Great Joy 50mm T2.9 1.8x full frame anamorphic lens
In December 2021, Great Joy announced its first full-frame anamorphic lens, the 60mm T2.9 1.33x anamorphic. Now, the company is back with a new 50mm T2.9 1.8x anamorphic, and we’ve gone hands-on to see just how it performs.
What makes this new Great Joy 50mm T2.9 1.8x anamorphic lens stand out is that with a squeeze factor of 1.8x it gives us a more dramatic anamorphic effect than most other budget anamorphic lenses, all while retaining a reasonably fast maximum aperture that covers full frame sensors, albeit sometimes with a slight crop for some camera models.
If you’d like to know more about anamorphic photography we have an explainer here: How Does Anamorphic Photography Work?
1.8x anamorphic squeeze
As a 50mm 1.8x anamorphic, the Great Joy lens delivers the regular 50mm angle of view in the vertical plane, but horizontally we get a view more like that we’d expect from a 28mm lens (50mm/1.8 = 27.8mm). So, we get a ‘standard lens’ feel to the vertical aspect of the image but a wide angle horizontal view.
This 1.8x anamorphic effect makes it stand out when compared to its immediate competition, as the Sirui full frame lenses are 1.6x anamorphics and Laowa’s coming series are 1.5x. All will comfortably fill a 2.4:1 or 2.66:1 aspect ratio timeline, but the oval cats’ eye rendering of out-of-focus highlights and the general distortion of the background should be more pronounced with this 1.8x lens.
For convenience, the lens has focus and aperture markings on either side of the barrel, but not on the top as you would with a stills lens. This is more convenient for filming as often the lens will be positioned at eye-level and it makes the markings easier to see when operating the camera. They will also be clearer when another person is pulling focus, and it won’t matter on which side of the camera the operator is standing.
Focus distances on this example are marked in metric measurements, with the closest position being 0.7m. Great Joy hasn’t mentioned if there will be a model marked with feet and inches. The focus ring rotation from the closest to the furthest positions is 270° and the aperture ranges from T2.9 to T22. Both the aperture and focus rings offer the usual 0.8 mod gears for follow-focus systems.
The lens is constructed using 16 elements in 12 groups, with an 11-blade aperture diaphragm to maintain a smooth outline. The front filter thread is 82mm and Great Joy has already said it plans on making 35mm and 85mm anamorphic lenses with the same filter thread size, and matching placement of aperture and focus rings for easy swapping when on a cinema rig.
You can see from the upright oblong baffle at the front of the lens that the optical design places the anamorphic element group in the forward section of the assembly. Most filmmakers prefer this placement, as this gives us the oval out-of-focus highlights and makes the lens more prone to flare from point sources of light – one of the main thrills of shooting anamorphic for some people.
The vivid blue reflection on the coating of the front element is some indication that the flare from this lens will have a blue tint. The company is also promising an alternative version of the lens for that will have an amber tint to its flare, which will be more in line with the 60mm T2.9 1.33x anamorphic we tested previously.
There will be a range of mounts available once this lens hits the market, but the prototype units were only made for PL and EF cameras. The version shown is in PL and as such weighs about 1kg (2.2lb) and measures 123.43mm (4.86″). The EF version is 136.16mm (5.36″) and the E, MFT, L and RF versions will be 156mm (6.1″).
The mount seems well made and the lens fitted my adapters very nicely, popping in and out without any bother. The mount is metal and solid, so won’t give or hang off the camera. The PL version will come with an EF adapter, but I didn’t get one with this particular prototype. The rear element protrudes well inside the camera, which is fine for mirrorless models, but DSLR users will need to swing their mirror up before attaching the lens.
In these pictures, the lens stops at the blue bit, which is an MTF Services adapter to allow me to fit the PL version of the lens on the L-mount Lumix S-series camera. The lens is relatively small for a full-frame anamorphic with a 1.8x squeeze factor, but it’s solidly made and not particularly lightweight. I used it handheld a good bit with the Lumix S5 and S1H, and the set-up felt natural and balanced in both cases.
