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Focuser 8 – Single Focus Solution

September 23, 2018

The Focuser 8 is the single focus supermatch for last week’s Aivascope. A tiny single focus solution for baby anamorphics at a very competitive price point.

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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.
You can support this project on Patreon. Make your contribution and help the Anamorphic Cookbook!

Tito Ferradans here for a quick episode on yet another single focus solution. The Focuser 8 – as the name says – is aimed at 8mm scopes, so it is the smallest single focus out there. This one is made by Valdas Misevicius, the same guy for the Aivascope I talked about last week.

So, what’s the deal with the Focuser 8? It goes in front of your double focus or locked focus scope (such as the Baby Hypergonar or the Aivascope) and it turns your system single focus. This one has 52mm rear threads and 67mm front threads for attaching VariNDs, Polarizer or even diopters for stronger closeups. It weighs 140g, so it adds next to nothing to your rig.

Focus throw is about 90 degrees and it ranges from 45cm at minimum focus to infinity. There are no focus distance marks, and some versions have focus gears, but others don’t – like the one I’m using here. It doesn’t extend much when close focused either, which is great, roughly one centimeter. Focus is reversed though, which always bothers me tremendously, and the build feels a bit flimsy if you’re constantly racking all the way through.

When it came out it costed $245, sold by VM Optics on eBay, and these days you can find them used every once in a while, or when Valdas makes a new batch. The price hasn’t changed much.

For the sake of image quality comparison, I have it combined with the Aivascope, so we can compare it with last week’s video and, since the Aivascope is not the sharpest lens around, I paired the Focuser 8 with a Bolex Moller 16/32/1.5x and compared it to the same Bolex paired to a Rectilux HardcoreDNA. At 40mm you can kind of say they look similar, but as we move on to longer and faster lenses, the Focuser has a hard time keeping up with the HCDNA. The corners are also severely compromised not only by blur but also vignetting is introduced much early.

My pairing with the Bolex is unfair due to the Bolex’s large glass. The Focuser 8 transformed the way I experienced the Aivascope, allowing me to go much more freestyle without introducing a ton of vignetting. As you can see, this is the Aivascope at 28mm, then with the Focuser 8, still at 28mm, and as soon as we step to 35mm, vignetting is gone, so the slim profile helps by not limiting your choices of taking lenses. And this is how it behaves with the Bolex, without the Focuser 8, the Bolex clears 35mm, but with the Focuser, we’re doomed in vignette-land.

This covers all the aspects about this single focus solution. From your perspective, is the Focuser 8 useful for baby anamorphics, or would you stick to a bigger glass option even if that sacrifices the shape and weight of the whole rig?

Let me know what you think in the comments below, and don’t forget to subscribe to the channel to be notified of upcoming videos. If this video was also useful when making a choice to build your rig, please hit the like button and tell me about it in the comments! I’m Tito Ferradans and I’ll see you next week.

Anamorphic

SIMMOD Lens Review

September 19, 2018

I am now sponsored by SIMMOD Lens! Yay! Ron makes amazing stuff and this video shows why I like his gear.

Use the code ONABUDGET for 15% discount at checkout!

USEFUL LINKS:

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.

You can support this project on Patreon. Make your contribution and help the Anamorphic Cookbook!

Heya folks, Tito Ferradans here for a quick update and overall review. As most of you probably don’t know – because I didn’t mention it! -, I’m now sponsored by SIMMOD Lens. This is a partnership that developed over the course of several months as I worked on customizing and improving my set of Contax Zeiss lenses. During this process I got several parts from SIMMOD and provided feedback on what I felt they could do better. They always improved upon hearing something was less than perfect.

I had all of my Contax serviced by Ron at SIMMOD and even some stripped screws fixed. I had mounts installed, I made custom lens caps and so on. As you know, I’m a big fan of keeping things on a small budget. I had quoted similar servicing and modding before at other places, but it was both too costly and too slow. SIMMOD didn’t get me choosing between getting an extra lens for the set or using that money on the mods/service. I got both an extra lens AND serviced everything, with still some bucks to spare compared to the competition.

