenses, notably Angénieux Optimo zooms whose rear elements do not protrude beyond the rear of the adapter. The more intrusive PL mount retrofit requires major surgery by brave machinists to extract mirror, mechanics and electronics of the original Canon EOS camera. The salubrious benefit of this more drastic modification is compatibility with most PL mounted cine lenses.

Mirror-removed, PL-mounted retrofit for Canon EOS Cameras

The new Hod Rod Cameras Canon EOS 7D PL modification should be available Wednesday, February 17. You will be able to send in your existing Canon EOS 7D for modification (prices begin around $2600). You will also be able to purchase a brand new 7D-PL Deluxe Kit (beginning around $4800.) Turn-around time to modify your camera is expected to be less than 2 weeks, though I wonder whether Illya realizes whether even UPS and Fedex in LA have enough trucks to deliver cameras to his loading dock. Disclaimer: we haven’t tested it yet–but will very soon.

Hot Rod Cameras will also announce an Extended Warranty program. Since this kind of modification obviously voids the original factory warranty, HRC will offer its own coverage (up to 3 years) in case your camera fails during normal use. Warranty is optional and costs extra–and service under the warranty program is handled by an authorized Canon DSLR service facility in either Los Angeles or the New York tri-state area. The same facilities can do the repair work at their normal hourly rate. This is an exclusive extended warranty program for cameras modified by Hot Rod Cameras only.

Hot Rod Cameras will also begin modifying Canon EOS 5D Mk II cameras beginning around March 1. Modifications of the Canon EOS-1D Mk IV PL begin around the end of March.

The History of the Hot Rod Cameras Custom Canon Retrofit

Hot Rod Cameras has been retrofitting cameras with custom accessories since Spring 2009. In late 2009, Hot Rod Cameras began “hot rodding” HDSLR camera bodies.

Illya Friedman explains, “In 2009, I had about a dozen DPs asking us to put a PL lens mount on their Canon camera bodies. I turned them all down.”

I know, I was one of them.

Illya continues, “Looking back now, I think I was full of self-doubt. But with that doubt I also felt extremely justified in my ‘no Canon mod’ opinion. When I started saying no, the Canon 5D Mk II was the only HDSLR camera Canon had released, and its large full-frame 35mm (stills) format sensor meant that most PL mount cinema lenses (except Zeiss Compact Primes, which cover the entire sensor) would vignette, and it only shot 30p at the time. When I was first approached about doing the work, it didn’t even have manual control over exposure or ISO with its non-standard (i.e. non-Blu-ray, non-DCI, non-broadcast) HD mode. In short I didn’t think it was worth my trouble to learn the camera well enough to disassemble it safely, and if I really goofed–well, it could be a $2500 mistake.

“Then Canon introduced the 7D, which has an actual 24p frame rate and full manual control. It also has a cost of only $1700. However, I was still not convinced it would be worth my time and effort. I started working on an optical adapter that used a custom lens element to extend the flange focal depth. I was helped by a couple optical designers who lent me their years of experience in designing optical systems for top secret “downward facing imaging platforms”, in other words, spy satellites. I pretty much hit a wall. It was going to start getting really expensive.

“Then–serendipity–I got a phone call from a complete stranger. He said, ‘Hey, I’ve seen your work, it looks really good. I know you don’t mod Canon cameras, but I purchased three of these new 7D cameras, and production paid for them. I’m willing to give one to you if you want to try to modify it to PL mount–no strings attached; if you break it, it’s no problem.’

So I took the caller up on his offer, and week one pretty much looked like the exploded picture at bottom left. A few weeks later, we finished, and as you can see in the top picture, we mounted a Cooke S4/i 180mm on it. This turned out much better than the optical adapter we originally planned. I was grateful that I came to my senses and went down this other path. I’m also grateful for that phone call. The custom mod PL is so much better than having an extra piece of glass between the camera and the lens. I’ve had two prototype 7D-PL cameras out on several shoots over the past 6-weeks, and the usual response has been “wow!”

More details  to come.

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