When in a rig I took the precaution to use rails and a lens support to take the pressure off the mount, but I suspect this isn’t absolutely essential. The weight in the lens is pretty evenly distributed so it isn’t as front-heavy as some other models.
As much as this lens is for full frame cameras it works very nicely on smaller sensors too and, as it isn’t massive itself, it doesn’t look or feel out of place on bodies such as this Lumix GH5M2. A Fotodiox adapter helped mount the PL lens onto the MFT body – use the plain adapter, not the one with the variable ND as that clashes with the rear element of the lens. The rear element of the PL version protrudes too much for use with any adapter that has a lens or a filter inside it, or a speed booster. I understand that is the case with the EF mount version too.
When used on smaller sensors we obviously don’t get a same wide view, but that can be useful when we want to fill the frame for a tighter shot. The horizontal view on an APS-C sensor will be about the same as we’d expect from a 42mm lens on a full frame camera, while on this MFT model the view is like that of a 55mm lens.
Frame coverage for regular formats
- Lumix S5 full frame C4K
- Lumix S5 full frame C4K with crop marks for 2.66:1 and 2.39:1
- Lumix S5 full frame 4K
- Lumix APS-C 4K
- Lumix S5 4.4K 4:3 anamorphic mode
- Lumix GH6 full width C4K
- Lumix GH6 full width 4K
- Lumix GH6 4:3 anamorphic mode
While the lens fits on full-frame cameras, the 33x24mm covering circle won’t cover the whole width of the sensor. For stills, this means a lot of vignetting in the corners, but as most cameras don’t use the full height of their sensors for video, a slight crop left and right is all that’s needed for filmmakers. Technically speaking, this is an issue, but in practice the vignetting doesn’t matter unless you are planning on a 3.2:1 aspect ratio for your finished film, which you probably aren’t. Once the vignetting is cropped off we are still left with a 2.95:1 image area from a 16:9 recording area, so there’s plenty of room to play with, even for a 2.66:1 presentation. The more regular 2.39:1 anamorphic format gives us even more flexibility.
The top image above shows a desqueezed frame shot using the slightly cropped 5.4K/25p open gate mode on a Panasonic S1H (with a 3:2 recording area) and cropped to 2.39:1, while the lower shows the full 2.7:1 width of the frame.
Where the vignetting might matter more though, is if your full frame camera can shoot ‘open gate’ using the full height and width of the sensor. I used the Lumix S1H and found that in the 3:2 aspect ratio 6K/24p mode the vignetting is very visible, but if you shoot the very slightly cropped 5.4K mode in 25/30p you still get a 3:2 recording area but with all the shading cropped off in-camera. The result is a 2.7:1 final image that has no light drop-off in the corners and which still presents a view that looks about 30mm wide. For me this was the best way to use this lens – and we still end up with an image wider a 2.66:1 timeline.
This is a modern lens and not a remake of a vintage anamorphic, so it has a modern look and none of the dramatic distortions that couldn’t be fixed in the olden days. There is distortion, of course, but not coma or crazy spherical swirls that some lenses are valued for. Distortions here come from the out-of-focus areas being stretched vertically more than the in-focus areas, which is the base reason focused areas can jump out of the picture more than they do with a spherical lens set to the same aperture.
We do have curvilinear distortion too though, and while it’s more usual to encounter barrelling with a wide lens of any sort, this one gives us some quite pronounced pincushion. The effect surprised me when I first noted it, as it isn’t something we see all that often, but it isn’t without some prestigious precedent though, as this is also a characteristic of some Cooke anamorphic lenses, which are highly sought after in the cinema world.
The pincushion effect is confined to the vertical aspect of the frame, as the horizontal edges enjoy a good deal of the barrelling we’d perhaps expect. So, the left/right extremes bow inwards in the middle while the top/bottom bows outwards. The pincushion and barrelling at both more pronounced in distant subjects.
