Cre­at­ed a cen­tu­ry ago for prac­ti­cal rea­sons, today anamor­phic lens­es are a way to get a char­ac­ter­is­tic pic­ture. The hor­i­zon­tal­ly com­pressed image expands the frame, adds “air”. Demand for such lens­es is grow­ing, and lead­ing pho­to brands have even begun to pro­duce anamor­phic lens­es for stan­dard mounts. We under­stand what is the secret of the pop­u­lar­i­ty of anamor­phism and how to choose high-qual­i­ty optics

Pho­to: casualphotophile.com

What is an anamorphic lens

An anamor­phic (some­times you can come across the name “anamor­phic”) lens has a spe­cial lens struc­ture, due to which the result­ing image seems to squeeze from the sides, and the pic­ture looks elon­gat­ed ver­ti­cal­ly.

For the first time such lens­es began to be used by direc­tors in the last cen­tu­ry. The wide­spread use of anamor­phic lens­es in the cin­e­ma envi­ron­ment was a trick: this is how direc­tors tried to fit more into a stan­dard 35mm film frame than a “reg­u­lar” lens and frame size would allow.

Image: wikipedia.org

The cin­e­ma for­mat of 17x4 or 16x9 is the norm today, but ear­li­er it was dif­fi­cult to obtain such an image stretched to fit the cin­e­ma hall for­mat. The film gave a stan­dard frame size: the panora­ma could not fit there even with the widest angle lens. You could just crop, you say, but then the image would lose qual­i­ty.

In addi­tion, anamor­phic attach­ments pro­vide a num­ber of visu­al effects, which today are close­ly asso­ci­at­ed with an attrac­tive “movie pic­ture”.

How an anamor­phic lens works

Pho­to: onfoto.ru

The prin­ci­ple of oper­a­tion of anamor­phic lens­es lies in the spe­cial struc­ture of the lens group. If the front lens­es of stan­dard lens­es are con­vex, then anamor­phic lens­es are vice ver­sa. Imag­ine that you took a piece of paper and fold­ed it in half with­out break­ing it in the mid­dle. This is what a curved anamor­phic lens looks like.

Due to this struc­ture, the lens com­press­es the image hor­i­zon­tal­ly and cov­ers a larg­er vis­i­ble spec­trum of the image. Stan­dard lens­es cov­er approx­i­mate­ly the same vis­i­ble area on all four sides — anamor­phic lens­es are much more hor­i­zon­tal­ly than ver­ti­cal­ly.

Pho­to tak­en with an anamor­phic lens with­out fur­ther stretch­ing. Source: photar.ru
Pho­to on an anamor­phic lens with sub­se­quent stretch­ing. Source: photar.ru

If the result­ing image is not processed, then an image will be obtained as in a crooked mir­ror: a stan­dard-for­mat image, but high­ly com­pressed and stretched up and down. Pre­vi­ous­ly, movie the­ater pro­jec­tors had a reverse anamor­phic lens. She returned the image to its orig­i­nal view­ing angle.

Pho­to: ribcrackers.org

Today, a spe­cial reverse lens is no longer required to stretch an image into a famil­iar for­mat. You can return the pic­ture to the “stan­dard” state in any graph­ics edi­tor. Sim­ply change the num­ber of hor­i­zon­tal pix­els by mul­ti­ply­ing it by the aspect ratio of the lens/attachment.

The coef­fi­cient is always indi­cat­ed on the lens itself. 2.0 / 1.9 / 1.6 are the most com­mon val­ues. So, if the orig­i­nal image has a res­o­lu­tion of 3000x4000 pix­els, then you mul­ti­ply the last num­ber by the com­pres­sion ratio and enter the result­ing fig­ure into the val­ue hor­i­zon­tal­ly. Do not for­get to uncheck pro­por­tion­al resiz­ing in the pro­gram win­dow: you only need to change the hor­i­zon­tal val­ue, the ver­ti­cal remains the orig­i­nal.

Visual bonuses

It would seem, why so much trou­ble with chang­ing the pic­ture, if you can just shoot with a reg­u­lar wide-angle lens? Every­thing will fit, there are no dif­fi­cul­ties with the image, there is no need to fit more into a stan­dard film frame. How­ev­er, the pop­u­lar­i­ty of anamor­phic lens­es is only grow­ing, and big brands are releas­ing more and more new lens­es and attach­ments, includ­ing for phones.

Anamor­phic lens­es cap­ti­vate with their spe­cial cin­e­mat­ic pic­ture. Due to this manip­u­la­tion with com­pres­sion, the image receives pleas­ant visu­al bonus­es. Let’s fig­ure out which ones.

