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Iscomorphot 16, Sankors and other non Isco 36 glass

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I love anamorphic.  When I compose shots in my head, invariably, an anamorphic lens is required to capture what I see.  Therefore, when I purchased my BMCC recently, I ran out and grabbed the first piece of glass I could get my hands on: an Isco-Gottingen Cinelux 2x anamorphic.  It was beat up and cheap on eBay, but the image quality is surprisingly nice.  My first test can be viewed here for anyone interested:

 

vimeo.com/72993815

 

But the thing is just a monster to deal with--one of the later generation Isco projection lenses that weighs twice as much as the camera.  Focusing is a mystery at best.  And I need a good 2m plus minimal focusing distance. The front of the lens is giant, so I can't fathom getting a diopter on there at all.  It shoots a nice image, but it's way limited

 

So the search goes on... I'm not to the point where I can afford an Iscorama 36 even if I were to cross paths with such a rare creature, so I'm really looking for feedback on that mid-tier, under 1k anamorphic that is functional, lightweight and sharp across a wide f/stop range.  

 

I've come across the Iscomorphot 16 a couple of times, which although still a projection lens, appears smaller and more manageable.  Does anyone have any experience with this lens that can tell me if it's significantly more manageable than what I already own. Closer focusing, etc--better option for diopters.

 

Also, Sankors keep popping up in my search, mostly Cs and Fs.  Without Isco's patented technology, they can't rack focus, so are they really worth double the Isco projection lenses?  Likewise the Kowa Prominars--without a rack focus option, are they worth it??  $1200, seriously??

 

Or Henri Chretien Hypergonar 16 lens.  Never heard of them before, but I've seen two on eBay recently.  Worth pursuing?

 

Any and all help/advice welcome and appreciated!

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Firstly, forget those big multi-coloured projection lenses - yes they can be sharp, but that's not really a reason.

As far as a Single Focus system goes then Iscoramas are nearly the only ones (36,42 & 54).

Everyone is obsessed with racking focus, but Iscoramas aren't really ideal for this anyways as their focus throw is slightly too long (my 54 is manageable, but i found the 36 & 42 a nightmare). Iscoramas are all about making focusing easier & not rack focusing!

 

I've always been tempted by the Iscomorphot 16, as i have its smaller brother the Iscomorphot S8/x2 (a fixed focus lens & not to be confused with the now over priced x1.5 version). The Iscomorphot S8/x2 is very sharp & produces some of the most pleasant images out of all my lenses. The Iscomorphot 16 is slightly bigger & you can focus (it'll be dual focus) - there are a few vids on Vimeo.

 

Sankors (sometimes branded as Singers) are good solid lenses, overlooked by some & do produce lovely images (a good beginners lens) - i used a D version as it was slightly bigger, but not huge & meant i could use a slightly wider taking lens than some of the other ones (should only pay around £300).

 

The best Kowa lens is the one branded for Bell&Howell, its a dual focus but will be the closest you'll get to the image quality of an Iscorama (I'd say £500-600, maybe 700 if its mint). I still use my Kowa for B&H!

 

The Hypergoner is a huge beast of a thing but is undoubtedly one of the kings of the anamorphic look, so unless you're prepared for a big lens then forget it.

 

Century Optiks might be worth considering, but someone else will have to chime in on these - but they ain't cheap.

 

And most importantly, when buying off Ebay avoid "buy it now" (unless its a reasonable price - $1200 isn't, unless its an Iscorama!), make sure the seller takes returns & do ask questions in order to cover yourself. You can get really good bargains if you're patient & set yourself a price limit - if you don't do these things you're gonna get ripped off & stuck with some piece of crap.

 

good luck

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The problem with sankors, kowas,etc... is that people don't check if the front and the back lenses are aligned, that in addition to hand holding and learning curve of double focusing, has vimeo and youtube full of blurry videos.

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I have a Kowa 16-H off ebay for $500. It is a great lens, sharp flares nicely. When I purchased it I got it cheap in part because it had focus issues.

 

The front and rear elements were slightly out of alignment, it was any easy fix that took about an hour. Just rotated the front glass and final adjustments where made in the alignment of the cylinders. It is a very simple lens so not much to it.

 

It is my recommendation but I have only used this one and some massive ISCO's.

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Great responses!  Thank you.  I had both those ebay auctions on my watch list, so that's encouraging.  And thanks for the reminder that the skill of the person behind the camera accounts for quality as much as the glass that's in front--I have to start taking these youTube and Vimeo examples with a grain of salt.

 

The search goes on.  Any more thoughts, feel free to chime in; they're appreciated.

 

I'll post when I've picked up some new glass.

