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Kowa Anamorphic 1.75x

October 27, 2019

Here’s a big and super rare scope that fits into the exotic family of 1.75x scopes! And it’s a Kowa. Oh, this could be good!

USEFUL LINKS:

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.

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Tito Ferradans here, this time with the help of a fellow Vancouverite, Victor Prokopowicz. Victor came to me because he was having trouble with his Kowa 1.75x. Because of the massive front ring, he wasn’t able to fit it inside the back of the Rectilux HCDNA. So he gave me all the parts, I took the Rectilux apart (like shown in the tutorial I posted here) and he took the back of it to mill it wider.

As soon as he brought the HCDNA back I put everything together and the fit was perfect, so I took it out for a spin and test shots.

This Kowa is a heavy lens, at 600g, or 1.5lb, plus the weight of the HCDNA so I had a Rapido clamp mounted to 15mm rails, which made alignment a lot easier when swapping taking lenses. This is one of those lenses that feels heavier than it looks. If it didn’t deliver such beautiful images, I’d say it’s too heavy.

Part of the select club of 1.75x scopes, this Kowa has no front or rear threads, making clamps mandatory. Focus comes as close as 1.5m or 5ft, and the body has marks in ft. Due to its double focus nature, I’d stick to the HCDNA, which is the only single focus solution right now capable of covering the big front glass and making this lens shine.

It’s hard to place this Kowa on a price chart. The last ones to show up on eBay sold (or are still listed) for ridiculous over-two-thousand dollars marks. I guess it’s that rare. Victor told me he actually found his on a random, old school used items site and had to phone down the store in the US to hear about their return policies. The Kowa was the only thing sticking out in their inventory, so he was a bit suspicions. It turned out the lens was real, and he paid a lot less than two grand for it. There are still scopes out there, friends.

Image quality is pretty good at all apertures, and the smudges you see at f/1.4 are because the newspaper wasn’t perfectly flat against the wall and DOF was shallow enough to get parts of it blurry. At 135 and wide open the Kowa struggles a little bit, but still holds up alright. A little sharpening in post and you’re ready to go. $$ sound. Price increases.

Flares are not super crazy, but very much present. They show a reddish hue a bit deeper than the Kowa B&H and Iscoramas. Remarkable flares from a remarkable scope. Price goes up!

I have an extensive test for vignetting. The initial problem here was that the HCDNA was sitting too far from the front of the Kowa. This is what we had. Heavy vignetting until 50mm, then almost clear at 85mm and finally clear at 135mm. Let’s step back to 40mm. That’s bad. After getting the back of the HCDNA wider, we were able to clear a lot more of the frame, getting 2.4:1 clear around 50mm on Full Frame and no trace of vignetting at 85mm. Once we remove the HCDNA entirely, you can clear 50mm!!! And get a tiny bit of dark edges at 40mm using Canon’s pancake. Price goes up a lot.

This Kowa was a beast of a lens, it’s large, sturdy, could be used as a bludgeoning weapon, delivers Kowa-like sharp images, goes pretty wide for its stretch factor and has unique reddish flares. I am not surprised at the asking prices on these after testing. It’s too heavy for my style, I mean, I got these skinny arms that will die upon a heavy handheld setup.

I’d like to thank Viktor for letting me run all of these tests and for trusting me with his gems. What did you think of the results on this one? Is everyone already scouring the web for lucky finds like this? Let me know if you succeed in the comments and don’t forget to subscribe before you go. If you enjoyed this video, please hit the like button. I’m Tito Ferradans and I’ll see you next week. Thanks for watching!

Anamorphic

Sankor Anamorphic Type-5e

October 20, 2019

Here’s an obscure Sankor coming straight from Japan. How does such a good lens stay hidden for so long? Are they just that rare?

USEFUL LINKS:

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!

Tito Ferradans here with what seems to be the last of my pending reviews using JSD’s gear – and if you follow his posts on facebook you know this guy has a lot going on when it comes to anamorphic. So I hope he shows up here soon again. Today we’re talking about the Sankor Type-5e, an exotic projection lens with almost no information going around.

The footage coming out of this lens reminds me a lot of the Isco Ultra Star, it’s quite sharp, has a pronounced 2x bokeh and it’s coming from a golden-looking lens. The biggest difference I could spot was how this Sankor handled flares – or failed to. Direct sun hits flooded the frame with white and when I could get it just right, an interesting green streak would show up. I used the HCDNA for these shots, because no one has the time for double focusing anymore.

