My anamorphic journey started with a “double focusing” Proskar-16 2x setup (REVIEW), followed by “focus through” Century / Optex 1.33x (REVIEW) and now we come to a third type, the ISCO WIDE-SCREEN 2000 1.5x, which a projection lens (same as the Proskar), but benefits from single focusing capabilities of Century/Optex camera attachment lenses. Technically it’s not a focus through lens, but works like one with all the focusing done by the taking lens.
Build Quality and Usability:
Wide-Screen 2000 is made fully out of metal and yet it’s fairly lightweight and compact for a lens with a great coverage. You can go as wide as 35mm on Super35 16:9 sensor with 0% vignetting. In 4:3 (should you wish to do so) you could possibly go as wide is 28mm. Even the 1.33x Century, which is known for its great wide coverage isn’t much better and 2x lenses like Proskar don’t come close. I own a pretty expensive ISCORAMA 42 and even that lens can’t beat the ISCO WIDESCREEN 2000 on wide-angle coverage, which is pretty impressive for a lens of its size and price. On a flip size, this lens seems to be at its best on the wider side of things. I loved its performance withthe Carl Zeiss Jena 35mm F2.4 (above) and Helios 44-2 58mm F2 (below) was great too, but when I tried it with a Jupiter-9 85mm F2, I couldn’t get infinity focus and sharpness in general wasn’t great. Could be just one of those times when 2 lenses just don’t work well together, but my guess is that this lens works best with lenses below 60mm.
The lens has no focusing ring, because all the focusing is done with the taking lens. Once aligned, this lens has no moving parts. It doesn’t weight the taking lens down as much as other projection lenses, so there is no absolute need for a lens support which allows you to keep the whole setup very compact if needed. It also doesn’t look like a crazy long train of lenses connected to each other. 🙂
Setting up and using this lens is very easy. There is a 62mm thread at the back, so you don’t need any expensive clamps; just a few step rings for your taking lens and you are ready to go (some of these lenses are sold without the original clamps and in such case you’ll need to buy a separate clamp). Aligning is easy too. There is just 1 thumbscrew on the clamp (the original one), so there is no need to fiddle around with 3 screws trying to position the lens right in the middle as you usually do with anamorphic clamps.
The front of the lens doesn’t have a filter thread, but it’s incredible easy to add one with a 62 to 67/72/77/etc step up ring, which fits almost perfectly onto the front; a bit of electric tape around the front of the lens and step up fits very snugly with no movement at all.
What’s more important is that Wide-Screen 2000 doesn’t disappoint in the image quality department either. It’s quite a bit sharper than Century/Optex or Proskar in just about possible scenario. The taking lens doesn’t have to be stopped down much to get good results. If I really had to, I could probably shoot with the taking lens wide open (as long as the taking lens itself is sharp wide open), but I prefer to stop down by a stop to improve the performance of the taking lens, improving the performance of Wide-Screen 2000 along the way. Both of the videos (top and below) were shot with the taking lens about 1 stop down from wide open and hopefully you will agree that I didn’t have to stop down to F4-5.6 to get decent results.
So far sounds pretty amazing? It really is, but there are of course downsides too!
First is the closest focusing distance, which is between 3 to 5 meters depending on your taking lens, f-stop & sensor size. My first test above was shot with these limitations and although I got plenty of nice images, I couldn’t get any close ups. Fortunately a cheap Tamron 28-200mm A9FB single element diopter (about +0.5) solves all the close focusing problems without any loss of quality (most Tamron 28-200mm diopters come in a bayonet, but there is a very easy mod described by Mike Rea below).
With the +0.5 diopter focusing range is between 1.5 – 3m (depending on lens, f-stop, sensor size) and my second video (top) was mostly shot with this diopter on the lens, providing me with the very usable range. This is obviously not as ideal, but must easier to deal with that with double focusing setups. I was confident enough with this setup to use it for a short film I shot in 4K last year.
Although this lens does produce very pleasant images and you can even force it to produce some blue anamorphic flares, overall look is much cleaner than on Century/Optex 1.33x or Proskar-16 2x. ISCO Multi-Coated lenses are generally known for their great sharpness, but lack of character. Flares will largely depend on a taking lens, because Wide-Screen 2000 itself doesn’t flare that much and you really have to “force it” to interact with a strong light source if you want any of those strong flares. Not everyone chooses anamorphic lenses for their flares, so it’s not necessarily a problem. Another popular anamorphic characteristic is the distortion, which adds a very distinctive look and ISCO again doesn’t show much of it. Edges do wrap around a bit, giving the bokeh that extra swirly effect, so overall distortion is at a very safe but pleasant level. One of the most distinctive anamorphic characteristics is the oval bokeh. While it’s not as prominent as that produced by 2x anamorphics, it’s more oval than on 1.33x lenses, especially in close ups. Lastly, there is an aspect ration of the final video, once it’s un-squeezed. On 16:9 sensor it’s a bit more dramatic than that of 1.33x and I find to be just about perfect for my taste.
