Anamorphic lenses and the Canon HDSLRs

by planetmitch7 Comments

Anamorphic lenses have been around for a long time and many people just absolutely love them and their wide-screen aspect ratio for making movies – however, they don't fit on the Canon mount without some help.

What is an anamorphic lens anyway? (I didn't know either LOL!) Our friends at wikipedia have a definition but just think of a really really wide-screen movie and imagine that it won't fit in the standard aspect ratio of a Canon EOS 5D Mark II (reviews). So an anamorphic lens takes the wide field of view and squishes it so it will fit in the current sensor size and then you use software (or project it with a reversing lens) to uncompress the image back out to its wide format.

Redrock Micro

We contacted because we found them on several posts about anamorphic lenses and found they have quite a bit of experience in the field. Eddie from vid-atlantic graciously provided the following information and sent the videos and photos for planet5D:

Now that almost everyone has become a DSLR shooter, there's a growing community of users who are gearing up with Anamorphic (a.k.a. CinemaScope) attachment lenses to achieve a wider and more cinematic look.

Anamorphic lenses stretch the image to get a wider field of view while utilizing the cameras entire imager or sensor. The image must then be squeezed in post production editing. This is simply done by changing the ratio from square pixel ratio to 2x anamorphic ratio if the footage was shot using a 2x anamorphic lens or 1.33x if using a 1.33x lens.

Most anamorphic lenses that are being sought now by DSLR users, were made for both shooting and projecting (so that the footage would be properly squeezed and displayed when projected). For use on cameras, you need to attach the anamorphic lens directly in front of the taking lens. Then in most cases you must focus both lenses to the same distance to focus on your subject. Not easy, but the end results can be well worth it. That is unless you own an Iscorama, which in that case, you need to simply focus your main lens to infinity then focus only the Iscorama lens.

There's a bit more to the overall look than just a wider view though. And there's also a bit of sacrificing sharpness for style. The characteristics of light being bent and stretched, along with oval bokeh, and the out-of-focus areas having a vertical smear, is not easy to recreate in post production all at once, although there have been some very convincing post production lens flares. But its not always about the flares. If you're not sure what any of those other characteristics looks like, take a look at movies like “Heat” or “The Last of the Mohicans”. As Stu Maschwitz posted once when he recently shot using an Iscorama 54…”To those commenters wondering about how this kind of lens improves the quality of the image: It does not. Save yourself the trouble. This is a very expensive, cumbersome quality-reduction lens. If that doesn't make sense to you, then just move along. But maybe give DIE HARD or CLOSE ENCOUNTERS another watch sometime…”

Ian Carey feat. Mandy Ventrice – Let Loose (Club Mix Official Music Video) from \Vid-Atlantic Media Prod on Vimeo.

Most of these attachment lenses had non-standard filter diameter thread sizes, and even if you are lucky enough to find the correct sized step ring to mount it to your DSLR lens, you still need to have the anamorphic lens aligned properly on a horizontal axis. So if the step ring doesn't stop threading at the correct point, you will still need to figure out a way to lock it into place so that it stays aligned and secure to be able to rack focus with out it moving. Break out the gaffer tape and glue! If not the footage is skewed or slanted in one direction or another.

This is where the Anamorphic Lens clamp developed and assembled by Vid-Atlantic Media Productions comes into play. It allows you to attach many types of anamorphic lenses to almost any photographic lens by clamping a standard 52mm and or 58mm thread size to the lens.

We've developed the Anamorphic Lens Clamp mainly out of frustration. We kept buying these anamorphic lenses but had no way of mounting them correctly. The idea is nothing new at all. Some form of bracket was commonly used to clamp the lenses to projectors after shooting with them, so we found a way to machine, drill and assemble a similar solution for this problem. The clamp is available at for $75.00 USD. Every so often we sell off a few extra lenses on the site as well.

There are many lenses out there and most can be found on eBay or anywhere else that you can find older camera accessories. The most popular and in demand are the Iscorama series lenses from the German company Isco Gottigen. It's sharpness and ease of use has made the demand and price skyrocket just as quickly (and sometimes even higher) as DSLR cameras themselves. Just a year or 2 ago, you could find an Iscorama on eBay for around $100 to $200 dollars. The last 3 to sell on eBay went for $2400, $1800 and $3600 USD. This is actually similar to the price of these lenses when they were originally being sold in the 70s and 80s.

Video shot in Redwood California using a Canon 5D Mark II with Sankor 16D paired up to an Albinar FD mount 80-205mm Lens by Akira Wing:

Also, the Iscorama series lenses have a 1.5x stretch to them, making them much more convenient when using shooting 16×9 video. The 1.5x lenses were made for 35mm film format ratios and the 2x lenses were made for the less wider 16mm film format.

So if using a 2x lens on a Canon 5D or 7D in 1080 mode, you would end up with a final aspect ratio of 1920×540 or a very wide 3.55:1! But then a bit of cropping of the left and right side could get you to the much sought after 2.35:1 or 2.4:1 academy ratio.