If you’re interested in hearing about all the process of building my Contax set, there’s a link to a lengthy article in the description of this video.

It’s hard for me to review things like cine rings, lens caps and mounts because they’re so essential it feels like it either works or it doesn’t. The big difference between having these mods or not, is how much they simplify/speed your life on set.

For me there’s no more guessing which lens is which, or fighting various step rings and filter sizes for different threads on different lenses, and, most of all, relying on some generic adapters that introduce play into the mount. Replacement mounts are a true blessing. I’m not even gonna mention focus gears because if you’re serious about your craft, there’s no way you made this far without gears.

Working with SIMMOD has been one of the highlights of my year and I highly recommend you check out their stuff. I believe many of you have tried out his products already and could share your opinions in the comments below. If you’re on the fence, check out what other people said below! And if you’re on the way to SIMMOD’s website right after this video, you can use the code ONABUDGET to get 15% discount at checkout.

What we’re working on now is how to get all of this wonderful gear to improve anamorphic shooting too – or anamorfaking. So subscribe to the channel and stay tuned for updates. I’m Tito Ferradans and I’ll see you next week.

Anamorphic

Aivascope 1.75x Mk I

September 16, 2018

The Aivascope came out as an alternative to the Baby Hypergonar. Does it live up to the expectations? It’s an enjoyable 1.75x baby scope, that’s for sure!

USEFUL LINKS:

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.

You can support this project on Patreon. Make your contribution and help the Anamorphic Cookbook!

Tito Ferradans here trying to catch up on a review before it becomes outdated! From that, you might’ve guessed that today I’ll be talking about the Aivascope 1.75x adapter. Before I even start, I’d like to thank JSD from Japan for letting me have his lens before selling it, so I could do all of these tests.

I had more fun than I originally anticipated with the Aivascope. Image quality works great for slower apertures and smaller sensors – I shot all of this on a S35 crop on the A7s2 – but once you start to move towards faster apertures, the image crumbles and we get a lot of streaking, blooming and diamond bokeh, it’s hard to tell what’s in focus. The lens also introduces super intense distortion, particularly noticeable while panning and wider taking lenses close to vignetting. It’s somewhat of the same effect of the Kowa B&H at 58mm. This makes the Aivascope an excellent candidate for processing with the Anamorphic Mumps Corrector in an attempt to even out the frame a little more. In these tests I was also using the Focuser 8, which is the single focus duo for the Aivascope – review coming later.

The Aivascope is a tiny, baby, 1.75x scope based off the Baby Hypergonar, which was designed for 8mm film. It weights mere 149g, less than half a pound and it’s not even two inches tall. Made by Valdas Misevicius in Lithuania, this first generation of the Aivascope was a bit of wild card, never achieving lots of love but still staying away from all the hate. The small body makes it a great contender for the GH5 and it allows for tiny, portable, rigs.

It came with this easy to handle clamp that combines screws and threads, which makes it super easy to mount and align, featuring 52mm rear threads and 52mm front threads for diopters and filters.

The Aivascope originally sold for around $800 and now you can only get it in the used market, since Valdas moved on to make an improved version of the lens which is considerably more expensive – and it’s also NOT the one covered here today.

Image quality was ok at f/5.6 and slower, but you can hardly tell these little letters apart when we’re at f/1.4 or 2. You can also notice the quality drops fast at the edges and this “blur falloff” comes quite far towards the center. The Aivascope also doesn’t love long lenses and my best performers were 35 and 50mm.

For everything the Aivascope lacks in image quality, it makes up for it in flares. These are some of the most awesome flares I’ve ever seen since I got into anamorphics. The yellow is super uncommon and the streaks really blend with the frame. It just works for me.

As for vignetting, we get a bit of vignetting at 28mm, but it clears 35mm on S35, which equals 50mm on Full Frame – and that’s pretty impressive for a 1.75x stretch. Still, the edges are warpy.

Overall, I was not expecting this much from the tiny Aivascope, it was fun to shoot with it, there’s no extra rings that require fiddling for optimal image quality, it has its own single focus solution, the Focuser 8, and I don’t think it quite matches the Baby Hypergonar in performance, but still a nice addition to the 1.75x options out there.

