(Click to go to updates) Updated: May 24th, 2017
In part 2 of the Anamorphic on a budget series, I’ll explore retail options as well as show you my custom single focus solution and rig and take you through all of the purchases and provide links so that you can also build the solution yourselves. I’ll also provide my preliminary testing data with some images to give you a better idea of the capabilities and limitations (more testing and video to come as I am able to take the solution outdoors and give it a really good test)
But first, let’s take a look at the Anamorphic lens I choose to use and why.
Outer Diameter = 70mm
Taking lens Diameter (rear of lens) = aprox 58-60mm
Filter thread = N/A – need an adapter
Rear Thread = N/A – need an adapter (called a taking lens adapter or anamorphic clamp)
Focus Distances (internal focus) = 5 ft (1.5 meters) to infinity
Note: The ISCO by itself has no filter threads at all (its a projector lens remember).
Using projector lenses require the use of specially fitted lens adapters and clamps in order to attach things like ND, UV filters or Diopters (which is what we use in this solution), to the front of the lens. To attach to your camera lens you need an anamorphic clamp (adapter) shown in the image at the rear. These are sold in a couple of places (more on this later).
The ISCO is short for Iscorama a German anamorphic projector lens company. There are a number of different ISCO variants, some older and some just of different quality. There are also differences in range depending on which size lens model as well as optical quality differences. The Red ISCO Ultrastar Plus 2.1 (70mm) that i have is the most expensive and from what i’ve read up on is the best of the ISCO Ultrastar family in terms of image quality and focus range. The 70mm is important in our single focus solution below. The Red ultrastar lens doesn’t produce that really distinct anamorphic flaring that a lot of folks are after however due to its coatings so if you are looking for that famous blue flare, this isn’t the lens for you (but you can add them later in post if you need to). Other versions are the Blue Star light gold version (smooth front 70mm lens housing edge) as well as an older version with a non smooth edge as well as a Darker Gold version which is older and larger than the last two i mentioned. These are Anamorphic projector lenses are from the 1980s and 1990s.
What is a Taking lens?
It’s a normal DSLR lens that you use on your DSLR camera.
The anamorphic lens is essentially a second lens put in front of your main camera lens (taking lens) using what is called an anamorphic clamp (adapter).
Let’s talk about focal length
Depending on what camera you are using, the lens field of view will be different. For example on an APS-C camera using a 50mm or higher is recommended. This also depends on how many filters or extra options you add to the end of the lens. A micro four thirds camera like the GH4 can use a 35mm with ease because of its 2.3X sensor crop in to 4K video shooting however a GH5 has only a 2X crop (35mm can still be used however I have not tested yet). A full frame camera will be limited to 85mm or higher due to its wider field of view.
Why the limitations?
This is because of Vignetting. The more equipment you put in front of the taking lens, the wider that equipment has to be as you go forward otherwise you will get what is known as vignetting (“the black tunnel closing in effect”). This is a limitation of the narrower field of views. Wide angle lenses, therefore, cannot be used on an anamorphic projection lens.
The Double Focus Problem (Some Anamorphic Projection Lenses)
The Isco Red Ultrastar Plus 2.1 is a projector lens. It was never meant to be used with a DSLR camera however with some adapters it can be used. The ISCO lens has its own focusing mechanism which range from a minimum distance of 5 feet all the way up to 20 feet and then to infinity.
Why is this a problem ?
Your camera’s DSLR lens also has a focus range which differs from the Anamorphic lens. In order to achieve proper focus at all ranges both need to be in focus at the same settings. Near impossible to do on the fly correctly while shooting at, least in my experience. This solution is impossible for run and gun shooting, in fact most anamorphic shooting with using a dual lense setup like this is not run and gun due to the weight and complexity. They require a rail system for stability and hefty support system to get great footage.
Another issue is that some vintage lenses like the Canon 50mm F1.4 SSC do not focus internally and they in effect push out the lens portion to attain focus. This is a problem when you want to have one lens attached to another to reduce stray light from getting in and get proper focusing using a special Anamorphic clamp that screws in to the front of the taking lens and clamps on to the back of the Anamorphic projector lens. You can’t double focus in this scenario.
What is the solution ?
There are 3 choices…
First would be to only shoot the Anamorphic lens in infinity mode or greater than 20 foot shots. This is certainly doable for the most landscape or picturesque shots.
