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After all of the lenses that we tested I think this is one of my favorite sets. These are the natural evolution of the Lomo Anamorphic and they do feel like the 2.0 version of the Lomos and much better. These lenses are huge. I don't think they gave much thought to the size of the lenses and were purely focuses on optical performance and I am very happy for that. I think these are a hidden gem in the anamorphic world. They are sharp and contrasty, but wide open, they give you a lot of extra distortion on the edges while not feeling like they are getting too soft. They have really beautiful contrasty flares and have a very nice subtle slimming effect on your talent's face. They have a lot of distortion, but in a very pleasing and useable way.
Elite lenses are modern Russian cinema lenses. It’s
easy to see the progression in Russian lenses from the Lomo Round Fronts to the
Elites we tested. Our set was fairly modern. They were the MK4 primes (series 5,
and the S7s just came out at the time of this test). If you look at the 40mm
Elite next to a 35mm Lomo Round Front, they look like they could be siblings. What
has stayed the same since the Lomo Round Front days, are that they are still
building lenses that are physically large, they are built like tanks, and they produce
lovely images. What has changed is that the housings are more modern. For
instance the focus is internal, so there are no front elements rotating or
telescoping. The coatings are also more modern. Elite’s are far less prone to
flares and ghosting than their Lomo grandfathers and the flares they produce
are more muted. Finally, the lenses are overall sharper and have more contrast
than the vintage lenses we tested. The Elites are very sharp and the sharpness
is pretty consistent across the frame especially on the longer focal lengths.
The 100mm even wide open is one of the sharpest lenses of any of the lenses we
tested keeping up with the Master Anamoprhics in the projector room! It seems
like Elite’s goal was to produce the best image possible regardless of how big
the resulting lens would be. And it shows. Not only are the lenses incredibly sharp,
but they also produce some of the prettiest bokeh of any set we tested. Color,
cast and contrast is consistent for the set and focus breathing is moderate.
Elites produce beautiful images, no question, but they make you pay for it with size and weight. They are enormous. Some of these primes lenses look more like an Angenieux 24-290mm than a prime. You wouldn’t want to shoot hand held with these and I think gimbal use would be impossible. Also, since the mechanics aren’t as advanced as the Cooke or Zeiss, and since the Elites have to move huge, heavy pieces of glass, the focus rings are a little stiff and it’s quite a workout for a wireless FF or your AC’s wrist.
If you don’t mind shooting on the biggest heaviest prime lenses available and want gorgeous, sharp yet classic front anamorphic look, then you’ll be very happy with the Elites. If you need smaller lighter lenses, you might want to try something else.
What stood out most to me with the Elites was their unique focus breathing characteristics. It wasn’t just a change in field of view, but also a dimensional flux that was rather difficult to ignore. Personally, I didn’t find it appealing, but for someone looking for a truly vintage style, it may be the ticket!