I tried finding good sources of info on this lens and failed, so everything that shows here is pretty fresh. JSD found this lens in his favorite Japanese auction site and got two of them. It’s a compact adapter, feels slightly shorter than the Ultra Star and weighs 580g, almost 1.5lb. It’s a 2x stretch projection lens, which implies double focus. The focus ring is smooth and it comes down to 1.5m over 240 degrees of throw. There’s also a handy focus-locking screw, for setting it to infinity and coupling to a single focus solution.

There are no front or rear threads, so you’ll need clamps for attaching filters and connecting to a taking lens. Due to the size and weight, I recommend using rails on this one – or almost any projection lens, for that matter. You have seen this lens before when I made a tutorial on making your own 3d-printed front clamps.

In terms of pricing I couldn’t find any info on it. Some eBay listings, but very low key, sell at $300. This exact one sold for $400, and considering how prices are going, as well as its performance, I’d expect them to go for something in the 450-600 range.

Image quality is outstanding, even in the corner areas, performing well at fast apertures and any focal length, which makes me think even more of the Isco Ultra Star. It displays a sensible improvement when stopped from 1.4 to f/2.8 and I don’t think you can get much sharper past that point, it might even be a taking lens limitation!

Flares are nice and green. I think this is my first green-flaring lens ever. There’s a fair amount of blooming around light sources, which is not great, but I’d take these flares over the non-existing flares of the Ultra Star any day.

Vignetting was interesting, like a Kowa chart. We have a bit too much at 40mm but Almost clears full frame at 50mm, definitely clears 2.4:1, which is a rare trait for projection lenses. Then all clear at 85mm. The big glass and short body certainly helped here.

This scope has a lot of impressive results: nice flares, great image quality, can go pretty wide for a 2x adapter. Too bad it’s almost impossible to find! The world could benefit from more of those floating around. This time I’m not putting down a double focus projection scope. See, I’m a fair person. Good scopes get good reviews.

What did you think of the results? Are you as impressed as I am? Let me know in the comments below! Before you go please hit the like button and don’t forget to subscribe so you get a new anamorphic video next Sunday! I’m Tito Ferradans and I’ll see you then!

Anamorphic

Moller 32/2x Anamorphot

October 13, 2019

This is like the Baby Kowa Bell & Howell with sci-fi flares. But there are traps all around. Be careful when getting yours! Use the code “Tito” for 15% off on the Phantom LUTs.

USEFUL LINKS:

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!

Tito Ferradans here today with a bit of an identity crisis. This is another video using JSD’s gear, so at this point I’m wondering why do I even have my own gear. Today I’m talking about the Moller 32/2x and this one was fully rigged with a Rapido FMJ and Rapido FVD-16A. I shot these tests while in Japan and editing it together was a bit of a good time-travel.

Alright, Japan might be a small place, but it’s still pretty big. So this was on our way to Hiroshima and the day we spent there. Timeline wise, this was shot the day before I shot the tests with the Hypergonar of two weeks ago. The Moller was a lot easier to shoot. It’s a smaller scope and even adding the FMJ, it didn’t feel too heavy. It actually felt easier to handle. Focus was locked to infinity and all of the focusing was done on the FVD. This is a pretty good projection scope and I don’t have much to say about shooting. Oh, this footage was also shot S-log and I used the Phantom LUTs to quickly create this look. You can find more info about them as well as a discount code in the description below!

The Moller 32/2x is a lens full of catches. It goes by a few names – I had one named Vidoscope, while JSD’s was a plain Moller. There’s also differences in the focus markings and a completely useless version. Let’s get the basics out of the way:

This is a 2x stretch projection lens. It’s small and light, weighing 390g, or a pound, and it’s a breeze to carry around compared to the other stuff I tested in the previous videos. It has 39mm threads on the back, which makes it easy for clamps and alignment. There are no threads on the front. It also has these notches right around the front, which make life harder to get a front clamp to fit snuggly – hence the FMJ.

When we get to the subject of focus, things get sketchy. There are mainly two versions of this lens. The first version (which still goes by multiple names) has focus markings (either in ft, or ft AND meters) and minimum focus at 1.4m (4’10”). Focus throw is about 330 degrees, so quite long. The other version of the lens – regardless of the brand written on it – has no focus marks. This is a telecine version of the lens, with very specific uses and it’s almost useless to anamorphic shooting, as it is unable to focus on infinity. The dead giveaway to the telecine version of the Moller is the recessed rear element you can see in these pictures. Many thanks to Oli Kember for the photos and many other members of Anamorphic Shooters to referring to this difference between these otherwise identical looking lenses. So be careful when buying one of them.