The Second would be to try to use the double focus, not the best way and it means finding a taking lens that does internal manual focusing.
But what about indoors or those closer than 5 foot shots ?
A single focus add-on solution that bypasses the double focusing issue and also allows closer focusing ranges is and would be the best answer to this tricky problem.
There are 3 retail single focus solutions on the market currently (none of which i have been able to test yet), each are expensive and their optics in some solutions are questionable as they degrade the resulting image quality.
Just as a rule of thumb, the more glass you put in front of your DSLR lens will degrade your image (however strong optics like the ISCO Red Ultra star and Diopter’s with multi-coated glass actually maintain image quality in some cases as it passes through the lenses – more on this later). The weakest optical link in the chain will always degrade your image, so sometimes less is more where possible.
I have not tested or verified any of these retail solutions (manufacturers feel free to send me a commercial sample however! I would love to be proven wrong and do a proper review!)
The retail versions are:
- SLR Magic’s Rangefinder Cine – Price = $ 599 USD + Shipping (down from $995 USD originally)
(https://bhpho.to/2rcgr1Y) – B and H Photo in the USA now sell this.
Pros: It screws directly to the front of the anamorphic front filter clamp and you can range focus by just setting your lenses (taking and anamorphic) to infinity
Cons: Reviews suggest image quality suffers and there may also be some sort of color cast that has to be corrected in post. Causes Blue flaring.
- FM Lens – Price = 740 Euros + Shipping (Aprox $820 USD as of this article’s date)
Pros: The FM Lens is moderately sharp (not at F1.4 however), the lens corrects for focus breathing correctly – Perfect fit for Isco’s and Schneider Cinelux’s – Focus is from 65 cm to infinity in 180 degrees of focus throw.
Cons: Price, have to buy from the UK (no locally sourced shops) so import and shipping fees can be large, they apparently run out of stock often. The unit is really large and heavy and you have to assemble your Anamorphic lens inside of the FM lens. Outside filter thread is 105mm therefore you can’t use variable ND filters or diopters (they don’t make them that large). The Lens is very heavy (in excess of 850 grams). The lens is greater than 15cm in length when assembled.
- Rectilux 3FF-M – Price = $ 595 UK Pounds + Shipping (Aprox $768 USD as of this article date)
Pros: Best out of the 3 for image quality!
Cons: Their ordering process is a little strange. Have to order from overseas (UK), Can be expensive due to exchange, shipping and import fees and you may have to disassemble your anamorphic lens to fit.
Note: There is a new version of the Rectilux called the CoreDNA which is supposed to compete with the Rangefinder’s simplicity in installation however it’s so new there are not any good reviews of it yet.
There is a fantastic video series by a Youtuber named Tito Ferradans and you check out his summary comparison video here for more information on these:
My Custom Single Focus Solution Goals
So you may be asking, if there are retail solutions on the market why would i bother trying to make my own ?
The answer is of course is to experiment with higher quality possibilities on the cheap and to generally learn about what’s possible and why.
Also, I like DYI (Do it yourself) projects.
My inspiration came from another article by Frank Ladner who first introduced me to the idea that it may be possible to create your own focusing solution.
Check out his article here:
and his follow up article:
Getting the right equipment is of course essential, but the challenge of making something stable enough and actually usable intrigued me which is why i decided to see if I could create a DYI project using readily available items from Ebay and Amazon with minimal customization to recreate this effect all while maintaining some form of image quality.
Although not entirely as cheap for the entire Video set up with tripod, rail and rig system, batteries, monitor, quick release plates and lens, the single focus solution itself is still cheaper than the options above just for the single focus part which is what we will mostly focus on – pardon the pun.
Compared to professional cinema Anamorphic lenses and focus systems, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper!
As of last year, there are now “cheaper” Anamorphic for DSLR options appearing. SLR Magic’s Anamorphic DSLR lenses are now selling for aprox under $10,000 USD for 3 lenses ! that’s a bargain compared to the industry ones at over $20,000 a piece for Zeiss glass!
