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The 101 on Anamorphic Lenses

Anamorphic lenses:

If you are here reading about anamorphic lenses it’s most likely because you have heard of them and perhaps also heard a lot about them… But what are they exactly and why is there so much hype around them?

Anamorphic lenses were originally designed so that audiences got to experience a wider angle film, as opposed to what they had before anamorphic lenses were introduced:

The first film in 1953 to use anamorphic lenses was The Robe:

This aspect ratio (read more about aspect ratios here) is called CinemaScope and a wider view than what is most common to use today - 16:9, whereas CinemaScope has an aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

So what then is an anamorphic lens doing? If 35mm Film remains the same size yet there is more width to an image being recorded?

Anamorphic lenses are built in an oval shape instead of circular. So it captures the image ‘squeezed’ rather than in its regular perspective, see below example:

After shooting then the image is what is called ‘desqueezed’ in post production. This stretches the image back out again:

To be able to get more of an image out of the same size film was a big breakthrough, however, anamorphics have more of a unique look for filmmakers than what they originally designed to do with shooting on film. These days due to the advances in digital technology in cameras and the ability to shoot 'raw' (see here for what 'raw' recording is) using anamorphic lenses doesn't increase the quality or width of an image. So, there are certain elements of Anamorphic lenses that make them simply unique and creative choices for filmmakers:

  1. Bokeh

  2. Focusing

  3. Flares

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