This lens has always been a random roll when it comes to prices. Maybe it’s because of the different versions. Since earlier 2018, these Mollers soared to the $600-800 range and stayed there. It sounds pricy, but just like a Kowa, it’s amazing what this little lens can do, so the price is justified. You’ll find plenty of good footage from it.

Image quality is excellent at the center with any focal lens and aperture, but it drops towards the edges, only getting consistent sharpness across the entire frame when stopped down. Not a surprise. The sharpness on this adapter makes it a great contender for a vintage scope on a smaller sensor.

The flares are interesting. I had a Vidoscope which showed neutral coatings and the resulting flares were more of a muted purple, while JSD’s had strong blue coatings and displayed much more saturated flares.

On full frame the Moller 32 clears the frame at 85mm and vignettes heavily at 50mm. Something in between should be good to get you cleared on 2.4:1, possibly a Helios 44, at 58mm. when shooting on a crop sensor, JSD has worked hard tweaking parts and is able to clear 25mm on the GH5 shooting 4:3.

This was a fun lens to test. It didn’t hinder my style of shooting like the heavier projection lenses, it turned out to be a lens full of exceptions and little details to be aware of, capable of rendering beautiful and sharp images at the same time it shows good vintage character. Good job, Moller. Not a surprise after the 1.5x Mollers, though. All of these positive aspects are probably what drove up the prices of this guy last year, almost doubling in the span of just a few months.

What do you think of the Moller? To me this sounds like a Kowa killer for smaller sensors. It’s compact and versatile. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and please hit the like button to help me grow the channel. If you’re not subscribed yet and you watched this far, you should definitely hit that button too, because there’s a lot more about anamorphic here, including a brand new review next week. I’m Tito Ferradans and I’ll see you then.

Anamorphic

The Truth About Phone Anamorphic Lenses

July 24, 2019

If you’re anything like me, you have an eBay saved search with the keywords “anamorphic lens”. If you’re a little more like me, you check that every day. I do it in the morning, before getting to work. I had eBay ping me every time something new popped up, but those times are gone. I almost don’t buy lenses anymore but I still check the search. It’s my way to stay up to date on prices, what’s more common and what disappeared from the market.

In recent times, I noticed an increasing number of phone anamorphic lenses. Not just used ones in the wake of Moment’s Kickstarter delivery last year, but completely new brands, with prices ranging from $20 all the way to $150+.

This happened in a matter of months. What has changed?

An overview of Kickstarter campaigns and marketing

Anamorphics for phones first came to life in the end of 2013, also through a Kickstarter campaign, but by Moondog Labs back then. It got funded on time, sold a little over 450 units and reached $57k in funding for their $30k set goal.

Moondog Labs had a product aimed exclusively at iPhones, which needed to be updated every time Apple released a new iPhone model. Their product was so different that there weren’t even apps for desqueezing the image on your phone at that time.

The lens costed $125 on Kickstarter and has been priced at $175 after its release. I’d say it was a fad. Some people thought it was cool, “Tangerine” was an interesting movie shot with it in 2015, I made a review for it years too late. The need to buy a new lens every time you upgraded your phone was a big let down for me, plus it was incompatible with anything but iPhones.

The whole thing kind of faded into the background.

In 2017, BeastGrip tried their luck with the same market, also on Kickstarter. Same price point as Moondog Labs, but with 37mm rear threads and a weird case to hold it in place. The project was funded in little under ten days, sold roughly 350 units and raised $155k for an original goal of $80k. It sold less than Moondog Labs’ lens, but Beastgrip’s campaign focused on other products too which helped getting the whole lot funded.

Beastgrip’s PRO 1.33x anamorphic lens + phone cage

It also didn’t go very far and disappeared into the generic pool of phone lenses.

Last year Moment kicks their campaign online. They got funded in 40 minutes, reaching whooping $1.6M for a $50k goal and sold 9500 anamorphics on official pledges only (not considering add-ons). Their campaign also featured other items but its pinnacle was the anamorphic lens.

Moment’s anamorphic lens

The first thing we notice from watching the three campaign videos is how much phone cameras have improved in the last five years. The second thing to notice are the different approaches to the gear. Moondog Labs is straight to the point, technical, and fills their video with somewhat generic shots made with their lens. Beastgrip tries to be more exciting with some epic shots, but the video is more focused on their DOF adapter. They really want to turn your phone into a DSLR.

From Beastgrip’s Kickstarter campaign. I don’t want to attach my full size lenses to my phone. I got cameras for that stuff.

