Next up: our Sony A7s anamorphic lens test. We have been shooting anamorphic for a while with the incredible Panasonic GH5, which is one of the best DSLRs available for using anamorphic lenses. And although crop sensors are beneficial and offer a wider choice of lenses to pair with anamorphic adapters, we really wanted to see what makes the A7s so popular as a full frame camera and pair that with an anamorphic lens.
For anyone new to adapting anamorphic lenses to any DSLR, we recommend checking out our getting started with anamorphic lens guide here for an overview of the basics.
Basically, our anamorphic lens kits attach to prime lenses, and turn them into anamorphic lens setups. There are a few requirements- mostly relating to focal length. For turning the A7s into an anamorphic camera, you will need the following setup:
- Of course, the Sony A7s
- 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.
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
The top of the line anamorphic lens kit with all features and options can be found here.
Getting started with Sony A7s Anamorphic
You must choose the right prime lenses to pair with anamorphic lenses
Our challenge to getting a beautiful full frame anamorphic look is to find long enough prime lenses on the Sony A7s that do not vignette when attaching anamorphic lenses.
Vignetting is mostly a property of focal length.
What causes the vignetting? Anamorphic lenses double your field of view. When attaching our anamorphic adapters to a prime lens, this prime lens will essentially be halved in focal length. A 100mm spherical lens becomes a 50mm anamorphic. A 50mm lens becomes a 25mm anamorphic. And so on.
Because full frame cameras and their large sensors capture a large image, anamorphic lenses double this effect. If we pair an anamorphic lens with a taking lens that is too wide, the image will vignette on the sensor.
Even if there is no vignetting, the anamorphic lens might still distort near the edges of the images. This can be a very unique and desirable effect, as it is a recognizable property of anamorphic that comes from the compression of light and the image.
For Sony A7s anamorphic, we recommend shooting with prime lenses in the 80-200mm range, or shooting in APS-C mode. While this sounds like the extreme end of what is normal, remember that we are halving our focal length: 85mm-200mm spherical becomes 42mm-100mm anamorphic and offers all of the benefits and beauty of full frame anamorphic bokeh.
HELPFUL TIP: Crop your A7s 4k footage from a 16:9 ratio to 4:3 to use wider lenses
When shooting anamorphic, you must desqueeze your compressed footage in your editor.
Most cameras shoot in a 16:9 aspect ratio- or a width of 16 divided by a height of 9. Since anamorphic lenses double your width, the resulting unstretched footage will be (16*2):9, or 32:9. If we translate this into a standard scope ratio, this results in a whopping 3.56:1 image! This is extremely wide, and can be desirable in the right situations, but it is quite an aesthetic to work with.
Now, let’s say we want to work with a more moderate stretch factor, say the standard scope of 2.66:1. We will need to edit footage with a narrower aspect ratio. Here’s where 4:3 comes in. If you crop the sides of your footage to a 4:3 aspect ratio (simply zoom in 133% in post production), not only will you end up with a pleasing 2.66:1 aspect ratio, but you will crop off most of the vignetting for wider lenses!
Now, instead of having to use 85mm lenses and longer for the A7s, you can now use lenses as wide as the excellent 58mm f/2 Helios prime lens with only slight vignetting.
If you do not own prime lenses in these ranges, no worries! We have assembled a prime lens guide to help filmmakers choose which inexpensive primes will pair best with the anamorphic lenses that we build.
An Anamorphic Solution to the A7s Slow Motion Zoom Crop
A full frame DSLR capable of 120fps slow motion is a pretty intriguing package. The Sony A7s accomplishes this by using a 1080p area of the sensor in a process called “windowing”. This increases your crop factor by 2.2x. A 50mm lens becomes 50 * 2.2x = 110mm. This can be pretty restrictive to those used to the wideness of full frame.
However, because 2x anamorphic lenses double your field of view, that nearly brings you back to the “normal” focal length all while shooting anamorphic at 120fps! Your 50mm becomes 110mm in slow motion mode, but with anamorphic, that 110mm becomes a 55mm anamorphic setup.
In addition, if you are shooting in 1080p, the Sony A7s offers the option of shooting at 60fps 1080p in APS-C mode. This is a 1.5x crop that will turn a 50mm lens into a 75mm equivalent, allowing you to shoot with anamorphic lenses with minimal vignetting.
Longer prime lenses are generally slower- but that’s not a problem for the A7s
Lenses in the 85-200mm focal range can be pricer and harder to find than wider optics. While Micro Four Thirds shooters welcome anamorphic lenses to help open up their field of view, full frame shooters might need to consider purchasing new glass.
Also, longer focal length lenses tend to have slower apertures.
Fortunately, this isn’t much of an issue for shooting Sony A7s. Well known for it’s clean high-ISO performance, the Sony A7s can easily adapt to slower properties of longer prime lenses by shooting at higher ISO levels. From our experience, an ISO of 6400 or 8000 is perfectly usable and comparable to 1250 or 1600 ISO levels on smaller frame cameras.