What did you think of the Aivascope? Valdas just released a Mk II version on eBay and I’m looking forward to trying that out and comparing both. Subscribe now so you get updates when new episodes come online and to hear about the Focuser 8, supermatch with this adapter. Please like this video before you go, and let me know if you have any suggestions in the comments below! I’m Tito Ferradans and I’ll see you next week.

Anamorphic Specials

What is “Cinematic” these days?

September 12, 2018

We can all agree the word “cinematic” is thrown around a lot. Working as a cinematographer in many indie projects, more than once I had directors come up with a shot and ask “what can we do to make this more cinematic?”. The first few times I heard that question I’m sure they saw my mind rebooting behind my eyes, puzzled and racing with “what does that even mean?”. After a few hours of shooting I had a solid enough grasp on their style to understand what they wanted when asking for something “more cinematic”. Spoiler alert: it was always a different thing for each director.

Being the camera nerd I am, I was inspired to write this short study. At its core, “cinematic” means something that is MORE like cinema – which implies something LESS like real life, less banal, less mundane. Through one hundred years of spectacle we have grown used to the sense that films are larger than life and one of the pitfalls of shooting on a budget is that your project can look like a home movie (the absolute opposite of cinema). Just to prove my point: when you read “home movie” in the sentence above, a series of images popped into your mind and you knew exactly what I was talking about, even though I haven’t shown any reference of what I’m calling “cinema” or “home movie”.

VHS is the epitome of home movie. Kicking off from there, digital camera manufacturers had a tremendous uphill battle to fight so that their cameras were as far removed from the VHS look as they could. One of the first advances in that direction was to be able to shoot 24 frames per second. The initial 30fps looked too much like something out of a TV screen and not worthy of a theater screen. At that time, a camera that could shoot 24fps was defined as cinematic (the good old DVX-100b days).

Look at this camera! Look at this depth-of-field adapter! All of that aiming for the best possible looking image!

After frame rate came the aspect ratio, from 4:3 to 16:9, then HD resolution, then depth of field adapters that allowed you to use 35mm SLR lenses on the tiny sensor of your handycam (this was a DIY revolution and strongly supported by Jag35, Letus35 and RedRockMicro), always chasing Hollywood looks.

After video was introduced to DSLRs and Canon changed the world with the 5D MkII things started to get dicey. We had a couple of years of “shallow-depth-of-field-above-anything-else”, with everything out of focus because of full frame sensors and wide-open apertures. I see this as a kickback from all those years of struggling to get anything out of focus.

Screengrab from “Shoot FLAT PROFILE Video on ANY Canon DSLR

The struggle now was with color and latitude. RAW formats. We saw the birth of the Technicolor Cinestyle profile for Canon, the rise of MagicLantern, the popularization of 3D LUTs (or even the term LUT) and, stronger than all those things, the rise of Sony and mirrorless cameras. Mirrorless allowed us to use any glass we desired. Sony still has a much-to-be-desired color science but they did a much better job than Canon in keeping up with what the market wanted: 4K, slow motion, adjustable crops, more latitude, insane ISO/noise ratio, all of that in a package that’s just under $2000.

Panasonic users, I know Panny has been listening to us and doing excellent work, but Sony still leads the market by a lot so I’m using Sony for the sake of an example.

We got to a point that we can stack footage from an Arri Alexa (over $80k) and a Panasonic GH5 (under $2K) side by side and have a hard time telling them apart, so the difference between making a home movie and something cinematic is not limited by the gear as it was twenty years ago. Now it comes to framing, lighting, blocking, movement. Those are all creative decisions.

Making something “more cinematic” encompasses a wide gamut of possibilities and none of them have objective reaons. You could make the light more contrasting, push for a longer – or wider! – lens, add some out-of-focus foreground element, throw in a lens flare or some anamorphic bokeh, crop the top and bottom of your frame, rearrange your actors on the set and so on, forever.