Moment did everything different. Their video, almost 25 minutes long, goes on a trip while they take the lens to several instagram and youtube influencers and film their (mindblown) reactions. They focus on how much fun they’re having while shooting and selling what comes to everyone’s mind when they think anamorphic (if you’re not sure, the keywords are “cinematic” and “flares”). The audience reach they got from the featured influencers is well above 4M viewers.

4M views is a large number but $1.5M in funding is the kind of number capable of motivating a market. That’s what happened. During Moment’s development and delivery, other companies realized there was money to be made from anamorphic lenses for phones. They also dropped prices much lower. So while you have Moment, MoondogLabs and Beastgrip priced to retail around $175, most of the generic versions on eBay range between $20 and $60, for they have no name to back a higher price tag. If you try Amazon the prices are more uniform, though, at $150.

Some examples from eBay. Have you ever heard of any of these brands?

Is this bad? Probably yes for Beastgrip and Moondog Labs, maybe for Moment too (although they just made huge bank) but for shooters, this is good. It creates variety, innovation and competitive prices as each company tries to get a larger share of the market.

Words of caution

For the beginners considering phone anamorphics as an entryway to shooting scope: these lack oval bokeh and many of the visual traits of real anamorphics. You’ll get flares and a wider aspect ratio, maybe some barrel distortion, but that’s about it.

A sample from Moment’s website/campaign. They picked super favorable lighting.

One thing fundamentally wrong with almost all of these lenses: their mounting system is garbage. Pretty much all of them have a different way of mounting to your phone (thanks to the endless variety of phones’ sizes and shapes). Beastgrip does the best job by making their lenses with 37mm threads. Moondog Labs also joined in this trend, although they offer different mounts as well. Standard threads give the lens more versatility, allowing you to connect it to regular photo lenses through the use of step rings, or to swap the phone behind it as long as you keep the 37mm threads in place. All other phone anamorphics are either dependent on special phone cases (such as Moment) or cumbersome attachments. There is an opening in the market for unifying these lens mounts – even camera makers could find some common ground and share lens mounts!

Another thing that worries me with this sudden flood of brands and products is quality control. Anamorphic glass is very finicky and doesn’t handle imperfections well. Bad quality control means poor quality glass getting to users and the loss in image quality is not negligible. If we see the impacts of sample variance with Kowas and Sankors that were never manufactured in stupidly high numbers, think of what would happen in a Helios 44 scale of manufacture. That is likely what is happening with all these new phone anamorphics.

I don’t believe there’s a difference in design. These basic 1.33x squeeze lenses follow the same formula as a Century Optics or Panasonic LA7200 adapter: two cylinders with fixed focus, failing hardcore at close focus and fast apertures. Your phone has no aperture mechanism, so that’s sorted out, only close focus still fails (and I’ve seen it happen with my Moment lens as well as the MoondogLabs back when I had it)

Panasonic LA7200 anamorphic adapter taken apart. Two cylindrical elements for 1.33x squeeze.

What should I choose?

To settle the matter of what’s the best option out there: when Moondog Labs’ lens came out, phones were not quite up to speed but they kept improving. Since everyone is using the same optical design the difference comes from the coatings. Coatings will determine light transmission, overall tone (warmer or colder), contrast, flare colors and fine resolution. I don’t trust the smaller brands with quality control, so the choice stays between the big three.

Moment, Beastgrip and Moondog Labs’ flares.

Moment’s flares take the color of the light source, Beastgrip’s are warm and green and Moondog Labs’ are purple and blue with some amber streaks. I’d go for Moondog Labs any day because of its consistency and its original goal: they didn’t want to be *lit*, or turn your phone into a DSLR. They made an honest product and kept working on it, hoping that the results would bring the audience (kind of what I do in this blog/channel). It takes a painfully long time for that strategy to work, and I hope it pans out soon.

Here’s a head-to-head comparison with footage to back up my theory!

Before you go: if you’re anything serious about shooting content on your phone you’ll need a few more things to get good-looking pictures. The first of them is the FiLMiC Pro app to desqueeze the image on the fly and give you manual control over your phone’s camera. Then throw on a variable ND for more control and a gimbal stabilizer. Your phone is crazy sensitive to movement and that translates into the footage. After all that you are ready to shoot some good phone footage using the anamorphic format!

TL;DR

Lots of options to choose from when picking an anamorphic lens for your phone. I’d steer clear of the cheap unknown brands. Try to score a used Moment or Moondog Labs (prefer the latter) on eBay (just follow the links) and gear up your phone before trying to shoot scope with it.

Anamorphic Day-to-Day

Trust.

July 21, 2019

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always had internet friends. Not some random person across town who I’d meet once in a while. My friends were people I had never met in real life. Interacting only through written form and trust.

