Anamorphic Widescreen – Panasonic GH1 with LA7200 Lens – Part 2


Read part 1 here

I have some footage to show you from the Panasonic anamorphic lens on the GH1. I talked a bit about the rig earlier but here is part 2 of my anamorphic shootout for real.

So far I’ve concentrated on the LA7200 from Panasonic.

Why use this lens? Well, it gives you a wider field of view horizontally. I’ve talked about the details in a previous blog but all you need to know is that it makes for a very cinematic feel. As big a difference as shallow depth of field or 24/25p makes to video footage.

Imagine it as an extension onto the sides of standard 16:9 widescreen. This allows the positioning of people and objects in the frame in a more stylistic way.
A few things to watch out for when shooting anamorphic widescreen (and one thing specific to any video recording on the GH1):

  • A must-do for LA7200 style anamorphic – shoot at F4 and above for best image sharpness at the edges
  • With the LA7200 and anamorphic shooting in general you cannot get very close objects in focus if you have a fast aperture
  • You can go as wide as 14mm on the GH1
  • Shoot in full HD, you need all the resolution you can get because it reduces vertically afterwards
  • The record button on the GH1 has a bit of a lag and is sometimes unresponsive – make sure it’s recording when you want it to!!• You can AF with the GH1 fine through the LA7200 and kit lens
  • To attach the LA7200 you need to use a 72 to 77mm step-up converter ring because of the recessed 72mm thread, and tighten it by rotating hard against the rubber sole of a shoe or beach sandal

An anamorphic lens cannot rotate and has to be straight and the right way round. Otherwise your image will be skewed diagonally. An early frustration I had was that when the LA7200 screws onto your lens, you rely mostly on luck that it will be the right way round when it tightens. You then fine tune to get it absolutely straight, by rotating the lens through a 45 degree window of movement built into the lens itself, and fix it in position with a screw. 45 degrees is not really enough to get it straight if the lens is more than 45 degrees out when the thread begins to tighten and lock. So i removed the small screws on the back and opened the back of the anamorphic lens.

You can clean out any dust or cleaning fluid which has leaked into the inside of the lens. And you can put the rotating back in so that the latch is to the other side of the 45 degree locking pillars. Now you have over 300 degrees of rotation even when the thread is locked tight, and the problem is solved simply by rotating the lens and using the thumbscrew to fix it in place!

Anamorphic footage straight off the camera (and whilst recording) looks squashed horizontally because the wide aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is squashed into a narrower 16:9 on the camera sensor, so to bring it out afterwards is really easy, you just put -33(%) in the aspect ratio box on the footage in Final Cut Pro 7 and when exporting which squashes the image vertically to achieve the proper 2.35:1 aspect ratio, check the box to maintain aspect ratio with a ‘crop’ and enter the custom dimensions, which can be anything as long as it keeps the aspect ratio. I used 1280×544. (Should actually be 1280×542 I think, because I appear to have 1 pixel black lines at the top and bottom of my video). This basic technique works great.

I used a Zacuto Z-Finder this time.

Enjoyed the experience of carrying just my camera (with extensions!) around and it looks very cool. But people seem more aware that you’re taking video and not just a few photographic snaps. So – not as stealthy, but a lot of fun.

I hope you enjoy the video – no story, just a mood piece and a demonstration of how the footage looks. I believe it to be well on par with the 5DMkII and Iscorama, and if you need further convinving look at the price…

Canon 5DMkII Anamorphics
Iscorama 36 – $1500 (eBay)
5DMkII body – $2200
Zeiss Jena Flektogon 35mm F2.4 – $300 (eBay)
Z-Finder – $400
Total: $4400

Panasonic GH1 Anamorphics
LA7200 – $500
GH1 + 14-140MM $1300
Z-Finder – $400
Total: $2200

And if you want to save more money consider this and crop the image:
LA7200 – $500
GH1 body only – $700
Canon FD 28MM + Adapter – $100
Total: $1200

I honestly do not think the 5DMkII warrant’s it’s price difference over the GH1, especially when you consider the GH1 is a lighter and more usable camera which you can use a greater variety of lenses on. With the LA7200 you only need to focus the main camera lens. With the Kowa, Sankor and Iscorama you need to focus both the anamorphic adapter AND the main camera lens so they match perfectly, which sounds like a real pain and a shot-misser to me.

I have also shot some footage with the LA7200 and 5DMkII which I’ll post in Part 3.