When it comes to filmmaking there’s no lens like the anamorphic lens. What began as a tool and technique for capturing and projecting wider aspect ratios, quickly became a Hollywood darling due to its unique characteristics.
We’ve already explored what an anamorphic lens is and why you should use it, and we’ve talked about best anamorphic lenses for iPhone.
Now you need to find the anamorphic lens that’s best for you, your skills and of course, your budget.
Get started: Shooting anamorphic on a budget
- Get great performance – even at wide angles
- Ideal entry-level lens – very light build
- Focus-through adapter – 28mm wide with no vignetting
- Cheaper alternative – good alternative for the Panasonic LA7200
- Experience cool blue flares – and a really wide full-frame at 35mm
- Extremely compact – easily modified to hold diopters
- Added "Near" dial – allows awesome quality and close-focusing
- Use taking lens for focusing – same system as with the Panasonic & Century
- Best for scenes with bright light – recommended aperture of f/2.8 or slower
- Extremely small anamorphic lens – with multiple performance features
- Impressively light weight – perfect for travel since it only weighs 170 grams
- Minimum focus of 0.5 meters – works nicely with cameras like BMPCC & m4/3 cameras
- Has a 2X anamorphic stretch – highest quality anamorphic lens from Kowa, yet
- Features single-focus operation – has super-wide aspect ratios
- Go down to F1.4 without diopters – remain a super sharp image
If you’re new in filmmaking and don’t have a stash of Nazi gold hidden in your basement, you should consider choosing a lens with a 1.33X stretch leaving you with an aspect ratio of 2.36:1 and without disrupting your bank account.
Panasonic LA7200: Ideal entry-level lens
It’s light build and comes with a focus-through adapter. It also includes clear, large glass and provides great performance at wide angles. It fits seamlessly with modern zoom lenses like 24mm-70mm, making it the widest anamorphic adapter out there.
It does have some downsides too; here among, softness around the edges of the image and to ensure sharp images, you’ll need to stop down the taking lens to f/4-5.6.
Century Optics DS-1609/WS-13 1.33x: Extremely compact lens
This lens is a cheap alternative to the Panasonic. It has the same focus-through handling as the Panasonic, meaning you focus using the taking lens. Its glass is not ideal, but it’s extremely compact, bringing its advantages of being easily modified to hold diopters.
It provides cool blue flares and a wide Full Frame at 35mm. Downsides? Pretty much the same as with the Panasonic; softness around the edges, lower f-stops on the taking lens and challenging close focus.
SLR Magic 40: Great quality and close focusing
This lens has the same focusing system as the Panasonic and Century but has been added a “Near” dial which allows awesome quality, close-focusing – at the expense of infinity focus.
It doesn’t go as wide as the two others and has a recommended aperture of f/2.8 or slower but it does provide great cinematic results.
Isomorphot 8/1.5x: Baby Iscorama anamorphic lens
Here, you’re getting an itty–bitty lens with a bunch of performance and single focus operations. It weighs about 170 grams – so, perhaps not a baby Iscorama more like a fetus Iscorama…
This is one of the most sought baby anamorphic with its minimum focus of 0.5meters and works ideally with cameras like the Blackmagic pocket cinema camera and in general m4/3 cameras.
KOWA B&H 2x anamorphic: Super wide aspect ratios
Looking for creating some real sci-fi flares? This is the one!
With 2X stretch its really awesome quality. It features a single focus operation, meaning it has some super-wide aspect ratios. It can go down to F1.4 without diopters and still remain a sharp image.