When I moved to São Paulo in 2008 I had friends there before I boarded the plane. Now I’m gone, and so are they, living in Mexico. The same happened with Vancouver: some of the people I work with today were good acquaintances more than a year before I moved in.

I have intense trust issues in real life. Just like anyone else, I’ve been disappointed, tricked and felt helpless in the company of people I believed I could trust. So I changed. I don’t like to tackle challenges I couldn’t tackle by myself because if everyone else bails on me, I’ll still be able to get to the end of it.

This perception has always been different for me online. Maybe I just don’t feel as vulnerable as in real life, with anonymity walls and physical space between all involved parties. That’s where my friendships thrive. That got a huge boost because of the youtube channel. Suddenly people from all over were talking to me. With some of them I was able to strike meaningful and long conversations, going past the professional interaction.

That’s how I spent a month in Japan last year. That’s how I spent a month in Europe this year, went across five different countries and spent time meeting in person lots of folks I only knew through the internet.

It involved work, planning and going with the flow. As I come back home, I got a handful of white hairs from trying to figure out accommodations, juggling the money I had, understanding foreign languages, train schedules, bus schedules, plane schedules and, most importantly, people’s schedules.

With a tinge of pride, I say: all of this while being off Facebook. Ha! When I first thought of this trip I had imagined the social network would’ve been the hub for all planning and scheduling. Yet, I quit it in December and I held my ground, resorting to many other contact forms to reach people.

I come back home with a different mindset when it comes to trusting people and a very positive experience in Europe.

Keep being awesome, internet!

Anamorphic Specials

Atlas Lens Co. – Orion 40mm T/2 Anamorphic Review

May 12, 2019

Before I start the actual review, I must say that I’m a big fan of Atlas Lens Co.. Their Lenses are a huge step towards making anamorphics accessible, and accessibility is what my work is all about. I’m not saying they are CHEAP, but they certainly are cheapER than all other cine anamorphics – and that is fantastic.

OVERVIEW

I got the Orion 40mm back in December of 2018 when I went to Connecticut to spend the holidays with my girlfriend’s family. My flight came through New York and Nick Kova – who I met through the channel – offered to lend me his recently delivered Orion 40mm for the two weeks I was there. I am super thankful to Nick for trusting me with his lens – and so should you, otherwise this review wouldn’t exist.

I am unable to lie: I had a blast shooting with the Orion 40mm. This was actually my first time using a proper cine anamorphic lens and it changed many things on how I perceive anamorphic shooting. First of all, 40mm with 2x scope is incredibly wide. I am used to shoot with both eyes open – one eye in the viewfinder for focusing and the other eye on my surroundings for moving around. This was the first time I felt a lens was just as wide as my natural field of view.

One might think a wide angle is good for establishing shots but the close focus capabilities of this lens allowed me to make some of my most interesting close up shots, showing a fair amount of background along with my subject.

I shot all the footage using both the Sony A7s2 and Panasonic GH5, and while the GH5 has its own anamorphic mode, the Sony offered no support, making an external monitor key to framing. Due to gear incompatibility and form factor (I wanted to stay as small and light as possible) I ended up shooting everything handheld. Handheld as in camera + lens + (sometimes) monitor on the hot shoe mount.

This made for some really shaky shots every once in a while, a huge arm workout, wobbliness in some of the footage (see below), and the ability of stuff the camera in my backpack when I was not shooting. Not to mention every rack focus shot was a finger workout.

Even though the lens can go to T2, I found my sweet spot to be between T2.8 and T4 for best out-of-focus areas and decent sharpness that I could boost in post-production without hurting the footage. You can see this in more detail at the Sharpness &Resolution section.

If I had the money right now, I would not bat an eye investing in one of these. Even among the whole Orion lineup I feel the 40mm is the most versatile and interesting focal length. I shot for full two weeks with it and never felt I needed a longer or wider lens.

The price tag is still prohibitive if you are comparing this to adapters, but the reliability of it makes up for a big chunk of that cost difference. A cine lens will not let you down or have you struggling with clamps, focus, diopters and whatnot. That is where I am headed in terms of investing: getting out of the adapters game and moving into cinema anamorphics.

What are the downsides of the Orion 40mm then? Some people claim it is a really soft lens, but that was not my experience. Sure, at T2 things get a bit mushy, but no lens is super sharp wide open. I was doing great at T2.8 and I feel the lens loses its magic past T5.6 because the background starts to blend with your subject in terms of sharpness. Bokeh feels strange at times (more on that later) and flares are quite saturated. Those two aspects do not bother me, but they might be red flags for other shooters.

