Panasonic Gh4

Jun 282014

If you read Part 1 of my guide, you will know that all the anamorphic talk in my posts is for anamorphic projection lenses, not $50,000 anamorphic primes used by Hollywood. This page focuses on lens mechanics, and how to choose a good anamorphic lens. There are three main variables when it comes to anamorphic lenses: focusing type, squeeze amount, and vignetting.


Focus Through vs Dual Focus Anamorphic Lenses

Strait through focusing lenses cost more. If you buy an anamorphic projection lens that can be focused through that means that you can set your taking lens to infinity and use the anamorphic lens to focus. This is a very attractive set up because it makes focusing very easy: basically you focus like you would normally focus only instead of using your regular lens for focusing you use the anamorphic attachment for focusing.

Dual Focusing Anamorphic Lenses

These are the most common lenses on eBay. Dual Focusing means that you have to focus your taking lens as well as your anamorphic lens. This makes focusing more difficult. Some people learn to dual focus quite effectively, with practice it becomes easier. Though even with practice you will often miss the focus. If you have a projection lens that requires dual focusing it most likely means that you will not be changing focus during your shot (which is fine).

Anamorphic Squeeze Ratio

A second factor is the amount of squeeze the anamorphic lens applies to your footage. Most lenses found on Ebay have a 2x squeeze. This is because older projection lenses were designed to take a 4:3 video aspect ratio and turn it into 8:3, resulting in a convention 16mm 2.67 aspect ratio. But today, our cameras shoot widescreen 16:9 video. Putting that same 2x lens attachment results in a ginormous 32:9 (3.55) aspect ratio!

Usually the 1.5x and 1.33x anamorphic adapters cost more. This is because they give a more conventional aspect ratio when paired with today’s cameras, and also because they are often focus through type lenses (conventional aspect ratio + no dual focusing = win).

Personally, I find the 3.55 aspect ratio very awesome, but a bit too awesome. I prefer something in the range of 2.67 (which is still wider than today’s standard of 2.39). If you want an epic anamorphic look, get the 2x projection lens. If you want something close to the cinema standard of 2.39, get a 1.33x anamorphic lens. And if you want the best of both worlds, get a 1.5x lens. People argue (myself included) that anamorphic lenses with a squeeze under 1.5x give a fairly boring look. The bokeh is less stretched, and the overall image looks too similar to conventional 16:9 video.

Anamorphic Lens Vignetting

The rule of thumb is this: the bigger the squeeze, the more vignetting you will experience. Also, if you shoot on a full frame sensor, you will experience more vignetting than one would on a APS-C or an MFT sensor. I shoot on an APS-C and usually experience vignetting around 50mm with my 2x anamorphic attachments.

Each anamorphic lens is built differently; for instance my Schneider Cinelux MC 2X has ~67mm barrel, and the lens objectives on it are much wider than the ones on my Sankor 16c (rear thread is only 42mm). The bigger lens objectives on the Schneider result in less vignetting (I can use 50mm lenses on the Schneider, the Sankor requires something in the neighborhood of 85mm). Lens vignetting is another reason why 1.5x and 1.33x anamorphic lenses cost more; less squeeze experiences less vignetting.

Best Anamorphic Lenses Under $300

If you are patient, you can find plenty of fun lenses to dip your toes with. All of the following models I have listed are dual focus 2x anamorphic lenses. You may be able to find a focus through or a 1.5x lens in this price range, but it is rare and it may not have good optics. The models I recommend are:

  • Schneider Cinelux MC 2X
  • Sankor (16C, 16D, 16F)
  • Kowa (8Z/16H, 16A, 16C, 16D, 16F)
  • Singer (16D)
  • ElmoScope
  • Eik
  • Sun Anamorphic
  • Proskar
  • Hypergonar

Best Anamorphic Lenses Under $500

For around $500, you can get creative. You may be able to find some focus through lenses, as well as some sharp 1.5x lenses. Personally, I would stick with the sub $300 projection lenses until I could afford a high quality anamorphic ($1,000+). Some of the lenses I listed are tough to find under $500.

  • Optex 16:9 Adapter
  • Century Optics 16:9 Adapter
  • Panasonic AG-LA7200
  • SLR Magic Anamorphot
  • Kowa for Bell and Howell 2x
  • Sankyoscope 1.5X
  • Yashica SCOPE 1.5x

Anamorphic Lenses Over $1,000

I think the best value is the Letus AnamorphX. It is huge, but it is priced very handsomely at ~$1,800 and has great optics. It’s not very well suited for run and gun style shooting. For run and gun you may want to get the SLR Magic Anamorphot which is smaller and cheaper and… crappier (ugly flares!).

  • Baby Hypergonar
  • Baby Iscorama
  • Bolex Moller 1.5x
  • Letus AnamorphX
  • Iscorama 36
  • Iscorama 42
  • Iscorama 54
  • Lomo Square Front
  • ISCO 2000

Thanks for reading. My next article will most likely focus on how to set up an anamorphic lens so that you can start shooting!

  2 Responses to “Choosing Anamorphic Lenses for DSLRs”

  1. Acquired Optex 16:9 Anamorphic off eBay. I was wondering if you had any insight into why I’m getting pictures that aren’t much “wider” than an 18mm Nikon shot. The lens is mounted on a Panny 14mm attached to a GH2 but when you compare a picture from each (Nikon 18mm and Panny 14mm); there is very, very little more “width” in the Panny shot and certainly a lot less “width” than LA7200 mounted on the identical 14mm Panny and GH2. (On the plus side, there’s less distortion than the LA). Any thoughts, ideas greatly appreciated!

    • This sounds very bizarre. Both adapters are 1.33x stretch so they should result in the same stretch factor. So when you use the 1.33x adapter with the 14mm lens, the vertical focal length will stay 14mm, but the horizontal length will look like its 10.5mm. So it should look much wider than the 18mm (without an adapter). First I would try to mount the anamorphic adapter as close as possible to the taking lens, I always do this to avoid vignetting. I would expect the Optex not to vignette because 14mm on an M43 sensor is not that wide for a 1.3xx adapter, but maybe it is vignetting a bit?. Also make sure it is positioned properly. Sometimes I accidentally have my anamorphic lenses rotated 90 degrees, which means your image does not get stretched horizontally (instead it gets stretched vertically), sometimes I don’t notice it in the viewfinder.

      Sorry I can’t help you any better than that. Try EOSHD, there are a lot of anamorphic enthusiasts on that forum.

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