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Some time with the SLR Magic Anamorphot 1.33x - 50


Sean Cunningham
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Here's my first compilation of test footage with the SLR Magic Anamorphot.  Even before the lens arrived I knew this would be an upgrade in both performance and functionality coming from the Century Optics 16:9 adapter I'd been using for over a year now but I was anxious to see just how much. 
 
My favorite lens pairing on the Century Optics was my Nikkor 24mm f/2 which, on the GH2, became pleasantly wide instead of feeling more like a normal focal length.  Some folks hate the distortion you get from non-rectilinear lenses once you start getting this short but I love it.  It's a subtle curve that doesn't feel fisheye at all and the anamorphic glass + scope framing just accentuates this quality.  Paired with the GH2 both adapters can go a bit wider, to about 18mm-20mm depending on the lens design, but this Nikkor is the widest prime I currently own.
 
On the Century Optics if I needed infinity focus I also got soft, chromatic edges regardless of stop with the Nikkor.  This isn't always an unattractive quality and more than once I've read reputable DPs giggle over their choice to shoot on some vintage set of anamorphics *because of* their soft, soft-edged, chromatic character.  One man's lens with character is another man's junk lens.  Anyway, if I didn't need infinity focus then slapping on my Tokina +.4 achromat provided good, sharpenened up footage mostly free of chromatic effects.  The SLR Magic Anamorphot, on the other hand, doesn't need any extra help.  It's sharper at f/2.8 on my Nikkor 24mm than the Century Optics at this stop with or without the Tokina doublet, doesn't go soft at the edges and doesn't go all chromatic either.
 
Where I really felt the limits of the Century Optics adapter was anything above 24mm.  For straight 16:9 shooting I loved the look of my F.Zuiko 50mm f/1.8 even though it's a bit soft and exhibits coma wide open because most of its faults are hidden from the GH2.  To get soft but still *maybe* useful footage with the 50mm on the Century Optics I'd have to be at f/4 though I really needed to be more like f/5.6 which is decidedly not "bokehlicious".   Stacking diopters let me open it up but with a serious restriction on range.  With the SLR Magic Anamorphot I could happily shoot at f/2.8 on the 50mm thanks to its close-focus system which behaves like a built-in variable diopter.  
 
Speaking of, SLR Magic decided to also produce a new line of high quality achromats as a set (+1.3 and +.33).  Where diopters are an absolute necessity with the Century Optics and LA 7200 adapters they're totally optional on the SLR Magic Anamorphot.  They become more of an aesthetic choice for further enhancing bokeh in close-up photography, enhancing its stretched quality.
 
SLR Magic rates the Anamorphot as sharp on lenses in the range I shot at as wide as f/2.8 though YMMV depending on the complexity of the lens design.  Some lenses have been shown to perform even better than the ratings provided by SLR Magic.  For the sake of this test footage I kept generally to the f/2.8 - f/4 range, which I anticipate will be my preferred spread of stops for shooting with the lens though for anything serious this will require a 1st AC to pull focus.  A few daylight exteriors are likely shot at f/5.6 but I only went further stopped down, to f/8, on one comparison shot against the Century Optics adapter. 
 
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Wow Sean, thank you.  Someone needs to do this for the Letus, too haha.  Answers a few questions and just seeing that much natural footage puts my mind at ease.  I'd ruled out the SLRMagic for a number of reasons, now I'm trying to figure out how I can buy one immediately and not preorder from England!!!

 

You also do a great job of explaining in one place the benefits of 1.33x adapters, some of which, (vertical field of view and what-not) I had previously filed under 'it just looks different', now I know why :)...

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Thanks!

 

Yeah, I've been rather surprised there hasn't been as much useful test footage on the Letus.  Before that music video you posted there was maybe one Letus video that sticks out in my head and, honestly, I can't recall if I'm remembering it because of the footage or because the girl in the video was a drop dead gorgeous girl-next-door type, hah-hah.  It could just be that because of the price not as many people are using it right now and there's a lot of wait-and-see.   That video was nice looking enough though they seemed to have added most of the optical flourish in post.

 

Maybe it's going to be more rental-house customers than end users with that one.  Letus likes to market themselves as indie-friendly and like another Redrock Micro but they price themselves more up-market.

