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What is an anamorphic lens?
The term ‘anamorphic’ can be traced back to the word ‘anamorphosis.’ Anamorphosis simply means a distorted image of a subject from a particular angle. During wars, soldiers have been known to use anamorphic lenses to give a broader and more detailed view of the enemy’s camp.
However, an anamorphic lens is not just a tool for war but has gained popularity in the film industry. The lens has been used during video production to give film cinematic finishings.
Now to the much-asked question, what is an anamorphic lens?
An anamorphic lens is defined as a lens that transforms the way light focuses on a camera sensor to form images with stretched width while maintaining the quality of the image.
Anamorphic lenses are manufactured with extra glass elements that enable them to squeeze in images captured from a broad depth of view into the horizontal axis. The squeezing ability of the anamorphic lens is not found in ordinary camera lenses.
Also read: Different Types of Camera Lenses
Features of an anamorphic lens
A typical anamorphic lens is made up of a series of characteristics that makes it unique. These features are also why anamorphic lenses can add the Hollywood touch to videos.
Below are the unique features of an anamorphic lens:
- The lens bokeh is oval-shaped – The shape of a bokeh produced by an anamorphic lens makes it distinctive from other lenses.
- The depth of field is narrower – Anamorphic lenses can produce the depth of field with shallow effects due to their long focal length.
- The lens vertical resolution is higher – Compared to other lenses, an anamorphic lens uses up the entire camera’s frame, producing a complete vertical resolution without the need to crop the image.
- Presence of bluish horizontal flare – When transmitted light rays hit the curved part of the lens, a light streak is formed along the horizontal line, and due to the lens’ color, the flare is blue. (1)
- The ratio aspect is ultra-wide, and as a result, an anamorphic lens can produce the same video effects as a cinema.
Here are the upsides of using an anamorphic lens:
- The image quality does not change while zooming in on the subject’s face or covering a significant landscape setting.
- Anamorphic lenses produce nice bokeh effects on subjects. The lens frame has a soft dreamy touch to it.
- Vertical resolution is much higher in anamorphic lenses; hence, there’s the appearance of little or no grains on the captured images.
- An anamorphic lens has a broader field of view, capturing images wider than a regular camera lens.
Despite the advantages of an anamorphic lens, here are the possible downsides of choosing one for video production:
- Anamorphic lenses are bulkier and heavier than other lenses; hence, they are burdensome during a long shoot.
- The lens has a slower maximum aperture; therefore, it is unsuitable for a poorly lit environment.
- Using anamorphic lenses requires high technical know-how. Some of the features are complex, and only a knowledgeable person can operate them successfully.
- When compared to other lenses, anamorphic lenses are relatively expensive.
Anamorphic lenses are popular among videographers for giving cinematic effects and touch to video projects.
How to choose an anamorphic lens: Factors to consider
There are countless lists of cameras and lenses available that suit the style and goal of every video. Hence, it’s always a big deal for videographers when choosing the best anamorphic lenses for specific video styles.
Generally, here are some of the talking points that should be considered when picking the right anamorphic lens:
Anamorphic lens’ sizes
Anamorphic lenses vary in size, and each size has a unique role in videography. A concise understanding of the lens will help a videographer in the decision-making.
- Small lenses
Small-sized lenses are like the baby of anamorphic lenses with a diameter of about 52mm. However, due to the small diameter of the lens, light can be lost easily. Mounting a small anamorphic lens on a prime camera will reduce the rate at which transmitted light will be lost.
Small anamorphic lenses are best for beginners or fun videographers. A much bigger size is advisable for professional filmmakers.
- Medium lenses
Medium lenses are the intermediate between small and large lenses. Their function combines the building quality and the sharp quality of smaller and bigger lenses respectively to produce outstanding results. Another unique feature of medium lenses is they are a perfect match for a DSLR camera.
- Large lenses
Large lens sizes are the earliest models of anamorphic lenses and are about 25cm long. They are heavily built and maybe cumbersome during the shoot. However, large lenses can be locked down on tripods to reduce carriage strain on the videographer.
Videographers can depend on large lenses for shoots on a tight budget as they are budget-friendly.
The type of focus of the anamorphic lens
The focusing power of an anamorphic lens is another factor that determines what type of lens is fit for a particular video project. The filmmaker’s preference will also affect using a single or double-focused anamorphic lens.
