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August 2016

Anamorphic

Anamorphic on a Budget – FM Lens

August 28, 2016

I got a hold of the last of the single focus attachments for projection lenses. The FM was the first to be released in the market allowing double focus setups to work just like any normal lens, or Iscorama.

USEFUL LINKS:

All the RED links on this post are part of eBay’s Partner Network, so if you purchase anything through them, you’re helping me to keep this project going.

You can support this project on Patreon. Make your contribution and help the Anamorphic Cookbook!

OVERVIEW
Tito Ferradans here to tell you that it’s finally time to test out the remaining single focus solution! The Focus Module – popularly known as FM lens – was the first variable-strength diopter to come out on the market to solve the issue of double focusing with projection lenses. I’ve written enough about variable-strength diopters, so I won’t dwell on its workings. The name, Focus Module, is pretty straightforward about the product’s goal. This was the second anamorphic-related product released by Anamorphic Shop.

Released in late 2014, it was the first taste of single focus with beloved projection lenses such as the Kowa B&H, Schneider Cinelux and Isco Blue Star. I’ll avoid as many comparisons as possible with equivalent products (Rectilux and Rangefinder) as I’m working on a comparison video between all three of them. That being said, since the FM was the first one to be released, I believe people were more tolerant with it. Close to release, a gigantic thread grew on EOSHD, with both strong love and hate for the product.

The FM Lens is massive. The casing weighs 850g and measures 15cm from top to bottom, focused to infinity. It grows additional 2.7cm at close focus. Focus goes from infinity down to 65cm in just over 180 degrees of throw. The one I got already came with a custom follow focus ring, but that doesn’t originally come with lens. Front thread is 105mm (male) and rear thread is 72mm, with a custom step-down ring for the Schneider Cinelux. If using another anamorphic than the Cinelux, you won’t have rear threads. In order to use the front threads, unscrew the front lip and install your 105mm filter backwards on it.

The back clamp is also a lens collar and has a slot for a 1/4″ screw for lens support. The front part of the lens rotates and moves with focusing, which makes it hard to use another lens support than at the back. The rotation is also challenging for variable NDs and polarizers. This is a setup that REQUIRES rails. You can’t just hang the FM in front of your taking lens and go out to shoot.

In order to get it working, focus your anamorphic to infinity and place it inside the Focus Module. This is also the time when you align the lens and lock it into place internally. The FM can take multiple anamorphics but might need additional accessories to hold them in place like the FM Collar 24, since the inner diameter of the tube is 71mm. It all has to fit under 89mm length, which is why the Schneider Cinelux is the ideal candidate (71mm diameter and 89mm length).

Anamorphic Shop’s youtube channel has a video on how to fit the Cinelux in there. It’s a straightforward process that is also explained on their product page.

My FM Lens came fitted with an Isco Cinelux inside, but to keep it all leveled I swapped that for a Kowa B&H and used the same Contax Zeiss lenses I used for the other single focus solutions reviews. Putting the Kowa in there required some disassembly.

PRICE and AVAILABILITY
The FM Lens used to sell for 640 euro which translates to about 700 dollars, not including the anamorphic lens. They ran out of stock a few months ago and it doesn’t look like there’s a plan of making more any time soon. Currently, the only way to acquire a Focus Module is through the used market. Unfortunately there’s no constant supply and prices vary from $750 all the way up to $1100 – usually including the anamorphic inside.

RESOLUTION
I must say I didn’t expect it to be this sharp. I was able to get pretty decent results down to f/1.4, but the sharpest images come from f/2.8 and upwards.

The large front element doesn’t worry me since the FM is capable of very decent close focusing, dismissing the need for extra diopters. If you want to get the full resolution frames for these tests, they’re available for download here.


Contax Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 CENTER

Contax Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 CORNERS


Contax Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 CENTER

Contax Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 CORNERS


Contax Zeiss 135mm f/2.8 CENTER

Nikon 135mm f/2.8 CORNERS

FLARES
The FM is neutral on the flares, introducing no other reflections or colors to the Kowa’s original flare.