After a lot of of trial and error I was able to decipher “how do we make this shot more cinematic?” into “how can we boost production value in this shot?”, and luckily for most of us, production value does not always have to do with actual money. There are different ways to shoot things that will make it look more expensive – and more expensive means more Hollywood.

Still a challenging question but now I feel we have a better idea of how to handle it. On a recent discussion about the meaning of “cinematic” a friend  said that you are doing it right when “you can insert your footage into a reel of movie highlights and not stand out“. It’s a pretty tough statement, but ultimately I believe he’s right. If your budget-limited shots can blend with unlimited-budget footage, you are doing it right.

Screengrab from “Up & Away“, by yours truly.

The recipe for it is to keep trying – over and over. I still shoot a lot of things that I am looking through the viewfinder and thinking “this could be better” but I don’t quite know how I could improve it. Sometimes I will fix it between takes (refine a light placement, find a better framing), other times I just move on and try to finesse the next shot. We still have to make it to the end of the day, right? A limited budget also means that you can’t spend too much time in each shot.

It is by working fast and working a lot, with a lot of people, that our library of tricks expands. From that experience we can source solutions to make things more and more cinematic even though the budget is biting our ankles. The tips below aim to improve your time and the look of the footage. After all, the more time you save in frivolous tasks, it’s more time you’ll have to refine those tricky shots.

Pick the time of the day you’re shooting each exterior. Go to the location ahead of the shooting days and check if the Sun is behaving as expected and if there’s no new buildings coming to block your beautiful magic hour. Stop down your lens, even if that costs you a bit of noise. It’s easier to get a little extra noise out than to get a shot focused in post. Exercise, be flexible. I do a lot of handheld (it’s my favorite style) and if I’m not comfortable in weird positions, I’ll be dead before the end of the day. Set up all of your camera gear the day before the shoot and have the rig as ready to go as possible. Getting camera up and running first thing in the day helps the director immensely. There’s nothing more frustrating for the entire team than waiting on a camera glitch of missing piece.

When the director tells you “that lighting really saved this scene.” – from DOP Life

Now go and be “cinematic”. Increase your production value. Add more to the film than what you’re charging as your rate and people will always come back to you.

Lastly, just to mix things up a bit: remember when we agreed “home movie” was to be avoided at all costs? Well, that is not entirely true. I wrote an article on diegetic cinematography that talks exactly about big budget films trying to simulate a spontaneous and careless style of shooting. Oddly enough, they are still pretty cinematic.

Anamorphic

Letus Anamorph-X PRO 1.33x Adapter

September 9, 2018

This is the upgraded version of the Letus Anamorph-X 1.33x. It’s one of the most impressive adapters I’ve used in a long time. Image quality is excellent, coverage is beyond anything else. It could benefit from stronger flares!

USEFUL LINKS:

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.

You can support this project on Patreon. Make your contribution and help the Anamorphic Cookbook!

Tito here with an upgrade from the previous Letus episode. This one started after I chatted with G.T. at Letus and she kindly sent me test units for both this adapter and their 1.8x adapter. Also massive thanks to Akos Photo for encouraging me to reach out. No thanks to the Canadian Customs Agency, though, since they taxed me even though the package is going back home after a little bit.

I said the previous Letus lens had a great promise but didn’t quite deliver. This one is a whole different story. This is the adapter I used to shoot This Is SCOPE, and I got a lot of people believing I had actually made a super-wide anamorphic. It’s much smaller than the previous version, while improving on image quality and addressing the issue of uneven stretch across the frame (aka mumps). You can go a lot wider and the only turnoff for me is it’s still double focus. If you’re quick, you can still get by with most shots even double focusing (I had two follow focuses on my rig).

This adapter was a big surprise. I was expecting slightly better mechanics and size than the previous version, but there was a major overhaul in every aspect of it – optics included. Focus still doesn’t show distances, ranging from -8 to +8 and the rotation of the ring is still reversed – these are the aspects that could be improved. Focus ring has gears and a lever (which can be removed) and it’s still a true double focus setup, with little tolerance for racking with just your taking lens.

