The Look

 Dec 21st - Anamorphic Lenses

As a fan of "the anamorphic look" I've been searching for a good anamorphic lens solution for some time now.  Just recently I've found the best anamorphic adapter I can afford, here's how I came to settle on the Century Optics WS-13.

I had read about projection lenses being converted to be used with a normal taking lens but the major downfall for me is that these lenses need to be focused as well as the taking lens.  This didn't suit my ideal of having a run-n-gun type of shooting experience I'm used to, so the majority of projection anamorphics was out.  This left only Iscorama, Century Optics, and the Panasonic LA7200.

I wasn't quite ready to throw down $2,000- $3,000 on an Iscorama so I looked into the Century Optics and Panasonic options.   These also appealed to me because of the 1.3x squeeze ratio which would give me a nice 2.35:1 aspect and not require cropping like the 2x anamorphics.

LA7200 and WS13
After looking at a lot of videos and doing some research I decided to pick up the Panasonic LA7200 because of its large size and the nice look that it adds.  Its large size allows use of wide angle lenses and is also a focus-through anamorphic adapter so it seemed to be the most versatile option. At about $900 it was also more affordable.

I did enjoy using this lens and really did prefer the look of it over just shooting non-anamorphic, it became clear the lens had some shortcomings that sent my mind wandering about a more ideal solution.

The LA7200 can only focus on a subject between 6ft and infinity.  Anything closer that that and it needs a diopter attached to the front to help it focus, like putting on reading glasses.  Clearly you can't attach glass to the lens in the middle of a shot so racking focus in and outside of 6 feet wasn't possible.  The only way around this was to stop down the lens a lot, to about f8 or more.  Not a good option for me cause I like to shoot wide open as much as possible.

Cokin P +1 Diopter
On top of the focus issues it was not able to keep in focus with very long lenses.  For optimal results it should actually be used on small lenses and be as close to the sensor as possible.  When I recently got my new Kiron 28-210mm superzoom, this problem became more apparent.  Anything longer than 120mm and the LA7200 would throw it out of focus either vertically or horizontally.

These issues quickly dashed my little dream of having a run and gun, all in one anamorphic lens setup.

Then I stumbled upon a rare, discontinued Century Optics lens called the DS-WS13-SB.  I could not find a lot of information on it through the web but I did read that it was advertised a a full "Zoom Through" anamorphic adapter, meaning it was designed to work with a large variety of lenses, including long ones.

I found a couple test video on vimeo and the results looked pretty decent, the owner even mentioned that they were able to focus on near objects within a couple feet without the need for a diopter.  I once again became hopeful I would be able to build my dream anamorphic setup.

To backtrack for just a moment.  The search for my superzoom was the first half of this journey.  I found it very difficult to find a still photo lens that had a wide focal range (from moderately wide to telephoto, coined a "superzoom") with a constant aperture (didn't drop light emission as you zoom in) maintained focus while zooming (parfocal) and most importantly didn't rotate as the lens was being focused.  It was important that it didn't rotate because it would throw the alignment of the anamorphic off whenever focused was changed, (no good for run and gun.)  I had to concede on the constant aperture part (f4-5.6 isn't terrible) but I was able to find a superzoom that didn't rotate as it was being focused (AKA "internal focusing") and was parfocal. I found it in a lens store here in Los Angeles called Bell Air Camera.  Its called the Kiron 28-210mm f4-5.6 (the f3.8-5.6 version is basically the same.)

So I found a Century Optics WS13 on Craigslist in New York and picked one up, figuring if I didn't like it I would just resell it on eBay.  And if I did like it I would sell my LA7200.

Whats different about this lens is that it does have a focus ring of its own.  I thought at first this just takes me back to those old projection anamorphics I had disregarded because of the dual focus system but in reality the WS13 is more of  "focus through" lens like the LA7200 but with the ability to fine tune the focus instead of attaching diopters.

Using this fine tuning I can still rack focus from one object to another but I just have to set the focus on the WS13 to a distance in between the two.  This lens is capable of getting tack sharp focus with the need for diopters and it can focus as close as 3 feet easily, (possibly more I have to test it out)

For run and gun shooting I would likely just set the WS13 to about 5 to 8 feet or whatever general distance I would be focusing around and go from there and be able to pick up most everything just fine.

Even more impressive though is this lens' ability to focus on the telephoto end of my superzoom.  At 210mm the WS13 is about 10 inches away from the sensor but it focuses just fine, allowing for really exaggerated bokeh (out of focus light blooms).  I also found the out of focus parts to be a bit more vertically stretched and oval, probably due to the oval glass the lens uses, as opposed to the LA7200 square front design.  This vertical oval look is generally considered more anamorphic looking, which is a nice bonus.

Lens flare is a big part of the anamorphic look for some. I like it but it's not the only reason I like shooting anamorphic.  To compare flares between the two the LA7200 has stronger flares and flares more easily than the WS13.  That being said, I prefer the look of the flares on the WS13.  They look smoother, cleaner, classier even.  More testing needed though.

The WS13 is also superior in build, made out of glass and metal mostly with a tight rotating ring to set alignment.  This is opposed to the LA7200 plastic build and loose attachment feel.  But the focus on the WS13 ring can be a little stiff and can cause the lens to dis-align when setting it.

The WS13 also does not seem to compress horizontally quite as much as the LA7200, which offers a slightly wider angle of view.  This may have a small effect on how anamorphic the footage looks.  For example, I think 2x lenses look more anamorphic than 1.5x and 1.3x because they offer so much horizontal compression and width in viewing angle without any vertical compression.  This is what defines the anamorphic look and feel for me, more horizontal field of view than vertical.

With all of this considered I've decided to keep the WS13 and sell the LA7200.  While both lenses were created as 16x9 squeeze lenses for digital cameras with a 4:3 sensor, the WS13 was designed later than the LA7200 and I'm under the impression that it was designed to address many of the zoom and focus issues the other anamorphic adapters had.  It was designed so recently in fact that the reason it was discontinued shortly after some of them had shipped was because digital camcorder companies were starting to implement 16x9 sensors in their cameras and Century thought there would no longer be any market for 16x9 video adapters.  They must not have known 2.35:1 would be the new widescreen and their anamorphic adapters were perfect for that when paired with a 16x9 sensor.

Now I've attained my dream setup, a run and gun, all in one, 2.35:1 (CINEMASCOPE!) lens.

But I my mind will probably start wandering towards that $3,000 1.5x non-multicoated Iscorama 54.

 Century close focus

 Panasonic close focus with diopter

 Century 28mm

 Panasonic 28mm

 Century 210mm

 Panasonic 210mm


  1. Love your style all around Kev. You are the man.

  2. Wow!!!...hey man let me know if you're ever interested in selling that