2x full frame anamorphic look is incredible- if you can get it
When using full frame cameras like the Canon 5D or the Sony A7s, the additional field of view offered by such a large camera sensor helps camera operators frame their subjects for a shallower depth of field. Because we can place the full frame camera closer to our subject, we have increased our shot scale and the visibility of bokeh (out-of-focus areas) in the image.
One of the most defining characteristics of an anamorphic lens that cannot be replicated otherwise is the beautiful “oil-painting” look to the bokeh. As mentioned previously, the way anamorphic bokeh compresses across the frame can enhance the character of an anamorphic lens; for example, our custom built single focus lens has extreme “barreling” in that bokeh near the edges of the frame will compress differently than bokeh in the center.
Paired with a Sony A7S, we can take advantage of the full frame sensor to bring the very most out of the anamorphic look.
As a side note, when choosing a taking lens over 135mm- you must start to consider the optical quality of your anamorphic lens. Past 135mm, poorly made anamorphic optics will start to degrade quickly. We are picky shooters and only build anamorphic lenses manufactured from pristine German optics so if you buy from our store you won’t have to worry! But consider if purchasing elsewhere, that the optics have been tested with longer focal lengths and are up to your standards.
S-Log dynamic range and anamorphic flaring
One of the exciting values of the A7s is the ability to shoot in Sony’s S-Log2 or S-Log3. S-Log flattens the recorded image and allows an insane 15.3 stops of dynamic range to be captured by the extremely clean sensor of the A7s. S-Log was a feature previously only available in higher end Sony cameras like the Sony FS-5 and the Sony F55. While it can be a learning curve to grade S-Log in post-production, the dynamic range benefits are incredible- especially when shooting outdoors with brightly lit skies.
Anamorphic lenses are widely known for their ability to flare. While flares can be added in post production, the true organic character of an anamorphic flare cannot be easily replicated. Moreover, the soft blooms and internal reflections from the added anamorphic lens elements provide unique dreamy characteristics to the image.
However, these flares can often bloom and brighten the image exponentially. On cameras with more limited dynamic range, this would often render flared images that can be difficult or even possible to color grade in post because exposures have been clipped. The A7s S-log, however, offers a healthy amount of highlight range that is much more forgiving with the flares, reflections, and blooms that are coaxed from an anamorphic lens.
RECOMMENDATION: Use a Vari-ND filter when shooting Sony A7s anamorphic
Strangely, stopping down your prime lens can actually increase the amount of vignetting in your image when shooting with an anamorphic attachment. The smaller iris of the lens will result in a sort of “tunneling” look.
Also, SLog on the A7s defaults to a 1600 base ISO speed- minimum. So overall exposures tend to be higher by default on the A7s.
To overcome these exposure challenges, control your exposure with a Variable ND filter instead of aperture when shooting anamorphic. We use the Fotodiox ND Throttle adapter for Sony. This provides up to eight stops of exposure control so you can shoot with wide open apertures in broad daylight at 1600 ISO.
Using Sony A7s anamorphic on a handheld gimbal
Handheld gimbals such as the Zhiyun crane allow filmmakers incredible portability for their camera rigs. We use a small DSLR backpack to pack the anamorphic lens setup and gimbal without any assembly required upon removal.
Because anamorphic lenses add weight to the front of the camera, the operator must make adjustments on the gimbal balance to compensate. With the Panasonic GH5 or Canon 5D, additional rear weight must be added to the back of the gimbal to balance the tilt axis.
When we tested the A7s on the Zhiyun Crane, the setup balanced significantly easier. No rear weight was required, and we were able to get a stable balance for shooting with an anamorphic lens. For those interested in keeping their options open when shooting Sony A7s anamorphic, we were pleased to find it usable without any additional balance modifications.
How to choose which anamorphic lens to buy?
So now that you know the specialties of shooting anamorphic on the Sony A7s above, consider three factors:
- Do I have the prime lenses (85mm-200mm on the A7s) I need to shoot anamorphic? How large are the filter threads?
- How much size and weight am I comfortable with shooting? The Isco Micro lens offers the best quality to size ratio of any anamorphic lens available at around 1lb (2.2kg). Consider how much weight you’d be willing to add to your rig.
- Do I need to invest additionally in single focus anamorphic, or can I work with focusing two lenses at once?
For more detailed information on picking an anamorphic, check out our in-depth guide to choosing an anamorphic lens for your Sony A7s.
If you’re looking to see what lenses you already own might work with your A7S, head on over to our anamorphic lens calculator to test. Select your full frame sensor size, input the focal length, and you will be informed and ready to shoot!
- Shoot with 85-200mm prime lenses. Consider cropping the 4k image to a 4:3 aspect ratio, and you may use lenses 58mm and up.
- Take advantage of the dynamic range of S-Log when shooting anamorphic flares.
- Shoot in APS-C mode if needed. If you’re a slow motion shooter, anamorphic lenses will provide a big advantage to the Sony A7s.
If you are interested adding anamorphic flares to your 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!