Anamorphic lens kits are becoming easier and more accessible. With anamorphic feature-driven cameras like the Panasonic GH5, the flexibility of Canon Magic Lantern, and cheap and available prime lenses, anamorphic shooting is possible and affordable with almost any DSLR or cinema camera.
Desirable anamorphic effects- compressed, oval bokeh, streaky flares, and other natural characteristics offer a unique aesthetic that can fit perfectly with the right character or story. These characters cannot be easily replicated by other means. And when shooting with a high quality anamorphic lens, your DSLR rig is transformed into a pure cinematic paintbrush. You can even control the amount of flares that your lens gets by removing your anamorphic lens coatings.
This article will show you the components of an anamorphic lens kit so you can get started shooting anamorphic easily without barriers and obstacles.
The Basics of An Anamorphic Kit
- The DSLR or Cinema Camera. GH5, GH4, Black Magic, and Canon all work well
- A prime lens for the camera (preferably, around 75-80mm or longer)
- An anamorphic lens kit to attach to the front of the prime lens.
Each of our anamorphic lens kits include:
- The clamp that connects the anamorphic to the front filter thread of your prime lens
- The anamorphic lens
- A non-rotating front filter thread or front filter clamp for attaching filters or single focus solutions
- Optional- a lens component that turns the kit into a single focus setup
- Optional- a lens component that allows you to achieve wider shots
I: The Camera
Of course, the camera is a critical component of the anamorphic lens kit. Cameras with smaller sensor sizes tend to work better, due to the minimum focal length required in anamorphic shooting. However, cameras such as the Sony A7s or the Canon 5D line can be configured to work well with anamorphic lens kits.
Currently, the best DSLR camera we could recommend for shooting anamorphic is the Panasonic GH5 with upgraded v2 firmware. The Canon Magic Lantern and Black Magic Ursa and Pocket also can work very well.
Desirable camera options include:
Shooting in 4:3 mode
Shooting in a more vertical aspect ratio helps avoid vignetting and desqueezes to a nice 2.66:1 aspect ratio.
The GH5 v2, Kinefinity cameras, and Black Magic all have camera options to desqueeze 2x anamorphic lenses in camera- making it easier to check alignment and compose shots. If you don’t have one of those cameras- no worries. Many field monitors like the Black Magic Video Assist, Small HD 501/2/701/2 or the Cineroid EVF all have anamorphic desqueeze options.
II: The Prime Lens
The second component of an anamorphic lens kit is the prime lens. Zoom lenses can be used, but are less desirable for a few reasons outlined here.
Generally, you will want to shoot with lightweight prime lenses with single coatings. This means vintage lenses- we have assembled a guide for prime lenses for here.
The front filter of your lens MUST not rotate when focusing, or else anamorphic lenses will be impossible to pair with that lens. Lenses that extend when focusing are OK.
You will also need to select appropriate focal lengths of the prime lenses according to your sensor size. Since this can vary so greatly, check out our anamorphic calculator here to input the parameters for your camera to determine what lenses will work for anamorphic.
Old Russian (Soviet) and Japanese prime lenses pair well with anamorphic lenses. The Helios 44-2, Jupiter-9, and Nikkor lenses are excellent choices and work with almost any camera setup and anamorphic lens.
III: The Anamorphic Clamp
Once you have selected your prime lens, you now need a way to attach an anamorphic lens to the front of the prime lens. This is accomplished by the anamorphic clamp.
The anamorphic clamp has rear threads that screw on to the front filter thread of your prime lens.
Anamorphic clamps come in may different sizes and formats. Our own clamps in our Ready to Shoot kits (also available separately) are built to suit the exact anamorphic lens that you will use and do not use any screws that may damage the lens. They will work with both threaded and non-threaded setups and allow for minimum distance between the front of the prime lens and the rear of the anamorphic lens.
Most common sizes for anamorphic clamps are 52mm, 58mm, 72mm, and 77mm. You must match thread sizes with the front filter of your prime lenses. For example, the Helios 44-2 lens has a 49mm front filter thread, while our popular Isco Micro Anamorphic Lens kit comes with a standard 58mm clamp. In this scenario, you will need to buy a 49mm-58mm step up ring and you will be good to go.
Step up and step down rings are available in almost any size for a few dollars on eBay or Amazon.
IV: The Anamorphic Lens
The anamorphic lens is the part of the kit that actually performs the scope (stretch) to the image. It creates the flares, compressed bokeh, and compression that give anamorphic setups the desirable cinematic look. The lens is attached via the clamp to the prime lens.
Anamorphic lenses come in a variety of scopes: 1.33x, 1.5x, 1.75x, and 2x. The 2x scope is the classic wide anamorphic look established by Hollywood filmmakers and provides the strongest anamorphic effect. Producers and filmmakers desired a way to draw audiences to a wider cinema format in the 1950s, yet still shoot on Super 35 film stock. The history of how anamorphics came to be are explained in further detail in our article here.
