Anamorphic on a Budget – Bell & Howell Anamorphic Mod

September 4, 2016

If the Bell & Howell seemed an interesting options, a few weeks ago, here’s the mod to make it great. Single focus, 2x stretch, awesome flares. All of that with 58mm front threads, non-rotating front, focus gears, lens support and 360 degrees of focus throw!


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Crossover episode! If TV shows do it, why wouldn’t reviews too? Today is a mix of “chop shop” and “on a budget reviews”! Anyway, I’m Tito Ferradans and now’s the time to talk about that Bell & Howell mod I mentioned a few weeks back. Quick recap, the Bell & Howell Anamorphic Projection lens is an awesome 2x projection lens with crazy sci-fi flares and single focus workings. The main drawback is that focus throw is stupid long and renders single focus useless, plus focus at infinity is really sketchy.

As you can follow on the EOSHD thread, Chris Bold started to experiment with modding the Bell & Howell to make it more usable. The issues being tackled were shortening the focus throw and making the lens capable of infinity focusing. The concept for it is pretty simple, just get a new focus helicoid and install the optics there. Sounds easy, but when you get on to the nitty gritty of it, you gotta attach a bunch of disconnected parts together, screw things onto each other, get rid of some original parts and still make it look sort of good.

Over the course of nine months, Bold has constantly updated the thread with detailed information from his experiments and the process of making custom parts that go perfectly together. Honestly, it was one of those tasks that you look at and think “Wow, what a hero for doing this and sharing all the info for free!”. Now he’s reached a final production model and is an expert at modding these scopes for real-world use.

The mod shortens focus throw down to 360 degrees and it has two versions, one that focuses down to 1m, and the extreme one, which allows for close focusing at 30cm – beating all other anamorphic close focusing capabilities without diopters so far! It also features real 58mm filter threads for close ups and other filters – with a cool non-rotating front -, a screw-on lens cap, focus gears and the ability to focus to infinity. One of the best things that come with the modded version is the lens support. Made out of a modified telescope mount, it slides onto 15mm rails and once you get the anamorphic aligned once, you need not to worry about it again. Plus, if your lens has a front thread of under 58mm, you can slide it into the tube without screwing anything together and have it hold pretty decently together.

As with the original Bell & Howell, you focus your taking lens to infinity and do all the focus work on the anamorphic. My SINGLE issue with the mod is that focus is reversed, Nikon style. Took me a few minutes and shots to get used to it.

The original plan was to sell mod-kits so each user could make their own lens, but the process, albeit apparently simple, has more than enough room for messing up. For this reason Bold has decided to sell final modded units instead of a bunch of small parts and a tutorial. I understand – and support – his decision, considering that the original post is pretty much a tutorial on how to make your own, at the expense of materials, tests and LOADS of time. You can find the modded Bell & Howells on eBay for around $1000, with slight variation due to the condition of the original lens. On a detailed breakdown of parts, labor and tools he showed me, $1000 is a great deal.

As far as resolution, flares and sensor coverage go, the modded version doesn’t affect performance in any way. The tests for the original Bell & Howell Anamorphic Projection Lens are still valid and the main change is regarding its real world use.

Now THIS is more like what I expected when I first discovered that the Bell & Howell was single focus. The ability to rack focus quickly makes a world of difference to this adapter. The lens support is also superb. I made a very compact rig for handheld shooting and switching between taking lenses was much easier than any of the other setups I’ve tested this far. Crop is still intense for my taste, but I believe this is indeed a lens for small sensors and it could achieve mind-blowing results when combined with the right camera. True, the mod makes it considerably more expensive than the original Bell & Howell, but opposed to any single focus solution that attach to projection lenses, this one doesn’t make the system heavier nor does it add any artifacts. It’s also cheaper than a projection lens plus a single focus solution for 2x bokeh and some of the coolest flares in the market – I really can’t get tired of these.

I’d like to take a moment to thank Chris Bold for the collaborative process and determination to pursue the mod through so many months. Bold is also one of the main collaborators of the Anamorphic Lens-yclopedia’s current form, the guy is pretty solid! Getting to meet amazing new people in the process of making each episode is one of my favorite parts of these anamorphic videos. Moving in this direction, feel free to suggest new episodes and ask questions in the comments below. Don’t forget to subscribe to the channel to receive updates about upcoming videos and check the blog for previous reviews and tutorials. Tito Ferradans signing out.