Get better: Elevate your anamorphic look
- Same metal body as the Isco 54 – weighs 900 grams
- Great focus range – can focus from 2 meters up to infinity
- Outstanding optical performance – stretches 16:9 & introduces few 'anamorphic' artefacts
- Beautiful aesthetics – diverse looks & moods
- Gives a natural & organic look – due to its 2X squeeze
- Extremely light – no need for any support
- Innovative R&D & excellent manufacturing process – affordable, high-valued lens
- 50mm F1.8 1.33x – extends your shot for the perfect cinematic work
- 35mm F1.8 1.33x – produce a wider, full HD 2.4:1 cinematic video
- Unique design – adapters that work in front of a spherical taking lens
- Wider than the CinemaScope standard – 1.5x stretch & an 2.66:1 aspect ratio
- Very accurate focus markings – minimum focus from 2 meters up to infinity
- Smallest scope lenses – do not compromise on image quality
- Exceedingly robust – extremely solid mechanics
- Choose between 8 different lenses – all with a 2X squeeze factor
If you and the anamorphic already have had a previous encounter, and it seems like you’re ready to move on to that next phase. You’ll need to focus your time on a lens with a bit more advanced features, giving you just that cutting edge. Let’s have a look at some of your options.
ISCO-OPTIC 16:9 1.33x anamorphic: Outstanding results
It has a focus range from 2m up to infinity. Its optical performance yields outstanding results even at its fastest aperture. Now, the edges on your image will be slightly compromised, however, this lens is Excalibur kind of sharp.
If you’re not really hooked on the anamorphic artefacts like; oval bokeh and unpredictable flares, then this lens might be the perfect match for you: It stretches 16:9 and introduces few ‘anamorphic’ artefacts.
Sankor 16 C/F projection lenses: For diverse looks and moods
Sankor really put in an effort when creating not one, not two, but three anamorphic lenses. The most popular among these; the Sankor 16C. The bit cheaper alternative is the Sankor 16F, that’ll still provide you with nothing less than beautiful aesthetics and diverse looks and moods.
It has a bit of a tricky vignette, so when strong light hits the lens it reflects on the inside of the barrel and causes light to flare and bloom in a vignette shape around the edges of your image. Also, its lens focus can come as close as 1.5m, which gives you a decently close–up, but if you’re into catching those tiny details, then you might want to acquire a diopter.
Now, let’s take a look at its awesome advantages. First of all, let’s talk about that 2X squeeze… this will give you a natural and organic look – and I don’t mean to sound superficial, but it’s all about the look! Many anamorphic lenses tend to be larger and heavier than the spherical lenses – not the Sankor 16F! This lens is so light that you won’t need any support.
SIRUI 35mm/50mm: Extends image for a cinematic shot
With innovative R&D and excellent manufacturing, SIRUI presented an affordable, high-valued 50mm F1.8 1.33X anamorphic lens that extends your shot for the perfect cinematic shot.
With their 35mm F1.8 1.33x anamorphic lens, SIRUI achieved a focal length breakthrough. When shooting with a compatible camera, this lens uses its 1.33x squeeze factor to widen the horizontal field of view and produce a wider, full HD 2.4:1 cinematic video without the need for post-cropping. The 35mm lens can attach to M4/3 mirrorless camera and fit onto an APS-C mirrorless camera with a selection of Sony E-Mount, Canon EF-M, and Nikon Z cameras if you attach the optional adapter rings.
Iscorama 1.5x 36 & 42: Accurate focus markings
These lenses are actually adapters, meaning they fit in front of a spherical taking lens. They are a bit pricy, however – about £1.200. Before you turn away, let me just tell you some of the features that made these lenses so pricey.
Its stretches 1.5x, which leads to an aspect ratio of 2.66:1 – slightly wider than the CinemaScope standard.
Their focus markings are very accurate as it focus using the taking lens up to infinity and then works with the Iscorama, which has a minimum focus of 2m. Their focusing work is patented, which up to this day have never been bypassed, that’s right never! So, if you’re looking for a lens with this sort of focusing, these are the only ones.
Hawk v-lite anamorphic 2x: Robust and solid mechanics
These lenses have over the passing years become the industry’s go-to. You saw it has a 2x squeeze factor, right? That’s a pretty big tell in itself.
They might be the smallest ‘scope’ lenses on the market, but, and this is a big but – they do not sacrifice when it comes to image quality and also still manages to be exceedingly robust with extremely solid mechanics.
The Hawk V-Lite doesn’t have just one or two different anamorphic lenses, no they opted for eight.