However you get my point, over time more solutions come out and try to make casual filmmaking more affordable. Anamorphics is one of those areas that is difficult to make affordable in a one small neat package. Its technically very complicated. So we must find ways of getting results with cheaper options. $3000 to $5000 is still too much for the casual filmmaker, for today the amateur just getting starting in anamorphics our target is under $1000 for the anamorphic part (you can spend a lot more than this on the rig and support system however).. Given the lack of many other good options, I think you will agree its a good target price point.
On to the components and Build!
Required components for a complete Anamorphic solution
The Five basic essential components necessary (lots of upgrade possibilities however) to create a stable Single focus anamorphic shooting solution:
- Tripod with Fluid Head – Stable Video or Photography tripod with Fluid pan head. – Most videographers will already have this.
If you don’t, I recommend the Benro Aero S4 system! Failing that purchase the Slik Pro 700D tripod, it’s reasonably priced, heavy enough for stability and comes with a cheaper pan head that is quite usable.
- Camera Rig 15mm rod support system – I use a Pro version of the Neewer DP500 Rail system (older and harder to find) along with a Formito Quick release plate (see list of purchases on where to get this)
** Note in my pictures i have modified my rail system with other add-ons which are are not provided in the purchase links at the moment. Please comment or email me with any questions.
- A Camera and Manual Focus Lens (recommended) – A DSLR Camera and Lens of your choice – Please make sure that Fullframe lenses are 85mm and higher, 50mm and higher on Crop sensor and 35mm or higher on Micro four thirds as a rule, although your experiences may vary.
- Anamorphic Lens & Clamps and Supports– Lots of choices on Ebay. Remarkably, I bought my Isco Red Ultra Star Plus 2.1 from a seller in India! (you can find others in the US and Canada). Good price, Great support and fast shipping! All in all a great buying experience!
Click Here to Purchase ISCO ultrastar
Clamps for the front filter and Rear Clamp can be purchased at a decent price at vid-atlantic.com
See list below for the Lens collar i use (with elastic) to support the Isco properly.
- Single Focus Solution (with Addon Diopters) – This is what the remainder of the article will focus on, a DYI approach as well as testing to see if in fact a DYI solution can work.
I spent quite a bit of time thinking about how I would make a single focus lens adapter focus and focus relatively smoothly. Even after all this, I am still convinced there are ways to improve stability however this adds more cost to the solution.
How everything works
Note: the 72mm front filter thread is increased to 77mm by a step up ring i forgot to add in the diagram above
The concept is inspired by Frank Ladners post (see previous links) and uses a push pull technique using a macro focusing rail almost like using a primitive zoom lens arrangement. Let me explain:
The important factors in the solution are the use of a +6 Diopter (a +4 and a +2 diopters together) combined with a wide-angle adapter with a metal tube that when pushed or pull back and forth will focus the two lenses behind to the desired focus plane. The concept is surprising simple but works quite effectively. The tricky part is creating something cheap enough to work with off the shelf components and fit all of the tolerances required for everything to fit together and be reasonably stable. No easy task to say the least.
I am convinced that my stabilization system to hold the lens mount could use even further tuning and may provide an update in the future however for now, let me delve into the different components after assembly.
The Single Focus Front Element Component
Essentially it’s composed of two 15mm mounting blocks, one with a V riser which sandwich a hacksawed Macro rail (cut down do to tolerances – lots of customization options here). The front of the macro rail was cut off in order to allow the riser rail to adjust up and down. This allows proper height adjustment when fitting the lens hood over the Anamorphic lens and front filter clamp. The ability to have that adjustment is paramount as i found fitting the height properly over the screws a tough chore. A second rail attachment below was necessary for the proper height adjustments so cheap rail clamps and a second set of rails are used that the single focus adapter sits on (it doesn’t use the top rail block’s 15mm holes as they are too high, just the bottom set – see below).
Note 1: That higher rail can be used to mount a fixed matte box! – See May 24th update at the bottom of the article
Note 2: you will notice only one lower support rod in the picture, this is because at the time of this article, i had not yet received the replacement rods for the bottom. I was using (2) 4 inch rods that were not long enough on their own. for maximum stability 2 rods (one on each side) is a minimum.
Most of these Chinese manufactured items are fairly cheap on Ebay. The only downside of course is that you need to wait longer to get the items sometimes.
I also cheated a bit by using two thick Zip ties to hold my lens hood barrel onto the riser platform. This works surprising well ! I had to use two lengths on each side for 11″ zip ties. then I interlocked each end back onto itself in a complete loop. Doing this twice increases the holding strength of the Ties.
