[2013.10.22 update: availability will be June 2014]
At Art Adams's behest, SLR Magic's product manager and lens designer Andrew Chan stopped by on Monday morning, fresh off the plane from Hong Kong. Andrew is on a whirlwind week-long tour, showing off his new ANAMORPHOT 1,33x 50 anamorphic adapter (US$800).
Anamorphic adapters turn regular lenses into anamorphic lenses by squeezing the image horizontally, like a fun-house mirror. In post, the image is unsqueezed the same amount, yielding a widescreen picture – wider than the camera's native format. Adapters with a 1.33:1 squeeze were popular a decade ago at the start of the HD transition (like the Panasonic AG-LA7200 I wrote about in 2004); you can put one on a 4x3 SD camera and get an image that, unsqueezed in post, is 16x9.
On a 16x9-native camera, a 1.33x adapter lets you capture a 2.37:1 image – Cinemascope, or near enough as makes no difference.
SLR Magic's Andrew Chan, captured in 2.37:1 'scope by his own adapter on a Nokton 25mm / Panasonic GH3.
Anamorphic adapters also give you elements of "the 'scope look": horizontal streaks and flare from light sources, and ellipsoidal out-of-focus areas instead of round smears. Cinemascope film anamorphics used a 2x horizontal squeeze, so a 1.33x lens won't give you the same degree of anamorphic artifacts, but the look is there. (Another vintage line of adapters, the Iscoramas, uses a 1.5x squeeze; these give a 2.66:1 image from a 16x9 capture.)
Anamorphic adapters also come with a unique limitation: because they magnify horizontals and verticals differently, they also affect horizontal and vertical focus differently. Most anamorphic adapters will let you focus perfectly at full wide aperture at a single distance; the Panasonic LA7200 seems to be optimized for infinity focus. At all other distances, you can focus either horizontally, or vertically, but not both at the same time! Practically speaking, this is overcome by stopping down the lens; increasing depth of field increases the range of focal distances over which you can capture a sharp image.
Focusing on a test chart: with a close subject and a wide-open aperture you can focus H or V, but not both. Stopping down solves the problem and lets you get the entire image in focus.
In 2004, I tested the LA7200 on the DVX100 and created the following chart:
Map of widest acceptable apertures by focal length and focusing distance. Numbers on gray are DVX100 EVF readout values.
Similar limitations occur using these adapters with modern rigs; on my GH3 with a 25mm prime, the LA7200 focuses both H & V at infinity wide open, but at three feet it needs to be stopped down to f/5.6 or smaller. In general, the closer you get to your subject, and the longer your lens, the more likely you are to run into the differential H & V focusing issue, and the more you have to stop down to avoid it.
People using anamorphic adapters often work around this by attaching diopters (close-up lenses) to the front of the adapter, changing the diopter depending on the working distance. This, however, has its own drawbacks: more glass surfaces to flare and reduce contrast, more lens changing, and the substantial cost of large-diameter diopters and a mounting mechanism for them (the LA2700 has a squared-off hood with no filter attachments, and the 100mm+ diameter diopters required can easily run in the $300-$500 range).
Panasonic LA7200 adapter, Voigtlander Nokton 25mm, GH3 camera, and lots of gaffer tape to hold it all together.
Art Adams has an excellent article on working with traditional 2:1 'scope anamorphics; well worth the side trip to read before proceeding.
SLR Magic ANAMORPHOT
SLR Magic is a Hong Kong outfit best known for their NOKTOR micro-four-thirds and E-mount ultra-wide-aperture primes ("HyperPrimes"). They sell lenses directly and through a limited number of distributors, including Adorama in the USA.
The ANAMORPHOT 1,33x 50 is a new adapter, still in prototype form. Andrew Chan, the lens's designer, is on a trip through the western US with this lens. He stopped off briefly to show it to Art Adams and me, and we put it on my GH3 for a quick look.
Bear in mind that this is a hand-built prototype. While the general design is in place, the details aren't. Construction materials, fit-and-finish, markings, clamping hardware, lens coatings, and flare characteristics are all still subject to change. This is a preview, not a review: think of it as a sneak peek at a work in progress, not an analysis of a finished product.
SLR Magic ANAMORPHOT 1,33x 50
The adapter is a compact unit with a 62mm native thread and a custom 52mm adapter ring. The ring is scalloped to allow a better grip when mounting it or removing it. No other adapter rings are currently planned.
The lens it's fitted to should have a front element diameter smaller than 50mm or vignetting is likely, as the adapter's rear element (or its clean aperture, at least) is 50mm. Also note that the weight of the adapter makes it unsuitable for direct attachment to most servo-focus primes as the load on the focusing mechanism would be excessive.
Looking through the lens you can see the 1.33x squeeze.
This is what an anamorphic does: light passed through is squeezed horizontally, but not vertically. Cylindrical elements make the magic happen.
Next: the ANAMORPHOT on a camera; sample images; tests on various lenses.