Image: evtifeev.com

1. Shal­low depth of field. Yes, you can take a pho­to at an open aper­ture and get a beau­ti­ful blur of the back­ground even with a famil­iar lens from the stan­dard line, but it will still dif­fer from the image that an anamor­phic lens gives at the out­put.

Any large movie por­trait you can think of is a liv­ing exam­ple of this. An anamor­phic lens allows you to cre­ate what today is infor­mal­ly called a “cin­e­mat­ic effect”. The image in focus is crisp and sharp, and the back­ground has a nice, almost pic­ture-like blur.

Image: evtifeev.com

2. Bokeh. Bokeh is a com­mon thing in pho­tog­ra­phy, how­ev­er, unlike stan­dard lens­es, anamor­phic images due to ver­ti­cal com­pres­sion give an oval-shaped bokeh when stretched.

Image: shopabunda.com

3. Lines from light sources. The most rec­og­niz­able effect for which many pho­tog­ra­phers and video­g­ra­phers opt for anamor­phic optics is the char­ac­ter­is­tic rays ema­nat­ing from the light source. Take a clos­er look at the movies: in the evening scenes, hor­i­zon­tal blue beams will emanate from car head­lights / street lamps / flash­lights.

The effect is obtained due to the fact that the front lens of the objec­tive has a cylin­dri­cal struc­ture inward. So, a direct beam is reflect­ed from the walls of the cylin­der and cre­ates a spec­tac­u­lar strip of light to the left and right.

Image: evtifeev.com

4. Glare from light sources. The noto­ri­ous oval “hares” that form a beau­ti­ful high­light in the frame, all from the same light sources into the cam­era. The effect is cre­at­ed if the light source is direct­ed slight­ly to the side. A bonus is the iri­des­cent high­lights, which can also be caught from the light source at an angle.

Image: onfoto.ru

5. Col­ored veil. Just like the light that is reflect­ed by the cylin­dri­cal shape of the lens, the light falling on it can also cre­ate a kind of veil in the fore­ground. This reduces con­trast and cre­ates smooth­ness in the frame, even though the rest of the frame remains con­trast­ed and in focus. Two in one: anoth­er “cine” effect that is dif­fi­cult to achieve with­out the use of such a lens.

Types of anamorphic lenses

Image: siruishop.de

Mod­ern anamor­phic lens­es can be divid­ed into two cat­e­gories: lens­es and attach­ments that can be mount­ed on top of stan­dard lens­es. Next comes the divi­sion depend­ing on the depth of image com­pres­sion. So, most often you can find lens­es in the range from 1.5 to 2 times, 1.3 and even 2.5 are less com­mon.

Both the lens­es them­selves and the attach­ments have advan­tages and dis­ad­van­tages. For exam­ple, if you want to get the most rec­og­niz­able visu­al effects from an afo­cal opti­cal sys­tem, then your choice is a lens that was orig­i­nal­ly assem­bled accord­ing to this prin­ci­ple and sharp­ened to pro­duce such images. On the oth­er hand, the anamor­phic attach­ment is eas­i­er to work with in pho­tog­ra­phy if you don’t have your own pro­duc­tion, it is lighter and costs sev­er­al times less.

There is no right answer, the choice is always sub­jec­tive. Take a clos­er look at glass­es from Carl Zeiss, Sirui and Schnieder Kruez­nach. In the niche of anamor­phic lens­es, these man­u­fac­tur­ers are best known today.

Pros and cons of an anamorphic lens

Cin­e­matog­ra­phy will objec­tive­ly bright­en up any pho­to shoot, but shoot­ing with an anamor­phic lens has both its pros and cons. Whether such a tool is suit­able for you is an open ques­tion.

Image: shope.off75.tk
Image: shope.off75.tk
Image: shope.off75.tk
Image: shope.off75.tk

Advan­tages of an anamor­phic lens:

  • suit­able for both pho­tos and videos;
  • uni­ver­sal­i­ty;
  • beau­ti­ful arti­facts in the form of bokeh, rays, veil­ing and high­lights.

Cons of an anamor­phic lens:

  • price;
  • con­vert­ing an image to its orig­i­nal for­mat takes time;
  • pre­dom­i­nant­ly man­u­al focus­ing (can be both a plus and a minus, depend­ing on your pref­er­ences);
  • the weight. Anamor­phic lens­es are quite heavy and bulky;
  • aber­ra­tions and dis­tor­tion. This can be both the desired styl­is­tic device, and a minus, based on your request.

Based on such data, it is up to you to decide whether such a tool suits you or not. Anomor­phic lens­es are not a mass sto­ry for dai­ly shoot­ing. How­ev­er, undoubt­ed­ly, such a lens will add to the frame that very “spe­cial atmos­phere” and the noto­ri­ous cin­e­matog­ra­phy.