I was exploring the internet this evening and came across an article on the even rarer then the 1200mm; the Canon PE 300mm f/1.8.

Canon PE 300mm f/1.8

Original PetaPixel article

Now although the article says the lens has an EF mount, on the nameplate it clearly says PE (I wonder if the black box it's connected to provides an EF/PE mount conversion). Now I've heard of the EF, FD etc but what's the PE? I know there's a Bronica mount called the PE but I'm unaware of Canon making third party lenses for another manufacturer.

Is this just a Canon lens manufactured for a third party, or is there such thing as a Canon PE mount?

  • Also. For the record, I want one. – Crazy Dino Apr 27 '17 at 20:27
  • @ Crazy Dino : Probably custom-made for the horse-race-recording camera . Go rob a bank :-). – David Barry Apr 27 '17 at 21:14

The Petapixel article that seems to be the only information about the lens on the web states that the lens has an EF mount, so I don't think there's a separate PE mount; it's probably just a designation for an atypical construction (like the TS-E (tilt-shift) or MP-E (macro photo) designations), and in this case, for the slit photography required for horse race photo finishes.

I'd guess that the "P" is for photo-finish or (Crazy Dino's suggestion in comments) prototype; and "E" for electronic mount.

Odd, though, that the Canon Museum website isn't listing this one under its Special Lenses category.

  • Quite interestingly in the comments on the article someone says they stumbled across a couple of PE lenses in a thrift store with law enforcement badges on the case, so there maybe a few alternative models out there... I did speculate P was prototype and only the prototypes made it into the wild.. – Crazy Dino Apr 28 '17 at 15:37
  • (Although you're right in everything you say, I won't mark as answer on the off chance we get a definitive answer!) – Crazy Dino Apr 28 '17 at 15:39
  • @CrazyDino No worries, I'm wild-ass speculating through most of this answer. :) I like prototype. I'll edit that in. – inkista Apr 28 '17 at 15:48
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    One of the commenters in the PetaPixel article gave possibly the best and most accurate explanations for PE: "Prohibitively Expensive" – scottbb Apr 28 '17 at 18:14
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    The only ones who know for sure are those who chose the nomenclature at Canon, and they ain't talkin' about no PE lenses. – Michael Clark Apr 29 '17 at 12:02

At first glance, the naming convention of the Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5X Macro lens seems to offer us a clue. In the case of the MP-E 65mm the "MP" stands for Macro Photo. The lens is not designated as an "EF" lens because "EF"stands for Electro-Focus and not only does the MP-E 65mm not have a focus motor, it also only has a single focus distance at any given magnification ratio. So is maybe a PE lens a non-Macro fixed focus, or at the very least non-AF, lens?

Not so fast my friend! The PE 300mm f/1.8 does appear to have electro-focus capability as there are focus limiter switches visible next to the focus distance scale.

Canon once sold a rangefinder camera model named the "Canon P" that used the Leica M39 screw mount (LTM). It was introduced in 1959 and was succeeded by the "Canon 7" which was the last M39 rangefinder Canon produced. But this PE 300mm f/1.8 lens is obviously not used for a rangefinder system as one can see there is a viewfinder jutting out at a right angle to the optical axis on the front of the camera to which the lens is attached. This is another image from the PetaPixel article.

enter image description here

Although there have been anecdotal reports of rare sightings of Canon "PE" lenses, the images attached to the PetaPixel article are the only photos I've ever seen of one. Canon seems to not want any information regarding any such "PE" lenses to be public knowledge. This might be related to the fact that most (very rare) reports about PE lenses indicate they are generally sold to government and law enforcement agencies involved in sensitive information gathering activities. Such agencies typically do not want their "clients" or competitors to be aware of their exact surveillance capabilities.

Based on the rarity (the user of the lens featured in the articles says there are only four copies that he knows to exist), the large optics involved, and the fact that most PE lenses are sold under classified government contracts,

I think PE can probably be interpreted to mean Prohibitively Expensive!

Alternate possibilities for the naming convention:
PE = Physically Enormous
PE = The class required as a prerequisite to be able to handle this one
PE = Prototype EOS

  • +1 BUT. They appear to still have the Canon 'white' finish to them, where if you're right about them being a bit 'secretive' is still mildly amusing! – Crazy Dino Apr 28 '17 at 20:01
  • @CrazyDino My apologies. The entire answer was meant to be more than just mildly amusing. – Michael Clark Oct 5 '17 at 10:53
  • Oh don't worry your answer was very good! The midly amusing was the fact that if they're supposed to be use for 'secret activities' the fact they're white kind of deefeats the point! But hey brand awareness I suppose! – Crazy Dino Oct 5 '17 at 11:12

Canon produces a number of lenses for the EF mount which aren't EF lenses themselves. Their tilt-shift TS-E lenses, for example, and their macro MP-E lens. It's possible that this is an EF mount lens.

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