Anamorphic Video Reviews – Ground Rules

March 23, 2015

It’s been a little while since I decided to make video reviews for the anamorphic lenses I have. Ever since then I have thought a lot about the format and “rules” to be followed so the videos could be compared to each other and I don’t end up doing a lot of subjective work (since these are lenses that can be held against each other and some have clear advantages over others). I also didn’t want to make boring endless charts and stuff like that, because it’s hard to watch and keep focused if there’s nothing interesting happening at the screen. I say that because I’m terrible at watching lens tests whenever they’re too boring, I want to convey the feeling of what can be achieved with the lens, but I also gotta set myself some limits: last time I thought of making a “test video” I ended up doing a full on webseries pilot followed by a 100-page essay, so gotta tone down the creativity a little.

This post describes what I got so far and I’d love to hear from you what you think might work, what might not and other interesting things to get in the videos.

First of all, everything will be shot with a Canon 5D3. That’s the camera I have and I don’t plan on buying any other soon, which means full frame. Good thing is, from there you can easily convert into smaller sensor sizes and figure out what is or isn’t covered for different cameras. If anyone wants to give me another camera for the tests, free of charge, I have no problem with that! Hahahah!

For taking lenses, again, I’m not going far, using what I have, which is also a standard prime set. Mir 1B, Helios 44, Jupiter 9 and Tair 11 (they translate to 37mm f/2.8, 58mm f/2, 85mm f/2 and 135mm f/2.8). They’re all russian glass and have been known to work well with anamorphics. I wish I had a more “modern” set, such as Contax/Zeiss, to compare both vintage and modern looks, but I’m not spending any money on this.

Whenever I’m filming the lenses to show build quality, how they work or anything like that, I’ll be using Canon’s native H.264 codec, for there is no need to spend any more bytes with that. For the actual technical testing (charts and stuff), I’m shooting RAW with Magic Lantern, at 1080p resolution with no post processing other than VisionLog camera profile, so the footage is as flat as can be. We want to see the maximum amount of detail the footage can hold, so no grading on this part, no contrast, no nothing. Plain log. Videos will be uploaded to both Youtube and Vimeo, so users can download them and check for finer detail without internet’s compression.

The technical aspects that will be analyzed are build quality, sensor coverage (both full sensor and a standard 2.4:1, Cinemascope, crop), current price and availability, sharpness (at f/2, 2.8. 4 and 8, comparing corners and center). Sharpness tests will be done with charts in the first part of the video. I’m also gonna test them with the diopters I have here. Minolta +0.4, Iscorama +0.5, Fujinon +1.25 and Canon +2, all achromatic doublets that should improve the lenses’ performance. I’ll always comment on the focusing method for each lens, since there are several different ways of doing it, and people are always confused about it. Flares will also be tested, using a regular smartphone flashlight.

The output footage will be unsqueezed by REDUCING THE HEIGHT instead of increasing the width, which holds more detail and is the most common process to properly unsqueeze footage. This will lead to black bars above and below the frame. On these areas I’ll put all the technical information I can about each shot (f-stop, ISO, shutter speed, taking lens, anamorphot, diopter, white balance) so anyone can quickly see what changed from shot to shot.

After all these techcnical stuff, which shouldn’t play for too long, there’s a “real world test”, which consists of 10 handheld specific shots, 5 “well lit” and 5 at low light, consisting of a close up shot, medium shot, infinity focus, a rack focus and one extra that I haven’t decided yet. These will also be shot RAW as the charts, but will be presented graded. I’d love to tell short stories with them, but I’m not sure it’ll be possible.

After all this craziness, I plan on sharing a couple DNG frames from both charts and real-world tests so anyone can push them to any limits they like or look at each individual pixel, hell, I don’t know, not my problem!

So, is it kind of clear or confusing? Am I missing something? Is there anything else you’d like to see?
I’m also thinking of shooting a short video explaining all of this, instead of having it just written here.