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I tried couple of anamorphic lenses last one was sankot 16c and i was not happy with the quality at all and i could only use 65mm or 70mm and up and up with no vignetting. I come across  Baush & lomb big lens got it on dslr cage and it works awesome and the quality is Fing sharp i will be soon getting some close up filters 86mm from  a fellow here  that i will attache to 95-86 step down ring.

 

Is it hard to hard to handle big lens? yes and no, depends if you are serious about your craft. Me personally i don't care i am going for the quality of the image and just today i was shooting outside and people wore like what is that? Me personally i don't want to be spending over 1000-2000 dollars on soothing that i wont make me money

 

And with my lens i been using hellios44-2 and canon 50mm 1.4 lens with no vignetting its pain to handle some time but its worth it

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...

Everyone is obsessed with racking focus, but Iscoramas aren't really ideal for this anyways as their focus throw is slightly too long (my 54 is manageable, but i found the 36 & 42 a nightmare). Iscoramas are all about making focusing easier & not rack focusing!

 

It's not about doing 70's style kung fu zip-zooms, it's about following focus.  Cinema lenses have longer focus throw than stills photography lenses, typically.

 

If you don't have a single focus or focus through system you're cutting yourself off from being able to do all kinds of shots with moving talent.  It's like having to write a paper and being told you can't use adverbs or pronouns or any word with more than three syllables.  It's doable but it's far from ideal, especially when you have a choice.  

 

Actors will be able to move only within the plane of focus.  Or not move.  Forget about dolly or tracking shots that also aren't also very restrictive.  Prepare to eat a lot of blown takes.  Less experienced actors tend to over-animate, because they're not acutely aware of how small moves can be read quite well on camera, or they don't hit their marks.  A good 1st AC can save what would otherwise be a lost take by being able to judge how far off the mark talent is and adjust focus accordingly.   

 

It's not a matter of obsession, it's one of necessity for certain kinds of content.  I really could care less what someone did in their short film or music video to somehow "prove" that this wasn't necessary.   No follow focus isn't a "dogma" that I can get behind and would sooner just shoot spherical.  Dual focus and anamorphics that force you to use telephoto lenses work great for demos and test videos though.

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It's not about doing 70's style kung fu zip-zooms, it's about following focus.  Cinema lenses have longer focus throw than stills photography lenses, typically.

 

If you don't have a single focus or focus through system you're cutting yourself off from being able to do all kinds of shots with moving talent.  It's like having to write a paper and being told you can't use adverbs or pronouns or any word with more than three syllables.  It's doable but it's far from ideal, especially when you have a choice.  

 

Actors will be able to move only within the plane of focus.  Or not move.  Forget about dolly or tracking shots that also aren't also very restrictive.  Prepare to eat a lot of blown takes.  Less experienced actors tend to over-animate, because they're not acutely aware of how small moves can be read quite well on camera, or they don't hit their marks.  A good 1st AC can save what would otherwise be a lost take by being able to judge how far off the mark talent is and adjust focus accordingly.   

 

It's not a matter of obsession, it's one of necessity for certain kinds of content.  I really could care less what someone did in their short film or music video to somehow "prove" that this wasn't necessary.   No follow focus isn't a "dogma" that I can get behind and would sooner just shoot spherical.  Dual focus and anamorphics that force you to use telephoto lenses work great for demos and test videos though.

Yeah, I do know all this BR, but if you're starting out &/or don't have a wad of cash, then a cheap dual focus is a good place to start.

You learn the basics first, find the limitations & then move up to more complicated shots where you need to follow focus - no point running before you can walk!

And do remember that in the early days you'd have pull focus with 2 lenses & this is still quite possible to do, especially when follow focusing - you just need a few more sets of hands.

Or you just need to be inventive with your choice of shots & editing - i mean how many long tracking shots, a la Jacques Demy, do you find nowadays? And furthermore, what's with the obsession of everything being in focus all of the time or do we even need to see the protagonists on screen every second? There is a multitude of styles & shots, from the history of cinema, to be used or experimented with - if you think Hollywood is the be all & end all, then its a very sad day indeed. Stop watching popcorn Movies & go out and experience a Film!

If you're a professional, then you wouldn't even bother buying any of these lenses, you'd hire something that's actually going to get the job done properly & with ease.

The OP had started out with a big projection lens, so why not first move to something smaller/better, then make the jump?

Also, how many Iscoramas do people really think are out there? 

There isn't an endless supply!

So people have to be realistic...

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Dude, seriously...

Thought your post was lacking a bit of tongue in cheek humour!

Actors, hitting marks, pulling focus...?

Did you see the original lens the OP bought?

If he'd wanted to know about proper anamorphics he would have gone elsewhere...

