Why are we selling so many step up rings?...
Why are we selling so many step up rings? Might seem like a strange question and we certainly aren't complaining! But it was a question that popped up in a casual chat around the hand sanitiser. By unit we sell far more step up rings than any other range we do including the standard UV or CPL filters. They are fairly cheap but nobody buys this kind of thing on a whim or impulse buy. They are strong and robust so certainly can't be replacements otherwise we would have had returns by the bucket load.
We looked through our sales and found a customer who have bought a considerable number of them and dropped him an email so we could ask him about his use of step up rings. A lightening fast response and in a snap we were on the phone to him and over the next hour we learnt so much! So much about anamorphic lenses!
What Are Anamorphic Lenses?
Effectively it’s squeezing an image horizontally through an anamorphic lens or scope and then un-squeezing the image in post production or projection. For the viewer it is the difference between watching a drama on TV and an epic film at the cinema. Names like Cinerama, Cinemascope or Techniscope give you an idea.
As photographers we are used to looking into a lens and seeing the spherical front and back elements. However when you look into an anamorphic lens from the front the glass looks vertically oval. But when you look at the rear of the lens it’s rear element looks oval horizontally!
The glass itself is neither vertically or horizontally oval. It is an optical illusion created by some seriously clever square pieces of glass that when together are called an anamorphic block. This block can then be added to a traditional spherical lens.
Here’s The History Bit
As with many inventions and discoveries the application can be far reaching. These lenses were first developed in the first world war to go into tanks. Because the image seen through the anamorphic lens is stretched wide the gunner can have a smaller hole in the tanks armour, so a smaller weak point, but can still see a wide view of potential targets.
During the silent movie era film was shot on 35mm with an aspect ratio of 4x3. Even during the film industries infancy it was obvious that the human field of view was considerably wider than that so the drive was for widescreen.
The first step in the 1920 was to use 70mm film to achieve the widescreen. Turns out it was too expensive to last The Great Depression. Returning to 35mm the image size was reduced to include audio but as colour and TV began to rise in popularity film making needed to step up their game.
The next step was Cinerama -Shoot 3 films simultaneously and project alongside each other onto a curved screen to give a wider field of view. As you can imagine it was very complicated to film and project as well as been exceedingly expensive.
Enter the anamorphic lens. Using standard film and therefore processing, standard projectors (with the anamorphic lens added) it was simple, significantly cheaper and consequently the take up was incredibly fast. Cinemascope had arrived.
Why is anamorphic seeing a resurgence?
Anamorphic nearly got left on the shelf when Super 35 became the preferred format.
With the increased use of CGI, focussing foibles of the anamorphic meant that placing the CGI within the frame became difficult and cumbersome.
What brought about the anamorphic revival seems to be the characteristics of the anamorphic lenses, which were once seen as flaws, are now seen a desirable qualities. Anamorphic lenses vary wildly with differences in sharpness, flares, different colours and shades, heavy aberration and distortions. In a world that could be viewed as clinically digital anamorphic lenses breathe character into the footage.
It’s the difference between a CD and vinyl.
So What's With The Step Up Rings?
Anamorphic lenses not only vary wildly in their respective 'characteristics' but also in price and age. When it is that specific lens you are after for those specific set of characteristics then a simple thread size difference is not going to stop you. You just need some step up rings. In the same way as photographers use step up rings to use the same filter on different lenses the cinematographers use step up rings to use the same lenses on different cameras and other lenses.
The two key factors in why are step up rings are so popular with users of anamorphic lenses are they are made of brass so can take the weight of this big heavy lenses. The same high level production process we use for all our X4 series filters is used to produce one of the widest ranges on step up rings available in the UK.