SENSOR COVERAGE
For 2.4:1 shooting, you can go as wide as 50mm, since the 40mm pancake already introduces intense vignetting. As for 3.56:1, 85mm is the way to go. Test ahead, because vignetting creeps in slightly as you focus closer. It’s not a lot, but definitely some.

WORLD TEST
The biggest challenge with shooting the FM is its weight. Support at the back of the lens, and by a single screw, isn’t a well thought out solution. It causes the lens to rotate ever so slightly if you’re not careful when moving. I was able to jury rig mine with 1/4″ screws, nuts and spacers, but I heard of users building big rigs just to be able to work properly with it. The focus throw is also very long, which works with the thick focus gear that came with it, but wouldn’t work with a normal gear – I’ve heard good things about FocusMaker to solve this issue, but it’s not a standard follow focus. The results aren’t unpleasing, though. Single focus solutions have a spell that always blows me away when I use them. The FM is no exception to the rule. My confession is that support and weight sucks, but having the anamorphic always aligned, just sliding in and out as I swapped taking lenses was a more than pleasant experience.

The main issue, in terms of performance, is that you can get a bloom/glow kind of thing when using fast apertures with the FM, like what you see in the low-light tests. I am OK with that – I usually add that in post to most of my footage – but it’s something that, as I just said, I’d rather add in post than in camera.


Photo and mod by Cosimo Murgolo

One cool mod that came to be because of the FM Lens was the chopped version of it. It has the style of the Rangefinder and Rectilux Core DNA, just the focusing optics, sawed off from the rest of the body and attached to an anamorphic adapter. This was developed by Cosimo Murgolo and also in play by Jesse Heidenfeld and allows much better results with the Kowa B&H and shorter anamorphics, allowing them to go much wider. Would you have the guts to do it?

Besides that, stay tuned for a shootout mixing all three single focus out there (Rectilux, Rangefinder and FM), as I might be the only person with all of them at hand to do it! Subscribe now to be notified when it comes up! Also, feel free to check the blog for countless other articles, tutorials and reviews. That’s it for today. See you soon!



Anamorphic Day-to-Day

Chop Shop – 3D Printing Focus Gears

August 21, 2016

First video that isn’t directly anamorphic, but still geared (pun intended) to save you some money and empower you to make your own seamless focus gears!

USEFUL LINKS:

All the RED links on this post are part of eBay’s Partner Network, so if you purchase anything through them, you’re helping me to keep this project going.

You can support this project on Patreon. Make your contribution and help the Anamorphic Cookbook!

Tito Ferradans here for the first non-anamorphic tutorial. Some of you might’ve read me saying that – for The New Romantics pilot episode – I tweaked up my Contax Zeiss lens set. I added Leitax mounts to all of them, getting rid of adapters’ wiggliness and, most relevantly than this, I added focus gears to all five lenses (28, 35, 50, 85 and 135mm). Instead of buying focus gears and switch them from lens to lens – which would’ve taken too much time on set – or buying a ton of those straps of gears and then fitting them to every lens, I took the most direct route and 3d printed them. As 3D printers become more and more popular, I thought it would be a useful tutorial.

I (not so) recently got a Micro 3D Printer, which is tiny but big enough to print focus gears for most lenses, with a print area of about 10x10x10cm. The next step was going to Thingiverse and downloading a free project for seamless gears – the original maker recommends ABS plastic, but I only had PLA, so I’m here to assure you both materials work just fine. To fully enjoy the beauty of this file, I recommend downloading OpenSCAD and playing with the customizable file. Now that the software was kind of ready, I went back to the lenses. Doing the first one is the hardest part – especially for me, that had never 3D printed in my life – and it took me FIVE days. After that, I was getting two done per day.

