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I’ve broadened my comments
on these variants of lenses, which I’ll group into a category that were all
part of (I’m coining the phrase right here, right now as) the Japanese New Wave
of Anamorphics that occurred in the 1970s/80s. Many of these lens manufacturers
turned to Japan to help them make anamorphic when there really was only one
main option at that time: Panavision, and they only would rent their glass.
All of these sets share a bit of the same DNA in their makeup. They often used the same spherical source optics for the prime end of the glass, and many featured the same Shiga cylinders in front of those similar spherical taking lenses. You can find many commonalities between the various generations of offerings from these lens sets. Cooke Speed Panchro rear optics, Zeiss Super Speed, Canon K35... So be aware and informed of the changes that occurred in these manufacturer’s lenses over time. Todd-AO for example has an earlier generation that is wholly different than their later K35-based “High Speed” anamorphics that apply more to the Japanese New Wave lenses mentioned above.
I was lucky enough to shoot a short with this exact set and boy are they gorgeous. They're fast which proved to be crucial as I had a scene in a bar and a night scene in a bedroom. I lived on the 50mm and 85mm a lot and rode them pretty close to T2.0 on everything. Just like any vintage anamorphic, you want to be careful about where you frame your subjects. And especially at T2.0, I had to frame my actors dead smack in the cross hairs. Thankfully it worked out for the style we were going for (one of the many reasons why we chose this set). But this set is beautiful. Low contrast enough to render skin tones in a beautiful way. Their flare doesn't disappoint either. Deep streaks of blue and cyan from edge to edge which is exactly what you expect from vintage anamorphic.
I can't pick a favorite from the 13 brands of this lens test but this set definitely sticks out for me. Maybe I'm biased because I shot with them but I decided to shoot with them because I saw they're performance in the test first. Give the 4x video player a try and see for yourself!
Cineovision Anamorphic lenses are such a great choice
when you want that classic anamorphic look. Cineovision built a variety of
anamorphic lenses in the 1970s and 80s. Some of their more popular 2x
anamorphic lenses were their high-speed varieties, often based on Zeiss Super
Speed, Canon K35 or Zeiss Contax spherical lenses. Each focal length was
designed for its individual optical prescription more than ergonomics, which is
why every focal length is a different size, shape and weight. It determined
that the 25mm and 35mm would be on the bigger side, however the 50mm is
actually quite small and light.
The set tested has a 25mm T1.9, 35mm T1.6, 50mm T1.4 and 85mm T1.4. The mechanics are excellent for older lenses. There is no image shift when focusing and the lenses are quite easy to work with. They have long focus throws beyond 300 degrees, so ACs will be happy. One negative is that the front elements move forward and backward when focusing, so you are limited to clip-on matte boxes. Close focus is 2’ 8” for the 85mm and 3’ for the other three lenses in this set. Optically the formula is great. At T4 (a place many anamorphic shooters like to be) the lenses are sharp and the “sweet spot” of focus/sharpness is pretty big. However, if you really want to separate your subject from the background, these lenses can be shot at T2.8 and even T2. To get more of an effect, shoot them wide-open and the results are a soft, dreamy, low contrast image. Most often DPs never need or want to shoot a vintage anamorphic lens at T1.4 because of the added aberrations, softness and extremely shallow depth of field, but sometimes a certain look is desired and there is really no other way to get it. It makes these lenses really versatile.
The lenses have amazing bokeh, and the out-of-focus highlights stay perfectly oval when stopped down thanks to 15-blade irises. The lens flares are classic vintage anamorphic: blue streaks, and oval shaped orbs, and other pretty artifacts. The coatings on the Cineovisons produce lens flares that are big and beautiful but they never overwhelm the image to the point where you no longer know what you’re looking at. Breathing is moderate on the 25mm and 35mm, lower on the 50mm, and very low on the 85mm. For distortion, there is minimal amount of barrel distortion on the 85mm. The 50mm has more barrel distortion and there is quite a bit on the 25mm and 35mm. All of this adds up to a classic vintage anamorphic look but with capabilities than can keep up with modern anamorphic lenses.
The Cineovisions were just dripping with character. And in this case, when I say character, I mean for every bit of appeal, there was an equal dose of flaw. A perfect example of classic anamorphic look. Flares galore! Squishy bokeh. Soft focus. Distortion... You name it. The Cineovisions deliver, for better or worse.