Anamorphic

Anamorphic on a Budget – SLR Magic Ep 01 – Anamorphot 1.33x-50

December 6, 2015

First episode of the SLR Magic series, starting with their debut anamorphic adapter, the 1.33x-50, I really enjoyed having this lens around and going out to shoot with it. I even went beyond the standard tests and shots just to get to know it better. If I didn’t have too many Centuries, I’d certainly get one of these.

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OVERVIEW
Tito Ferradans here for the first of many videos talking about SLR Magic anamorphic gear. I’ll start this one by saying that as soon as their first Anamorphot came out, I didn’t see a point to it. It seemed like a double focus, oversized Century Optics adapter, for twice the price. Almost two years passed before I had the chance to actually see the lens with my own eyes and test it in person, so I’d like to thank SLR Magic for sending me these test units and for all the messaging back and forth to clarify my questions and issues. It made me see many things under a different light.

One of these things is that Andrew explained me SLR Magic’s guidelines are availability, affordability, reliability, serviceability and accessibility, so, instead of making a super expensive and ultra high quality lens on very small batches, they focus on having a product that anyone can use without much further knowledge, that is easy to replace or fix in case of accidents and that can yield similar results over time – unlike most of the used vintage anamorphics where you can have like three Century adapters and each one has its own unique quirk. Knowing these things in advance made a huge difference in how I see their brand now and I definitely believe they’re partly responsible for the increased interest we’re seeing in the anamorphic format these past few years. It’s no longer black magic (no pun intended!).

The Anamorphot was first released in February 2014. I always thought the 50 in the name meant it could only go as wide as 50mm, but that is actually the diameter of the rear element – quite big, compared to other adapters, and that also leads to the information that this anamorphic works best with lenses with a front element smaller than 50mm. Also, Andrew Chan from SLR Magic told me it doesn’t play so well with recessed front optics, such as the Helios 44.

Weighting 380g, it’s not a heavy adapter. Focus is set between 3 to 4m and infinity, so if you’re going for something closer than that, you’ll have to play with the Near/Normal dial – which isn’t as hard as it sounds. For alignment, the Anamorphot has been recently redesigned, eliminating the traditional three-screws design for a reverse lock ring, which makes the process quite simple and fast. Flares help fine tuning, but I got most of it right just by setting this white line straight up. I kind of wished my other anamorphics had a similar mechanism. Also, as a lens designed to introduce shooters into the anamorphic world, it comes with a few step rings – 49, 52 and 58mm to 62mm, being the rear 62mm threaded and the 77mm for the front thread.

PRICE and AVAILABILITY
As one of the few anamorphics currently in production, you can get it straight from SLR Magic’s website, or Adorama, or B&H for around US$900 or hunt ebay for a cheaper used one – not so common there, though. You can also get the achromatic diopters with it, for a total of US$1000, which is not a bad deal, considering they’re +0.33 and +1.33 doublets. No need for months of eBay stalking to have a one-shot opportunity to get it, they’re usually in stock.

RESOLUTION
As I was told, the Anamorphot works best with wide angles and not so fast apertures. Chan told me the fastest aperture supported is f/2.8 and optimal performance is around f/5.6, but of course I had to try it at f/2 and such. Also, longer lenses make it struggle quite a bit. The Near/Normal ring is much less of a hassle than I expected. It moves the rear element back and forth, so the lens doesn’t change size or rotate at all.

Remember how I said the Century WS-13 is double focus but not quite? The same rule applies here, but I got the feeling that the distances vary according to the taking lens too. For the samples below I didn’t use any diopters, just fiddling with the taking lens and Anamorphot’s focus rings.

The manual gives a pretty cool tip about focusing the Anamorphot so I’ll quote it here, word for word: “The “sweet spot” can be found by defocusing the taking lens and observing the out of focus highlights “bokeh” on the subject. The resulting blurred highlights may be elongated horizontally or vertically. Adjust the SLR Magic Anamorphot 1,33x NORMAL / NEAR dial until the blurred highlights appear circular. Once the sweet spot is found, the final focus is achieved via the taking lens.” This tip is valuable because it applies not only to this lens, but to any double focus system.