 

For me, yeah, all the test footage I see with a static camera, fixed focus and someone either just standing their looking into the lens or moving across a plane or in and out tells me nothing about whether I actually like what's going on here.  At least when John Brawley shoots boring tests they're showing a lot of dynamics at play which gives you a better sense of how the lens behaves (or doesn't).  I wanted to see something of that but I'm not in a situation currently to hire actors to just run through something so I shot the most readily available subjects in scenarios I had no control over (avoiding cats, lol).

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I don't see why not.  I've seen footage off the MFT version + Anamorphot, perhaps stuff shot by Vic Harris over on PV.  What I'm still curious to see is the combination of Blackmagic + Speedbooster and the Anamorphot.  Not so much for what that means for ultimate horizontal FOV, because that's more or less a wash between MFT and APS-C, but to get that vertical size up.

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Been waiting for your video!  Glad to see you got some great results!  I wish I kept my Nikon 24mm F2, but oh well.  The taking lens is so important for the look.  I think you're right about anything over 50mm (100mm FF) not working well.  I hope you can upgrade your camera soon.  So many great options coming out in the next month.  I loved my hacked GH2 too.  But with 4K, RAW and better codec options, it's about time for a switch.  BTW your brother's kids are adorable! 

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Thank you Sean for sharing the video and information about the lens.

 

As i'm still thinking of buying my first anamorphic adapter, even though i like the sharpness of the anamorphot, i really don't like that it flares so much. And i specially don't like the look of the flares. Which is unfortunate, as I was thinking of buying as it is a good and affordable option for me.

 

Guess I'm gonna keep looking...

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Nahua, thanks.  And my brother thanks you too!  Yeah, they're crazy cute.  

 

I thought your Jupiter 9 footage looks pretty darn nice.  Even though you were at f/4 (I think that's right) it seemed to have not quite so geometric a shape from the iris blades.  Of course there's going to be caveats and limits.  I don't need a solution to be perfect in every case just something I can work with to justify the effort.  I was really happy most of the time at 24mm on my Century Optics but I do love it even more with the Anamorphot.  Slapping the Tokina on the Century effectively reduced it to something that felt more in the 30mm range, on top of losing infinity.

 

If this upcoming project would just officially book already I have my eye on either a BMPCC or BMCC upgrade, plus corresponding Speed Boosters.  Even with that combination though, the factor of the 16:9 sensor means it's fairly easy to hit my target CU equivalency for a 75mm on anamorphic 35mm but matching the look of at least an f/2.8 stop on that lens is still a bit fiddly, but doable I think.

 

 

@Froess  yeah, it does really like to flare so that isn't going to be for everyone.  As the specs started to be revealed for the Anamorphot I was constantly encouraged that it all seemed to be aligning with what I wanted to see but there's a lot of folks that don't like heavy flaring and they're preference is certainly just as valid.  That music video shot on the Iscorama 54 has very little flare to it but there's no denying it's still beautiful and still exceedingly anamorphic in character.  I'd certainly never turn down an opportunity at a similar lens simply because it's not flare crazy (though I wouldn't buy one at today's prices even if one was for sale and had the cash in my pocket).  

 

You might check out the Letus.  Even their pro-flare coating doesn't seem to flare very strongly.

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Ok, thank you Sean for the tip.

 

The letus is a little expensive for me. I do like that it has several coating options, so you know what to expect in terms of flaring.

 

I'm really liking the bolex 1.5x footage that i've been seeing. Will try to look for one in a few months when i can afford it.

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There's lots of great footage to be found on the Bolex adapters.  Dual focus is an instant deal-breaker for me though.  I won't touch them, regardless of how great they might look for certain kinds of shots.


That's a shame. The bolex is actually very simple and quick to focus. I've scratched my head with some of the larger dual focus lenses but found the bolex a pleasure...
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Nahua, thanks.  And my brother thanks you too!  Yeah, they're crazy cute.  

 

I thought your Jupiter 9 footage looks pretty darn nice.  Even though you were at f/4 (I think that's right) it seemed to have not quite so geometric a shape from the iris blades.  Of course there's going to be caveats and limits.  I don't need a solution to be perfect in every case just something I can work with to justify the effort.  I was really happy most of the time at 24mm on my Century Optics but I do love it even more with the Anamorphot.  Slapping the Tokina on the Century effectively reduced it to something that felt more in the 30mm range, on top of losing infinity.

