Camtec in Burbank received one of the first “starter sets” of ARRI/ZEISS Master Anamorphic Prime lenses: 35, 50, and 75 mm T1.9.
Kavon and Jay Elhami kindly let me test them on an Alexa and on a Gecko lens projector. These 2x squeeze anamorphics are incredibly free of geometric distortion. In other words, if you’re doing a Day, Exterior, Wide Shot of Train pursued by a bunch bad guys–the train traveling left to right looks straight. There’s no bowing barrel distortion. And when you move in for a tight, close-focus product (pack) shot of a cereal box, the edges remain straight and perpendicular. You also will be the new hero of the agency art director, because text and logo remain true to color and contrast.
The Master Anamorphics are free of chromatic aberration. Edges do not turn magenta or green as you rack focus or deliberately go out of focus. High resolution is maintained all the way to the corners. The lenses do not breathe. Blacks are rich. There was no internal barrel flare (black become gray with flares or strong backlight).
And these lenses do have character. Bokehs have an interesting, different, beautiful quality. Skin tones are silky while eyelashes remain sharp. For the many who are intent on “dirtying” the image, flares are simple, controllable, and predictable.
Lens test as wine taste with some Robert Parker-like allusions: “Like a rich, breathless Chateau Margaux. Abundant contrast yet silky smooth. Ethereal lightness despite the complexity. Unusually approachable for such a young, innovative wine…er…lens.”
The rest of the set will fill out as we approach NAB 2014: 40, 60, 100, 135 mm. There has been talk of anamorphic zooms as well.