Shooting Anamorphic in Full Frame and S-35

Anamorphic is definitely here to stay.

Everyone appreciates the cinematic quality of shooting anamorphic.

With the popularity of Full Frame, it made sense for VMI to make more options available for capturing in both anamorphic and Frame. This is a new article to explore these options.

Feature Films have always had a preference for shooting in the super-widescreen format (usual 2.39:1) with associated oval bokehs, different aspect ratio and a recognisable alternative image perception.  Its relative rarity of a production format brought about an association with high production values.

Until the availability of 4:3 sensors made possible by the release of the Alexa 4:3 and those that followed, this was not really possible with digital capture, whereas it has always been possible by shooting on film.

Since so many cameras available today are capable of Full Frame capture, which is necessarily a larger format than traditional S-35 open gate, this makes the capability of acquiring in S-35 anamorphic fairly universal, since you no longer need a special 4:3 S-35 sensor. This is because the larger Full Frame sensors incorporate a sensor height larger than 4:3 S-35, which which made shooting anamorphic such a compromise using traditional S-35 sensors.   

However, for those who wish to capture in Full Frame anamorphic, then there are an increasing number of options now available , thus making use of both the increased weight and also increased width of Full Frame sensors, to enable the extremes of shallow depth of field that this affords.

Different Flavours of Anamorphic

Since the screen shapes of modern TVs are 16:9, displaying long, thin anamorphic images is always a compromise, so we continue to see more drama being shot on terrestrial and VOD channels in an 18:9 anamorphic format.  We call this 18:9 anamorphic (which is actually a 2:1 format), to differentiate it from 2x anamorphic, since 2x anamorphic refers to the degree of image squeeze inherent in using anamorphic lenses, irrespective of image format. 

There are many anamorphic formats in use today but Netflix has popularised shooting in a square 1:1 format and then applying a 2x squeeze to make an 18:9 format, so this is why the height of the sensor becomes so crucial, as a shorter vertical sensor height actually truncates the width of the lenses, thus limiting the angle of shot.

Other approaches include using 1.5x anamorphics, or using 1.5x anamorphic converters with regular spherical lenses, to create anamorphic images which work with regular 16×9 sensors. In our experience, these sometimes don’t really create enough of a differentiating ‘anamorphic look’, so most of the anamorphics that VMI stock incorporate 2x or 1.8x squeezes.

Full Frame

The Cooke Approach – 1.8x

Cooke make lenses which are revered by cinematographers. Their first anamorphic primes released in the 2010s covered S-35 anamorphic, which is sometimes referred to as ‘Open Gate’ and is somewhat taller than regular S-35.

When they were decided to design a range of Full Frame primes, they obviously wanted to use the full height of the FF sensors but not waste too much of the horizontal coverage. After some experimentation, they designed the Cooke 1.8x Full Frame anamorphics to use a 1.8x squeeze, which was enough to give ‘anamorphic bokehs’ whilst minimising the waste of the horizontal resolution. These have been supremely successful and have been used to shoot several series of Brassic for Sky One.

Atlas Orion 2x FF (when used with 1.6 expander)

Actually, before you jump in and yell at the screen, I admit that the Atlas Orions do not cover Full Frame, though they do have wider coverage than just S-35 Open Gate (23.76×17.89mm).


When you use them in conjunction with the Atlas 1.6x extender, then the entire range of Atlas anamorphics can be used with large-format cameras including Alexa Mini LF to cover Full Frame with just a 1 and 1/3 stop light loss.

This handy adapter can also be used with other compatible anamorphics too

[more details of compatibility to follow]

Atlas 1.6x Anamorphic Adapter

Atlas Mercury 1.5x FF

Unlike the Orions, Atlas’s latest range of Atlas Mercury anamorphics are their first lenses designed to cover Full Frame but unlike the Cooke 1.8x, they use the entire 16:9 FF sensor (36.7×25.4mm), so waste none of the FF horizontal resolution. However, this necessarily results in them adopting a 1.5x squeeze, so expect them to have a slightly different look.

They are expected to arrive at the end of 2023 (having been ordered in early 2022) and the initial set will comprise of just 3 focal lengths (36mm/T2.2 , 42mm/T2.2, 72mm/T2.3) but more are expected to arrive over time.

Other Anamorphics

Anamorphics are enjoying more popularity than ever and VMI supply an extensive range of non FF anamorphics including:

Cooke ‘Special Flare’ anamorphic/i – The original Cooke/i anamorphics designed with a special flare coating which encourages the blue flare, synonymous with traditional anamorphic lenses. 

So in reality, the traditional look with new high-end cinematography lenses.

Cooke Anamorphic Stack 1. 3-2

KOWA anamorphic – traditional vintage KOWA anamorphic prime lenses, rehoused by P+S Technic with brand new mechanics, which give a vintage look but handle like modern lenses. 

These also generate the traditional blue flare. 40-100 in the standard set plus 30mm aspheron.

KOWA Evolution anamorphic – modern remakes of vintage KOWA anamorphic prime lenses by P+S Technic.  The vintage look with even consistency and brand new mechanics to give a vintage look but handle like modern lenses. 

Like the traditional KOWAs, these also generate the traditional blue flare. 40-100 in the standard set plus optional 32mm and 135mm focal lengths which are outside the regular set.

KOWA Anamorphic PS-Technik-Rehoused -2x 3-2

Laowa Nanomorph anamorphics.

The Laowa Nanomorph series is an entry-level, super-lightweight set of anamorphics which, because they are 1.5x squeeze, are specifically designed for Super-35 cameras with a 16:9 sensor. Don’t worry if your camera isn’t designed to perform the desqueeze, as you can always do this in post.

The anamorphic lens is “Nano” as it is extremely super tiny and light. “Morph” indicates to Anamorphic.

The range currently includes 3 different focal lengths – 27mm T2.8, 35mm T2.4, and 50mm T2.4 and can be supplied with EF or PL mounts.

Angenieux Optimo Zoom 56-152mm T4 (2x) anamorphic zoom
Primes are great but sometimes you need the flexibility of a zoom and here is a great lightweight zoom option.

Incredibly portable and lightweight (2.2kg) incorporating its 2x squeeze, a fast aperture of T:4 and no ramping or breathing, the Optimo Anamorphic 56-152mm 2S Zoom Lens delivers exceptional optical performance not previously achieved with an anamorphic zoom.

Angenieux Optimo Zoom 42-420mm T4.5 (2x) anamorphic zoom
This is a 10x anamorphic zoom incorporating a 2x squeeze, a fast aperture of T:4.5 and no ramping or breathing with exceptional performance.

A 10x zoom means that it can’t also be a super-compact lens but you can’t have everything!

Angenieux Optimo 42-420-A2S 3-2

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