Anamorphic on a Budget – Chapter VB

January 1, 2015



For the second episode, I went with the holy grail of anamorphic adapters, the Iscoramas. This decision was based on a key factor: their image quality and sharpness is excellent even at fast apertures like f/2 or f/2.8. Since my lighting scheme relies on very little and dim light sources, I must use fast lenses and the anamorphic quality mustn’t interfere on the shooting style, nor request radical changes.

In addition to the lenses, so we could impove image quality at low light, we decided to use Canon’s 5D Mark III, which has great performance in the lighting situation we would be facing – and this camera would also makr the total amount of gear smaller, as well as the crew.

One of the greatest advantages of modern cameras is the fact that you can adapt almost any type of lens and make it work perfectly. From that possibility, for shooting Episode 02 we used a small set of primes composed by 37mm f/2.8, 58mm f/2, 85mm f/2 and 135mm f/2.8, all of them made by Zenit, russian optical company, around the 1960s.

M42 mount russian lenses and Canon EF adapter.

One of the strong aspects of this set is the smoothness of their aperture ring, allowing changes during shots unnoticeably, like a cinema lens, and not like the traditional clicked stops from regular photography lenses, even more like the modern electronic ones. The fact that their optical design is so simple also improved the results of anamorphic pairing

We had three kinds of Iscos for shooting. The first one was an Original Iscorama, modified to allow closer focus. With it we could go from 1.2m up to infinity. The second was an Iscorama 54, much bigger and heavier, focusing from 2m to infinity, The third one, more of a backup lens, was an Isco Widescreen 2000, which has fixed focus and works as a focus-through adapter. We just took this one as a safety measure in case of extreme accidents or very risky shots. Ended up not using it at all.

Iscorama 54

The issue of focusing subjects closer than 1.2m was dealt with through the use of diopters. We had a trio of achromatic doublets with strengths of +0.4, +1.25 and +2, allowing us to change the lenses focusing distances according to the framing needs.

As a good bit of the episode goes around a campfire, we had to use the diopters in many many shots in order to achieve sharp focus on our characters and enhance flares and bokeh, not facing issues with any kind of shot, no matter the distance between the camera and our subject, specially for the close up shots.

The most important lens for this episode, the Original Iscorama, was in a race against time at a servicing facility in the USA. When I first bought this lens, it was in terrible shape, lots of scratches and terrible looking body. As soon as I had the chance I got in touch with John Stelten from Focal Point Lens, Iscorama expert and sent him the lens for servicing.

Under John’s watch, it went through polishing and recoating of the front element, which was the most damaged one and had a very negative impact on the resulting images. After it was fixed, the Iscorama was sent back to Brazil. This process took me good three months, but when considering the money and time spent on the lens, the result was definitely worth it. Here’s a couple of pictures from before and after servicing.

The lack of contrast and the huge halos around light sources were caused by damage to the front element.

After polishing, things went back to normal.

Just looking at the lens, you can understand why the picture looked so bad.

After polishing, only a faint scratch remained.


  • TFerradans. · Anamorphic on a Budget – Chapter VI January 1, 2015 at 12:59 pm

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