Anamorphic on a Budget – Rectilux 3FF-W

July 26, 2015

Finally the review for the Rectilux! This extra piece of gear is incredible, I’m very impressed with the results and how easy it is to work with this lens. It requires you having you anamorphic adapter already, turning a double focus lens into single focus, through a variable diopter.


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What’s up, folks? Tito Ferradans here and in this episode we’ll talk about the much anticipated Rectilux. First off, I’m planning more tests with this lens than the ones I’m showing here, because it’s just blowing me away.

As of 2015, the Rectilux is a new product in the anamorphic market, entirely designed and developed by Mr. John Barlow. It is based on a variable strength diopter which, in a simplified way, translates into transforming any lens into a single focus system.

The Rectilux currently comes in two versions, the 3FF-W for bigger anamorphics (Kowa, Cinelux, etc) and the 3FF-S for the most compact adapters (Isco Animex, Sankor 16-C, Moller 32 and so on). If you wanna see a full compatibility list, check the link. The lens has a full metal body and feels pretty much like a tank. It certainly weights like one, at 425g by itself, 700g with the Kowa fitted inside. Focus is so smooth it took me a couple hours to get used, but now I think it’s great, I don’t have to struggle to pull focus just using my fingers, since it’s so light.

Front thread is 95mm and the Rectigrip, the rear threads, is 67mm, be sure to get all the proper step rings!

How does it work? First you need your taking lens and your anamorphic adapter. Check compatibility to get the right version. The anamorphic is then focused on infinity and fitted inside the Rectilux. Watch my assembly video for a detailed step-by-step of this process for the Kowa B&H. Then, focus the taking lens to infinity as well and screw it onto the Rectigrip.

The name Rectilux comes from a mix of latin words for straight and light, which means the light goes straight through the optics not being subject to any changes, like loss of sharpness, blooming, cutting flares, chromatic aberration, and all that. No extra optical artifacts are added by the Rectilux. This means testing it with my Kowa B&H will look exactly like shooting without the Rectilux, in terms of image quality. Makes sense?

An exception for this test is I’m using Zeiss taking lenses, since my russian set would cap the Rectilux’s performance. Later on I’ll shoot more tests with the Canon’s 50 and 85mm f/1.2 and the 135mm f/2, for extreme aperture evaluation.

Now, back to regular talk, focus ranges from 0.5m to Infinity, stretch depends on the anamorphic you’re using. All the compatible lenses have a 2x stretch, except the Bolex Möller, which is 1.5x and alignment is set using the Rectigrip. It employs a different design from the traditional “three-nylon-screws”, with a single metal bolt. DO NOT use both screws, as it will reduce the grip’s power, and triple check if the whole thing is properly secured. I almost dropped my lens by hurrying into a shot without tightening it properly.

For this first batch, a bunch of us placed our orders so the lenses could be made. Now John has a few left in stock and there’s no waiting time except shipping. Price is 695 pounds for the 3FF-W and 549 pounds for the smaller 3FF-S. That translates roughly into US$1100 and US$850, a little higher than the FM Module. For more information on how to place an order, check Rectilux’s website.

In theory, this test is actually just showing the performance of the Kowa B&H paired with the Zeiss, since the Rectilux isn’t degrading the quality at all. As usual, you can download the original files.

With focus ranging from half a meter to infinity, the 95mm front thread doesn’t worry me so much because I’d need a very specific and unusual shot to be closer than 0.5m from my subject. This test also made me realize that f/1.4 can be sharp enough to be usable!

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

Nikon 135mm f/2.8 CORNERS

Well, it’s the Kowa’s flares, nothing special there. The light I used isn’t the best, it’s a tiny LED. If I shot the same thing without the Rectilux, there flares are still the same.

Now we got to an interesting point. Using 2x stretch lenses gets you a 3.56:1 aspect ratio. Almost none of us use this kind of image, so I’ve cropped everything to 2.4:1, Cinemascope. In my tests, using the Helios 44, at 58mm, still gives me some black edges. John told me the El-Nikkor 63mm f/2.8 is the widest available taking lens out there, shooting 1600×1200 with MagicLantern on the 5D3. Unfortunately my copy hasn’t arrived yet so I can’t show it, but I have no reason to not trust John’s words about it.

I had to do this kind of in a hurry because the Zeiss were rented for half a day I had to return them the following morning. I thank Gearhouse Camera Rentals, here at Vancouver, for the good deal they offered me in favor of this project. Here’s the 2.4:1 version of the shots, but you can also check this other video for the full 3.56:1 aspect ratio of them. For me, the hardest thing shooting these images was using my camera rig, which was too small and uncomfortable. The practicality of using the Rectilux also impressed me, being able to quickly switch between different taking lenses and not worry about double focus, or diopters at all.

This video has already overextended itself and it’s time to end it! The Rectilux is an amazing piece of gear and a welcome addition to my arsenal. It performs as expected and breathes life back into my Kowa B&H, making me consider buying other double focus lenses to pair it with. True anamorphic, here we go. Ferradans signing out!

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The following other shots were made using the 1600×1200 resolution, 4:3, and then stretched to 2.66:1. As a recurring character in this series, Matt Leaf was handling the camera at this part, and showing me different places around Metro Vancouver.

  • TFerradans. · Buying Your First Anamorphic Lens August 15, 2016 at 8:38 am

    […] the frame (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 […]