Anamorphic on a Budget – Iscorama 42

June 17, 2015

Now it’s the Iscorama 42’s turn. I’m trying a new format, please let the out-of-focus me slide, I was shooting on my own and couldn’t check focus properly until it was too late. One more thing I need to improve on the next video.


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!

This time I got it ALMOST right. All of my shots are slightly out of focus, but the tests are on point. I also wrote a shorter script of the things I wanted to talk about and the video ended up longer the the previous one. Tell me what you think of it, do you like me explaining stuff or just showing the lens is enough?

Hello again ladies and gentlemen, I’m Tito Ferradans and this is the second episode of the Anamorphic on a Budget video reviews. In this episode we’re gonna talk about the Iscorama 42, for I’m away from home and this is the only lens I brought with me. The middle member of the Iscorama family is also the hardest one to find, popping on eBay maybe once or twice every year. It was released in 1982, almost ten years after the Isco 36, being a pumped up version of the 36 without the massive size of the 54.

Due to its full-metal body, it weights 750g, pretty close to the Isco 54. Focus is smooth as expected and the aligning mechanism isn’t as simple as the others. You have to pull this ring here frontwards and then spin the alignment. This has proven tricky for me, since whenever I go past perfection, I have to spin it all the way again because going backwards is more likely to unscrew both lenses than to work properly.

No news about its single focus operation, based around a variable strength diopter. Set the taking lens to infinity and work solely on the Isco. I’ll get to explain how the variable diopter works in a future video, since that’s becoming a common solution again nowadays thanks to the FM Lens, Rectilux and the SLR Magic Rangefinder for their anamorphots.

Like the other “numbered” Iscoramas, its name comes from the diameter of the rear glass element, 42 millimeters. Stretch is 1.5x and focus ranges from 2m to infinity, in about 200 degrees of throw. Wikipedia says there’s a natural close-focus mod by loosening this screw here, but I never tried it since it states there’s a large quality loss by doing so. The rubber grip around the focus ring helps a great deal when working without a follow focus, compared to the other Iscoramas.

Front filter thread is standard 82mm, and a lot easier to find diopters. I’m able to step it down to 72mm without any vignetting on the Helios 44 (58mm). The rear thread is 67mm. There are clamps available, but you can get away just using step rings too.

If Iscoramas overall are expensive, the 42 is the hardest one to find. Besides mine, I’ve seen less than ten of these going around in three years of constant searching. Among these, I haven’t seen one going for less than 2500 dollars on auctions. Fixed price sales range between US$3000-4000.

This time I could do the tests properly, so check the link (400mb) in order to grab the raw files and check them yourself!

To me, this one produces images better than the 54, with less softness and friging on the edges.

Canon EF 35mm CENTER

Canon EF 35mm CORNERS

Helios 44-2 CENTER

Helios 44-2 CORNERS

Again, the Jupiter 9 stands out, almost begging to stay paired to the 42 forever.

Jupiter 9 CENTER

Jupiter 9 CORNERS

Tair 11 CENTER


The Iscorama 42 is a multicoated lens. There are no other versions of it. Flares are even harder here than they were on the 54. Again, I tested it with the Helios 44 and with the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4, as a comparison, for we all know how crazy a Helios can get.

Helios 44 Flare

Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 Flare

When it comes to vignetting and widest possible taking lens, I’ll remind you that I’m shooting on a 5D3, so do the math for smaller sensors! The Mir totally shows the adapter’s guts, forcing us to go longer. I believe 40mm is enough to achieve a 2.4:1 aspect ratio by cropping some of the sides, but if you want the entire 16:9 frame stretched to 2.66:1, you have to go with 50mm, and just barely. Using filters smaller than 82mm will introduce vignetting again.

For some strange reason I found much easier to tell when the subjects are in focus when shooting with the Isco 42, even on the camera’s small screen. Feels way sharper than my other Iscoramas. Single focus, once again is the game changing ability featured by the Iscoramas. Its smaller form factor and reduced weight are also bonuses to run-and-gun capabilities and ‘blending’ as a regular lens.

Swapping diopters with this lens was a lot easier on the field and I was able to get any shot I wanted switching between the lenses and filters I have now. Thanks to multicoating – never thought I’d say this – I don’t have to worry about washed out highlights even on extreme settings like a blown-out sky or direct light shining inside the lens.

Well, this is the end of this episode, I’m Tito Ferradans, and I hope you liked it. be sure to subscribe and check out my my blog for upcoming anamorphic reviews.

Down below there are a couple extra pictures of the lens, attached to the Jupiter 9, and also a a link to the Iscorama 42’s Lens-yclopedia page.

  • TFerradans. · Anamorphic on a Budget – Iscorama 36. November 8, 2015 at 8:33 am

    […] 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 […]

  • TFerradans. · Anamorphic on a Budget – Isco Wide-Screen 2000 MC February 28, 2016 at 9:23 am

    […] one. It’s actually one of the most muted flares I’ve seen so far, even less than the Iscorama 42. If you’re into anamorphics but despise flares, here’s your […]