The most common issue for first time anamorphic users is learning how to focus two lenses. Focusing an anamorphic lens setup is a skill that will need to be practiced (unless you’re using one of our single focus solutions!)
Regardless of your setup, it is practical to understand how the dual focus systems work. It’s all about practice & once you know what to look for and build a strong “muscle memory”, then it just becomes easy to use.
An anamorphic lenses setup is essentially two lenses in one- a wider prime and a 2x tighter lens in front. They both have differing depths of field and depths of focus. At wide f/stops many cheaper anamorphics can’t focus because the depth of focus of the two lenses don’t overlap.
Historically, anything must be shot at at least f/4 or nothing would be sharp. That’s changed now with the better anamorphic lenses–the new Cooke anamorphics are razor sharp at T2, if you have $50K each, but it’s a main reason why we were initially very frustrated with anamorphic lenses before discovering which ones were actually rated to be used with prime lenses even as fast as f/1.2.
Remember that the more you stop down your prime lens, the deeper depth of field you have, so you can use that to give you more flexibility for focusing.
How do I focus anamorphic lenses?
First, with your anamorphic lens cleanly mounted to your camera, pick your object you’d like to focus on. Keep in mind the minimum focus distance of your lens. Most of our lenses focus from 1-3 feet to infinity, but a number of cheaper lenses only focus from 12 feet will require diopters for anything closer. This isn’t difficult to use, but it will require premeditation before your shot.
Here is our Isco Micro anamorphic lens mounted on a Panasonic GH4 and a Helios 44m4 58mm lens at f/2.0. We are currently focused to some objects on the table with both the Helios and the Isco Micro. We would like to focus on the background instead.
First, we adjust the focus of the Isco Micro anamorphic lens so our desired focus area becomes spherical bokeh. Recognizing this spherical look will require a little practice, but is quite easy after you get the hang of it. To make the exercise more obvious, we have used the unstretched image as you would see it from your DSLR viewfinder. See how the lights in the background are now circular or spherical? Once you can see the spherical bokeh, you know that your anamorphic lens is now in focus, and you only need to make a small tweak to your taking lens.
Finally, we tweak our Helios to infinity and our background comes perfectly info focus.
An important part of learning to focus anamorphic is understanding how the focus markings on each of your lenses line up. Eventually you will learn to know where your focus will be based on the distance of your object and the markings on your lenses, and from there the tweaks will become easier with more familiarity.
If you’re interested in how to improve your close and macro anamorphic focus, check out our guide to anamorphic close focusing. And if you’re looking for a setup that only requires focusing one element, check out our guide to turning dual focus lenses into single focus or check out our custom single focus build here.
And don’t forget, remember to be inspired, have fun, and get creative.
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