Steve Cushing Impresionist Fine Art Photography

Steve Cushing Impresionist Fine Art Photography

Embracing imperfection, recording emotions, one impression at a time…

Understanding Anamorphic Lenses

Please read the section on how lenses work first. LINK here to this section.

What is Anamorphic format

Anamorphosis - Optical Distortion .

Anamorphic format is a term that can be used either for: the cinematography technique of capturing a widescreen picture on standard 35 mm film, or other visual recording media, with a non-widescreen native aspect ratio; or a photographic projection format in which the original image requires an optical anamorphic lens to recreate the original aspect ratio.

It should not be confused with anamorphic widescreen, which is a very different electronically based video encoding concept that uses similar principles to the anamorphic format but different means.

The only added equipment needed in CinemaScope filming is the special lens attached to a regulation camera plus two extra microphones, which pick up sound for the stereophonic sound system.


Panoramic scene of marching Indians at in the image is photographed with an anamorphoscope wide-view lens in front of camera lens.

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This compresses image within the full aperture of 35 film. In projection, another anamorphoscope placed before projector lens expands compressed image to full scale so it appears on screen as shown above, lower right. Three microphones (X) placed strategically to cover the full range of the set or scene record three separate tracks to provide stereophonic sound, an important factor in CinemaScope system.

So you also need a special lens which restores the distorted image to its proper proportions, this makes possible the compression onto 35mm film of wide-angle panoramic scenes, and is the basis of the new CinemaScope system of widescreen motion pictures developed in Hollywood by 20th Century-Fox studios.

When the film is projected through a companion lens the distorted image assumes its former normal dimension, just as a trick mirror in a carnival fun house would straighten out its distorted reflections if placed before a mirror having compensating distortions.

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The anamorphic lens was first used on French battlefields, during the First World War. The lens provided soldiers in tanks with a wider look outside of tanks – quite clever actually. There are two types of anamorphic lenses on the market. One compresses the image vertically, and the other expands the image horizontally. Ultimately they accomplish the same thing.

Now doing this probably looks easier than it is. Whilst on a phone the camera is pre set to maximum depth of field and 35mm camera is not. So it’s not the simplest tool to use as you have TWO lenses to focus. You first have to focus your regular camera prime lens and THEN focus your anamorphic lens to the same distance before or after mounting it in front of your regular lens. This takes a bit of time – even after a lot of practice. The biggest issue is the focusing. it’s kind of a pain and it’s why it is best to focus on center weighted compositions. it’s just easier to get pin sharp focus in the dead center of the frame, and with such a wide panoramic aspect ratio it’s easier to balance the compositions with a centred subject.

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I use projector lenses as taking lenses as they are considerably cheaper to buy. The issue with them is their weight and focusing distances as they are made to project on a screen several meters away. I overcome this with modifications to the distances between lens elements.

You can of course cheat with a pice of fishing wire to give the horizontal flare characteristic of anamorphic photography and use a filter but - why cheat when you can have some fun with the real thing?

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