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I just adore these lenses. They are kind of a pain to work with but you really can't beat the image they produce. These retain a lot of the most extreme anamorphic qualities, but in a totally useable way. They have extreme distortion on the edges, while retaining sharpness and contrast, where some other lenses fall part at the edges. Being the predecessors to the Elites they also retain the subtle slimming effect on faces. The flares they produce are some the most aesthetically pleasing I have seen, while still being contrasty. I did a scene in a movie where the entire scene was lit by flashlights and it was great having the long streaking flares and still being able to see the actors face while they were holding it, this would not be possible on some other anamorphic sets without completely washing out the image. I could shoot an entire project just on the 35mm.
In the 1970s, 80s and 90s, Hollywood was using Panavision
anamorphic lenses to shoot America’s blockbusters and Russia was using Lomos to
shoot theirs. Decades have passed since then and Russian glass has been making
its way to rental houses and lucky owner/operators all over the world. It turns
out despite some quirky mechanics, Russian glass can produce beautiful images.
The older Square Fronts, are very popular in the indie filmmaking world because
of their lower cost, amazing lens flares, and vintage look. However
mechanically they are not ideal, and focus breathing is very heavy. Lomo
eventually made the Round-Front anamorphic lenses. Their simple mechanical
design, turned out to be more reliable than Square Fronts. Both designs have
legendary Lomo lens flares, but the Round-Fronts are sharper, breath less,
focus closer, and don’t suffer from mumps and image shift problems that
sometimes plague older Square Fronts, especially ones that have not been
maintained properly. It’s no accident that Vantage Film chose to rehouse Lomo
Round-Fronts for their Hawk C-Series lenses. They are that good.
Lomo Round-Fronts are becoming more and more popular thanks to their very pleasing oval bokeh (thanks to 18-blade irises!), signature anamorphic barrel distortion, and one of the prettiest lens flares out there. Lomo Round-Fronts have the classic “blue streak” that has become so in-demand lately that some modern lens-makers are taking great pains to engineer it back into their modern lens designs. Lomo made a lot of great decisions when designing these lenses including iris designs with very high blade-counts to keep bokeh perfectly oval as you stop down, magical optical coatings and they made sure all 4 of these focal lengths have 3’ 3” close-focus. The design of the focus mechanism means breathing is moderate on the 35mm, better on the 50mm, and very low on the 75mm and 100mm. This focus design also means the front focus element rotates and telescopes in and out when focusing, so it’s more difficult to use matte boxes and diopters, so ACs will not be too happy.
Lomos have had a mixed reputation over the years, probably because of the sometimes poor mechanics of the Square Fronts, or from sets that were not properly maintained. A well kept set of Round-Fronts will deliver exceptional performance. They are quite sharp in the center of the frame even wide open. Things get softer as you reach the corners of frame. As you stop down the size of the sweet spot increases dramatically. Lomos deliver one of the most beautiful and most classic vintage anamorphic looks, while still having high performance especially for lenses that are 30+ years old.
These lenses are special to me. When we did our first vintage lens test with mostly spherical lenses, we threw in the Lomos just because we had access to them. And when you watch the Lomos versus the other spherical lenses, you immediately fall in love with them. So the Lomos were a big catalyst to do this anamorphic lens test. They offer that classic look, soft on the edges, gorgeous oval bokeh and warmth similar to the Panavision Auto Panatars. Their mechanics and size can be a little clunky so you may need more time to prep and change lenses but the look is worth it.