Anamorphic on a Budget – Kowa 16-H (vs 8-Z & B&H)

September 24, 2017

Completing the top-tier Kowa family, I stack them against each other to see if we can spot any differences between the three, or if it’s all online hearsay!


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Tito Ferradans here for more of a comparison video this week. It’s both a review of the Kowa 16-H and a match between this model, the 8-Z and the B&H, all the top-tier 2x stretch Kowas out there. Shooting with the 16-H felt just like shooting with the other two. Bokeh is beautiful, flares are purple-ish and organic, and there’s a sizeable amount of veiling glare. Again, I’m stealing some shots from Matt Leaf, for he’s been putting the 16-H to good use for a couple of years. These shots are from the music video “So What” by The Pack a.d.. The 16-H has been matched to a Rangefinder and various diopters. Shot on a RED camera.

The Kowa 16-H is one of those lenses everybody wants. When someone asks “what is a good projection lens?” it usually comes up right after the Kowa B&H. It is a “true anamorphic” adapter with 2x stretch. Focus comes from infinity down to 1.5m or 5ft. The 16-H has a twin sister, the Kowa 8-Z. They’re considered the same – deja vu?. It’s time to compare them all!

Japanese design, with big front and rear glass ensure you won’t be losing much light. You’ll need a rear clamp to mount it to your taking lens as well as a front clamp to attach diopters and filters. I’m using a Rapido for the front, and you can find the link for it in the description. For the back, I have a custom 3d-printed one that you can download here. I like having this one on rails because of its weight of 530g.

Even though it doesn’t reach the high prices of the B&H – around $900 -, the 16-H is still uncommon. It usually goes between $600-800 and many of them are shipped out from Japan.

It’s interesting to notice this particular 16-H is super sharp around the edges when compared to the 8-Z and B&H, but not so much in the center area. It’s important to take into account sample variance when comparing these – some 16-H’s might perform better than others, and the same goes for the B&H and 8-Z. That said, I’d reason they’re all the same when it comes to resolution and performance.

Surprise! Matt’s version of the 16-H is one of those early-serials and has blue/purple flares, while my 8-Z and B&H have golden flares. If you’re looking specifically for blue flares, aim for lower serial numbers as several users informed me. It’s a difference in the coatings that leads to the change in hues. Live and learn, boys.

The 8-Z and 16-H are identical, while the B&H vignettes a little harder on the wider end – which is something I didn’t expect, considering all the love for the B&H. The lines on the frame indicate the different aspect ratios.

The Kowa 16-H (or 8-Z, now we know they’re the same) is a great anamorphic. Double focus makes it challenging, but that can be fixed. It delivers consistent results and performs well even on low-light situations. You can’t go very wide with your taking lenses, but when you do the math, you’re getting a pretty wide field of view already. It can be tough to find for a good price, but don’t give up.

If you wanna tweak up your top Kowa, I have a series of tutorials you can follow on this playlist. You can shorten minimum focus, reduce veiling glare and improve sharpness considerably, if your lens hasn’t been serviced in a while. Check it out!

Now’s the time where I’ll bug you to like this video and share it with your friends. Do you think this comparison worked? Let me know in the comments, and feel free to make suggestions too. Make sure to subscribe, as things will only get more and more interesting. Lastly, help is greatly appreciated, so if you believe in this channel, join me on Patreon and provide input on what you think should come next. Thank you for watching, Tito Ferradans signing out.