After the first weeks of research, reading, watching tons of test videos and getting to the core of the anamorphic squeeze pros and cons, there were still plenty of questions unanswered. My curiosity got the best of me and so I decided it was time to invest in buying lenses. My starting point was Andrew’s Anamorphic Shooter’s Guide, from there I went on refining my decisions and ended up buying four lenses, all of them way different from each other and that will be better explained along the following chapters. They were Kowa for Bell & Howell, Panasonic AG-LA7200, Hypergonar Hi-Fi 2 and a 50mm LOMO Squarefront.
More experienced users reinforced the idea that I should use simpler taking lenses with less coatings to make flares pop. This meant no modern glass, no Canon L-Series, no zoom lenses. I ended up choosing vintage primes, from 1970-80, and was pretty happy with russian designed M42 mount all manual
(focus and aperture) lenses. The kit included a 37mm f/2.8 (Mir-1B), 58mm f/2 (Helios 44), 85mm f/2.8 (Jupiter 9) and 135mm f/2.8 (Tair 11). With these lenses I covered the standard focal lenghts in a prime basic kit and could figure out all my framing and composition using them and moving the camera slightly forward or back.
To flare out better those anamorphic features, it’s good to pair them with vintage, pre 1970’s taking lenses, years before the development of multi-coatings (MC), a physical high-vacuum process of metalization (I’m pretty sure this is mistranslated) that protects modern lenses from glass damage, lessen flaring effects and increase light transmission. This means that lenses made before this thing was invented are non-coated or single coated, which affects greatly anamorphic’s more proeminent quality: lens flares.
I’ve picked mine as M42 mount as a matter of personal taste, but there are plenty of other mounts that can be easily adapted to Canon EF. Even though adapters are quite common, before buying any lens, be sure to check if it works properly with the camera you’re using. A simple search is good enough to save you from a lot of headache involving flange distance and things being out of focus when they should be sharp. This also helps you to choose exactly which model you want and what features you want to accentuate on your work (I mean, there are countless types of 50mm around, which one suits you best?).
There was still an important unanswered question: how to connect properly both optical blocks, anamorphic in front and the taking lens behind it? LOMOs aside, all anamorphics can be considered adapters added to the taking lens, as a filter that you screw on top and gives you a very specific result.
In the very beginning of my searches I came across lots of posts stating that for working perfectly safe, you should use clamps to connect both lenses. Clamps are, in its essence, metal rings that attach to the back of the anamorphic adapter, mostly using screws, and end up on a regular filter thread that goes onto your taking lens. This allows the closest possible distance between the two optics, which saves us from the trouble of light loss when working with anamorphic lenses (usually the loss is so small it doesn’t even get to a third of a stop).
Redstan Clamp for Kowa Bell & Howell, 62mm thread
Many anamorphic adapters have threads on their backs already, but these aren’t standard sizes and we usually have things like 83mm or 73mm, that aren’t used nowadays. Clamps serve to fix this issue as well as to deal with stretch alignment. It’s possible to loosen the screws, without the adapter toppling over, and rotate the anamorphic block so the stretch is properly aligned with the horizontal axis. Screwing an anamorphic onto a taking and having it totally skewed in the camera is the first thing that happens when you switch lenses. It’s fundamental to align it properly or the final image will be irreversably skewed. Check the pictures below to see what this means, exactly.
The main advantage of purchasing a clamp that was made specifically for a lens model is that both fit perfectly – it never gets loose or puts any of your lenses in danger of falling -, feels perfectly safe and it’s super easy to align. There are very few real manufacturers and a LOT of improvised workarounds. Redstan, in the UK, is quite famous for his very specific clamps of the most common lenses, and Vid-Atlantic, an american company with cheaper options if you don’t want to spend too much money on a piece of metal. Redstan’s quality is unbeatable, but he’s quickly out of stock because they take a while to build and people are always buying.
As I said in the beginning of this chapter, each one of my lenses worked differently from the others, had different stretches, image quality and years of manufacture. I’ll split them according to stretch factor because it’s the easiest way to group them.