Other lenses that are in demand are made by Kowa and Sankor both are Japanese lens makers. Most of these are 2x lenses originally made for 16mm formats. We haven't yet found a Kowa or a Sankor we couldn't pair up with an SLR lens using our Anamorphic Lens Clamp.

Most projection lenses are too long and narrow, so the trick is to find anamorphic lenses that are shorter and wide on the back end. Using wide photographic lenses will NOT yield good results. The anamorphic lenses must be paired up with at least a 35mm focal length on an APS-C sized sensor like 7D and at least 50mm on a Full Frame sensor like the 5D. Anything wider and the anamorphic lens usually ends up in the shot or you'll get heavy vignetting.

Using a 2x lens on a 50mm photographic lens will give you a very wide focal length in the end, so there may not be a need to go much wider in most case.

And, just because the iscorama's sell for so much, doesn't mean the other lenses cant be found much cheaper. I recently picked up a very nice Sankor 16D 2x and Kowa 8Z 2x for less than $200 each. We've even seen them even sell for around $75 in recent months.

More Video Examples:

Music Video shot using two Canon 5D Mark II's 1 using an Iscorama 36 attachment on a Canon 50mm EF lens, the other using a Kowa 35 1.5x InFlight paired up to a Canon 50mm FD Lens:
Ian Carey feat Mandy Ventric – Let Loose by Vid-Atlantic

Video shot around Laval, France using a Canon 7D with a Kowa 16-H (aka Kowa 8Z) Prominar Anamorphic 2x attachment paired on Canon FD 50mm f1.2, Lester A. Dine 105mm, Sigma 12-24mm & 70-200mm Lenses:
Reflets 2009-10 shot by Regis Hervagault:

A photo example:

A still photo using an Iscorama on a Canon 1D paired to a Nikon 50mm

Our thanks to Eddie from vid-atlantic for the help! What do you think? Sound off in the comments below:

(Photo credit: snap from the photo)



  1. I’ve had many a discussion about the use of anamorphic lenses. The only benefit of using one (as opposed to simply cropping the image to 2.35:1) is if the final deliverable or exhibition of the video is a 35mm print film-out or projected through a digital projector (like a Christie) properly fitted with an anamorphic lens. There is absolutely no benefit to using an anamorphic other than for that purpose.

    Think about it. You squeeze the image in order to use the entire sensor. Then, you stretch out the image to 2538×1080 in post to achieve the widescreen effect. Then, because of the 16×9 ratio of every television and current aspect of Vimeo, Youtube, etc…you need to downgrade to 1920×817…bypassing the whole spirit and intention of using an anamorphic lens in the first place.

    Bottom line, don’t waste your money on such a thing unless you are planning on projecting on the big screen with a proper projector.

    1. crook, thats about the crookedest reasoning I heard. have you no sense?

      anamorphic lenses look different. why do you choose one lens over another? probably because you like the way it looks?

      I hate über sharp video, it gives be the uncanny valley yips. meanwhile, anamorphic lenses, give me a hard on. I don’t really care about pixels, I’ll double handle them and bend them any way I like to get good pictures.

      And then there’s the flares… a 2.35 mask won’t give you them.

      good day to you sir, and I hope you find your wits.

  2. one advantage is the bokeh which makes elipses instead of circles

    id like to see more still photos with anamorphic lenses because i like this not perfect look where your lights shine in the lens though you cant see them in the shot

    are there more sites where you can see shots made with anamorphic lenses? maybe a comparison what kind of look they produce?

  3. I don’t think that Mr. Crooks statement above is a fair analysis of what Anamorphic lenses are used for today. Everyone owns a DSLR these days, making everyone’s eye used to the same old similar look. But I think shooting anamorphic lenses on a DSLR has helped many of us obtain a look closer to both classic and modern film, more or less obtain a stand out style from the next guy with his or hers 7D.

    Did you not see the video samples above Mr. Crook? If I didnt know better, I wouldve never guessed that some of the shots were shot using a DSLR video camera. Also, the writers did acknowledge that when shooting with Anamorphic lenses you would sacrifice quality for style…this is nothing new. Take a look at many movies shot with anamorphic lenses and you’ll see they’re somewhat hazy and or blurry.

    But if super sharp crisp iamges is what everyone wants, then thats what everyone already has when they buy a DSLR and pull it out of the box. With all due respect to Mr Crook, it shouldn’t be up to him to say that there is no value at all in shooting Anamporphically. Let the viewers decide if this is the look they’re after.

  4. What about jsut a matte box with a 2.35 and a 1.85 hard matte? wouldnt that work out on some superwide glass. At least to help you frame your shots.

    1. A matte means you lose about 30% of the captured scene. Using an Anamorphic lens means you leverage optics to retain 100% of the scene. The aspect ratio will be the same, but the result will look significantly different.

  5. Pingback: Using Anamorphic Lenses with HDSLRs - NoFilmSchool

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