In a time where we no longer have to convert footage to 24p or use depth-of-field adapters to achieve a “cinematic” look (those things are now commonplace in the prosumer market) the anamorphic format is one of the last remaining elements to accomplish a decidedly cinematic aesthetic.
But everything’s a tradeoff, and in the case of anamorphic lenses you lose some convenience due to double-focusing. The anamorphic lens is attached (usually by an anamorphic lens clamp) to your “taking” lens (ie. 50mm, 85mm prime, etc.) and both lenses have to be adjusted independently to achieve exact focus. It’s fiddly, and rack-focusing is super tricky since – even if you can rotate both lenses at the same time – they won’t adjust at the same increments. It might make you want to remove the anamorphic lens and simply throw an oval bokeh filter in front of (or behind) the lens to approximate the look. …though you’ll still be missing the main benefit of anamorphic shooting: a much wider view.
A few guys over at EOSHD have been experimenting with a simple solution to get around the double-focusing problem. The solution seemed too good to be true: Attach a diopter to the front of the anamorphic and use a wide-angle adapter in front of that to adjust focus. (This is done after the taking and anamorphic lenses have first been focused. But that’s a one-time step.)
Anxious to try this, I used an existing Hoya +4 single-element diopter, a large wide-angle lens, and some cardboard. Here’s my first test:
(Move the wide-angle lens further away for closer focus… and closer to the diopter+anamorphic for further/infinity focus.)
This is a VERY early version, so there’s plenty of room for improvement. Here are the plans for the next revision:
- Replace Hoya single-element diopter with an achromatic diopter. (Sharper and less chromatic aberration.)
- Find or build a front housing that fits better. (There’s too much play currently.)
- Try to make it all look a little better. ;)
- Shoot the next test from a shoulder rig or tripod.
I’m pretty excited about this solution for focusing anamorphics, and am anxious to try this setup in an actual run-and-gun / documentary style scenario.