Almost all anamorphic lenses available for sale on the used market do not include any front filter thread. While not required to shoot anamorphic on your DSLR, if you desire to use any filters, single focus attachments, or the SuperScope on your setup, you will need some way to attach these to the front of your anamorphic lens kit.
All of our Ready To Shoot kits available for sale have a non-rotating front filter modification built directly into the lens. Other clamping solutions are available from other manufacturers as well. This means that you can purchase a dual focus now, and then invest in a single focus anamorphic solution or SuperScope later.
If you do not have a front filter thread on your anamorphic lens, but still would like to use a single focus attachment or a SuperScope, we also have a seamless, no-screw anamorphic front filter clamp available here.
V: The Single Focus Attachment Lens
Now that we have our anamorphic lens safely attached to our prime lens, we now have a ready to shoot setup! You are good to go and start shooting anamorphic on your DSLR or cinema camera immediately.
However, focusing your lenses will now be handled differently. Because the anamorphic lens is an attachment that only performs a scope (stretch) effect, both lenses will need to be focused to achieve focus. This isn’t challenging if you follow the anamorphic focus method we describe here, but it does prevent rack focusing and makes gimbal or run-and-gun style shooting more difficult (but still possible)
As we describe in detail in our article on single focus anamorphic here, single focus capability can be achieved on nearly any anamorphic lens setup available. By attaching an inverse set of diopters in front of any lens, focus can be changed by varying the distance between those two diopters.
We built a Single Focus attachment lens in 58mm size to be able to perfectly attach to the Isco Micro or similar anamorphic lenses and achieve single focus. Simply set your infinity point by focusing your taking lens and anamorphic lens, and the single focus attachment will handle all focusing. The Single Focus Attachment has a non-rotating 58mm front filter thread if you would like to add any additional filters or a SuperScope.
Lenses such as the rare Iscorama 36 or our Custom Single Focus anamorphic have this capability built directly into the lens and do not require an attachment. Simply set the taking lens to infinity and all focusing is accomplished by the anamorphic lens.
VI: The SuperScope Lens
One of the frustrations with shooting with 2x anamorphic is the need for shooting with longer taking lenses. While DSLR cameras such as the GH5 and other micro 4/3 cameras are less restricted by this, it does make capturing extra wide shots more difficult.
For this, we developed the SuperScope lens that attaches to the front of the anamorphic, multiplying your field of view by 1.5x. Because this is performed after the scope, it does not affect the anamorphic stretch factor or add vignetting (However, if you are near the very end of your range of prime lenses that you can use, then it may introduce vignetting. Check our anamorphic lens calculator to see if you are in a safe range.)
For example, a 50mm lens on a Panasonic GH5 behaves like a 100mm lens (full frame equivalent). A 2x anamorphic lens will bring that effective focal length back to 50mm. A SuperScope will make that effective focal length now 33mm without introducing any vignetting.
Our updated anamorphic calculator now includes SuperScope calculators. Check it out to see how it can work with your DSLR and prime lenses.
When to use these options
The SuperScope and the Single Focus attachment can be paired together, individually, or not used at all. We have built our kits to be modular and flexible for almost any shooting need, camera, or prime lens setup.
For example, you may want the convenience and look of an anamorphic lens with single focus and SuperScope for shooting run-and-gun action scenes. But when shooting on a gimbal or slider, you may want to go as lightweight as possible, and remove both the Single Focus attachment and the SuperScope.
Or perhaps you are shooting nature scenes or landscapes where your focus is almost always set to infinity. For this shoot, you can simply attach the SuperScope directly to your anamorphic lens and have a more compact, faster setup.
For those looking to get started with a cost-effective anamorphic setup, you can purchase a clamp and b-stock anamorphic lens separately. This will be a cost-effective way to get into high-quality anamorphic shooting without requiring a larger budget. With this setup, you will not be able to add single focus or SuperScope later.
Additional Anamorphic Resources
And that’s all! The only accessories we might recommend would be a Gini-Rig to help support your setup. Generally an anamorphic kit will not require support, but when adding both a single focus and a SuperScope you may prefer to add a lens support to help keep stress off of the camera lens mount.
Also be sure that you have enough step up and step down rings to experiment with your anamorphic lens kit on a wide variety of prime lenses.
If you are interested adding anamorphic lenses to your cinematography toolbox, please visit our anamorphic lens store for demos and examples. We have spent several years collecting, modifying, and testing anamorphic lenses to weed through the junk, make needed modifications, and assemble ready-to-shoot packages.
If you are interested in learning more on working with anamorphic lenses and DSLR, please check out our anamorphic tutorial blog for more anamorphic tips and tutorials!