- Single focus type
A single-focus anamorphic lens uses the lens’s focal length without needing an additional lens. It is simple and easy to use. A videographer could simply calibrate the lens to infinity and focus at convenience on the shoot.
This type of lens has a good storytelling technique. A single-focus variety improves the video’s narrative and drives the film’s intent in a way that interests the audience.
- Double focus type
In the double focus type, both the anamorphic lens and the lens (prime or DSLR) that is taking the anamorphic lens do the focusing on the subject. This type of focusing is complex and requires a lot of practice to calibrate correctly.
Although they do not affect the quality of video footage, much time and patience are needed, significantly when changing in between lenses during the shoot. A double focus lens may not be the videographer’s best call for a time-limited video shoot.
Compatibility with DSLR and Prime cameras
Here’s another point worthy of consideration. Not all anamorphic lenses work perfectly with a DSLR or Prime camera. Therefore, working knowledge of what kind of lens is compatible with a DSLR or Prime will be a lifesaver for the videographer.
The 1.33x anamorphic lens is the commonest, adapted to a DSLR. On the other hand, a 58mm f/2 anamorphic lens is perfect for a prime lens and less expensive.
The weight of the anamorphic lens
Here is a crucial factor that videographers must carefully consider before taking a video shoot. Active video shoots are incredibly stressful, and videographers must have as easy movement as possible without being dragged down by heavier video kits.
Older models of anamorphic lenses are about 1.3kg in weight, while recent models are lighter with about 0.45kg in weight. Anamorphic lenses in smaller sizes would come in very handy for videographers who are always on the go.
Video shoot settings
To a greater extent, the size of the video location affects the choice of a camera lens. However, there’s no hiccup with an anamorphic lens. How so? An anamorphic works perfectly well in any environment, be it highly close-up scenes or a broad landscape scene.
Once the focusing power is fully maximized, a broader background can be compressed without distortion, or the subjects in a tight set can be captured without accentuating the subject’s flaws.
Also read: What is a Telephoto Lens?
Anamorphic lens and iPhone: Can the two work together?
The method of filming is fast evolving from the conventional way. With just smartphones and anamorphic lens adapters in recent developments, a videographer can quickly produce a video. One of such current trends is the use of anamorphic lens iPhone among vloggers and travel videographers.
With that said, what is an anamorphic lens iPhone? An anamorphic lens iPhone is a lens specially manufactured to be adapted for use on an iPhone for filming purposes. Lenses such as moment anamorphic lenses work perfectly well on an iPhone. (2)
Using an iPhone with an anamorphic lens is as good as using a camera kit. They give the same excellent and cinematic look results to the video footage. However, an iPhone may be limited due to insufficient storage memory. So, an anamorphic lens iPhone may not be suitable for extended video recording.
It is common with the anamorphic lens to compress the recorded images, the same rule applies to using the lens on an iPhone. However, if need be, there are different applications used during video editing to ‘de-compress’ the images. One of such applications is the Filmic Pro. A Filmic Pro app de-squishes the produced film and is perfect for anamorphic lens adapters.
The bokeh shape is the primary criterion that differentiates an anamorphic lens from a spherical lens. An anamorphic lens’ bokeh is oval-shaped, while that of the spherical lens has a round shape.
Yes, an anamorphic lens can be used in photography. Although anamorphic lenses were initially used for video making, they are now attached to DSLR cameras and even smartphone cameras to take photos.
What an insightful discussion on ‘what is an anamorphic lens?’ Undoubtedly, an anamorphic lens plays a significant role in the turnout of a video. To a more considerable extent, the lens determines how enjoyable a video will be to the viewers, depending on how a videographer properly utilized this profound lens.
An anamorphic lens improves the narrative of the video footage. The lens gives a soft and dreamy touch to the film background, and also the images formed on the sensor have less grain in appearance. However, anamorphic lenses are costlier than regular lenses but totally worth the price. Although, the older versions are less expensive.
Why do you use an anamorphic lens for your video projects? Leave your thoughts in the comment section; we’d love to hear from you.
- Noam Kroll. (2016, January 28). Anamorphic 101: How to Shoot and Edit Anamorphic Footage. Retrieved from https://www.premiumbeat.com/blog/anamorphic-101-how-to-shoot-and-edit-anamorphic-footage/
- Sarah Solvteen, Knudsen. (2020, December 03). Best Anamorphic Lenses for iPhone in 2022. Retrieved from https://academy.wedio.com/anamorphic-lenses-iphone/