Stay Pro: Create the pure pro cinematic experience
- Insanely sharp images – with modern high-resolution cameras
- Edge-to-edge sharpness – corner transmission & center sharpness
- Dual focus operation only – focus using both taking- & anamorphic lens
- C Series – graduated depth of field, prominent anamorphic flares & flattering bokeh
- E Series – Improved optical quality, anti-reflection coating & newer spherical components
- Focal lenghts – Both series include a variety of different focal lenghts
- Produces great flares – has a nice oval bokeh
- Provides an organic look – anamorphic breathing but not as fast as modern zoom lenses
- Fits for shots with a 4:3 aspect ratio – designed for the S35 sensor
- Lightweight & compact design – ideal for handheld work, drones, etc.
- Made with a 2X front anamorphic cylinder – provides a unique vintage look
- Great optical quality – that fits with all modern digital film cameras
- Both share unique characteristics – made the Alura Studio Zooms bestsellers
- Large image circle of 35mm – optimized for all current digital cameras
- Highest optical quality in robudt housing – high contrast through flares and veiling glare
You’ve moved on from those anamorphic flakes, and focus is now on the purely professional type of anamorphic lenses.
Working with the absolute best anamorphic lenses is not cheap. Most likely, you’ll need to woo these old school! I’m talking proper preparation, thorough research and a wallet that’s thicker than ‘The Nutty Professor’. In return, they’ll give you that unique, cinematic look like no others.
Schneider Cine: Insanely sharp images
This lens is perfect if you’re looking to shoot insanely sharp images with high-resolution cameras like the Panasonic GH5. This is due to its edge-to-edge sharpness, corner transmission and centre sharpness.
It only has a dual focus, which essentially means that you need to focus both the taking lens and the anamorphic lens to achieve your desired focus (It’s that Iscorama patent – who can give the patent office a call?).
If you’re looking for creating a truly cinematic experience, this lens is not merely a ‘nicesity’ it’s a necessity.
Panavision C & E Series: Amazing optical quality
The C Series has been a creator’s go-to lens since 1968. It’s a vintage lens, but don’t count this old-timer out of the race just yet! Its optical quality and small size are hard to beat. It has a characteristic graduated depth of field, a predictable full field of performance at all apertures, a prominent anamorphic flare, and a flattering bokeh – you might say it’s bokehlicious. It includes a variety of focal lengths with wide apertures ranging from T2.3 to T3.5 and close focus distancing.
Then there’s the E Series with improved optical quality, sophisticated anti-reflection coating, newer spherical components, and a refined optical formula with fewer aberrations. What’s more, the E Series lenses creates ‘Marie Kondo clean’ blue horizontal flares and do so without any additional artefacts such as veiling glare and edge reflections. It includes a wide variety of different focal lengths with widest apertures ranging from T2 to T2.8.
Now, all these features also need to carry their weight, and I mean literally – it’s pretty heavy and is rather large, so it’s not really suited for Steadicam use.
LOMO Foton-A 37-140mm T/4.4 2x: A zoom lens
This lens produces great flares, oval bokeh, anamorphic breathing and an organic look – difficult to achieve with any other lens, granted it’s not as fast as modern zoom lenses.
It’s been specifically designed for S35 sensor, so it fits seamlessly for shooting in 4:3 aspect ratio or RED’s anamorphic mode. It’s also fitted with PL mount and can be used on all digital cinematography cameras and is lightweight enough to be used on cameras like the Sony A7S II with an adapter.
KOWA Cine Prominar: Lightweight and compact
Known for their lightweight and compact design, these are the perfect tool if you’re planning to do some handheld work, flying around with a drone – or anything requiring a small camera footprint.
Made with a 2x front anamorphic cylinder they provide a unique vintage look and a warm in colour flare. Their compact construction and optical quality can be paired on all modern digital film cameras.
ARRI Alura 15.5-45/T2.8 & -30-80/T2.8: High optical quality in a robust housing
Both lenses share the unique characteristics that made the Alura Studio Zooms best-sellers with high optical quality in a robust housing and a high contrast through minimized flares and veiling glare.
Their large image circle of 31.5mm means that they are optimized for all current digital- and film cameras and include the ARRI Lens Data System.