Special Note: Please make sure you buy the riser mount in my list as it has two slots to be able to effectively do what i did. Other risers do not have this slot for a strap.
The real power of this Front single focus solution is the CAVISION 0.6X wide angle adapter. Without this component, the solution wouldn’t work at all. It’s a huge piece of front glass at 82mm (the largest i could find). Its key because it undoes the field of view shrinkage that occurs with the diopter’s and allows focusing when moved.
My original intent was to only use Micro Four Thirds camera with this solution but i soon realized that Canon APS-C sensor sizes would also work using a 50mm F1.4 lens (with minor vignetting)
The key to my design was to make sure i incrementally increased the diameter from the anamorphic lens outwards. Small to Large essentially otherwise nasty vignetting occurs with wider lenses that have a greater field of view.
I realized that vignetting may be a problem early on with moving the lens hood too far forward. I thought about how i would go about fixing this problem. As it turns out the fix was to increase my Diopter power which lessens the distance outward that the wide-angle adapter has to travel away from the diopter lens itself (thus decreasing the narrowing effect of the lens and hood). The downside is that your focus throw is a lot shorter. the more diopter power you add changes all these values. +6 seems to be a good sweet spot (see preliminary test results for more information on specifics).
Note: I have not tested with above +6 Diopter power however the more power you have the less distances to focus on the Macro rail. It is also difficult to find higher strength doublets (diopters) in 77mm size.
These Polaroid Diopters are a gem find. Diopters or Doublets as they are known are specially manufactured in a way that two pieces of glass are bonded together so that they cancel out each others flaws. This is different from single glass that is coated. True Doublets are high quality and are not supposed to cause any image degradation.
Given that Polaroid hasn’t been known lately for their image quality, I first was skeptical of the results. I’m pleased to say that i get excellent results with these. No loss of image quality and virtually not much loss of light.
Polaroid 77mm Diopters (Doublets)
The 77mm 250D = +4 Diopter
The 77mm 500D = +2 Diopter
Together they give you +6 Magnification.
On their own, you can use these with the Isco anamorphic lens and get really excellent close up results.
Combining them with the single focus front adapter gives you fantastic results for focusing close range and then being able to quickly rack or shift your focus.
Note: The rack focusing isn’t perfect yet, there is some play in the macro rail due to the weight on it. I am looking into solutions to fix this problem. One solution may be to buy another macro rail and use a longer rail instead of cutting it so short. another is to add weight to the macro rail at the back of it itself using heavier steel washers.
The following links below are my affiliate links. I make a very small amount of commission if you purchase through these links. Thank you in advance for your support!
Camera Rig Components
- Camera Rig Quick Release plate for bottom of rig (not camera plate) from Amazon.ca – (Click link below)
Fomito Universal Compatible Tripod Camera Rapid Connect Adapter Mount Kit with Quick Release Plate
- 15mm Rods (8-Inch in Length) – from Amazon.ca – (Click link below)
15mm Rods Aluminum Alloy (8-Inch in Length) for 15mm Rod Clamps, 15mm Rod Matte Box, 15mm Lens Supports
- Camera Rig Quick Release plate for bottom of rig (not camera plate) from Amazon.ca – (Click link below)
Anamorphic lens support and components
For Front filter (I bought the 72mm and added a 77mm STEP UP Adapter) and Anamorphic taking lens clamp please visit www.vid-atlantic.com as they are the lowest cost and fastest supplier of these products at the time of this writing.
- +4 Diopter from Amazon.ca – (Click link below)
Polaroid 250D Close Up Lens (77mm)
- +2 Diopter from Amazon.ca – (Click link below)
Polaroid 500D Close Up Lens (77mm)
- Smallrig Clamp Rail Block 15mm Rail support system (for supporting Lens Collar below to hold Anamorphic lens) from Ebay
- DSLRKIT Tripod Mount Ring A001 (originally for Tamron AF 70-200MM F/2.8 D) from Ebay – 70mm Inner Diameter! Important for Isco ultra star!