I’m going off the subject. Back to the lenses, using a caliper, measure the diameter of the focus ring – in millimeters. BE. VERY. PRECISE. For this Tokina 28-70mm, I measured 80.45 mm so I’ll add 0.15mm to that number and input this information into OpenSCAD.

The file you got from Thingiverse has three customizable parameters. The first parameter is the number of teeth. It affects how wide the gear is going to be. For a set of lenses, I like to keep the number of teeth constant so I don’t have to even adjust the follow focus after switching lenses. A thicker gear is also much more resistant than a thin one. The second of of them is the diameter of the hole where the lens should pass. I prefer to make this a tight fit so I can sand it down if it’s too tight. If it’s too lose, you gotta print another one. The third parameter is the height of the gear. Some lenses have a lot of travel when focusing – like the Iscoramas, Rectilux or Focus Module for example – so having a regular, 10mm gear, isn’t enough as it will travel off the follow focus’ reach. Make it thicker to ensure your follow focus won’t slip off during operation. You can also get this measurement with a caliper.


Now that all the numbers are in, run the script (F5), create the model (F6) and export the STL for print. Every 3D printer’s got their own software, so just load up the model and the important part is to set the right resolution. As this is a precision part, I had good results with 150 micrometers and filling it so the space inside the gear is solid instead of hollow. Did I mention 3D printing takes forever? A focus gear takes an average of six hours to print, so be patient.


*elevator music*

After it’s done, get rid of any imperfections by sanding them away. I always used a coarse – 80 grit – sandpaper, but you can use a thin one for a finer feel. Usually the gear doesn’t fit the lens right off the bat – which is good because it has to be tight – so the process is to do a bit of sanding, then test it out. More sanding, more testing. Getting it in is also another interesting step, as you don’t want it to simply slide in – that would be too lose. Fitting it is a constant challenge of leveling down the gear on the lens’ body a few millimeters at a time. Wiggling and patience are your best tools. You WILL have sore hands after doing this for a while. Also, lenses that have a rubber ring are better fits than the ones that are plain metal, since the rubber helps a lot with grip.

After this, you’re pretty much done. Just put the lens on the camera and get your follow focus running! I hope you found this tutorial useful and I’d be more than glad to see the results you get from it! Be patient all throughout. It’s a slow process, but comparing the costs to the results, it’s definitely worth your while. This is a different tutorial than usual, since it’s not DIRECTLY related to anamorphic – even though you CAN (and should) make focus gears for your scopes – so subscribe and be sure to check the archives to get addicted to anamorphic shooting. See you soon, Tito Ferradans out.

A photo posted by Tito Ferradans (@tferradans) on

Anamorphic Day-to-Day

Buying Your First Anamorphic Lens

August 21, 2016

Don’t be offended if I sent you this link and said nothing else. Please understand that replying to individual questions about this or that lens eats up a lot of my time and prevents me from developing original content for a larger audience – yourself included. So read the post and watch the video below as I did my best to answer your (and others’) request. If you still have questions, I suggest you join group discussions either on facebook or EOSHD and do some more research on your own. There’s no absolute answer to “which lens should I buy?”. It’s all in your heart and mind.

——

All the RED links on this post are part of eBay’s Partner Network, so if you purchase anything through them, you’re helping me to keep this project going.

Tito Ferradans here from the Anamorphic on a Budget guide and the upcoming Anamorphic Cookbook. So, there’s this question I get asked AT LEAST twice a day: “Hey dude, I watched all your videos and errrr… I still don’t know what lens to buy! Can you help me?” and, sure, I can! I replied to every single message I got so far. Facebook, emails, comments, instagram, whatever. The problem is it takes me quite the time to help each person and that’s not an efficient solution because tomorrow I’ll end up replying something very similar to somebody else. I was inspired to write this post after reading a great reply by Chris Bold on EOSHD and decided to write this post to help anyone tormented by the question of “which anamorphic should I buy?”

