Anamorphic on a Budget – SLR Magic Ep 03 – Rangefinder

December 20, 2015

Third episode of this series, now it’s the Rangefinder’s time to be carefully analyzed. Paired with the Kowa B&H anamorphic adapter, the Rangefinder turns this amazing double focus lens into single focus. I had a blast running around and shooting without worrying about constantly checking focus.


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Tito Ferradans here to talk about the Rangefinder! Announced just a few days after the Rectilux (correction: the Rectilux was announced almost a year earlier, as you can find here), SLR Magic’s single focus solution shook the market due to their larger visibility and several posts across different photo/video blogs (Kowa) to single focus – and solves lens breathing” target=”_blank”>by the end of July, 2015), including the anamorphic community. Both the Rectilux and Rangefinder – and FM – work based on the same principle: variable strength diopters. This video won’t compare these three different products, but I am shooting one just for the sake of comparisons, which will be released later. Anyway, back to the subject, even though I’ve used the Rangefinder in the Anamorphot 2.0x’s video, this one will have the same standards I used for the Rectilux, pairing it to the Kowa B&H and having Contax Zeiss as taking lenses.

The Rangefinder has a very simple “setup”, with 82mm front threads and 77mm rear threads that can attach to literally any lens out there. For the Kowa I had to dust off my Redstan clamps and everything went fine – this will be the case with most anamorphics, since they don’t have standard threads. One of the coolest things about having standard threads is that you can attach the Rangefinder to spherical glass as well and override their focus ring with the Rangefinder’s geared and marked ring. It’s also a super compact adapter that you can fit in your pocket – and I did it a number of times, with caps on, of course! – when not being used, that you can take out and put back at any moment. Well, why would you take it out then? As you’ve seen in the Anamorphot 2.0x-50 review, the Rangefinder adds quite a lot of vignetting, so whenever I had locked focus shots near infinity, I just unscrewed the thing off and shot without it, attaching it back for the next rack focus. Instead of seeing this as a negative, I think it’s an added bonus, that you can get rack focusing for most of the time and, when you just need infinity, you get an even clearer frame.

It weights 340g and feels pretty solid. Focus ranges from infinity down to 1.1m or 3’6, throw is around 270 degrees – better than most lenses out there! – and it extends good 2cm (little under an inch) from infinity to minimum focus. The rotating front element is one of the downsides, since you can’t use NDs without some funkiness going on, plus the focus ring offers an uneven resistance, being lighter to spin near infinity and getting slightly harder near minimum focus. An added bonus is that you can also “fix” your Nikon glass that focuses the wrong way. I never manage to do it properly whenever I use Nikons, so now I think I have a chance. Ah, I almost forgot to say it clearly: what the Rangefinder does, for anamorphics is transform a double focus lens into a single focus system, which is pretty damn awesome. In order for it to do its magic, you have to focus both your taking lens and anamorphic to infinity and add the Rangefinder to the front of the anamorphic!

As any other SLR Magic product, the Rangefinder is widely available at a number of gear-selling websites, including B&H and Adorama, as well as SLR Magic’s own page. It goes for US$600, and you can find a cheaper option ($300) with no focus marks and 72mm rear threads though!

It took me a little to get used to the Rangefinder “filter” style, and I ended up twisting the Kowa’s focus ring quite a few times while trying to focus with the Rangefinder. After these occasions, I simply taped the Kowa and went on to the world test. I feel it a little softer than the Rectilux when combined with the same lenses, specially around the edges. Performance shines at f/5.6, but isn’t that great at f/1.4 or f/2.8. I guess you should be ready for this with or without the Rangefinder, since no anamorphics like stupid-fast apertures, so, I don’t think this is a deal breaker for most shooters out there, since not everyone is using full frame AND fast lenses AND reading fine print at the same time like these tests.

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

Nikon 135mm f/2.8 CENTER

Contax Zeiss 135mm f/2.8 CORNERS


As discussed in the previous Anamorphot videos, the Rangefinder adds a few blue elements to the flare. In the distance they disappear among the Kowa’s orange flare but they show up when the light source is closer to the lens. They should blend in pretty well with any other lens that has cooler flares.

Contax Zeiss 85mm

Contax Zeiss 85mm f/1.4

Pushing for a 2.4:1 crop I could go as wide as 63mm with the El-Nikkor, getting just slightly black corners. 50mm is way too wide, getting some heavy black edges, plus vignetting is heavier when focusing closer since the Rangefinder extends for good 2cm from infinity to minimum focus. 58mm with the Helios still shows vignetting. If you want a full 3.56:1 aspect ratio, 85mm is the widest you can go – and still get a little bit of vignetting. Of course, this is all for 2x stretch lenses and these numbers all change for 1.5x and 1.33x stretches.

Contax Zeiss 50mm f/1.4

Helios 44-2

El-Nikkor 63mm f/2.8

Jupiter 9

Playing with the Rangefinder out in the field was a very simple and straightforward experience. I really liked its small size and reduced weight. I even dusted off my follow focus and attached it to the Pocket Rig for better pulls. I just wish it was sunny outside when we shot, to get some flares going on. In practical terms I didn’t feel the difference in resistance while racking focus just when I was playing with it in the “lab” (also known as “my room”. I wished minimum focus could be closer, since I still felt the 50 and 85mm too similar in terms of framing, but not having to worry about double focus with the Kowa is as amazing as shooting with an Iscorama. Another thing I noticed was a certain softness during the night part of the test, shooting more towards wide open apertures. Sharpening in post helps, but the full frame sensor doesn’t forgive and some times I had to zoom in to check if the image was really in focus.

3.56:1 Version of the World Test

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m really learning some stuff while making these SLR Magic videos, so thanks a lot for the opportunity, SLR Magic! Next week’s video is about achromatic diopters, so subscribe now to get it as soon as it comes out. It was one of the videos I wanted to do for a long time, since lots of people ask questions about SLR Magic’s achromats and almost no one had technical or decent answers so far! Anyway, head on to the blog for downloads and checking out previous reviews and we’ll meet again next week. Also, I wish you all a merry Christmas, hope you get some lenses from under the Christmas tree! Ferradans out.

  • TFerradans. · Buying Your First Anamorphic Lens August 15, 2016 at 8:39 am

    […] (at any aperture), easy to buy and a the perfect candidate for single focus attachments (Rectilux, Rangefinder or FM) down the road. The 2x stretch leads to noticeably oval bokeh, an anamorphic trademark, but […]