The last ISCORAMA anamorphic

ISCO BlUE STAR

 

I damn well know this is not an Iscorama 36, 42 or 54.

Iscorama Anamorphics are very well know among  anamorphic lovers for a variety of reasons.Above all they are tack sharp. Secondly with anamorphic adapters you have to  focus both the taking lens and the adapter, which it comes as no less than a pain in the neck – it requires time and patience and it might not always lead to the best results as the lenses are not working “in sync”.
The true beauty of the very pricy Iscoramas (getting sold for $3000 on Ebay and appearing in the listing once in a blue moon) is that you focus to infinity on the taking lens and then rack focus with the adapter .. like you would do with regular aspherical lens. Tour life will be a lot easier as a shooter. Next step from the Iscoramas are the Vantage Hawks ($30,000) or the Panavisions.. which you might only rent unless you’re rolling in money.

So why is this the “last Iscorama” or the budget Iscorama. Well you still have to double focus but bloody hell this is sharp, you can go as low as 35mm on a cropped sensor like the M43 and get away with minimal vignetting.. for peanuts!
Btw, there is very little barrel distortion even when using a taking lens as wide as 35mm on a GH2 (17mm horizontal FOV) and this is another plus you do not get on a KOWA 16H/8Z.

I managed to get an extremely good deal on this lens, they are normally going for $600 but I guess most buyers were unaware of the opportunity in my case.
In fact this is a 65mm projection lens and it gets unnoticed.
As you can see from the pic below you can take beautiful footage with it, it almost looks like Christopher Nolans’ films.. way different from the vintage feel from the Kowas. It was shot on a GH2 with Standard profile set at -2 -2 -2 -1.

 

DSLR anamorphic footage

 

 

This projection lens is made of two main parts. In order to have it working as a proper anamorphic attachment you have to disassemble it if it comes as one unit. Mine did.
Straight away there does not seem any chance of doing it but looking more carefully you can see there’s a tiny separation line half way through. You do not see any screw popping out for a removing part though. Actually there aren’t. The bottom part is just screwed in, so rotate it anti-clockwise. Mine required a lot of force for it to come out, probably it was not a recent unit and over time the thread got “cemented” with a little bit of crap from the outside environment! But at last … here it comes

 

anamorphic attachment GH2

 

The item you want to go for is a ISCO-OPTIC GERMANY CINEMASCOPE ULTRA S f=65mm – 2.56 inch, it’s got a blue star logo. It might come in different colors than the golden one you see in the picture, I have previously seen some light blue and red units.  They are all made by Schneider.
On Ebay you can find some other focal lengths and the whole thing gets a bit confusing. There are plenty of these and they come in different flavors. So.. why this one? I am unsure about the others but the main reason this one works all right is that it’s not too heavy (as much as a Kowa 16H/8Z), the bottom lens is wide enough to go all the way down to a 17mm FOV and you can clamp it with the Vid-Atlantic clamp (www.vid-atlantic.com), which I use and like.. the best bang for the buck.

Actually, if you are unsure what to get these guys are nice and they have the Blue Stars in stock.

 

vid-atlantic clamp

 

The are a couple of downsides with this lens, if they are to you anyway. The first is that it has not got a filter threading but I do not mind this as I normally film with a matte box and it comes with two 4×4 filter slots.
The second issue is it’s not flaring like anamorphics do. Well Iscoramas do for sure, Hawks as well and the Kowas. It’s not down to the taking lens as I coupled it with some non SSC Canon FDs (35mm, 50mm) but it’s definitely related to the coating of the lens. This can be a major turn down for some, not much for me anyway.

I find that you can always add them in post and to the amount desired but you cannot remove them if present in the original footage.
Sometimes they can be distracting and they do not sure every genre, sci-fi indeed but I cannot see a narrative shot with big flares in it …or at least it’s not my cup of tea.

 

iscorama 3

 

Pictured above is the very sought after Iscorama 36. Get one if you have the cash or buy a Blue Star if you are on a budget or you want to experiment with the beauty of anamorphic DSLR film-making. You can get a very cinematic image out of them, it helps taming that digital sensor edge. Mostly I find I have not to do any grading at all.

21 Responses to The last ISCORAMA anamorphic

  1. martinLowe says:

    I haven’t see an Iscorama 36 popping on Ebay in MONTHS, thanks for spotting this nice (and cheap) alternative!

  2. Roberto says:

    hey, how does the clamp work?

  3. BoBdop says:

    most used anamorphics are the Panavisions, check IMDB and you see how many movies have been shot on the C, G and E

  4. 444-Films 444-Films says:

    Roberto: the clamp works like an “extension” ring, in such a fashion that allows you to connect two pieces that are not meant to be together by factory

  5. 444-Films 444-Films says:

    BoBdop: dead right my friend, although those are mostly out of reach for DSLR filmakers.. possibly you can rent them out, if you are in the right production

  6. wallpaperviking says:

    Was hoping you may answer a couple of questions for me. I guess the main one is if you knew what the minimum focus distance is? This is quite important, as you can’t attach diopters to it, to help with close focusing (like the Iscoramas etc etc)? I assume it is a 2x squeeze? I guess the last one is, do you have any samples that you have shot with it (either stills or video)? The one referenced in your article is really too small to get a good idea.. O.K, thanks so much, any information you could provide would be amazing!

  7. 444-Films 444-Films says:

    Hi Stefan,
    the MFD on the Blue Star is 5 feet, equivalent to 1.5mt for us living in Europe.
    Regarding diopters you could use 4×4 COKIN diopters, they come in +1 and +3 flavours and you can stick them in your matte.
    It is indeed a 2x squeeze. I know there is an issue with images in my post, I will try to fix that.. if unable I will try tomorrow to find some more samples and email them over to you./publish them here. Right now I am just back from a shooting and I am shattered :-)
    Cheers

  8. wallpaperviking says:

    Awesome! Look forward to it.. Thanks again for the information.

