anamorphic lenses under $2500
Image courtesy: SIRUI

In a nutshell

  • Anamorphic lenses create a distinctive look that’s now a norm in cinema
  • Anamorphic lenses compress images into an oval shape onto the camera’s sensor
  • Most anamorphic lenses cost thousands of dollars, but there are great budget options out there

The lens is arguably more important than the camera body it’s attached to. That is precisely what makes shopping for a new lens so daunting. Investing in a new lens is no small feat; they can be expensive, add some bulk to your camera bag and ultimately will determine the look and feel of the shots they’re used for. The lifetime of a lens is usually longer than that of a camera body, which makes lens shopping even more challenging. You want to make sure you choose the right lens for your needs as a creator. Also, having a variety of lenses in your arsenal gives you more range of what kind of images you can capture. “Anamorphic” refers to a type of lens originally designed to capture images with a widescreen aspect ratio. Today, we recognize the distinctive look of anamorphic lenses as a characteristic of great cinema.

Throughout this article, we will go over what elements define an anamorphic lens and discuss its applications. Then, we will name our top five best anamorphic lenses for under $2,500.

What is an anamorphic lens?

There are two categories that every lens falls into: spherical and anamorphic. Spherical lenses capture circular images onto the camera’s sensor without affecting their aspect ratio. Conversely, anamorphic lenses capture a compressed version of the image onto the sensor. These lenses usually compress the horizontal x-axis by about two times while leaving the vertical y-axis alone. This leads to enhanced vertical resolution and less grain.

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With their oval-shaped elements, anamorphic lenses were originally designed to capture a wider aspect ratio onto the standard 35mm film frame size. When edited into their proper aspect ratio, or de-squeezed, these images have an especially cinematic look and feel. Additionally, anamorphic lenses can achieve unique horizontal lens flares and bokeh due to their design.

How do anamorphic lenses work?

Anamorphic lenses capture compressed images in an oval shape onto the camera’s sensor, but how much compression exists depends on the lens and your camera’s sensor size. The de-squeeze factor should be specified in the name for each lens, commonly 1.33x or 1.6x. So, when editing anamorphic 4K footage (3840×2160), to find your de-squeezed aspect ratio, you would simply multiply the de-squeeze factor by the number of pixels in the x-axis (3840); the number of pixels in the y-axis stays the same. Once multiplied, the new aspect ratio for 4K footage from a lens with a 1.33x de-squeeze factor would be 5200×2160, or about 2.41:1.

What are anamorphic lenses used for?

There is a wide variety of uses for an anamorphic lens. But generally speaking, they are great for any kind of artistic filmmaking. Because they can capture a wider range of view and more vertical resolution than spherical lenses, they are a great choice for anyone looking to achieve a cinematic look in their work. Anamorphic lenses are usually quite bulky, and due to their design and purpose, they can be costly. One brand, however, has cracked the code for affordable anamorphic lenses.

We did our research and have chosen the top five anamorphic lenses under $2500 and will list the pros and cons for each of them.

Best wide prime for cropped sensors

Sirui 24mm f/2.8 1.33x anamorphic lens

The 24mm f/2.8 1.33x Anamorphic lens from Sirui is a heavy one, but it’s the sharpest lens in this lineup. It’s available for a variety of lens mounting systems, including Sony E Mount, Canon EF-M, Nikon Z, Fuji X Mount and Micro Four Thirds, giving it a wide range of compatibility. This lens consists of 13 elements in 10 groups and once the footage is de-squeezed, it offers a final aspect ratio of 2.41:1. The biggest advantage this lens has is its sharpness. A focal length of 24 mm makes this lens a great choice for wider shots, with a longer focal plane for nice, crisp images from edge to edge. However, one of its biggest drawbacks is its bulkiness. But with a price tag of $999, you can’t beat the value.

  • Available for: Sony E-mount, Canon EF-M, Nikon Z, Fuji X Mount, Micro Four Thirds
  • De-squeeze factor: 1.33x
  • Minimum focus distance: 1.96 ft.
  • Autofocus: No
  • Image stabilization: No

Pros:

  • Sharp images
  • Very affordable
  • Its long focal plane makes for a variety of uses

Cons:

  • Heavy
  • Slow max aperture
  • No stabilization

Best long prime for cropped sensors

Sirui 75mm f/1.8 1.33x Anamorphic lens

For those who are looking for a longer anamorphic lens, Sirui has you covered. Their 75mm f/1.8 1.33x Anamorphic Lens is durable and affordable. Due to its longer focal length, it has a longer minimum focusing distance — 3.9-inches — and a much faster maximum aperture of f1.8, making it a good choice for shooting in low light. The long focal length of 75 mm also allows for a shallower focal plane, allowing users to achieve a nice creamy bokeh in their shots. The Sirui 75mm f/1.8 1.33x Anamorphic Lens contains 16 elements in 12 groups, and is available now for $899, making it the most affordable lens on this list.

