Anamorphic

Building a LOMO Anamorphic Squarefront Set.

March 22, 2020

This is a short version of my almost 2-year long journey hunting down and slowly putting together a 3-lens set of LOMO Squarefront anamorphics.

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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 today for a bit of story. It’s no secret I love Russian glass. I’ve modded the basic classics, I hunted down specific serial numbers and I’m writing a guide about Soviet era lenses. Combine that with my passion for anamorphics and you’d wonder why it took me so long to start posting about LOMO anamorphics.

LOMOs are the top of the top when it comes to Russian glass. Designed and manufactured as cinema lenses, for various reasons (price, age, build quality, image quality) they’re some of the few cine anamorphics that sell for a price that regular folks can pay if they set out to do so.

I’ve had a few LOMO anamorphics along the years. One of my first lenses was a 50mm two-piece squarefront in OCT-18 mount that I wanted really bad to adapt to Canon EF. I failed and ended up selling it. A while later I was able to grab an 80mm single-block squarefront, this time in an unknown mount. This was all in Brazil, so access to tools and people related to the subject was non-existent. Turns out I had to sell that one too.

Then I thought I had struck gold when I got a huge 12-120mm with a rear anamorphic adapter. Luck was still not on my side and the rear anamorphic was misaligned and wouldn’t produce proper images. Still in Brazil, still stuck. Sold them too. At this point is worth noting that all three buyers were very happy with their purchases and able to get the lenses fixed (sometimes their feedback took weeks, others it was months).

In 2016 I set out to achieve my long-dreamed goal and piece together a 3-lens squarefront set. 35, 50, 85, or something along those lines. I was gonna take my time until I found deals I could live with. I wanted to pay no more than $4k per lens and knew I would probably have to spend some more with servicing and upgrades.

You all know how the first part of that went, and that I almost lost $3k to a scammer after setting up an international operation. The second part, which I kept secret to avoid further bad luck, was when I was in Brazil, a friend of mine told me he was getting rid of his set. We met, tested the lenses, as expected, fixes were more than necessary to make them fully usable.

The price was within my margins so I went for it. This was July of 2016, and this is what I got:

A 35, 50 and 75mm set of squarefronts. Sounds great, but here are the issues: the PL mounts were sketchy, some too thick, some too loose. None of the lenses had proper rail support for the front block and alignment was pretty funky, with the locking rings coming loose and missing tiny screws.

On the 35, the rear anamorphic element was badly chipped. Unusable, I’d have to find a replacement. The front element also had a crack, but it wasn’t in any key part of the image. The mechanics were funky when focusing, with the front block popping out of the lock when close focused.

The 50 and 75 shared the same front element, which is a no-go for any set scenario, so I’d have to track down another identical copy of that, and fix the mechanical issues as well.

The next step was tackle the glass replacement parts, without which the whole project would sink. I spent about four months on that and got super lucky on eBay, being able to find the exact ones I needed, from the same seller, in different auctions and different moments in time, then I had to engage on bid wars, win the bids and be able to rely on the super-helpful Chris Bold for getting the lenses (the seller wouldn’t do international sales, no matter what, and Chris was able to pick them up personally then ship them up here).

All that was left now was disassembly, glass replacement, mechanical fixes and servicing. I contacted more than a few qualified pros for that and they all turned me down. It would either take too much of their time, or it would be too expensive for me. Plus it involved shipping non-tracked packages with contents worth thousands of dollars. I wasn’t feeling too comfortable with that.

Months went by before I could do anything, and then I got an interesting email from Van Diemen. This message was about their rehousing of LOMO squarefronts in single block designs. Convenient, huh?

This is the point I’m stopping this LOMO saga for this week, and next week will be focused on the process and results from Van Diemen. In this one I just wanted to cover my four-year journey of failures. Have you ever had a lens-saga like that? Tell me about it in the comments below! Now hit the like button and remember to subscribe for the final episode on this LOMO month! I’m Tito Ferradans and this is Anamorphic (hardcore) on a Budget. See you next week!

Very convenient, I thought, so I asked them a couple questions, argued about the price for a little more and spent a few months gathering the money I was missing.