Talking about the stretch, I actually don’t find it to be 1.5x, at-least when used with a diopter to focus closer than 4m. It’s more like 1.35x with such setup (un-squeeze settings I used for the video on the top). I don’t have a scientific proof, but it’s a known fact that some anampphic lenses do change the stretch factor depending on the focusing distance and I think that is the case with this lens. Even the video I shot without the dioptres wasn’t edited with 1.5x un-squeeze settings because I found images to be too squashed. For that one I used something around 1.4x, so this lens is certainly closer to Centrury/Optex in terms of squeeze than it is to 2x anamorphic lenses.
One characteristic that this lens has is it’s ability to make everything much more three-dimensional. Subject in focus pops out of the frame and everything else has layers to it, even bokeh has layers, clearly visible in moving shot of the top video. Although I think its character is very subtle, their is enough of it to create some real magic!
So now that I might have confused you with all the positives and negatives, let’s take a look at PROS and CONS to get some clarity!
- Well build
- Easy to setup
- Pleasant character
- Single focusing setup
- Great coverage ( widest taking lens: 50mm on FF, 35mm on S35, 28mm on M4/3)
- Lacks some distinctive anamorphic characteristics
- 3-5m closest focusing distance without diopters
- Doesn’t seem to work well with telephoto lenses
- Not 1.5x squeeze factor
To me pros of this lens, greatly overweight the cons, which I’m happy to deal with. The only challenge is finding one in good condition and at a good price. They do pop up on ebay once in a while, so keep your eye out and if you find one for under $500, you will not regret it! It’s one of my favorite anamorphic solutions so far and although it’s still a bit of a DIY setup, I would be confident to use it for any type of shoot, be it personal or professional. Unlike most anamorphic projection lenses, it’s easy to use, but most importantly it delivers professional results!
Mike Rea, who shared the diopter mod above is also an owner of this lens and here is what he has to say about it:
I took the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera to Madrid for a couple of days on a short December holiday with my Dad (he makes a couple of Hitchcock Cameos!) Shooting anamorphic with a 1.5x ISCO Widescreen 2000 MC I wanted to see how wide i could get – probably the biggest limitation of scope shooting, especially on the BMPCC with its 2.88 crop.
ANAMORPHIC WIDE ON THE BMPCC
Through various tests and experiments with different lenses it looked like something around the 17mm range would cover without vignetting on the ISCO. My 28mm Nikkor AIS vignettes ever so slightly with the Speedbooster (around 16mm effective focal length) while a 35mm was too big a jump forward – not wide at all. After some searching I came across the Pentacon 30mm F3.5 M42 lens, at £30 for a Mint copy on ebay it was worth a punt. With the 0.58 EF Speedbooster it gives me a 17.5mm F2.0 lens and fully covers without vignetting, producing an overall combo that gives you a 33.5mm FF equivalent horizontal FOV with the 1.5x ISCO – Now that is wide for any anamorphic setup on any camera! Its very small too, you don’t need any lens support at all with this combo – ideal for travelling light.
So how does it do? The good news is the lens is sharp from wide open, corner to corner but there is some distortion – you’ll particularly see it in any shots with buildings and horizontals which are quite close – its battle of the bulge time! In fact, the look is not dissimilar to the vashimorphic40 filter effect (vashivisuals.com/vashimorphic40-free-anamorphic-effects-project/) which aims to replicate the field curvature of a 40mm Panavision Primo Anamorphic – think Wes Anderson! So I guess that’s not always a bad thing, depends what you are looking for. I guess for every optical flaw, there’s always an artistic defence!
DEPTH OF FIELD AND BOKEH
The main downside with this combo is that its quite difficult to get any depth of field without diopters and moving in very close. The ISCO, while being a focus through anamorphic (and incredibly sharp), its minimum focus distance is around 4M, so with a 35mm Horizontal FOV, even wide open you are not going to get much bokeh, especially on the BMPCC / Speedbooster. As a side note, There are a couple of shots with a Helios 44-M7 in this (el Rastro Fleamarket footage) but everything else is with the Pentacon 30mm F3.5. There are a few shots with a 0.5 and 1.6 Diopter on the Pentacon, so background blur is possible, but for this trip I tried to keep the ‘fannying about’ with lenses and diopters to a minimum since i wasn’t on my own 😉
Really struggled with alignment on a few shots, very hard to get the ISCO to give any horizontal flares even pointing into the sun. This is possibly because its the MC version (Multi Coated) which will be more flare resistant.
For £30 i paid for the lens, I’m fairly delighted with it, especially in terms of edge to edge sharpness. You just need to be careful with the distortion on closer shots in particular if that’s not what you are looking for. But using it alongside a few other lenses, it will certainly be handy to have it there as an option.
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