TECH SPECS

The first thing I noticed when I picked up the case with the lens is that this baby is HEAVY. It is a solid cup of metal filled with thick slabs of glass. At 2.2kg (5lbs), the Orion 40mm made both the Sony A7s2 and Panasonic GH5 feel like little toys.

Not only heavy, the lens is also pretty big: 18.9cm (7.4″) in length with a 114mm (4.5″) front, a standard value for cinema lenses, making it compatible with countless filters and matteboxes. The gigantic front made me work extra hard to find perfect lighting, unable to rely on a variable ND. I had packed the Fotodiox ND Throttle adapter, which has a built-in variable ND, which made things easier for shooting with the A7s2.

Orions’ data chart from Atlas Lens Co.’s website. 40mm highlighted for this review.

Speaking of adapters and lens mounts, the Orions come in PL mount by default, with an optional EF mount at extra cost ($XYZ). The one I used was already fitted with an EF mount. If you are swapping mounts you will end up using a handful of shims (provided by Atlas Lens Co.) to adjust your flange distance properly. I have heard from a few different sources (including a rental house) this is a time consuming challenge, especially because it is hard to spot critical focus when the lens is wide open and tell if you have the perfect distance between the lens mount and the camera sensor.

Still on the subject of weight and size, all my adapters sucked. There was a noticeable amount of play either between the lens and the adapters or between the adapter and the camera body because of how heavy the lens is. The adapters I was using for the Sony were the Fotodiox Pro Fusion ND Throttle and the Metabones Mk IV. The Panasonic had the Mitakon Zhongyi Lens Turbo V2 for focal reducing capabilities. I have been using these adapters for years without ever having this issue before.

A couple ways to solve this play would be to use adapters that have a foot for support and connect the foot to the rig’s rails or the camera cage. This addresses body/adapter play. The Metabones and Fotodiox had a foot, but I was shooting without a rig, silly me. The second part is to use cine-type adapters that have a twist lock onto the lens, like a cine camera does. These are on my list for future upgrades.

I only noticed the play was visible on the footage many weeks later when I edited this video and threw out too many shots due to the footage looking extra wobbly. This was not the Orion’s fault in any way: it was mostly my loose adapters, lack of a proper rig, IBIS going crazy with anamorphic and rolling shutter plus slow motion on the A7s2 – known Sony issues.

Focus goes from infinity down to 0.56m (2ft) at minimum focus, with 300 degrees of throw and markings in both feet and meters. Iris ranges between T2 and T16, featuring 14 aperture blades for smooth bokeh. As one would expect from a cine lens, both rings are geared for motors/follow focus. The lens does not change size while focusing since all the movement is internal, that also means the front does not rotate, which is great (#iscoramaFlaws).

There is a fair amount of focus breathing, widening your field of view by about 5% when focused at infinity compared to minimum focus. It is not a big deal on most shots, but if you have a big rack focus you will definitely feel it. 5% at 40mm 2x Anamorphic is a pretty big deal as you can see in the shot below.

Rack focus from infinity to minimum focus at T16, rescaled to keep objects’ sizes constant and show vignetting to demonstrate focus breathing.

PRICE AND AVAILABILITY

In terms of price, each Orion lens costs $7,999 – a $4,999 deposit with the remaining $3,000 to be paid before delivery. Talking to Dan Kanes and Forrest Schultz at NAB this year I learned that the average waiting time between putting down an order and receiving the lens is about six months in 2019.

There are two 3-lens sets of Orions and the 40mm is the wide-angle of the original set, or the A set, matched by 65mm and 100mm lenses. Buying a set is not cheaper than buying individual lenses ($23,995 for the set), split into a $7,995 deposit and 16,000 payment before delivery). The deposits are all refundable and you can easily upgrade from a single lens deposit to a full set deposit.

SHARPNESS & RESOLUTION

My space for shooting these charts was limited, so the focusing range is short. Still, many things can be seen from these samples. Taken with the Panasonic GH5, these images have a higher pixel count than the usual ones I use, from the A7s2, allowing for closer inspection on how the lens performs.

At T2 the Orion is quite soft but you can still tell critical focus and read small text even 3m away. There is lots of blooming on all highlights in the center, intensified by purple fringing on high contrast edges. The blooming and fringing dials down towards the edges, where we see the usual loss of sharpness and considerable light falloff – about a half stop. The text is still pretty readable though.

As we stop down to T2.8 – which is my favorite stop for this lens – the blooming goes away and the purple tinge is put under control. The image is not as sharp as T5.6 or 11, but calling this lens soft at this point seems like ignorance. The corners are still quite unsharp, not much improvement over T2, and just a bit darker – less than a quarter stop. The subtle light falloff and softness in the corners at this point contribute to creating mood in the shots, narrowing attention to the subject and not to over-detailed corners.