- (2) Large Metal Washers and 1/4-20 Screw and Nut (find these at any hardware store) – (Need this support to raise the tripod mount up a bit to fit the taking lens and clearance for the 105mm lens hood)
- 77mm Center-Pinch Snap-on Front Lens Cap Cover from Ebay (covers front of Diopter or ISCO lens when single focus isn’t on)
- 70-200mm Lens Band (for protecting your lens against bit marks from the screws and because its silicon its anti-slip) – (Click link below)
CamDesign High Fashion Soft Silicone Circlet-band to Prevent Zoom Lens “Creep” by Applying Around Camera Lens’ Focusing Ring 70 – 200 mm One size fits all lenses (10 Pieces, Teal)
- 49mm or 52mm Lens Band (to stretch on to the back of Isco Ultrastar Anamorphic lens to protect against the vid-atlantic clamp screws which goes over it)
Single Focus Solution Components
- (1 package – only 4 needed however) #10-24 3/8” Socket Head Hex Cap Screws (to replace longer ones shipped by Vidatlantic)
- Smallrig Clamp Rail Block 15mm Rail support system from Ebay (Main support block to hold Single focus solution and macro rail on 15mm lower rails)
- Smallrig Height-adjustable 15mm Rod Lens Support Bracket from Ebay (Main riser support to hold the 105mm hood and Cavision wideangle lens)
- 95 mm Center Pinch Snap On Front Lens Cap Cover from Ebay (For front of CAVISION lens – find it easier to take on and off)
- 105mm Telephoto Metal Camera Lens Hood with Filter Thread from Ebay (Main focusing tube holding the CAVISION Wide angle lens)
- Stepping Ring Step Down 105-82mm from Ebay ( To allow 82mm front filter thread for the CAVISION Wideangle adapter to screw on to)
- CAVISION 0.6x Wide Angle Adapter for 82mm Thread Lens from Ebay (The main Wideangle Lens component)
- 2-way Macro Shot Focusing Focus Rail Slider from Ebay (Only item to modify – Modify the rail length with metal Hack saw to fit as necessary)
- (2) x 4 Hole Risers turned on end to support a lower 15mm rod set for the Single Focus Solution from Amazon.ca (this attaches behind your Lens collar for the Anamorphic lens on the upper rail) – (Click link below)
Neewer 4-hole Rod Raiser Clamp to Raise a Second Set of 15mm Rods on DSLR Shoulder Rig
an alternate part (to save space)
CAMVATE 15mm Rod Clamp 1/4″-20 Thread Knob for DLSR Camera Rig Cage Baseplate from Ebay – (Click link below)
I have prepared a preliminary testing document to show tolerances and observed behaviours of the adapter. So far things work quite well. There are some minor issues due to jitter when moving the macro rail which may be caused by a loose gear after i did my sawing. Some vignetting problems are due to positioning. I only had one rail to test on as my order did not show up in the mail on time… Once this second rail is present and i come up with minor tweaks to the macro rail i am sure that the jitter and vignetting issues will be less.
I haven’t included instructions to assemble (yet). From the pictures i am hoping that most of the set up makes sense to you and you can easily replicate this for now.
I plan on releasing a full instruction document once i am satisfied i can tweak this version to the best it can be and i have time to write one. Look for that in the near future on this page.
First initial Testing Document
Testing Document – Click Here
First outdoor focus test @ 50mm
May 24th, 2017
Matte Box – I’ve recently purchased the FOTGA DP3000 M3 PRO (Swing away) Matte Box with 4×4 filter holders for testing on the Single Focus Anamorphic solution.
Due to my unique design and by adding two short 4″ 15mm rods to the single focus itselffrom the top rail on the single focus unit, the Matte box will move with the Front single focus lens mechanism! This allows the matte box not to interfere with the focusing at all as they move as one unit (in theory).
I will be testing this feature along with the new sliding rail (for stability and weight). As soon as i receive the parts (sometime in June) I will update everyone on how this solution works in practice.
Lens Update Option (Confirmed) – Contacted CAVISION and it turns out that a larger Broadcast version (model # LWA07x95) of a 0.7X Wide angle lens @ 95mm is available for purchase currently for $329.00 USD.
What does this mean?
It means that with an appropriate thread adapter, the single focus solution front element (the wide-angle adapter) could be bigger by simply changing out the lens for this larger version and going from 105mm to 95mm instead of 82mm.
Although i am currently unable to test this currently due to the cost of the larger lens and the fact that CAVISION doesn’t have any test units to currently send me (its a New Product), I am confident that the larger lens will make shooting easier for 50mm taking lenses (adapted) on APS-C sensors with no vignetting.
