Modding the lens for the Anamorphic format

Shooting with anamorphic lenses is something that I really enjoy. Anamorphic lenses provide cool cinematic and artistic features such as the Cinemascope aspect ratio, pleasant lens distortion and unique out of focus rendering.

What is great about the lenses is how they render an out of focus background, as if it was painted with a brush, very much like Auguste Renoir’s impressionist paintings. The lenses add a little bit of randomness in pixel arrays of an image.

painting_lens

The anamorphic blur rendering has the feel of Auguste Renoir’s brush strokes.

Apart from the nice rendering, the lenses are famous for their horizontal streak flares, which are so popular in Sci-fi movies.

It has been a long time since I wanted to modify some of my old spherical lenses to the anamorphic style format. Since it is very hard to find a wide angle anamorphic lens which fits a full frame sensor without heavy vignetting, modding can be a solution of the problem.

Meet the semi-anamorphic moded lens Helios 44 – the lens made in 80th in USSR.

helios_anamorphic_mod

The lens has two apertures, the normal diaphragm and the DIY laser cut anamorphic apreture. This mod gives the lens such anamorphic traits, as oval bokeh and nice out of focus blur rendering, which as I wrote before, has very brushy feel to it.

helios_scheme

My diagram of the mod. The rear group was disassembled and shortened by 2mm to avoid the contact with the Full Frame mirror.

Moreover, placing the anamorphic aperture inside the lens gives several advantages over anamorphic filters which are mounted on the front of a lens. Firstly, there is no any vignetting on wide focal length. Secondly, there is no exposure stops loss. And finally, no need to carry filters, although it is hard to find a filter which fits a retro lens.

Here is the comparison of the anamorphic lens vs Helios 44 anamorphic mod.

isco_sidehelios_44_side Once the Helios 44 image is cropped to match the CineScope aspect ratio, it is hard to identify which is what. If you couldn’t identify the mod, then the top image is an anamorphic lens and the image at the bottom is Helios 44.

The Helios 44 lens has quite unique visual characteristics. Despite being a vintage lens, it produces sharp images. It has a low contrast look, thus the footage is dreamy and warm, perfect for face close-ups. The low contrast look is further enhanced with soft flaring.

More images from moded Helios 44

helios_44_tq

Since the lens has the aperture of f/2 , the depth of field is quite shallow.

helios_graded_A_1.4And finally, here is the music cover video which I shot with the moded Helios 44 and Isco lenses.

First time I saw this kind of a mod on Vimeo. The Vimeo user A.Safari kindly shared the video where he demonstrated a moded Helios lens with an anamorphic aperture. I believe, he completely replaced the original aperture with the anamorphic opening, whereas I kept the diaphragm as it is, in order to be able to stop down the lens if needed.

 

 

 

15 thoughts on “Modding the lens for the Anamorphic format

  1. Hello Einar,
    i’d love to get more details about modifying the Helios 44-2 lens. I just got one and used a black paper oval circle in front of the lens but interested to push it further and actually do the same thing you mention in this blog.

    http://renderstory.com/the-anamorphic-format/

    As i understand you take away some of the parts from the rear end of the lens to put the oval circle correct? Are those parts on the scheme are the parts of the lens itself i hve to take off to put the oval circle in? Can you also share the measurements of the circle so i can cut out the same one. Thank you.

    1. Hi Max,
      The diameter of the circle is circa 27mm and the depth is around 1mm or even less. The anamorphic hole can be any size, just keep it 2×1, i.g. 20mm height per 10mm width. I’ve got it around f/2.3 in terms of the aperture size.
      Just unscrew the rear group of the lens and place the aperture inside the barrel. As the scheme suggests, the anamorphic aperture is found between the barrel and the rear group, you don’t have to unscrew the lens glass elements. However if you are planning to use it on FF camera, the camera’s mirror will hit the end of the lens on certain focal length. That is why my scheme shows the unscrewed Outer ring (the one which has 2mm cut) the Outer ring is needed to be shortened by 2mm, otherwise you are risking to damage the DSLR’s mirror. If you are using a crop camera, then no problems.
      Hope that helps!
      Einar

      1. Hi Einar,

        I’m interested in doing this to my lenses. Do you have a tutorial of some sort? I was also wondering how I get or make the anamorphic oval aperture thing and does this modding work on other lenses aside from the Helios?

        Best,
        Jacky

        1. Hi Jacky,
          you can mod any lens if you know how to get to the aperture. The Helios and some Zeiss lenses are very easy to mod. Just look at the diagram above and read carefully my reply to Max. It takes a couple if minutes to mod the Helios lens.

          1. So I’m assuming the oval aperture was handcrafted? If so, what do you recommend as far as what material to use? And any tips on how to make it a precise and smooth oval as I would assume simply using scissors may be difficult to achieve that

            – Jacky

          2. I think you can cut the aperture by hand though any imperfections would be magnified in the bokeh rendering.I used acrylic plastic which was laser cut at a local workshop.

  2. Intriguing stuff. The problem I find with external filters like the Cinemorph is that they only have the proper oval bokeh shape at particular apertures — if you stop down you get ovals with the top and bottom chopped off, then eventually regular circles. How does this mod perform when stopped down?

    1. Hi Philip and thanks.
      Once the original diaphragm becomes smaller than the oval opening(mod)u end up with the circular opening thus the bokeh is circular. U’ll see it by looking through a lens. Some DPs I worked with prefer shooting at f/4, if you are like them, u can make the oval opening smaller to match the exposure of the spherical lens at f/4

  3. I have a 28mm 2.8 helios lens which i use on my 7D running magic lantern, can you tell me are you just shooting with this lens alone? Nothing else attached to it etc. And also if you’re shooting with ML what aspect ratio are you using? Currently I shoot with 1728×736 (2.35:1). I appreciate your time.

    1. Hi Ben,
      I shoot with Helios44 without any attachments. I usually go with 16:9 1920×1080. When I use an anamorphic lens I shoot 4:3.

    1. Sorry I don’t remember. you can eyeball it or use math to find the area of the circle at f4 and then do the same for ellipse using the f4 area of the circle.

  4. Thanks for the article! You mentioned a helios 44 and isco lenses. Have you modded a helios 44 with an isco cinema scope lens? Do you know if I can just do that with a clank and if that would be easier?

    1. Hi Mark,
      I never attached isco to helios. I think it is possible, but it will require a custom clamp and additional threading on the helios lens. definitely not an easy solution.

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