Anamorphic on a Budget – MoondogLabs 1.33x Anamorphic Lens for iPhone

February 25, 2018

How strange do you think it is to shoot anamorphic photos and videos on your iPhone? It turns out to be a lot of fun!


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I’m Tito Ferradans and I’m here to talk about the MoondogLabs anamorphic adapter. Just as the GoPro anamorphic, this is an unusual adapter in the sense that most people taking photography and cinematography seriously these days wouldn’t think of shooting with iPhones, no matter how many articles come out praising their cameras and capabilities. That’s also sort of the way I think – or thought. We’re talking about a phone, not a camera.

This is where things get mixed up a bit: One of my favorite parts of experimenting with MoondogLabs’ lens was the reduced amount of control I had over the resulting image. All I could do, literally, was point the camera towards what I wanted to shoot and press record. From this point on, you start exploring the kind of things you wouldn’t (or couldn’t) do with a regular camera. This lack of control permitted me to focus less (pun intended) on the gear porn part of the tests and more on the shots I was trying to get.

I think one of the biggest selling points of this adapter is the feature “Tangerine”, featured at Sundance Festival in 2015, shot entirely on an iPhone and the MoondogLabs’ adapter. I’m not gonna say the shots are incredible and clean but they have a character that matches the film perfectly. They’re gritty, and noisy, and free moving. There is very little subject separation from the background, lots of wide-angle shots – including close ups – and clever use of lighting. Tangerine is not the usual film as well, telling the stories of two transgender women in a busy Christmas eve, with the type of representation we need to see in film today.

Being less political and back to the gear, the adapter is tiny, weighing 48g. They come in several different versions, one for each new iPhone model, since the iPhone 5. The one I used was for the 5/5s and I’m quite curious to see how MoondogLabs is dealing with iPhone’s new dual-camera. Their first production run was funded on Kickstarter and they seem to be doing fine so far. It’s a two element, fixed focus construction that relies on a small sensor in order to keep things in focus and deliver good image quality.

The adapter has 1.33x stretch and fits perfectly around the corner of the phone and over the rear camera. There’s no way to misalign it. It’s not the type of thing you can leave attached and put the phone in your pocket, as the setup has a weird shape and there is nothing made to protect the front of the lens. This little switch on the back loosens/tightens the adapter around the phone, but even with it engaged, it’s still pretty easy to slide it off.

The lens comes with a neat case, which makes it super easy to just carry it around in your pocket until the moment of photo-taking or video-making arises. When it comes to dealing with the squeezed footage, I read good things about the Desqueeze app, that works directly on your phone and allows you to fix the aspect ratio and many more things related to image sizes. The best part: the app is free.

In terms of buying one of these adapters, you can get yours new at MoondogLabs’ website, and the price is the same, no matter the iPhone generation: $175. You can find them for a little less on eBay every here and then, but it’s not much cheaper. I don’t quite understand how their value doesn’t drop. Still, $175 is a good price for a unique product, if you love you phone’s photo capabilities AND the anamorphic format.

I don’t know how to assess resolution here, but check out some charts! I have them with identical lighting, comparing an image with just the iPhone camera and one with the adapter attached. I don’t see much difference.

Testing for vignetting was also confusing, since this is not the standard lens, so I switched through the various camera modes I could find and got no black edges. The adapter clearly covers the lens, and I guess if you know the widest focal length BEFORE making your lens, you can make it in a way that it works fine all the time – and this is what MoondogLabs did.

When it comes to flares, this 1.33x adapter is incredibly similar to the Anamorph-X I used on the GoPro. It’s also similar (but in a lesser scale) to other 1.33x adapters. The flares are not as long and not as prominent, but they are there. They take the color of the light source, which indicates the coatings on this adapter are fairly simple.

As it was the case with the GoPro Anamorph-X, this lens is an attempt to expand the reach of our beloved format into different devices, and not restrain it to the complex systems we have when using DSLRs, mirrorless cameras or real cine cameras. This type of setup eliminates issues such as double focus, trains of lenses and heavy fronts. True, you have less control and the image quality is capped by not-so-great cameras, but at the same time it all becomes a lot simpler and you just shoot. My only criticism to this adapter is that putting the lens on and off constantly to shoot made me feel uneasy and afraid to drop it.

What do you think of shooting anamorphic on your phone? Do you think it’s a valid option, or would you stick to just using a full camera? Let me know in the comments below. I shouldn’t have to remind you to subscribe, since anamorphic is all I talk about here, and if you have any questions, shoot them below! You can help support my lens research through Patreon, getting awesome rewards and, lastly, I have a new batch of this cool t-shirt I’m wearing. If you want one, you can find the link in the description! See you next week!