“There’s really no one piece of advice that’s going to fit everyone’s needs. The best way to decide on your first anamorphic is to research, research, research.

Tito’s Anamorphic blog is one of the best starting points. And you won’t find a larger collected body of anamorphic knowledge than this forum. Search it deeply! Also look at test footage on Youtube and Vimeo of various lenses to see if a particular brand of lens produces an aesthetic that really appeals to you.

Watch some films shot with anamorphic. I just re-watched the original Mad Max, and realized there are some shots with horrible aberrations at the edges, and the film has barrel distortion throughout. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. What matters is how the images made me feel, not how razor sharp or technically precise they were.”

– Chris Bold, 2016

This is oriented to those who never used an anamorphic lens before and desperately wanna be a part of the game. No, it’s not the final word about which lens should one choose and there are PLENTY of different ways to approaching anamorphics, but, once again, if you’re starting out now, you better start with the basics. There are usually a few other branches to the original question like I want sharpness!, I want flares!, I have so and so as taking lenses, I use this or that camera, I want it for less than $50 bucks, I want something easy to use!.

Heads up: nothing fulfills all of these requirements.

“Once you find a lens or two that falls within your budget, search EOSHD and other forums to see what others have built to get the most out of those lenses. You’ll find that there are different strategies to mounting them… from ‘bailing wire & bubble gum,’ to buying specialty parts, to custom-fabricating parts on your own, and many options in between.

1.33x adapters don’t have the sharpest image quality and don’t do well in low light, but are often the easiest to use. They tend to be lightweight and adapt easily to taking lenses. Usually good flares but less oval bokeh. They are relatively easy to acquire and will run you between $500-800. Not a bad choice for starting anamorphic.

Big projector lenses will give you that nice 2x oval bokeh, but vary wildly in terms of flare and image quality. They are invariably heavy so they require a certain amount of adaptation and support (which adds even more weight).

Although I don’t have one, there are some dual-focus lenses that appear to deliver great images. But dual focus seems to present another set of headaches if you’re shooting something with lots of movement. Probably not something you want to take on as a beginner. Dual focus owners can speak better to the learning curve and the time involved to get good focus during dynamic/complicated shots.”

Anamorphics don’t have a 24-70 f/2.8 – a lens that can shoot pretty much anything. Each adapter has its quirks and widely different price tags. In this post I’m aiming towards simplicity, towards a learning journey and not for a definitive answer. Most of the lenses I picked as “beginner” lenses have 1.33x stretch, which leads to a resulting aspect ratio of 2.36:1, almost perfect Cinemascope with no need for cropping or tweaking the camera settings. One step at a time and you’re gonna feel at home shooting anamorphic in no time!

Panasonic LA7200

The Panasonic LA7200 is one of the most common entry-level anamorphics. Its advantages are clear, it has large glass, light build, not extremely hard to find or super expensive and it’s a focus-through adapter, meaning that you’re gonna handle your camera the same way you always did, focusing with your spherical lens. It’s a great match for modern zooms like the 24-70 and it’s the widest anamorphic adapter out there, going as wide as 28mm with no vignetting on Full Frame. Oh, you want sci-fi flares? Sure, the Panny’s got them.

Its downsides are softness around the edges and the need to stop down the taking lens to f/4-5.6 to get sharp images. Close focus is also an issue, with the extra challenge of “how do I cover this front glass??”. The cheapest way is taping the diopters to its front. Needless to say it’s quite risky, but works wonders. If you want more info, check the LA7200’s in-depth review!

Century Optics DS-1609

The Century is the cheap alternative to the Panasonic. With the same focus-through handling, you focus using the taking lens. Glass is not as great, but its compactness brings the advantage of being easily modified to hold diopters. Some of the older Centuries come in non-standard mounts, so you need to do some modding, but that’s also easy. It still goes very wide, at 35mm for Full Frame and has awesome blue flares. Optical downsides are the same as the Panny’s: softness around the edges, lower f-stops on the taking lens and challenging close focus. If you want more info, check the Century’s in-depth review!