 

If this upcoming project would just officially book already I have my eye on either a BMPCC or BMCC upgrade, plus corresponding Speed Boosters.  Even with that combination though, the factor of the 16:9 sensor means it's fairly easy to hit my target CU equivalency for a 75mm on anamorphic 35mm but matching the look of at least an f/2.8 stop on that lens is still a bit fiddly, but doable I think.

I think all the Russian lenses work well in terms of bokeh - all smooth.  The reason I'm hating the Contax Zeiss is because of the 6-blades and the resulting "hexagonal" bokeh.  Very very distracting.  Even worse then the Nikon bokeh, although the Nikon can be smooth depending on the depth of focus.  I'm just bummed out that the Jupiter 9 needs F5.6 really to be sharp.  I really like it at F2 wide open when taking stills, but I just can't get it to work for video.  I'm hoping the Helios 40 will perform better, but it might not since the front element is so large.

 

I think the footage you get out of the blackmagic cameras will be excellent.  The speedbooster will definitely help, and it'll be easier to get the sweetspot of F2.8.  I like F2.8 on my GH3, it really works well.

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That's a shame. The bolex is actually very simple and quick to focus. I've scratched my head with some of the larger dual focus lenses but found the bolex a pleasure...

 

Even if focusing only took twice as long the restrictions on blocking, lack of follow-focus.  Nope.  I couldn't actually burden real actors and a production with those kind of limitations.  For experimental subjects I'm sure it's fine, that's just not my cup of Diet Dr. Pepper.

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...I really like it at F2 wide open when taking stills, but I just can't get it to work for video...

 

 

What were results with the diopters, or have you tried?  On my Century Optics my F.Zuiko needs f/5.6 to really be good but I could get by in some cases with f/4 + Tokina.  If I stacked a +1 as well as the Tokina I got a sharp image at f/1.8 if I was in an ECU situation, and the bokeh looked great, but I had to be in an ECU situation.

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The 12-35 is likely only going to be useful at the very top end I'm afraid.  If its design is anything like the LUMIX zoom I have, the 14-42mm, I can only use it from 25mm + which was surprising.  Other lens designs have worked down to at least 20mm on the GH2 without vignette.  I don't presently know anyone local with these lenses though.  Folks I actually know are all Canon shooters and one fellow with a RED.  I might be meeting up with some new folks soon but the lenses we've discussed have been mostly older manual lenses I think.

 

You might try contacting Andrew Chan at SLR Magic (support@slrmagic.com) and see if they have reports from any of their testers on this lens.  I know they don't recommend shooting with zooms, just as a rule.  But as compact as these LUMIX lenses are maybe it squeaks in there. 

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Even if focusing only took twice as long the restrictions on blocking, lack of follow-focus.  Nope.  I couldn't actually burden real actors and a production with those kind of limitations.  For experimental subjects I'm sure it's fine, that's just not my cup of Diet Dr. Pepper.

this is a case of each to their own... I understand where you're coming from but I'd want to end the time in a fiction production to make it look beautiful and from what I've seen of the SLRmagic to date it just doesn't cut the mustard. For some doc work and corporates where they want that wider look it might be great...
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That's not really a "to each their own" case.  Discounting what I said in favor of a single aesthetic at the expense of all others on a production says you've never been in that position, working with real actors, or under those kinds of pressures.  You have the luxury of having that kind of naive position to take (edit: not being pejorative here).  I have to think practically and make choices based on knowing everything is a compromise.  

 

So I'd want to be a principle on production that isn't going to constantly be saying "no, we can't do that," or always slowing down setups more than camera department will be blamed for anyway.  I'm not going to impose something that will possibly incur more takes because there is now no flexibility with actors hitting marks.  Not only would this be wasteful and fatigue inducing it will also potentially lead to animosity between talent and myself, and I don't want that.

 

Not to mention, most narrative work is wider, not longer focal lengths.  You've got it backwards.  Dynamic movement and flexible blocking trumps preciousness in close-ups for most of the running length of a motion picture.  

 

edit: But even considering all that, on something like the GH2 a 50mm is the equivalent to shooting on an ~82mm lens in anamorphic 35mm terms.  This adapter allows full fluency of cinematic focal lengths, barring super-telephoto.  The key is to find the right taking lens to pair it with.  The 24mm corresponds to ~40mm in anamorphic 35mm terms, the lens most of Django Unchained was shot on and, I believe, many of the signature shots in Rushmore.

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