  • Available for: Sony E-mount, Canon EF-M, Nikon Z, Fuji X Mount, Micro Four Thirds
  • De-squeeze factor: 1.33xMinimum focus distance: 3.9 ft.
  • Autofocus: No
  • Image stabilization: No

Pros:

  • Creamy bokeh
  • Very affordable
  • Fast max aperture

Cons:

  • Heavy
  • No autofocus
  • No stabilization

Best prime for full-frame sensors

Sirui 50mm T2.9 Full Frame 1.6x Anamorphic lens

Sirui has taken over the market for affordable anamorphic lenses. For cameras with full-frame sensors, our pick for the best budget anamorphic lens is the Sirui 50mm T2.9 1.6x anamorphic lens. There is a wide variety of uses for a true 50 mm lens on a full-frame camera body. It’s the most naturally-perceived focal length, and because of this, it is the most flattering for portraits or any kind of profiling shots. Sirui’s line of full-frame anamorphic lenses has a de-squeeze factor of 1.6x, meaning they can achieve a final aspect ratio of 2.8:1 when shooting at 16:9. On top of that, Sirui’s 50mm T2.9 can capture incredibly sharp images while gently distorting the background and foreground of the focal plane to provide an abstract look to elements that aren’t in focus. This lens has a price tag of $1,499 and is available for various mounting systems.

  • Available for: Sony E-mount, Canon RF, Nikon Z, Leica L
  • De-squeeze factor: 1.6x
  • Minimum focus distance: 2.5 ft.
  • Autofocus: No
  • Image stabilization: No

Pros:

  • Creamy bokeh
  • Affordable
  • True 50 mm focal length when combined with a full-frame sensor

Cons:

  • Heavy
  • No autofocus
  • No stabilization

Best anamorphic adapter

SLR Magic Anamorphot-50 2.0x Anamorphic adapter

There is a cheaper option to achieve the cinematic look of an anamorphic lens, and that is an anamorphic adapter. The SLR Magic Anamorphot-50 2.0x Anamorphic adapter is a tool that can turn virtually any lens into an anamorphic one. Simply screw it onto the end of your lens, and it will compress your footage horizontally by a factor of 2.0x. One might argue that this is not true anamorphic, but it’s still a great option if you are on a budget and want to achieve those cinematic qualities in your shots. This adapter has a price tag of $799 and has a wide range of lens compatibility.

  • Available for: Any lens with 62 mm attachment threads
  • De-squeeze factor: 2.0x
  • Minimum focus distance: N/A
  • Autofocus: N/A
  • Image stabilization: N/A

Pros:

  • Wide variety of compatibility
  • Very affordable
  • Lightweight, versatile

Cons:

  • Not “true anamorphic”

Overall best value

Sirui Anamorphic 1.33x Lens kit (24, 35, and 50 mm)

If you have a camera or adapter for Sony E-mount or Micro Four Thirds, then you’re in luck. Sirui now offers a kit that includes three of their budget-friendly anamorphic lenses. For just $2347, you can pick up 24 mm, 35 mm and 50 mm anamorphic lenses. When bought individually, the total price of these lenses is about $2500, saving you over $150. Considering many anamorphic lenses can cost up to tens of thousands of dollars, this kit is an excellent option for those who are new to anamorphic filmmaking.

  • Available for: Sony E-mount, Micro Four Thirds
  • De-squeeze factor: 1.33x
  • Minimum focus distance: Varies
  • Autofocus: No
  • Image stabilization: No

Pros:

  • Excellent value
  • Durable
  • Range of focal lengths

Cons:

  • Only available for Sony E-mount and Micro Four Thirds
  • No autofocus
  • No image stabilization

Things to consider

Mount type

We can’t stress enough how important it is to know your gear. Know which mounting system and sensor type your camera body uses before investing in a new lens.

Focal length

When buying a new lens, it’s also important to know what kind of shots you can achieve with the different focal length options. Generally speaking, shorter focal lengths will produce wider images, with a larger plane of objects that appear in focus. A lens with a longer focal length will produce the opposite.

Do your research to find value on a budget

Finally, do your own research. Figure out what people are saying about the lens you are interested in. More specifically, look into its compatibility with your specific camera body. Doing this kind of research when shopping for a new lens will make the decision a whole lot easier.

Tony Morales is a cinematographer, film editor and producer from Northern California. He is an Avid Certified Professional who enjoys writing and creating documentary and theatrical films as well as commercial videos.