Rear Anamorphic Lenses Explained

If you want to start using anamorphic glass, you only have a few options. The easiest (and priciest) is simply to buy true anamorphic lenses.

An affordable alternative popped up which is an anamorphic adapter you attach to the front of select lenses to create the anamorphic effect without having to spend as much on a set of lenses. Now, Venus Optics has released something called a rear anamorphic adapter under their Laowa line. What exactly is a rear anamorphic lens?

Coming from Anamorphic on a Budget is a breakdown of rear anamorphic glass with a heavy feature on the Laowa 1.33x Rear Anamorphic Adapter for the Laowa OOM 25-100mm T2.9 Cine Lens. It’s an interesting and different take on anamorphic imaging.

Taking a look at cinema history, rear anamorphics were actually developed because they don’t create the anamorphic “look.” Why would you want that? Well, there are a few reasons. Among the easiest to understand is that screen sizes started getting wider and some people didn’t want the stretchy anamorphic feel for their films.

They did still want to take advantage of the screen real estate. The other reason has to do with the rise of CGI. It isn’t hard to imagine that early computers did not have a good time processing the stretched images from anamorphic compared to more conventional glass. Plus, zooms were getting popular.

Someone trying to find a solution to these problems figured out that by putting the elements at the back of the lens meant you could avoid the anamorphic effect while still getting the widescreen image. You didn’t even need to change out any of your film or lenses.

It works in a similar method to a teleconverter or extender. Basically, it magnifies the image on the sensor and then compresses the image by 1.33x or even 2x. By doing this you are retaining the feel of spherical glass while squeezing more image onto the image sensor. It works because the image circle is generally able to handle a bit of a squeeze. Especially if you are working with closer to full-frame glass on Super 35mm sensors.

Looking at the real-world example of the Laowa OOOM, it actually has a slightly larger than Super 35mm image circle to work well with the adapter. Though, since it’s purely optical this adapter can work with a variety of PL-mount lenses.

This apparently stems from Laowa’s desire to create an anamorphic zoom. Unfortunately, those are tough to make. They are huge. And they are expensive. This was a unique approach that is much more accessible.

Advantages of the Laowa setup include a 1.33x factor that works well with common 16:9 sensors. This adapter is also specifically designed for this lens. Meaning the lens remains parfocal and it even comes with shims if you need to make any adjustments.

It does actually modify your effective focal length and aperture. The OOOM accounts for this by having a button to change the markings on the lens to match the new ranges with the adapter in use. This brings the lens from a 25-100mm T2.9 to a 32-140mm T4.

An intriguing bit is that you can actually use the adapter vertically in addition to horizontally. This lets you get a bit more vertical height. If you want to make something for square or vertical use this might be a good option so you don’t have to resort to massive cropping.

All in, this is about a $5-6,000 investment with the lens and adapter.

Is this worth it to you? Well, if you are trying to get widescreen without the anamorphic look and want to do it with a capable zoom then it’s probably one of the few options at this budget. It’s really about getting the aspect ratio with current optics.

What is your take?

[source: Anamorphic on a Budget]

Order Links:

  • Venus Optics Laowa 1.33x Rear Anamorphic Adapter (B&H)
  • Venus Optics Laowa OOOM 25-100mm T2.9 Cine Lens (B&H)

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