SLR Magic Anamorphot 1.33x

The SLR Magic 1.33x Anamorphot is a renovation of the concept behind the Panny and Century. You still use your taking lens for focusing, but SLR Magic added a “Near” dial which allows for good quality and close focusing at the same time at the expense of infinity focus. It also has standard threads at the front and back, so no need for modding anything. This one doesn’t go as wide as the others but I had great results pairing it to Canon’s 40mm pancake. The recommended aperture is f/2.8 or slower, so it’s also not great for low-light and fast lenses. Flares are stupidly intense and that can be considered both good and bad, depending on personal taste.

The Anamorphot’s greatest advantage is that it’s readily available at several retailers and buyers get top-quality support from SLR Magic if they have any issues with the lens. I believe this adapter is one of the key stones in the increasing interest for anamorphics lately. If you want more info, check the SLR Magic’s Anamorphot in-depth review!

Isco Optic Blue Star (or Cinelux) Anamorphic

These are the only projection lenses in the list – I’m considering them as identical – and the only one with 2x stretch. It used to be one of the most common and cheapest anamorphics on eBay because it “lacks” the “vintage character”. I won’t go into that subject in this video, so here are some advantages of the Blue Star: it’s sharp all across the frame (at any aperture), easy to buy and a the perfect candidate for single focus attachments (Rectilux, Rangefinder or FM) down the road. The 2x stretch leads to noticeably oval bokeh, an anamorphic trademark, but the modern coatings mute any strong flares, resulting in a much cleaner image. The widest you can go, on Full Frame, for full sensor coverage, is 85mm, but if you’re extracting a 2.4:1 crop from the center of the frame, a 60mm focal length should be enough!

The bad news are these adapters are heavier and bigger than the other lenses mentioned so far, requiring lens support. If you haven’t got a single focus attachment this is a double-focus setup (you got to focus your taking lens AND the anamorphic at the same distance to get sharp images). The resulting image is also a 3.56:1 stripe against a black background, so you’ll get better results shooting 4:3 or cropping the sides in post. If you want more info, check the Schneider ES Cinelux MC 2X Anamorphic in-depth review!

——

These are my four strongest suggestions for anyone starting out with anamorphics. The Panny and the Century were two of my first lenses and I still like them very much today for their simplicity. Small steps is the best way to go since there’s A LOT to learn. Trying to encompass it all at once will very likely make you want to give up. Go out and get a lens, learn how to play with it an then start working on its downsides to improve them. This process will naturally lead you through all the steps in order to master anamorphic shooting and all of its quirks.

“Ultimately there is no perfect anamorphic solution. Every choice has benefits and drawbacks. The only way to know the best choice for your is to list our your needs, search through the options, and find the type of lens that most closely matches your needs.

What Bioskop said, [‘To hell with sharp, as Anamorphic lenses are all about the defects they produce’]. It is okay if your anamorphic images aren’t perfect – they aren’t meant to be.

Most importantly, MONEY = TIME. If you save money buying a cheap anamorphic, the more time you’ll have to spend getting it to work. So they key the questions are: what’s your total budget, and how much spare time are you willing to spend building your rig?

I saved money buying some B&H’s, but the time it took me to get them to where I needed was enormous. If I had to do it over again, I might have chosen a different route. Then again, I learned a LOT in the process.”

Buying your first anamorphic lens is an important step, but once you get started you’ll realize you are making it a much bigger deal than it actually is. I don’t have the first lens I bought anymore. Nor the second, third or fourth for that matter. I believe this is true to most anamorphic enthusiasts because going through the lenses is a very experimental process: sometimes I find a feature I really like in a lens and then I keep it for a while, then I get tired of it and let it go. Trying to find the perfect lens right from the start is not the right way to go because when you think you finally found it you’ll start to see its problems and get seriously disappointed.