Speaking of detail, the lens is sharp from T5.6 onwards. Corners improve noticeably with just tiny smudges at the very edges and very little light falloff. Not much changes as you stop down from there, as we can see from T11. Sharpness still goes up a touch, making it sharp edge to edge and light distribution across the frame is the biggest difference at this point, with much more uniform values from center to corner. The one odd thing is, at minimum focus (0.6m) we start to see yellow/blue fringing on high contrast edges at the corners of the frame which were not there at faster stops and are not quite visible when the lens is placed further away.

You can download the full resolution images used to make these charts here to inspect them on your own if you want to find answers to specific questions I did not cover.

DISTORTION

With a horizontal field of view equivalent of a 20mm lens, it is expected that the Orion 40mm shows some warping on straight lines. Anamorphic distortion is a big deal and it greatly contributes to making shots more immersive, creating an extra layer of depth onto a two-dimensional image. Below is an animated grid going from rectilinear to the the Orion’s distortion profile. Notice how the vertical lines have very little movement compared to the horizontal ones.

FLARES & BOKEH

The Orion’s streak flares are a rich, saturated blue which, honestly, is a stone’s throw from SLR Magic’s flares. I like it because this blue is such a specific hue it can easily be picked in post-production and adjusted to my liking – including color changes to some extent. You can also see some teal elements reflected in there as well as a short vertical streak that adds more dimension to the overall anamorphic flare.

Panasonic GH5 4:3 Open Gate + LensTurbo V2 + Orion 40mm – T2, ISO 400, WB 3200K, 180° shutter

The blue gives good sci-fi vibes – since sci-fi and blue flares are in a tight knit connection since Alien (1979). We also see some rainbows when the light source is up close to the lens and, all in all, blooming is pretty controlled for having a light source pointed directly at the lens.

On such wide angle, the flare becomes smaller and smaller as I walk away from the camera, meaning that if you want bigger flares from far away you should work on getting some big and strong light sources (did anyone say M18?).

If you want to see more flare samples, PremiumBeat has a free pack of Orion 40mm flares that you can take a look.

Iris pull from T2 to T16 on the Panasonic GH5 + Lens Turbo V2. ISO 1600, WB 3200K, 180° shutter. Lens focused at 0.6m (2ft). Distance to subject: 3m (10ft)

When I was testing for bokeh looking at a Christmas tree, everything looked great. But I noticed it can have a strange shape at times – I like to call it snowman bokeh, although it looks more like a bell-shape – and you can see it in the video at the top of this post between 0:35 and 0:55. I do not know what causes it. In other scenarios, as bokeh approaches the edges of the frame it starts to get cut off into triangle and bean shapes.

From my empirical observations, this has to do with the placement of the highlights and the focused distance. On close-ups these strange shapes almost never show up, but as soon as I started to get further from my subject, bokeh would get messy.

All of this to say that you can get amazing bokeh with the Orion 40mm – but you can also end up with some less-than-perfect ovals. Speaking of ovals, I noticed the stretched bokeh is not quite oval. Here is a quick comparison between the lens’ actual bokeh versus what an oval would be. If anything, the Orion has even more streched out-of-focus highlights, contributing for extra waterfall effect and subject separation.

Left: Orion bokeh. Right: Computer generated perfect oval bokeh.

SENSOR COVERAGE

According to the data sheet on Atlas’ website – also shown at the beginning of this post – the Orions cover a 31mm image circle. What does that mean? In quick terms, it means you are fine shooting with any S35 sensor (24.89 x 18.6mm), ARRI Alexa, all the way up to the 4:3 3.4K Open Gate mode (23.76 x 17.82mm) and RED Gemini (30.72 x 18mm), 5K 6:5 Full Height (21.6 x 18mm), the best RED camera for anamorphic shooting.

In my situation, the GH5 was absolutely fine with the 4:3 Anamorphic Open Gate mode even with the focal reducer attached. The interesting bit was to realize I could shoot fine on the Sony A7s2 if I was outputting a 2.40:1 crop using the center of the frame.

Sony A7s2 shooting full frame 16:9 4K + Atlas Orion 40mm T2 2x Anamorphic with aspect ratio cropmarks

On the first day however, I did not bother testing the sensor coverage on the Sony and shot some slow-motion footage using the A7s2’s S35 crop mode. This yields full coverage from the Orion and delivers the wild 3.56:1 aspect ratio of 2x scopes and 16:9 sensors. I particularly like this width and believe one can make very interesting projects with it, although I admit it is not the friendliest of aspect ratios.