The anamorphic lens has some rather unique qualities adding that cinematic look to your footage. As a filmmaker, you want those qualities to hit your footage as well.
They just don’t always come at an affordable price range, and so we welcome the anamorphic adapter. These are optical elements that sit in front of your existing lenses.
When it comes to adapters, there’s plenty of fish in the sea, you just have to figure out which one is for your tasting! So, for your convenience, why don’t I serve you some of our top picks.
Letus35 AnamorphX Adapter: For digital cameras
Most of Letus35’s AnamorphX adapters will either offer a 1.33x squeeze factor, making them great for conventional digital cameras using a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Others will offer a 1.8x squeeze factor for achieving a straight 2.4:1 scope format on cameras which can record in the standard 1.33:1 aspect ratio.
Each adapter model can feature either low, medium, or high flare depending on the look you’re going for. These adapters will be offered either with or without matte boxes and lens supports, and clamp onto most lenses up to 114mm in outside diameter.
SLR Magic Anamorphot-50: Cheap and compact
This one is cheaper and a bit more compact than the Letus35, mainly because it doesn’t have that powerful flare options. You can choose between either a 1.33x or 2x squeeze variation. The 2x will give you a super-wide 2.66.1 scope format on a 1.33:1 imaging plane.
Looking for an even cheaper option than the adapters? Consider the so-called ‘Anamorfake’.
The “anamorfake mod” is essentially adding an oval-shaped aperture and a lens flare filter to your lens. It requires that you’re a little nifty gritty as you’ll need to disassemble your lens, add a couple parts, and re-assemble it.
This is a great alternative if you’re really looking for a really cheap solution but know it will never be truly as good or effective as a “real” anamorphic lens.
Nevertheless, I’m not the one to leave a brother (or sister) hanging! So, let’s go over some of your options.
Vid-Atlantic: Symmetric streaks and extends horizontally
Will re-create the effect of an anamorphic lens and then look like it has been displayed using a complementary reverse-projections lens. It has symmetric streaks and will extend horizontally from a prominent lighting source. It’ll also provide out-of-focus highlights within the frame, which are given an extended, elliptical shape, providing the wide-aspect ratio you know from Hollywood movies.
CineMorp 58mm: Imitate anamorphic flares, streaks and oval bokeh
This doesn’t stretch nor squeeze your footage. Instead, it keeps the image at 16:9, and you will then need to crop your image in post and choose whichever aspect ratio. It will imitate the anamorphic lenses’ flares, streak, and oval bokeh. It’s extremely easy to use and allows for a very easy pull/rack focus on compatible SLR lenses.
Rokinon 35mm T1.5 Cine: Consistent colour rendition
It utilizes a multi-layer coating process for consistent colour rendition from lens to lens. It produces a 63.1° angle-of-view if used with a full-frame sensor camera or a 35mm SLR. The 35mm opens up to T1.5, which will make it possible to do low light shooting or creating extremely shallow depth of field.
Filters help minimize glare and reflections, enhance colours, reduce the light coming into the lens, and more. Each lens filter serves a specific purpose, as each one is built to deliver a specific effect that can help enhance the final look of your footage.
The Vid-Atlantic clamp kits will work for everything; from small hobby projects to large venues and fits on to lenses from brands like Isco, Iscorame, Kowa, Sankor, Panavision, and more.
They’ll provide an upgrade to your anamorphic lens with standard filter thread diameters sizes and allows you to lock in a proper horizontal alignment. They work with a wide alignment of cameras like the Canon 5D, 7D, t2i, 550D, 600D, t3i, 60D, 70D, Nikon D90, D610, D800, GH3, Black Magic Cameras, RED, Digital Bolex, and more, and 35mm adapters.
These are filters you screw on to the front of the lens and they will then act, like glasses, making it possible for you to focus on subjects really close.
A variable-strength diopter is a combination of optical elements that acts like a diopter. The way they work is that they change the maximum focus distance, infinity, to something else. Variable-strength diopters range from +0, at infinity, to +1 or +2. These powers drag infinity down to one meter or half a meter.