If you want some help along the journey, subscribe to my YouTube channel, check my previous videos and head on to the blog for an extensive guide – for free! – and other useful tools plus this super cool and exclusive t-shirt. If you want more detailed assistance of which lens to buy, I work as a consultant and, for a fee, will help you with your specific case. I’ll help choosing taking lenses (or finding an anamorphic that suits the ones you already have) and making recommendations that are cut to your own scenario. Contact me through email and let’s talk!

Anamorphic

Anamorphic on a Budget – Bell & Howell Projection Lens

August 14, 2016

Unusual review, for one of the strangest projection lenses around. Behold a 2x stretch native single focus anamorphic adapter! It was interesting, but the best results out of this lens are still to come!

USEFUL LINKS:

All the RED links on this post are part of eBay’s Partner Network, so if you purchase anything through them, you’re helping me to keep this project going.

You can support this project on Patreon. Make your contribution and help the Anamorphic Cookbook!

OVERVIEW
Tito Ferradans here for an unusual review. If you read the Anamorphic on a Budget guide, you’ll know that I dislike projection lenses. They’re usually too heavy and bulky and yield poor results. Based on that, it might come as a surprise that this episode is about the Bell & Howell Anamorphic Projection Lens. No, not the Kowa B&H, the OTHER Bell & Howell. The long and weird-looking one. Not exactly light, at 500g, the Bell & Howell has a unique feature among projection lenses: it is a single focus 2x stretch adapter. Set your taking lens to infinity and do all the work on the anamorphic. My attention was to this adapter was drawn by an EOSHD thread by QuickHitRecord.

That all might sound super exciting now, but here come the drawbacks: this lens doesn’t focus to infinity, only to about 12m, and original minimum focus is at 2.4m, with almost three full turns of the focus ring. You can tweak it by loosening the two limiting screws on the head. Even though the focus throw becomes completely laughable (almost five complete turns), it focuses down to 0.6m without any diopters. That means you could live with more common and cheaper +1 and up 58mm diopters.


Ok, I just said 58mm diopters, but the lens doesn’t actually have 58mm threads. The front threads are very close to standard 55mm, but not quite, so I just taped a 55-58mm step ring to it and everything works great. The back is also very important in terms of threading: you want to make sure you’re getting one of these that has the silver ring screwed to the back of it. This ring is the key to mounting the Bell & Howell to other lenses since it has Series 7 threads and you can get cheap Series 7 to filter thread adapters. Mine didn’t have one, so I articulated a solution with Chris Bold, and he’s selling the rings for $30. These are made of polyurethane, which is a plastic, so the best approach is to screw in your S7 adapter and don’t take it out to avoid stripping the threads.

Due to its shape and size, I would strongly recommend using lens support to avoid stressing the filter threads.

PRICE and AVAILABILITY
While not so common on eBay lately, the Bell & Howell Projection lens goes for super cheap most of the time. You can get easy deals for less than $200, or go in a rush and buy one for $400.

RESOLUTION
Definitely NOT a knife-sharp killer, but decent enough for a lens that you can get for two hundred bucks. Holds up pretty nicely even when the taking lens is wide open – since its original taking lens is f/1.4, as the label states – and improves considerably as you stop it down (which worsens vignetting). It’s particularly fidgety regarding the taking lens’ infinity position, so test a nudge under infinity and see if the image quality improves. For me it made noticeable of difference.


Contax Zeiss 35mm f/2.8


Contax Zeiss 50mm f/1.4


Contax Zeiss 85mm f/1.4

FLARES
Prepare yourself to be blown away by these flares. The most natural looking and smooth blue flares I’ve ever seen – and that teal tinge, oh man… Flares are, by far, one of strongest aspects about this adapter. I even got a coated taking lens so only the Bell & Howell’s flares would be showing.