The mounting clamp is 114mm wide, like many cinema lenses front diameter, plus it also comes with adapter rings for 77 and 82mm. The base has a screw for 1/4″ screws so you can mount it on rails. The square shape makes it smaller and saves a ton of weight on the body, plus it makes it easier to align if you’re not using rails.

This one I’ve never seen on eBay and you can only get it on Letus’ website or B&H, for $2700. They come with a gigantic mattebox, which I didn’t use at all while testing and I don’t know if I’d ever use it.

Image quality is superior to its predecessor and while the glass from the previous one was a straight copy from the LA7200, this one has been entirely redesigned in-house to improve IQ and performance.

Flares are subdued for my taste, making it super challenging to get strong streaks on the frame – they are also blueish sci-fi. On the phone with Letus they said that if you really insist, they can make different levels of coating. I would get a high flare.

Vignetting is where this adapter kills everything else out there. SCOPE was shot with a 24mm Rokinon, but I tested the Contax Zeiss 21mm and almost cleared full frame with it. I believe this is thanks to the massive rear element and it would be fine with a compact 21mm lens. With that, the previous undefeated winner for more than 10 years, Panasonic LA7200, has lost its throne of widest anamorphic in the adapter game.

I’ve been iffy about adapters lately and this one has restored my faith. I’m thinking about buying one for myself because of what it allows me to do while imposing very little compromise (rare thing among adapters) and delivering great image quality. I think this is one of the hidden gems of anamorphic and it blows my mind so few people talk about it when they’re still being made and are – now – cheaper than an Iscorama.

What are your thoughts on it? Please let me know in the comments below. Please like the video and subscribe to the channel so you get an update when the 1.8x review comes live. I also recommend making a pledge at my Patreon page because soon these videos won’t be open to everyone else anymore. Even $1 will get you in. Alright, this wraps it up for today. Tito Ferradans out.

Anamorphic

Letus Anamorph-X 1.33x

September 2, 2018

After an adventure in customs, I got the Letus Anamorph-X 1.33x to play. This one is a great draft for the PRO version released a while after.

USEFUL LINKS:

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.

You can support this project on Patreon. Make your contribution and help the Anamorphic Cookbook!

Tito Ferradans here with a special adapter. This is the first version of the Letus AnamorphX 1.33x adapter. It feels kind of bulky but image quality is pretty decent. It’s like someone shoved some mechanics in an LA7200, making it capable of focusing. It’s easy to mount and align, so that makes up for the extra size. It’s a true double-focus experience, with very small tolerance for setting focus and racking with just the taking lens, like the SLR Magic. I liked playing with it, and getting it to Canada was a real adventure.

This is a big adapter, and even though it weighs 900g, it doesn’t feel heavy when operating. Focus comes down to 0.5m but ranges from -10 to +10, with no corresponding distances, which is challenging on this dual focus setup. You can use your hands, or this focus lever or a follow focus unit to easily change focus across the 200 degree throw. Another challenge is focus direction is reversed when compared to normal. This lens focuses like a Nikon lens, with infinity on the left. Still on the note of focusing, this adapter doesn’t change size while focusing. The rear element moves back and forth by itself, which favors vignetting when focused close.

Clearly designed for lenses that don’t extend while focusing or zoom, I had to keep the A7s’ plate loose on the rails so it would move back and forth according to my focusing on the taking lens (the Contax Zeiss change size when focusing).

It attaches to the taking lens through a clamp on the back. The clamp has 114mm (4.5″) diameter, which matches the CP.2’s and many other cinema lenses outer diameter, making it clear that this product is designed for higher end users. Fortunately it also comes with special step rings that attach to 77mm and 82mm filter threads and fit neatly inside the clamp.

The AnamorphX has a 1/4″ hole at the bottom which makes it super easy to align and connect to rails. This is how I shot all of my tests. It’s mandatory to have a good rail support though. My SmallRig part was very loose even when I was bleeding at the screws and I had to upgrade to a Zacuto lens support in order to feel safe.

When it comes to pricing, this is a hard one. I’ve only seen one of these for sale on eBay – ever! Letus used to sell them for about US$2000, but since they started making the 1.33x PRO, this one has disappeared forever.

