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NAB 2015 Lenses review part two: Anamorphic for the masses

Friday, May 15, 2015 12:00 AM

WTS production specialist and camerman Patrick van Weeren continues his round-up of the best new lenses from NAB 2015, and this time he's looking at anamorphic lenses, which have enjoyed a renaissance at recent NABs.

Arri Zeiss 19-36mm T4.2 2x anamorphic ultra-wide zoom lens

When he first invented the anamorphic lens to afford World War I tank commanders a 180-degree view of the battlefield, Frenchman Henri Chretien probably didn’t envisage it becoming a staple of the film industry.

From these beginnings, he went on to develop the hypergonar optical process – but after its initial use in a 1920s short film by Claude Autant-Lara, the patent was bought by Twentieth Century Fox – and promptly shelved for the best part of three decades.

It wasn’t until 1952 that CinemaScope, as Twentieth Century Fox called it, emerged, starting a whirlpool of super-widescreen formats, of which only a few survived. Indeed it took until the 1980s for an industry standard to be established, by comparing the existing formats and figuring out that 16:9 was the most easily captured frame size from all of these versions.

Given that the shallow depth of field beloved of movie-makers has also now branched out into the world of TV and low budget productions, it’s no great surprise that anamorphic filming has come back into fashion at recent NABs.

Cooke 2x front anamorphic zoom lens

Anamorphic aficionado Cooke was the star turn, announcing a front anamorphic zoom lens that would not look out of place amongst their famous anamorphic primes. The range is yet to be announced. There was also a launch for the 135mm anamorphic /i prime – and the British glass specialist looks all set to announce more lenses in the near future.

NAB 2015: Angenieux Optimo anamorphic 30-72mm A2S lens

Angenieux have widened their range of anamorphic zooms with a lightweight Optimo 30-72 A2S. The lens is a good companion to some of its competitors’ prime anamorphics, or use it together with the previously released Optimo 56-152 A2S and you can cover the full range of lenses needed for a complete feature – as cinematographer Gustavo Biazzi did with the film El Cielo del Centauro by director Hugo Santiago. He just used the single Optimo 56-152.

Angenieux will bring out a third lens in its anamotphic zoom range in the future.

Arri _Zeiss _19-36mm _T4.2_2x _anamorphic _ultra -wide _zoom _lens

Arri/Zeiss showed a new 19-36mm T4.2 2x anamorphic ultra-wide zoom lens (above) and some interesting flare adaptor sets (below). The anamorphic flare that we all know from the classic films is definitely en vogue at the moment, and Arri/Zeiss have created a little cheat by giving you the option for some serious filters that will create similar flares on Master Anamorphic Primes.

NAB 2015:Arri anamorphic flare adaptors

As an Arri anamorphic aside, the new Alexa Mini, which proved to be such a big draw, has a 4:3 sensor that is capable of filming in an anamorphic format. The LA film industry will surely love that! Another plus point for the camera is its symmetrical design – the central position of the lens mount really helps when rigging the camera.

Back to lenses: Spanish rental house Servicevision not only builds cranes and stabilized remote heads, its portfolio of 2x anamorphic lenses – the Scorpio range – is growing.

Germany’s P+S Technik introduced another anamorphic lens for 16:9 sensors. The lens is 35-70mm with a squeeze of 1.45 instead of 2, as the 16:9 format already gives you a head start to anamorphic compared to a 4:3 size sensor.

At the other end of the spectrum, Panasonic has opened up the possibility of anamorphic filming on a low budget camera with a firmware update for the GH4, meaning it’s able to output a near-4:3 image. Fresh from a successful Kickstarter campaign, Veydra has announced that it will make two anamorphic lenses to work with the Micro Four Thirds hand-held GH4.

NAB 2015: Veydra 16mm anamorphic lens

And Atomos has added its own plot twist to this anamorphic-for-less story by enabling its Shogun recorder both to de-squeeze the image for viewing and to record the original simultaneously. Atomos has also added a new feature that allows cache recording (pre-roll) on their external recorders.

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