Contax Zeiss 50mm f/1.4

SENSOR COVERAGE
Due to its long body, small optics and 2x stretch, the Bell & Howell vignettes easily. On full frame, for a Cinemascope crop you need to be over 85mm and for full sensor coverage, at least 120mm. Using the A7s2 crop mode (2.2x), I was able to get a clear 2.4:1 crop at 40mm and full sensor at 50mm.


Contax Zeiss 28mm f/2.8


Contax Zeiss 35mm f/2.8


Canon EF 40mm f/2.8


Contax Zeiss 50mm f/1.4

WORLD TEST
The first thing I concluded when testing this lens for real is that single focus is worth nothing if you have to twist the focus ring a thousand times to rack just a couple of meters. Also, the taking lens infinity setting is much more fidgety than expected, with constant back and forth to find the optimal position. As for low-light, you CAN get sharp images at fast apertures, it’s just a very hard challenge if there’s any movement in the scene, requiring focus adjustments. The infinity setting on the B&H is also not so great, because past a certain distance things start to become smudgy. The flares are beautiful on real life, though. The one trick I wasn’t expecting to work was when I put a diopter in front of it and things sharpened up nicely. In my opinion, the best shots in this test were made with the diopter attached.

If you think this is a lens with cool features and somewhat cumbersome, be sure to check the next video, which is about the custom mod developed by Chris Bold and how to apply it to your own Bell & Howell. To get that, subscribe now and wait until the notification pops up! While you wait, I highly recommend some light reading over at my blog about some other anamorphics and cool tutorials to improve your the look of your footage. Do you have a suggestion of what I should do afterwards? Please let me know in the comments below! Tito Ferradans out to hack some lenses open!



Anamorphic

Anamorphic Chop Shop – Flipping the Century Optics

August 7, 2016

Time to go mythbusting again and test out if flipping the rear element of the Century Optics adapter really brings all those benefits people claim about close focusing.

USEFUL LINKS:

All the RED links on this post are part of eBay’s Partner Network, so if you purchase anything through them, you’re helping me to keep this project going.

You can support this project on Patreon. Make your contribution and help the Anamorphic Cookbook!

The Century I used for this video came without its locking screw, so I had to go out and find it in the real world. If you ever come across this problem, the answer is 4-40 screws. Get a small one, cut it shorter and superglue a nut to the top so it’s easier to handle with your bare hands!




Hello ladies and gentlemen. Tito Ferradans here to test out another myth related to the small Century Optics adapter.

Back to business, if you have ever considered getting a small Century Optics, there’s a great chance you came across one – or more – posts by people claiming that flipping the rear element of the lens will improve its close focus capabilities and still allow for infinity focus.

“Diopters simply allow you to get really close focus, something that is often a issue in anamorphic world, since old anamorphic lenses typically have garbage CF. However, you are talking about an adapter, which makes things a bit different from the normal anamorphic lenses which is the base of my experience.

To my knowledge, the only way a diopter would make a lens sharper, is if the anamorphic adapter was not properly aligned to begin with, and the diopter serves to correct the adapter to it’s expected working condition. For example, if you have a diopter on your lens, and you can focus from relatively close distances to infinity… there was something wrong with your set-up before. The diopter didn’t improve your image, really than fix it. That may seem like semantics, but it would be giving the diopter too much credit otherwise.

For instance, read the first post in this:

http://vimeo.com/groups/anamorphic/forumthread:232783Ryan Patrick O’Hara, 2012

or

“The Optex has a 1.33x squeeze ratio and produces more subtle flares than 1.5x or 2x anamorphic adapters. However, if you point it directly at a bright light, ala Spielberg, it will give you long horizontal flare beams.

Anamorphic adapters typically use two lens elements to produce a non-focused wide-angle adapter with different magnification ratios in horizontal and vertical directions. To produce sharp results, the astigmatism of the two lens elements must be aligned to converge close to the focal plane of the normal lens that you’re using with the adapter. The “focus” ring on an adjustable adapter allows you to converge the anamorphic elements manually.

