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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.