MIR 1b CENTER

MIR 1b CORNERS


Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 CENTER

Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 CORNERS


Helios 44-2 CENTER

Helios 44-2 CORNERS


Jupiter 9 CENTER

Jupiter 9 CORNERS


Tair 11 CENTER

Tair 11 CORNERS

DOWNLOAD ORIGINAL SAMPLES HERE

Edges are bad on the wider end – not as bad as Century’s or Panasonic’s – and it’s not hard to see how quality improves as the taking lens is stopped down.

FLARES
If the Centuries had blue flares, the Anamorphot’s flares almost clip the blue channel for how saturated they are. Extremely sci-fi and modern looking, I don’t remember seeing such strong color in any other anamorphic flare so far. I did the flare test twice, first just the Anamorphot and then adding the Rangefinder so you can see how it affects the flares by basically adding two more round elements – also strong blue.


Helios 44-2


Helios 44-2 WITH Rangefinder

SENSOR COVERAGE
The Anamorphot wasn’t exactly designed to be full frame friendly but it works anyway. Should be from 50mm and up, but the best combination I got with it was with Canon’s 40mm f/2.8 pancake lens. The manual – which can be downloaded here – suggests some focal lengths according to sensor size, as you can see on this chart here. It didn’t play well at all with the Mir 1B, just a bit wider at 37mm, since it has a much bigger front element and more recessed optics than the Canon’s pancake.


MIR 1b


Canon EF 40mm f/2.8

Again, I did all the vignetting tests with just the Anamorphot and then added the Rangefinder so you can see how much “wideness” you lose in the process. Here you go from 40mm vignette free to 58mm with slightly dark corners. Because of this, I went on to the world test determined to just use the Anamorphot and its diopters, leaving the Rangefinder to its own video and to the Anamorphot 2.0x.


MIR 1b WITH Rangefinder


Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 WITH Rangefinder

WORLD TEST
This is the first lens I review without having any previous experience with it, so I kind of expected to face a little more quirks than usual. Fortunately, it didn’t happen. The SLR Magic Anamorphot 1.33x-50 shares too many similarities with the Century Optics WS-13, so handling it was quite simple. Alignment was easy to set, thanks to the reverse lock ring, flares come up very easily at even the faintest light sources and their strong blue can be distracting at times, drawing too much attention to the flares themselves than to the shot overall. For the daylight part, everything was very straightforward, using the Near/Normal dial was fine and the taking lenses slower apertures handled sharpness without a hitch.

When I moved to the dark shots, focus became harder to achieve and the diopters played an important role. The Near/Normal adjustments also become more noticeable due to the faster apertures. As for close up shots, the best approach would be to cap at 85mm and use diopters to get closer to the subject instead of going for a longer lens, since the Anamorphot doesn’t handle it too well on full frame. Rack focusing was a little troubling sometimes, especially when entering the Near zone, which required a brief planning and rehearsing before actually rolling. Just emphasizing, most of my favorite shots in this test were result of the combination Anamorphot + Canon 40mm pancake. The 1.33x stretch out to Cinemascope is useful because it doesn’t require much thinking, but ends up trumping the oval bokeh – which is better achievable through the use of diopters.

It would be rude of me not to thank SLR Magic once again for the gear, so, thanks a lot guys! Next week is about the Anamorphot 2.0x-50, the Rangefinder comes afterwards. I’m also planning a 1.33x shootout, since I’ve reviewed all of these and it would be fun to see if we can tell the difference between them just by looking at some shots. Now, subscribe if you haven’t yet and head on to the blog for downloads and links and more pretty pictures. Thanks a lot for watching and if you have any questions, shoot them below in the comments! See you next week, Ferradans out.



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