On a fixed anamorphic adapter, the lens elements are set to converge at infinity and typically have a working range down to about 6-8 feet. You can use a diopter in front of the adapter to pull it in for close-focus shots. The Optex happens to have a rear anamorphic lens element that can be removed and put back in an inverted position, which makes it work in close-focus range without needing a diopter.” – LPowell, 2011

The question here is, if turning the glass around would bring such benefits, why weren’t they originally made that way? It’s time to check out if this works.

I’ve reached out to Brian Caldwell – designer of the glass for the Metabones Speedbooster – asking for his input on what I should expect after turning the glass inside out. Here’s what he said:

“Assuming the rear group is a cemented doublet with a leading negative element, then flipping it would move the principle plane of the rear group towards the front group. This is similar to focusing the adapter for a closer object distance. However, I expect that the aberration balance would be completely trashed, especially at longer focal lengths where you use the entire rear aperture of the adapter. Also, the squeeze ratio would drop, just like it always does when focusing a dual-focus adapter to a closer object.

Personally, I wouldn’t do it except as a fun experiment. I would expect much better results with a diopter.” – Caldwell, 2016

So here we go for an exciting round of testing!

On the first test I’m racking focus between 75cm (the first Lego set), 1.4m (the AT-AT Walker) and 2.5m at the wall. Since the goal is to test faster apertures, lenses are all wide open. Results are very poor at close focus for the unflipped Century. The +0.5 achromat improved focus for both the AT-AT and the wall, but not much for the close focus mark. I must say it was surprising to see how much better things looked with the flipped rear element – especially at the wider end.




Contax Zeiss 35mm f/2.8




Canon EF 40mm f/2.8




Contax Zeiss 50mm f/1.4

Then I went on to test chromatic aberration. With Canon’s 40mm I found myself an interesting scenario with lots of high contrast between bright and dark, with a relatively easy subject to focus on. Also known as “rug hanging on a tree”. Chromatic aberration is pretty bad on either cases, so, fortunately it’s not a big deal to have the rear element flipped or not.




Canon EF 40mm f/2.8



Canon EF 40mm f/2.8

From that I moved to test infinity focus on super wide shots. This is where the flip really struggled, as I could see the loss of sharpness much more easily, and the edge compromise creeping in much further into the frame.



Contax Zeiss 35mm f/2.8

The last test is for longer lenses and I used a Jupiter 9 – 85mm – at f/2.8 to see how it performed and if the stretch factor was affected by the flipped rear element. I won’t deny the mod is much sharper than the original configuration for close focus, but the stretch factor indeed decreases. In my case, I was getting around 1.25x. Also, you can notice the diamond shaped bokeh indicating that there’s something wrong with the setup (much like what I mentioned about the SLR Magic Anamorphot 1.33x-50)




Jupiter 9 85mm f/2

If you wanna do the trick to your own Century, just unscrew these two small screws at the back – they don’t come off completely – and remove the cover. Then take out the glass, flip it and close it back. Be careful because the entire back of the body comes loose when you do this! The process doesn’t take 5 minutes.




I believe it’s a useful technique for medium close ups. If you can’t afford a +0.5 diopter (seriously?!), I’d say it’s a reasonable solution. The edges become more messed up, but they’re already pretty bad on the original, so it’s not a huge deal.

The biggest issue is that now you’ll have to play to the Century’s strong side, using wider lenses and stepping away from pretty much anything above 50mm.

I’ll admit that the results for this video were very surprising, and I expected image quality to drop much more. What about you? Let me know if you’ll be flipping your Century, or keep on using diopters! If you want more tips, tests and tricks now’s a great time to subscribe to the channel, and if you want information in writing, head to the blog for an even larger amount of articles! See you soon, Ferradans out.