The nature of the flare created is always a hot topic when it comes to anamorphic lenses, and again what is ‘good’ comes down to personal preference. I like a bit of flare, but find some modern lenses try a little too hard to look anamorphic and the flare produced to prove this point can very easily distract from the subject matter of the scene. This lens definitely produces flare and does so quite easily, but it is more moderate and only dominates the frame when a light shines right down the barrel.
While the flare produced by Great Joy’s 60mm T1.9 T2.9 1.33x anamorphic lens was warm, with an amber tint, this new lens creates a more neutral tone with different degrees of blue streaks depending on the light source. That the new lens doesn’t match the first lens in this characteristic could have been a bit of a concern for anyone hoping to use them together, but Great Joy has promised an amber-flare edition that will become available in mid-June.
Some budget, and not so budget, anamorphic lenses have dramatically different squeeze factors according to the subject distance, but this Great Joy model manages to avoid the worst of it. While the close-focus squeeze factor drops off a little at the closest focus point of 0.7m (2.3′) the effect isn’t drastic in natural subjects. Only when shooting a square target for technical testing was I able to note that the squeeze drops to about 1.68x at the extreme end, but that it returns to over 1.75x by the 2m (6.5′) mark. If you shoot a person close-up and desqueeze by 1.8x, you will note their head becomes wider, so you’ll need to switch to a smaller factor, which is easy enough to work out by eye.
The variable squeeze factor isn’t too much of an issue. Even with correction in post-production, the image created will always fit your timeline as there is so much coverage to spare left and right. Where it will be more difficult to correct though is for single clips in which focus shifts from one extreme of the distance scale to the other, as this will result in a single clip with multiple squeeze factors from start to finish.
The lens certainly breathes, but the greatest shift in the image from the closest to the furthest focus distances isn’t magnification so much as a transition from pincushion at infinity to not so much pincushion at 0.7m (2.25′).
I found this Great Joy 50mm is fairly sharp at all apertures. Obviously, you’ll find more detail as you close the aperture a bit, but you don’t need to go very far beyond T4 if you are keen on high resolution. It is important in a lens like this that the widest aperture is usable, as that is where a lot of users will set it – and leave it.
The clearest evidence an anamorphic lens is in use is usually found at the wider apertures, and people like to make the most of it. Fortunately then, the T2.9 aperture in this lens produces very respectable sharpness and definition. Contrast is quite high throughout the range, so wide open we get the impression of sharpness even if absolute resolution isn’t at its best. The effect is good for narrative video as usually the kind of sharpness we like for stills can kill a romantic or dramatic atmosphere.
As we close down the lens gets sharper and more detailed. By T8 it produces its best sharpness, which it holds onto as we close right down to T16. Even at T22 the picture looks good, and I’ve been impressed by the resolution at the smallest aperture. The shots above were shot at T16 (top) and T8 (bottom).
Conclusion and sample footage
It’s true the price of good technology has come down a great deal in certain areas, and cinema lenses from China seem to be getting better and better. I’m still very cautious when the word ‘budget’ is used for anything photographic, as in this industry we rarely get more than we pay for.
That said, this lens represents an incredible value and, like its predecessor, really does present us with impressive performance for much less money than is usual for an anamorphic lens with this squeeze factor and for full-frame cameras.
That you have to crop the edges of the frame will only matter to those who can shoot open-gate with 3:2 sensors, as anyone else will need to take the edges off their 2.95:1 images before anyone would watch it anyway. The 1.8x squeeze gives us a bit more anamorphic character to the image than a 1.6x, 1.5x or 1.33x lens can manage, but Great Joy has been careful not to over-play the flare, keeping a distinct aesthetic without going overboard.
The Great Joy 50mm T2.9 1.8x anamorphic lens is being launched via an Indiegogo campaign, though the company has already made 100 lenses that will ship straight away. The lens will cost $1399 for the E, RF, MFT and L mount versions, $1599 for the EF and $1699 for the PL mounts. Inevitably there are discounts for those supporting the campaign.
For more information see the Great Joy website.
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