Zeiss Goes Anamorphic (UPDATED)

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!

A perfect example of anamorphic flares in a modern film. J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek exhibits heavy artistic use of anamorphic flares that, arguably, added a lot of character to the film.

From the December 2011 issue of Film & Digital Times

“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.

14 thoughts on “Zeiss Goes Anamorphic (UPDATED)

  1. 18mm?!

    The widest non-panavision anamorphic lens I can find to rent in LA area seems to be the 25mm Hawk. Clairmont brand anamorphics, (likely the best ‘rental price-for-quality’ in anamorphic lens) rentals only goes down to 32mm I believe!

    I would be very taken aback to find an 18mm Anamorphic prime for S35mm sensor size. That would be a 9mm horizontal FoV, and I just don’t see that happening. Do you?

    I would say the set would likely start around 25mm, and maybe go to 180mm on the top side

    1. You may very well be correct. Most of my news came from experienced Zeiss reps. Some of it came from trade show workers. But let’s hope!

    2. There are indeed 18mm anamorphics. The JDC anamorphics (converted Cooke, Zeiss, and Canon spherical lenses) have an 18mm in some sets.

  2. Panavision makes a 20mm c series anamorphic. I was just in there today, there are only 2 of those made.

  3. did you notice matt the focus on that scope prime went backwards 🙂 presumed it was a 50mm, arri wasn’t sure but it didn’t matter really as its just something to say that these lenses are underway!

    1. I think it was backwards on the lens at the Arri booth but proper on the one at Zeiss. Curious.

  4. Apparently these lenses will not flare at all.

    I thought it was weird that Film & Digital Times article doesn’t even mention flaring, only ovals.

  5. Matt, what’s your opinion of the non mc iscorama 54’s? Would anamorphic adapters like these be more cost effective since you can swap out the taker lens to any focal length over 50mm?

  6. The zeiss concept anamorphic lens (there were 2 on display, 1 at ARRI’s booth & 1 at Zeiss’s booth) did not flare. I took an ARRI LoCaster light and shined it right into the lens – no flares – no blue flare. Seeing the new Fujinon/ARRI lightweight zoom
    out putting to a monitor right next to the anamorphic lens, the anamorphic looked
    very cinematic compared to the light weight zoom, both shooing the same scene on
    ARRI Alexa cameras….

    The anamorphic element was in the middle of the barrel.
    I’ll bet the final lens will look a lot like their Master Primes.

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