Anamorphic lenses are a miracle of physics.
The way they bend light, the oblong bokeh, the long horizontal flares, and the organic look put the viewer in a cinematic mood.

This clip is about a non scientific comparison of various anamorphic lenses. Everything is shot on a Canon 550d/t2i with a Meyer Primoplan 58mm f1.9 lens wide open. Not the sharpest available option I reckon, but I like the glow and flare this lens has wide open; stopped down it gets razor sharp. You can see its' image quality wide open in the opening shot of the clip (which is just cropped). I have chosen this lens because the Iscorama fits directly onto the filter thread. No need for spacers, clamps or other fixes to fit.

I try to explore herewith the characteristics of some rare anamorphic gems.

- The Iscorama: No need to say much. It is the holy grail of anamorphics! Organic look, ease of use (just focus with the Isco, prime lens set to infinity), possible to rack focus, sharp from wide open, epic orange flares, possible to use on full frame cameras, but needs diopters to focus closer than 2m (7ft). Interestingly, it appears to allow in more light at the same camera and lens settings compared to other lenses.
Back thread is 49mm (but is protruding), works from 35mm on APS-C sensors, or from 50mm on full frame.

- The Bolex Moller anamorphot 19/8/1.5x: I love this lens, it is small, sharp at all apertures, focuses down to 0.5m (2ft) without diopters, stunning deep blue flares. On the negative side, you have to focus both your regular lens and the anamorphot, and it is not useable on full frame cameras.
Back thread is 24mm, works from 58mm on APS-C sensors.

- The Proskar anamorphic-8 1.5x: A very rare lens. Little bigger than the Bolex Moller, but image-wise very similar to it. All of the above hold, except that the minimum focus distance is around 1.3m (5ft).
Back thread is 26mm, works from 58mm on APS-C sensors.

- The Iscomorphot 8 1.5x: A miniature Iscorama for crop sensor cameras! Set the prime lens to infinity and rack focus with the anamorphot (apparently only Isco Gottingen has got the recipe). Epic blue flares, organic look, goes down to 0.5m (2ft) for close ups without diopters. This test does not illustrate the full potential of the lens, as it is a bit dreamy wide open (which I like). Stopped down it gets very sharp.
Back thread is 24mm, works from 58mm on APS-C sensors.

- The Kowa Prominar Anamorphic 16-H 2x (also known as 8-Z, or Kowa for Bell & Howell): Next best thing to an Iscorama on full frame. Sharp from edge to edge, minimum barrel distortion, wide, nice flares, focuses down to 1.5m (5ft) without diopters, did I say wide? You have to focus both your regular lens and the anamorphic.
Back thread is 50mm, works from 50mm on full frame.
(Note: it appears that I have slightly misaligned it in my test)

Looking for the perfect anamorphic lens?
Well, there is not one!
Maybe the Iscorama is as close as it gets to "perfection", but the tiny regular-8 1.5x anamorphots appear to be very close contenders for crop sensor cameras, like the Canon APS-C DSLRs (7d, 550d, 60d etc.), or the Panasonic micro four thirds cameras (GH1, GH2 and AF100).
Of course, if you are on full frame and don't want to crop, the options are a bit more restricted.

Enjoy!

P.S: Haven't tested a Lomo lens because I don't have one, and haven't included the Panasonic LA7200 1.33x because it is no more available to me (anyway nowhere as sharp as the Iscos at this aperture).

Music: "acoustic" by delmo (ccmixter.org/files/delmo/21752) is licenced under creative Commons Licence

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