Image quality is pretty good, even wide open at all focal lengths (one of the many advantages of being able to adjust focus).

Due to the massive size, I was expecting this to go wider than the Panny LA7200, but it started showing vignette at 28mm. It was disappointing.

Flares are warm, but not super noticeable. On this first adapter Letus would offer three different types of coatings for flares and this one was the “normal” level. They also had “High” and “Low”.

Overall I would say this is a draft for a great adapter, but it’s not quite there yet. Choosing between this and the LA7200 is a hard one. The main reason I wanted to make this review is because there’s so little out there about the AnamorphX or Letus’ adapters in general. While this one is a draft, the PRO version is a truly great lens.

Thank you Akos Photo from Sweden for insisting so long that I tested out this lens, sponsoring this episode and facilitating communications with Letus. This is only the first video in the Letus series! After I posted a photo of my tests with this setup they reached out and shipped me their current 1.33x PRO and the 1.8x, which you’ll see here soon. This is like a warm up, because the 1.33x PRO is pretty impressive.

Before you go, please like the video and subscribe to the channel. I also highly recommend making a pledge on my Patreon page to ensure you’re gonna have access to upcoming episodes and lots of exclusive content. If you have any questions about this video or the Anamorphic on a Budget project, please shoot them in the comments below. See you tomorrow. Tito Ferradans out.

Anamorphic

Anamorfaking Contax Zeiss 28mm f/2.8

August 26, 2018

It’s time we start exploring sharper lenses for anamorfaking. The Contax Zeiss 28mm f/2.8 is a perfect wide angle to start this journey!

USEFUL LINKS:

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.

You can support this project on Patreon. Make your contribution and help the Anamorphic Cookbook!

Tito Ferradans here for a quick tutorial on high quality anamorfaking! Time to start the Contax Zeiss anamorfaking process with this beautiful 28mm f/2.8.

The 28/2.8 is a classic lens in the Contax lineup, preferred by many over the 28/2 “Hollywood” due to it’s small size, cheaper price and stellar performance. Sharp all the way to f/2.8, this is a much better wide angle than my previous wide anamorfake, the Pentacon 29 and Mir 10A. Close focus is at 0.25m – just under a foot – and this is what gives this anamorfake an edge over actual anamorphics: it’s really hard to do extreme close up wide angles.

For this mod we’re gonna need the lens – duh -, lens wrench, the Mir 1B oval iris – link in the description – , sandpaper, black sharpie, scissors and electrical tape.

On the back of the lens, note which side faces up – I’m using a Leitax mount, so I know the lock pin is always on the left, which means this is the top. I’ll use a piece of electrical tape to mark what’s up and that will help me orient the oval later in the process. Unscrew the outer locking ring and that will bring out the rear optical groups, giving you direct access to the aperture mechanism. Bingo. Set it aside.

Sand down your oval disc then paint it black. When you put it over the inner glass element that goes right against the aperture, the disc is much bigger. Cut it to the best fit, go in slow steps and don’t worry too much about keeping it a perfect circle. Mine are always ugly. Now that you got it with the right size, orient the oval according to the mark we placed before disassembling this part. Use electrical tape to secure it in place.

The last bit is to put the lens back together. The aperture mechanism works fine, and you can reverse the mod any time. If you do so, please take care to remove all the tape residue from the inner elements. If you want to make this lens even better, check out my guide to mod them at Cinema5D and SIMMOD Lens’ website – link in the description. If you’re my Patreon supporter you have access to the 3d-printable focus gear I made for mine, and if you really want to buy one of these gears, send me a message!

Coming along the rest of the month I’ll anamorfake the 35, 50 and 135 lenses in the Contax budget lineup along with some Rokinon glass. Are you for or against anamorfaking? This is part of the process I used to create the look for SCOPE, so it definitely works. Like the video to help me grow the channel and make sure to subscribe to get more updates. I’m doing a hard push this month and you can come back here tomorrow at this same time for another episode! Also, make a pledge at my Patreon if you need anamorphic to live, these free videos won’t last forever. Tito Ferradans out.