There is one other test factor which is
An adapter ring to go from 105 to 95mm could be manufactured or purchased from some Ebay resellers for under $30.00 USD or cheaper (currently its a custom only item).
Heres a test video showing the Canon 85mm F1.8 SSC taking lens (50mm f1.4 is shown on the first title page with a little vignette) with the single focus anamorphic solution.
I was able to focus in real time while shooting the fish. I had some issues with jitter however in some cases was able to focus smooth enough for most shots.
Check out the results:
May 20th, 2017
6 Updates/ Comments to tell you about.
- Macro Rail Stability – I’ve ordered a new slide rail to replace the cheaper less stable one i’ve been using. Due to the fact that i cut the existing slide rail to 5 cm from over 10 cm, its not providing enough stability. Also there is a clear gap which the slider is loose which causes substancial jitter (check out the test video i made to see). I tried attaching weights to the back of the slide rail on top, it helped a little but in my opinion isn’t doing the job i thought it would (plus it adds more unncessary weight). As soon as i have the new slide rail installed a cut to fit the front riser, i’ll update the ebay links and show a new photo of the set up.
- Planned upgrade! – Macro Rail with Slider for Rack focus testing – One other new plan is to start playing with a ball bearing slider system on a cheese plate instead of just the block mount underneith the macro rail support. The benefit of this will allow rack focusing manually in quick smooth movements back and forth (rollers) while still being able to lock it down and then get fine focus control with the macro rail for more static shots (best of both worlds). I will keep you posted!
- Vignetting at 50mm – The vignette problem at 50mm does not appear when using an 85mm Fullframe lens as the taking lens. In fact the picture has no vignetting even fully focused in past 5cm to aprox 7cm on the macro rail. So 85mm on this set up works without issue. Currently for 50mm to work at max focus length properly, you need to frame your image while shooting so that you can crop the image horizontally in post and cut off the vignetting. This seems to work well so far.
- Rack Focus and Rig weight – I’ve now shot some footage of my fish tank of which i will be posting a video shortly in which i demonstrate the 85mm lens as well as trying to rack focus with in the shots. Jitter is still an issue as well as weight of the overall rig. My Benro S4 video fluid head is a little overloaded so some of you may want to buy the biggest video fluid head you can afford. Replacing some of the components of the rig that are metal with carbon fiber is also an option to reduce some weight (if you can afford it). I will be looking into purchase options shortly and will update this Blog article.
- Post production and Anamorphic Editing – The more I work with the ISCO 2X Red Ultra-star plus 2.1 the more I get the sense that it’s not a true 2X anamorphic, at least in terms of how we are using it with a wide angle adapter.
In Adobe Premiere editing software i’m noticing that when i interpret the footage as Anamorphic 2:1 and then lay the clip in the timeline, The footage looks too stretched. I’ve found that by scaling the footage in the timeline back down to 74% in both horizontal and vertical, (new frame size equals aprox 1920×800 frame) the sizing looks correct. This means that the ISCO lens is really acting like a 1.75:1 stretch instead of the full 2X while using my single focus solution with the CAVISION Wide Angle adapter. I have not tested this wihtout the single focus yet to see if the stretching factor is inherent to the lens itself. So far things are still okay and workable after realizing this aspect. It just means less horizontal resolution to play with for cropping and more careful attention while shooting.
- CAVISION 95mm Wideangle Lens replacement – I have contacted CAVISION to see what other larger solutions they have to get around the 50mm vignette issue. As 50mm would be the most ideal shooting Full frame lens (and its the cheapeast and most common lens size), it makes sense to see what an alternative front wideangle adapter they may have. I’ve been told there is a model with a 95mm back filter thread that might work however i am still trying to get specifics on the costs and whether this item makes sense for the added cost. I am waiting for some replies from the company before i post anything further. I’m being told a model # of LWA07X95 which is an adapted version of the LWA07x86 (without the back 85mm clamp). Given that a 95mm filter thread would still fit my 105mm lens hood on the single focus solution with an adapter ring from 105 to 95mm instead of 105mm to 82mm, this would allow the 50mm lens to function without vignette at the long end of 7cm or 5cm zoom lengths on the macro rail.