About a week ago, I received a package from SLR Magic containing their new (and as yet unreleased) Anamorphot 2x. also included was their new +1.8 achromatic diopter which brings the focal range within a couple feet of the camera.
There’s some excellent clips out there already, but many of them focus on landscapes and feel a bit “touristy” (for lack of a better word) in the way that they capture footage in public, often stealing shots from a distance. For my own purposes, I wanted to audition it with compositions more in line with a narrative filmmaker’s intent, so I focused on using a variety of lenses (35mm, 50mm, 85mm) to compose a series of wides, mediums and close-ups.
I find Anamorphot 2x extraordinarily easy to use, and this is coming from someone without hands-on experience with the previous 1.33x version. The amount of time it took to get a feel for, to know what it can and cannot do, wasn’t more than a day. And most of that was gaining a sense of where to set the NEAR/NORMAL ring for any given situation. It quickly becomes second-nature as with so many aspects of operating a camera.
Also critical to learn is the alignment process. I carry a small LED flashlight with me to flare the lens which generates a horizontal blue flare that I can use to square up the Anamorphot properly.
I love shooting with the 35mm taking lens. I’m not look for monster bokeh 100% of the time and this pairing feels very cinematic to me. Adding the +1.8 diopter onto it for extreme close-ups makes it sing. I don’t have any diopters of lesser strength but SLR Magic does make a kit that contains a +1.33 and +0.33 that I would consider essential for making full use of the Anamorphot 2x.
ROOFTOP AT WILSHIRE & LA BREA – featuring Marion Kerr
In the two videos I’ve posted, the BARNSDALL ART PARK clips were shot in 4K on the GH4 in 16×9 mode. The camera is capable of 4×3 which would be ideal for 2x anamorphic but this disables the HDMI port for monitoring as well as the 24 and 23.976 frame rates. So I shot 16×9 and performed a center crop from the 3.55:1 master to maintain a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. In 4K, this results in a final resolution of around 2.5K, which works for me as I typically finish in 2K anyway.
However, for the ROOFTOP AT WILSHIRE & LA BREA clips, I wanted to see the results of shooting in 1080p. This explains why that second video looks a little softer than the first. After extracting the 2.39:1 center crop, It’s probably only a little better than 720p. So I have my answer: if you want to shoot 2x anamorphic and keep an acceptable level of detail, you can do 1080p if you have a 4×3 sensor, or shoot 4K in either mode.
The full 3.55:1 frame as captured by the GH4 in 16×9 mode.
All in all, this is shaping up as a fantastic and affordable alternative to shooting with actual anamorphic lenses. It’s not intended for run and gun style shooting, and there is little room for error when it comes to aligning it properly. However, like many tools in the artist’s kit, once you know it intimately, it’s not going to be a restriction on your creativity.