What Is an Anamorphic Lens?

What Is an Anamorphic Lens?

When you shoot an image using a spherical lens e.g. a 35mm camera, you get an image with an aspect ratio of approximately 3:2.

If you try to capture a wide-angle image or shoot widescreen videography, you have to crop the image to change the aspect ratio, causing you to lose a significant portion of your image.

With an anamorphic lens, you don’t need to crop to achieve the same look. So, what is an anamorphic lens? It is a lens that was created to utilise the entire 35mm frame while producing a widescreen image.

How Does an Anamorphic Lens Work?

In the simplest terms for how an anamorphic lens works, it allows you to create a widescreen video or wide-angle view by squeezing the image along the horizontal plane while leaving the vertical plane intact. Your image gets compressed horizontally, displaying a wider field of view.

So Why Not Just Use a Wide-Angle Lens?

If you’re familiar with wide-angle lenses, you know that one of the major challenges with them is that they inevitably create distortion.

The wider the angle, the greater the distortion. Any closeup shot looks particularly unnatural. An anamorphic lens produces a wide-angle shot without this alteration.

When you use an anamorphic lens, you get a shallow depth of field at the center of your image.

As long as you shoot within the lens’s minimum focal range, you get a true-to-life representation center frame. This allows you to take closeups while capturing a wide angle at the same time.

If you shoot with an anamorphic lens, you have minimal post-production work to do for the image to display correctly. Whether you use this lens for video or stills, you simply have to stretch the image to its full aspect to display the wide-angle view. If you forget this step, you just get a distorted shot.

What Is an Anamorphic Lens Used for?

The most obvious answer for when to use anamorphic lenses is to shoot wide-angle video, as this was the main reason these lenses were developed.

However, the lens is also great for still shots. If you want to get a wide-angle view, whether in video or stills, that allows you to shoot undistorted closeups, then an anamorphic lens is the way to go.

An anamorphic lens also gives you the shot without the post-production cropping that is required with a standard lens. This means you retain a higher resolution, plus all of the details along the top and bottom portions of the frame.

Why Use an Anamorphic Lens?

So far, we have talked about the benefits of using an anamorphic lens in terms of field of view and distortion.

When the lens was developed, the idea was to utilise the entire frame in getting a wider view, without distorting the center of the frame.

In film, this is critically important - otherwise, closeup shots of people appear unnatural when you use a wide-angle lens, or you lose details and resolution when you crop a standard 35mm image.

There are other good reasons to use an anamorphic lens. This type of lens produces effects that lend to increased creativity and a certain sense of atmosphere.

Some of the main benefits for using the anamorphic lens include:

  • A shallow depth-of-field at the center, which leads to softness in the details as you fall off toward the edges. For extreme closeups, you get sharp focus on your subject, while everything else in the image is out of focus.
  • A Cinematic feel to your videos and stills
  • Horizontally oriented oval bokeh, which produces a unique look that is different from the traditional circular bokeh.
  • Horizontal flares that create an atmospheric element to your images that you just can’t get from a standard lens without adding additional filters.

Do I Need an Anamorphic Lens?

Whether you need an anamorphic lens or not depends entirely on the type of shooting you do and your preferences and personal tastes in style and atmosphere.

If you want to shoot videos or stills that produce a feeling of intimacy and warmth, an anamorphic lens is an excellent choice.

Using this lens is also a good idea for those of you who like to shoot closeups while retaining a wide-angle view. This can be great for landscape photography if, for instance, you want a closeup of a flower or a person while also retaining an expansive backdrop.

It’s also perfect for filmmakers who want to achieve the same thing. When it comes down to it, an anamorphic lens opens up a whole new world of artistry and creativity.

Our Pick for the Best Anamorphic Lenses

 

When you purchase your anamorphic lens, you want to know that the investment is worth it. You need a high-quality lens that produces the desired effects. Additionally, anamorphic lenses are all prime lenses, so you often need more than one.

The SLR Magic Anamorphot-CINE range has it all. Avaliable in both 2x for MFT Mount and 1.33x for PL Mount. Avaliable individually or as a three lens set, allowing you to choose from the three most popular and useful formats: 35mm, 50mm and 70mm.

These lenses have a minimum focus distance of 3.5 feet, allowing you to move in nice and close to your subject while still giving you a true cinematic feel.

 

For those who are not quite ready to make the full investment in an anamorphic lens, there is an alternative option.

The SLR Magic Anamorphot-40 1.33x Anamorphic Adapter can be added to any standard 35mm camera lens with a front element of up to 52mm.

This adapter gives you the same effects as a full anamorphic lens but provides you the opportunity to experiment with minimal investment. It’s also incredibly versatile, as the front threads allow you to add filters for additional effects.

If you are ready to purchase a high-quality anamorphic lens that is both affordable and functional, look no further than C.R. Kennedy.

C.R. Kennedy is one of Australia’s leading distributors of cameras and photographic equipment. We offer a wide range of DSLR, mirrorless, full-frame and action cameras.

If you need more information check out more articles on the C.R. Kennedy blog.

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