Laowa lenses
Image courtesy: Laowa

Laowa has announced a new range of anamorphic prime lenses. The Proteus Series includes 35 mm, 45 mm, 60 mm and 85 mm lenses. They are designed for use with cameras with Super 35 sensors and are available with either Arri PL or Canon EF mounts.

2X anamorphic

The Laowa Proteus Series of anamorphic lenses all have a constant 2x squeeze ratio. Cinema cameras used for anamorphic filming usually have 4:3 or 6:5 aspect ratio sensors. As such, you will get 2.66:1 or 2.4:1 video after the footage has been correctly de-squeezed. In addition, Laowa says that you can easily crop the footage to the standard 2.39:1 aspect ratio with minimal loss of resolution. Note that if you used the full width of a 16:9 sensor, you would end up with de-squeezed footage with a very wide aspect ratio of 3.55:1.

Wide maximum aperture          

All of the lenses in the Laowa Proteus Series of lenses have a wide maximum aperture of T2. This means that they should be great for filming in low-light situations. You will also be able to get footage with a shallow depth of field. In addition, anamorphic lenses create an attractive elliptical bokeh in out-of-focus areas of your image. The irises on the Proteus lenses all have 10 blades which should ensure a smooth bokeh as well. The lenses are fully manual, and the aperture ring has a 60-degree throw.

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Optical performance

Laowa says that the optical performance of the Laowa Proteus Series of lenses has been fine-tuned to deliver excellent color rendition and contrast. The lenses can also maintain their high image quality and sharpness even at the maximum aperture. In addition, chromatic aberration is well-controlled.

Focus

As manual lenses, the Proteus Series do not have autofocus. The focus ring has a 300-degree throw which means you can easily and smoothly obtain accurate focus. The minimum focus distance ranges from 1.8 feet (0.55 m) with the 35 mm lens to 2.7 feet (0.82 m) with the 85 mm lens. Laowa also says that the lenses have low-focus breathing. Focus breathing is when the image changes size as you pull focus. In addition, the lenses are available with a metric or imperial focusing scale.

Lens flares

The most sought-after characteristics of anamorphic lenses are the long horizontal lens flares that they create with point sources of light. You can opt for Proteus Series lenses with either amber, blue or silver lens flare options. The silver flare option will change color according to the light source in your video.

Build

The Proteus Series of lenses have standard 0.8 pitch gears on the focus and aperture rings. The rings are also positioned consistently across all four lenses. In addition, the lenses all have a front diameter of 114 mm and a filter thread of 105 mm. These features mean that you don’t have to adjust your camera setup when swapping between lenses in the series. The Proteus Series are big lenses, measuring between 7.16 inches (182 mm) in length for the 35mm to 9.45 inches (240 mm) for the 85mm version. They are also heavy, ranging from 5.29 pounds (2.4 kg) for the 35 mm to 6.6 pounds (2.95 kg) for the 85 mm lens.

What we think

Laowa has a deserved reputation for producing high-quality lenses, and the new Proteus Series of anamorphic lenses looks to continue that. The lenses come with a professional price tag but should deliver a build and performance to match that cost. With their 2X squeeze factor, the Proteus Series lenses are ideal for use with super 35 Arri cameras, which have 3:2 aspect ratio sensors in the main. You can use them with cameras with a 16:9 sensor, but you will be using a smaller proportion of the image. As such, you may lose some image quality. To achieve 2.39:1 aspect ratio footage with a 16:9 sensor, you need an anamorphic lens with a squeeze factor of 1.35. However, these don’t produce oval bokeh and other anamorphic optical effects to the same degree as a 2X squeeze lens.  

Pricing and availability

Laowa says that the Proteus Series of anamorphic prime lenses will begin shipping in May 2023. A single lens costs $4,999. They are also available in sets of two for $9,499, saving $499. Set A has the 35 mm and 60 mm lenses, while Set B has the 45 mm and 85 mm lenses. A full set of all four focal lengths will cost you $18,998, saving $998 against buying the lenses individually.

Pete Tomkies is a freelance cinematographer and camera operator from Manchester, UK. He also produces and directs short films as Duck66 Films. Pete's latest short Once Bitten... won 15 awards and was selected for 105 film festivals around the world.