  9. 444-Films 444-Films says:

    You can now click on the above image to see it full screen. Below more pics. Bear in mind that this was a run&gun shooting, I did not have my field monitor with me so there is a slight off focus.. lens is sharper than this! Ungraded shots, already very organic.
    http://444-films.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/karma1.jpg
    http://444-films.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/karma2.jpg

  10. fabro106 says:

    hi, i have the Isco Ultra-Anamorphic MC 2X 80585, do you think i can disassembled like you did? i tried but it doesn´t move. thanks.

  11. 444-Films 444-Films says:

    Hello friend,
    I had a look at the item you are mentioning and yes, it looks even nicer that my one as the top bit is actually shorter.
    Indeed you can take it apart, did you remove the little screws (3) from the middle part? If I remember correctly I had a bit of a battle myself and I was puzzled too, screws were all off. Brute force did not work, then I got lucky and with a magic touch it came off. I guess I twisted it a bit first and pulled it away then…

  12. wallpaperviking says:

    Hi, Thanks for the information, much appreciated! Am keen to get one of these lenses but one issue has been bugging me… I thought that projection lenses were used to “unsqueeze” an image that had been squished horizontally with an anamorphic taking lens? How does it work exactly, if attaching a projector lens to a camera? Apologies if that is a dumb question….

    To Fabro 106, which lens is yours, a google search didn’t come up with anything for me…

    With regards to the Anamorphic part of these lenses, I thought that they were all the same size and that only the focal length part of the lens varied in size. Can anyone confirm this?

    Also, do you think if you had a taking lens permanently attached to one of these, there would be some way of making a follow focus that combined the two lenses? Or is this not physically possible?

    Ok, thanks again.

  13. 444-Films 444-Films says:

    Aside from the original intended use, projection lenses on a DSLR squeeze the footage horizontally.
    Unless you have a proper field monitor for it, like a Small HD (Marshall so far cannot do it, I am unsure about their recent line of monitors) you will have some difficulties in framing when shooting.
    Having said that, in post you will have to de-squeeze the footage.
    On the GH2 you can choose to record in 4:3 mode (MJPEG) and once correctly de-squeezed this will generate a final perfect 2.35:1 anamorphic footage. If you have opted for the 16:9 mode (AVCHD) then you will get an ultra-wide 3.56:1 which is a bit too extreme for most people liking, so you will have to crop it on the sides to make it 2.35.

    I have described the whole process in more details the whole process in my previous post, “how I did COSA RESTA”.

    Anamorphic lenses are not all the same size, each has its own. mainly this is why you cannot go as wide on the KOWA 16-D as you do on a a KOWA B&H/16H/8Z.

    To me it would be quite hard to make a dual follow focus. For one the focus throw on the 2 lenses will be different so you will have to have different gears mechanism.. cost??

  14. wallpaperviking says:

    Hi, Thanks so much for the reply once again… Am slowly getting there :)

    Just one quick one, with regards to my question about the anamorphic elements of these lenses, I was referring specifically to the Isco Ultra Star lenses…. Not anamorphics in general…

    Does anyone know if the front anamorphic element of the Isco Ultra’s are all the same size?

    Shame about it being so hard to rig up a follow focus, that would be really cool indeed!

    Thanks again…

  15. BranDon BranDon says:

    although the whole Ana stuff seems to me a money drain

  16. 444-Films 444-Films says:

    it is indeed, but making your footage “unique” could imply buying additional gear

  17. jlambert says:

    Hey there:

    Thanks, I’ve really enjoyed your articles. In fact, I managed to acquire an Iscorama 36 this year. I’ve got some other anamorphic lenses, but the ease of use when trying to get focus on this beauty makes them worth the money if you can find them.

    I’d really like to get the lens serviced (cleaned, walked through). Is anyone aware of someone out there who’s expert at servicing these lenses? Much appreciated.

  18. 444-Films 444-Films says:

    Hi friend:-)
    glad you’ve enjoyed the articles, I a lot more more coming up .. just been super busy.
    You are so right, focusing one lens only is in itself worth the money. Although there would be one more annoying issue, aka the “skewing” effect you might get if the attachment is clamped incorrectly.
    And that is easy to do… so, for the price of the Iscorama 36, I would take into account a Lomo Anamorphic. It’s one piece of glass like a Hawk or a Panavision C/G.

    As for servicing you might want to get a quote from Bernie O’ Doherty @ http://www.super16inc.com/

    Bestest

  19. dhessel says:

    I have an Isco Optic Ultra MC.

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Iscorama-Isco-2x-Anamorphic-Lens-DSLR-GH3-GH2-m43-5D-7D-60D-Canon-focusing-/171071268119

    I am wondering if I need to remove the rear element as well. I have had some success shooting but it is hard to focus and would be nice to shrink the size of the unit some. On my lens is a taco shaped piece of glass at the very end that would be removed if I remove the rear portion, so I am not sure if I should remove it. Thanks.

    -David

  20. 444-Films 444-Films says:

    Yes indeed, you need to take out the bottom bit. It looks like one piece, but in reality it’s not :-)

  21. dhessel says:

    I gave it a shot and it looks like I would have to take apart a large portion of the lens to remove the bottom section. I found some screws at the bottom but when I removed them the base of the unit only spins around, it has a lip that won’t allow it to come out as far as I can tell. Looks like I would need to remove the front element and pull the rear element out through the front which I would rather not do. I can get sharp footage now using the lens as it is now and the footage looks correct, so what is the reason for removing the bottom part?

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