Most modern cinema goers would associate anamorphic lenses with Panavision and their quintessential blue flares seen in many feature films. These beautiful flaring characteristics are a result of the optical design of an anamorphic lens. These flares are what I would consider a flaw. A beautiful flaw… In fact there are a slew of filters that can be applied in post to attempt to replicate such artistic flares. Some of these “third party flares” work pretty well, but it’s the rest of the anamorphic effects that cannot be replicated easily by a computer. The primary function of anamorphic lenses is to achieve a wider aspect ration on a similar sized medium than with traditional spherical lenses. Sure you could simply crop and enlarge to achieve widescreen but you’re only hurting your final image. With anamorphic lenses, you can literally squeeze more picture out of your gear. I won’t make this a geek session and go into the details of the pros and cons of anamorphic lenses and aspect ratios. Zeiss is picking up where Panavision, Hawk, and all those poorly designed and manufactured Russian lenses left off. Soon you’ll be able to shoot anamorphic without having to convince someone at Panavision that your great uncle is an ASC member and you won’t have to keep reapplying duct tape to your anamorphic Lomo lens to keep it in one piece. Zeiss to the rescue!
“We’re back in the Anamorphic Lens business,”
“We have the technological benefit that we believe can produce anamorphic lenses the likes of which no one has been able to do before. Our new anamorphic lenses will be on the market very soon. We would like to announce 2:1 anamorphic lenses next year, at NAB 2012, and show real products at IBC 2012.”
“This will be a complete family of anamorphic lenses, with all the focal lengths needed to shoot a movie. As experts in photographic lenses for more than 120 years, we know the specs and hurdles. We can offer something unique to the market. It will be really revolutionary.”
I spoke with the folks at Zeiss a bit more (what a great group of people, by the way) and asked a few more critical questions. There are currently no specific focal length plans but there will likely be a complete set ranging from wide to tele. The units on display were a 50mm T1.3 and yes, they were fully functional. The speed of the lenses as well as the focal lengths is subject to change depending on a lot of things. Primarily the price. Speaking of the price… Zeiss isn’t putting these in line with their Compact Primes or Light Weight Zooms… The Anamorphic Primes will likely come in upwards of $20-30k per lens. This may seem outrageous for some but it’s not out of the ordinary for Zeiss with their top of the line lenses. I can only hope that this means they will be of superb optical and mechanical quality.