Anamorphic on a Budget – Kowa 16-D

October 15, 2017

Moving down in the budget line for the Kowa series, this is one of the smaller adapters. You save money but trade off in performance. Special thanks to Eli Hershko for lending me his lens.


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!

Hey everyone, Tito Ferradans here to talk about the smaller Kowa 16-D. Now that almost all the big ones have been covered, it’s time to check out the other options. As all Kowas, this is a projection lens, which means double focus, which means pain. The advantage of its small size is that it’s easy to fit it into most single focus solutions out there. For this one, I’ve been using the Rectilux Hardcore DNA. This adapter goes a little too heavy on the vintage look and the artifacting is too much for my taste.

Before moving forward, I’d like to thank Eli Hershko for sending me the lens. He originally sent it to get it fine tuned, as its inner mechanism is the same as the bigger Kowas, and then he let me keep it for a little longer so I could shoot this review. Thanks Eli!

Now, to the most pressing note about the Kowa 16-D: this lens is NOTHING like the Sankor 16-D. The Sankor 16-D is much bigger and delivers better results. Stop asking or saying they’re the same!

As a conventional projection lens, it’s 2x stretch and double focus. I highly recommend a single focus solution, since the small front element will help in not getting any extra vignette. Focus ranges from 1.5m – 5ft – to infinity, in about 300 degrees of throw.

The compact size yields a good weight, just under 300g, but you won’t be able to use crazy fast lenses. The rear element is about 2.5cm (1 inch) wide, limiting light transmission. Your maximum aperture will depend on your taking lens too, and you can figure that out with the Anamorphic Calculator.

As any Kowa so far, the threads at the back are non-standard and the front has no threads at all. You’ll need clamps. I made a filler ring for my 3d printed clamp and used that for the review. For the front, since I was using the HardcoreDNA, I only needed to fill the gap, so I made another filler ring – you guessed it, the links for all these files are in the video description. If you don’t like – or trust – 3d prints, you can get solid clamps from Redstan or Rapido.

Pricing is when people get happy about this adapter. It usually goes from $200 to $350. You won’t need much luck to get it for even less, if you have your alerts active.

As a Kowa-branded lens, the 16-D is sharp at its center, even at fast apertures, but the edges quickly lose quality becoming too warpy and soft. I’d stick for longer lenses so you use more of the center area.

Apparently the 16-D’s use Kowa’s old formula for coating, which brings into the picture beautiful and strong purple blueish flares from strong light sources.

Due to its small size (I keep repeating that, don’t I?), the 16-D vignettes more easily than its big sisters. On full frame, I can only get a 2.4:1 Cinemascope clean at 58mm, with lots of distortion going on. 50mm is unusable. The next step is at 85mm for full frame clearance. Like the others, there’s strong veiling glare, or white vignette, when too much light is coming through.

You can follow the sharpness tune-up tutorial in order to (very likely) improve your 16-D image quality. This one isn’t my type, the same way heavy projection lenses are not my favorites, the tiny ones aren’t on my list either. I think the trade-off in vignetting and sharpness doesn’t make up for the lighter and smaller design, or the cheaper price tag. If you’re using a crop sensor instead of full frame, you’re much more likely to enjoy this adapter, but I’d recommend something even smaller than S35 or APS-C.

Now is the time you help me out by liking this video and sharing it with your peers. If you have any questions or suggestions, just shoot a comment below and I’ll get back to you. Subscribe to the channel for more anamorphic business and if you want to support my research, take a look at my Patreon page for exclusive rewards. See you next week, Ferradans out.