As I continue my Anamorphic journey, it’s time to take closer look at one of my favorite solutions so far!
We’ve already explored a few double focusing setups including Proskar-16 & Sankor 16F as well as some single focus options including Optex/Century, ISCO Wide-Screen 2000 & ISCORAMA 42, but the lens I’m reviewing this time belongs to neither, the first or second category.
What is it?
The FM LENS from AnamoprhicShop is a so called “FOCUS MODULE”; it’s not an anamorphic lens by itself, but focusing device for various anamorphic projection lenses that can be a bit of a pain to use otherwise (if you tried double focusing, you’ll know what I mean).
For anyone unfamiliar with the idea, you fit an anamorphic lens like Schneider Cinelux or Proskar-16 inside the FM, set your taking lens to infinity and you can then do all the focusing with the FM lens only. In that respect it works just like ISCORAMA 42, but with added flexibility of being able to swap out anamorphic inside it.
Build Quality & Usability:
Focus Module is not a small or a lightweight anamorphic solution by any means (unless you use anamorphic cine lenses in which case it’s still a featherweight). When compared to other anamorphic solutions I reviewed so far, it’s significantly larger and heavier than any of them, which can be good & bad (more about it later).
The reason for the size of the FM lens is its ability to accommodate various anamorphic lenses as large is the Cinelux inside it. In fact it appears that FM was originally designed with Schneider Cinelux 2x Anamorphic lens in mind, which otherwise is pretty much unusable, as it doesn’t even have a proper focusing ring. Any smaller anamorphic lenses will also fit inside the FM and can be secured in place with the collar provided.
The weight of the lens comes from all metal construction, which is certainly not a bad thing for durability, but not exactly a run&gun setup. You also really need a full rig, including base plate for the camera, rods & lens support for FM lens to use it properly. Thankfully I had all of them except for the height adjustable lens support, which I bought cheaply from SmallRig. The fact the FM lens always stays on the rods while you swap out the taking lenses means, that you don’t need to re-align the anamorphic every time you swap the taking lens, which is a massive time saver. Like I said already such setup is by no means a run&gun solution, but I think it’s great for serious projects where I’d use a full rig anyway! The weight and length of the setup (provided it’s balanced well) creates a very solid base for hand held work, without that terrible “micro shake” we get from short, lightweight DSLR setups. It also provides smoother moment on tripod as long as tripod is capable of handling it. If you ever used an ENG camera or any proper cinema camera setup, you’ll know how length and weight helps you get smoother motion and for me FM does the same.
The focus ring on FM lens is absolutely massive, but since I prefer to use a follow focus when I use a full rig anyway, I bought a custom machined follow focus gear from RAFcamera, which works perfectly and adds that extra touch of “cine lens” experience, but for me the best feature of FM lens is its single focusing capability, unmatched by any anamorphic solutions I’ve tried so far! It can focus from infinity down to 65cm without any readjustments or diopters, which is again a big time saver. Even pretty expensive ISCORAMA 42 can only focus down to 2m without diopters, so FM certainly impresses in this department!
The idea of FM is that it provides the single focusing ability any anamorphic lens inside it without affecting sharpness or character in any way and while it’s possible to create a combination that pretty much does just that, it’s not as straightforward as it sounds. It’s not only the combination of FM and anamorphic lens that affects the overall sharpness and character, but also the taking lens used. Some lenses get on with FM better than others, especially when you focus closer than 1m as with certain lenses you then get a “glowing/blooming” effect when shooting wide open. It seems to be more probable with taking lenses that themselves are not designed to focus closer than 1m.
As an example, let’s take the Scneider ES Cinelux ,which requires a taking lens no wider than around 80mm on Super35 sensor. If I couple that with a Russian Jupiter-9 85mm F2, I get blooming at closest focusing distance, because Jupiter itself is designed to focus down to 80cm only. When used with FM, Jupiter is of course set to infinity and its closest focusing ability should be irrelevant, but from my research and chats with other FM users, it appears that it’s best to use a taking lenses that themselves are able to focus to 65cm or closer.
While I do not think that FM completely unaffects the sharpens, providing that the taking lens is a perfect match and itself is sharp, you can get pretty usable results wide open, but most vintage lenses themselves are not at their best wide open, so I prefer to use FM at around F2.8/F4 when used with an F2.0 rated taking lens. By F4 it also gets rig of pretty much any glow or blooming, even when using taking lenses that don’t quite match FM perfectly.
Below is the excellent example of a taking lens that matches the FM perfectly. Jesse Heidenfeld used a Nikon 35-70mm F3.5 and shot the whole video mostly wide open, which shows that with the right lens, you can get great results at any a focus distance.
Big issue with most budget anamorphic solutions is sensor coverage. In other word, the widest taking lens that can be used. With FM, sensor coverage pretty much depends on the actual anamorphic lens used inside it. As long as anamorphic lens is fitted right against the front element of the FM, the Focus Module itself should not create any vignetting or reduce coverage in any other way.
- Coating Multicoated glass
- Focusing distance 0.65m to Infinity ∞
- Inner tube diameter ø 71mm
- Inner tube length 89mm
- Filter threads 105mm (Male)
- Weight 850g
So, is it a good or a bad anamorphic solution? Let’s round up the Pros and Cons:
- Single focus solution
- 0.65m closest focusing distance
- Solid built
- Ability to use different anamorphic lenses
- Size and weight
- Not the cheapest single focus solution
- Requires extra accessories to work properly
- Bloom/Glow when used wide open with certain taking lenses
- Slightly softens the image
- Size and weight
FM Lens is not the only “focusing module” out there. We now have alternatives from Rectilux and SLR Magic with their own Pros and Cons, so what might be a happy combination for, might not be to someone else. Hopefully at some point in future I will be able to compare 3 lenses together, but for now I will not claim that one is better than the other.
I’ll be honest when I say that I’m a happy FM owner, because unlike some anamorphic solution I tried so far, it doesn’t feel like a semi DIY setup, which I couldn’t use for certain, high pace projects, so if you are like me, you’ll probably like the FM lens!
To finish off, here are some of my favorite videos, shot that were shot with the use of FM, starting with the video by Jesse Heidenfeld, that inspired me to get the FM Lens in the first place! Jesse used the Hypergonar S.T.O.P. 2x Anamorphic inside the FM, with Helios 44 and Jupiter 9 as taking lenses.
Next up, an atmospheric peace by Benjamin Dowie, using a setup almost identical to Jesse’s above.
Lastly some shots from the short film by DPed by Jesse Heidenfeld. Camera & lens details as in description.
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