CONCLUSION

When I started writing this review, I had not gone through all the tests and the data. All I had were my notes and my thoughts about the experience of shooting with the Orion 40mm. After a few days of looking at clips, creating distortion maps, analyzing flares and bokeh, drawing diagrams and interpreting charts, I like this 40mm better than when I had only my thoughts.

I can now notice and point out hard evidence of features I love about this lens and also be on the watch for its limitations. I am pleased by its distortion and focal length – 40mm is unattainable with 2x adapters. It allows for very strong compositions. Bokeh could be cleaner when we look at the snowman and triangular shapes and, if I am to be very nitpicky, flares could be less vivid for a “straight out of camera delivery” type of situation.

It is unfair to compare a cine anamorphic lens to adapters but I will do it anyway! The amount of time and stress I saved by having a single piece of gear to connect to the camera and head out to shoot made a huge impact on the images I produced. You can look at my previous videos and the tests on this post to compare. I had time to get perfect exposure, I was able to plan a shoot for magic hour and actually get it, I shot some pretty spontaneous stuff too which would have been impossible had I spent ten minutes fiddling with an adapter rig.

I know I am not the only one that struggles with adapters, especially at the beginning of any shoot and this is where cinema gear makes a difference and justifies its price tag. Skip alignment checks, clamp quirks, diopters and skip triple testing that every piece of the optical chain is in focus (check infinity on taking lens, check infinity on anamorphic, check focus on variable strength diopter). All of these things are already built into the Orion – or any cine lens for that matter.

If one chooses to focus on the negative side of things without any base in reality, one could argue that the lens is too big and heavy when compared to, let’s say, an Iscorama 36 or a Kowa B&H, but once the adapter rig is fully built, single focus and bulletproof, it will be just shy of the Orion’s weight and size. In some cases the adapter rig will be bigger and heavier!

The price tag is steep compared to adapters and even being the absolute cheapest anamorphic lens in the cinema league $7,999 is no pocket change. The issue here is that it is accessible enough compared to Zeiss’ or Cooke’s anamorphics at $30k+, creating a feeling of “just out of reach” that upsets the prosumer market. I made up my mind and, if I have the chance, I will get one of these for myself. I want to put it on a proper rig and shoot content other than tests with it.

In all honesty I am done stressing with adapters for my career and this is a perfect segue into better gear to match my skills while not giving up the budget aspect I value so much.

If you made this far into the article, I would love to hear what you think of the tests and results as well as your opinion on the price of the Orion lenses and what they deliver! Leave a comment!

Day-to-Day

What if who I hoped to be…

February 1, 2019

A lot happened in my life last year and some things really started to change during the second semester.

It had been a year since I came out of school – hopefully for the last time in a while – and I had been working consistently. Maybe too consistently, too intensely, being paid too little and taking on too much. I was too “out there”, not being true to my feelings and ideals, dead set on the things I was told were important. And money.

I noticed a cycle. Having too much gear yet never the right gear, having too many projects yet never the right projects. I decided to try, on life, what I had been doing for my work: pull focus.

To pull focus onto something is to ignore the rest; dissolve it in a blur, pleasing in the background and never able to draw attention from what’s important.

We’re always in pursuit of the shiny and new things, pretending to be someone we don’t fit inside the skin, shouting to the void our accomplishments and expecting recognition from the crowd.

More likes, more shares, more views, more subscribers. For what? I had no answer.

I decided I was gonna be ok with less money. Less visibility. I decided to quit social media. I decided to cut back on the YouTube videos. I decided to sell a lot of gear and buy nothing to replace it. I started to pick the people I wanted to work with, and the reasons each project was important, passing the non-important ones.

I made a film of my own with the most amazing team. I suddenly had time to study and write on my own, I had time to spend with my friends without being in a work setting, I bought a new bike and I go at it as if anytime I could take off into the sky. I had a jolt of a realization about Ariana’s importance in my life and all the things I could learn from her.

Then, on the flight back home after New Year with Ari’s family, “Stupid Deep” clicked. The lyrics summarized my thoughts and feelings. I scribbled a bunch of animation notes and ideas on my little notebook. Some of my best thoughts come while up in the air.

During the next few weeks I dusted off my After Effects animation skills (of which I’m quite proud, one of the things I taught myself) that hadn’t been used in years and started animating one verse at a time.

That’s how I want to end this post, with these lyrics. If you got this far, listen to them, think about their meaning, simplify. Life feels better when focused.

“What if who I hoped to be… was always me?”