camera lens

What is an Anamorphic Camera Lens and What Does It Do?

With all the camera accessories available to filmmakers and videographers today, it can be difficult to decide which ones you really need to make the videos you want to make. Here, you can learn more about one of the most popular video accessories of them all – anamorphic camera lenses – and how they can help you capture just the right type of video for your needs.

What Anamorphic Lenses Were Designed to Do

If you can remember back to the days of tube TVs and the standard 4:3 aspect ratio, then you already understand part of the concept behind an anamorphic camera lens. Over the last couple of decades, widescreen televisions have become mainstream. Technology now allows for a wide range of aspect ratios, but in order for a camera to create a 16:9 (standard widescreen) film, it needs certain attachments. That’s exactly what an anamorphic lens was designed to do.

To put it simply, anamorphic lenses were designed many years ago so that videographers could more easily fit a widescreen image onto a standard 35mm film frame without leaving much of the top and bottom portion of the frame unused. It fills the entire frame and makes a much larger, crisper picture by enhancing the vertical resolution of the video and reducing any grainy, fuzzy appearance.

How an Anamorphic Lens Works

An anamorphic lens works by changing the way that the image is projected onto your camera’s sensor. More specifically, an anamorphic lens, which is more oval-shaped rather than spherical, project images that are compressed along the longer dimension. Due to this compression, it’s important to “stretch” the film post-production for it to display properly. It still improves image quality, but only when you need a higher aspect ratio than your camera’s digital sensor can otherwise capture.

Although very few filmmakers utilize an anamorphic lens for actually shooting film, it is an incredibly common tool for b-roll footage. Consider a bokeh effect that you might use as b-roll footage between film scenes. With a standard spherical lens, the bokeh appears spherical, but out of focus. With an anamorphic lens, the bokeh is significantly elongated due to the longer focal length. This also works with other features like flares or vignettes, giving filmmakers access to a far wider variety of effects they can use in their films.

Shallow Depth of Field

Finally, an anamorphic lens is also ideal for any situation in which you want to create the appearance of a shallower depth of field. In other words, an anamorphic lens is great for blurring out the background of a photo while leaving the subject in crisp focus. It’s become a widely-accepted “signature” style, particularly in recent digital film productions, and it gives the filmmaker plenty of opportunity for added creativity.

Though an anamorphic lens is not a necessity in the way it was back before digital cameras could easily record in a variety of different aspect ratios, many filmmakers continue to tout its importance as a creative tool. With just a little experimentation, you might find your “signature” camera effect with the help of an anamorphic lens, too.

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