Anamorphic on a Budget – Iscorama 36

November 8, 2015

The Holy Grail of anamorphic adapters. I mean, really. Everyone wants these and they’re paying top dollar for a reason. For several reasons, actually!


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Tito Ferradans here for a video about the most desired anamorphic adapters of all times, the Iscorama Pre36 and the 36 itself. They’re so similar that I’m gonna have one video to cover both in spite of not having an actual Iscorama 36 at hand here. Oh, the Iscorama Cinegon also falls in the same category as an almost identical lens. These were the very first anamorphics released by Isco Optics and, needless to say, were a huge success, leading to the Iscoramas 42 and 54, as well as the Iscorama 2000 series.

And what’s the difference between the 36 and the Pre36? The 36 is an independent adapter, while the Pre36 was released first, paired with a cheap 50mm with focus fixed to infinity. The original taking lens could be on Exakta, Nikon F, M42 or Minolta SR mounts. As the other Iscoramas, the 36 has a rear element diameter of 36mm. The Pre36 is slightly smaller, at 30mm and the Cinegon is slightly bigger, at 38mm. The coatings are also a little different, with the Pre36 and Cinegon rendering orange warm flares and the 36 has a LITTLE less prominent flare.

Part of the Iscorama family, these are the smallest ones, compact and lightweight, at 400g. Front thread is 72mm and back is 49mm, again you can either use clamps or simply stack step rings. The protruding rear element is a great feature that allows you to bring the front of the taking lens really close together. Stretch is 1.5x, leading to an aspect ratio of 2.66:1 when used with a 16:9 sensor. Alignment is set by pressing these two buttons on the side and rotating the front part.

As its big brothers, minimum focus stands at 2m, but there are a few hacks to bring it down to 1.3m – which usually lead to unscrewing the front element, so be careful. Focus follows the standard Isco operation, taking lens set to infinity and single focusing on the Isco’s ring. The lens body, though, has several plastic pieces, which is great for weight, but terrible for long term durability. It’s quite common to find units with stiff focus or even harder aligning.

The reason this is the holy grail of adapter is due to a series of factors. First, it’s lightweight and small, second, flares are beautiful and easy to achieve, third, it packs quite the punch in terms of image quality even at the fastest apertures.

Recently, thanks to the increasing number of single focus solutions, Iscoramas are popping more and more around the market. Ebay is kind of the usual place, but you can also check forums such as EOSHD or DVXUser’s Marketplace. Prices are still as high as ever, around $3500. Every once in a while you see one going for a bargain, at something near $2000, so keep an eye out.

A killer image quality is one of the main reasons people are so greedy about this adapter. Great performance even at f/1.4 with the Zeiss lenses.

Contax Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 CENTER

Contax Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 CORNERS

Contax Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 CENTER

Contax Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 CORNERS

Contax Zeiss 135mm f/2.8 CENTER

Contax Zeiss 135mm f/2.8 CORNERS


Orange and warm flares for this baby. It knocks it out of the park when compared with its multi-coated siblings (the 42 and 54). It has the classic look of a desired anamorphic flare: large, organic, multi-layered and with a long streak.

Contax Zeiss 50mm f/1.4

Designed to cover 50mm and up on full frame sensors, it starts to vignette shortly below that, being totally unusable at 35mm.

No complaining here, simple to use and sharp to the point that I didn’t need to keep triple checking focus all the time. Rack focusing is possible and very smooth and the resulting image has a very organic and dreamy feel about it. The 1.5x stretch is enough to make the oval bokeh become more pronounced. Minimum focus at 2m was the only issue, but still solved swiftly thanks to my large arsenal of diopters. If the 54 wasn’t great for run-n-gun, this one definitely plays the part, being small and light. There’s not much more to say, it’s world use is very similar to the other Iscoramas.

Before wrapping this up, I’d like to thank Rob Bannister, for letting me have the lens for a while and review it. You most definitely can rent this Iscorama Pre36 at Creative Camera Rentals. Next week I’m gonna talk about the rehousing job offered by Van Diemen, in the UK, which transforms this tiny little thing into this artillery shell. Subscribe now if you haven’t yet, to receive future updates, and head on to my blog to check some more anamorphic goodness. One last thing, I’m trying to grow the channel by putting up more content and your feedback plays a great part, as well as helping me reaching a larger audience by sharing the video on social media, groups, email lists or whatever. I really appreciate your help so thank you for watching and we’ll meet again next week. Ferradans out.