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Maybe its just me, or the movies that I watch, but focus pulling/following is so well .... er cheesy.

 

Not to mention that if you have time to show all that, then most likely the movie is a drag. Everything today, at least in the movies I watch is down to slick editing. Focus pulling is lazy, far better to opt to open up the scene and show off the blocking and staging, after all cinema is a kind of ballet.

 

Say Hello Dolly !

 

Count the focus pulls in ARGO - there arent many!

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And here you prove complete ignorance over basic filmmaking.  Jesus Christ.  You have no idea what you're talking about.  There are countless focus pulls in ARGO, like almost any film with a real camera crew.   In fact there are no less than EIGHT credits in that film for individuals whose primary job is PULLING FOCUS.

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You would do well to trust your eyes rather than a credit list.

 

If you want to see what is in the final cut look at the background to each shot, thats where the telltale footprint of focusing can be seen

 

its called editing it may have escaped your attention

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I respect that having locked focus shots can apply a particular 'big' look to a film.  Barry Lyndon illustrates this perfectly.  very little focus tracking due to very deep depth of field on a lot of the landscape/wide shots and where zooms are used.  and in contrast some very shallow locked down shots in the candle lit and interior scenes and the portrait shots where no focus pulling seems to be evident.

 

however for films that tend to benefit most from the anamorphic look (Alien, Die Hard, Leon etc), where movement within small spaces is key to the action, and depth of field is used to guide the viewer, it would be physically impossible to shoot these type of films in the same way with a dual focus system.  Though I have not seen Argo, I am very certain that they will have had focusing being adjusted during takes and it is probably only due to the editing that this may be less obviously the case.  

 

The moral of this topic is not that dual focus is unusable, but that these silly large red and gold anamorphics should be banned from discussion because they are hopelessly large for use by 99% of people who actually shoot stuff.  And being so modern, they fail in almost every respect to deliver the character myself (and very likely most other anamorphic enthusiasts) look for from going anamorphic in the first place.  And lest we forget...  being for projecting in multiplex cinemas their close focus is about 5mtrs!  

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The moral of this topic is not that dual focus is unusable, but that these silly large red and gold anamorphics should be banned from discussion because they are hopelessly large for use by 99% of people who actually shoot stuff.  And being so modern, they fail in almost every respect to deliver the character myself (and very likely most other anamorphic enthusiasts) look for from going anamorphic in the first place.  And lest we forget...  being for projecting in multiplex cinemas their close focus is about 5mtrs!  

Amen! Go in peace brothers!

 

Stoker is all i have left to offer...

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... Though I have not seen Argo, I am very certain that they will have had focusing being adjusted during takes and it is probably only due to the editing that this may be less obviously the case....

 

All you have to do is watch the trailer to see that Barlow is completely wrong (besides having a working knowledge of basic camera crews and the mechanics involved in shots with both actor and camera movement).  His "use your eyes" only works if your eyes know what they're looking at.  The film is full of tracking shots, many of which are z-space tracking shots.  In the first few moments of the trailer is one of them with the camera dollying forward, focused on a monitor on the wall, looking at the back of an actor who is out of focus.  The first AC would have been adjusting focus the entire time keeping the plane of the monitor in focus.  

 

In concert with the movement and the seemingly fixed point of focus you don't get cues that focus is changing.  And that's why the 1st AC is the operator's best friend and the guy (or girl) who makes them look good, who's saved their job likely more than once.  The 1st AC is one of the hardest jobs on the set under the most pressure and not being able to see or detect their work is the mark of the best.  Their work isn't hidden in editing.  

 

Likewise, there are shots like Affleck coming through glass doors towards camera while the camera is dollying opposite his movement towards him.  Focus Puller was working the entire time for that shot, and all the other z-space movement shots throughout the film, in crowds, through the market, etc.  Meetings at the CIA, steadicam tracking shots in medium and close-up, not Barry Lyndon's restrained, period compositions based on paintings.  This isn't a film that lives in the wide.  It's a lot of cramped spaces with movement.  Affleck tends to work close-in, more intimate and isn't doing scenes played out in tableau.

 

Barlow was either playing at authority with totally naive eyes or it's an act.

 

Regardless, the only reason I got into it (focus pulling) was because the OP brought it up as part of their concerns over different models available and this concern was downplayed.

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So the search goes on... I'm not to the point where I can afford an Iscorama 36 even if I were to cross paths with such a rare creature, so I'm really looking for feedback on that mid-tier, under 1k anamorphic that is functional, lightweight and sharp across a wide f/stop range.  

Nice Iscorama 54 (non-MC) going on ebay from Germany - no reserve, but it has some fungus (which he's already got a pricing from Bernie in NY for $400 to clean). Probably/hopefully won't go for much...

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