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Hands-on and sample footage from the Sirui 24mm F2.8 1.33x anamorphic lens

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This image was captured by the Sirui 24mm anamorphic lens in 17:9 and de-squeezed 1.33x to produce a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.

Traditionally, dedicated anamorphic lenses for interchangeable lens cameras have been expensive, but Sirui has made a mission of creating much more affordable options. Though the company now has a full frame 50mm anamorphic lens, the majority of its output so far has been aimed at APS-C and Micro Four Thirds system users. The 24mm F2.8 is the third in its line of low-cost crop-sensor 1.33x anamorphic lenses.

This new 24mm F2.8 is intended to fill the wide-angle gap in Sirui’s range of 1.33x anamorphic lenses for APS-C and MFT systems, and in doing so creates a set that comprises wide, standard and mid-telephoto focal lengths. The set now consists of this 24mm f/2.8, a 35mm F1.8, a 50mm F1.8 and a 75mm f/1.8.

The 24mm F2.8 is the third in Sirui’s line of low-cost crop-sensor 1.33x anamorphic lenses

Of course, how much width this 24mm offers in practice depends on the system it’s matched with, as it’s designed for both APS-C/Super 35 and Micro Four Thirds sensors. If you mount it on your Fujifilm X camera, you will enjoy the horizontal angle of view we might expect from a 27mm lens on a full-frame camera – which is nicely wide indeed. However, on a Micro Four Thirds camera shooting in 16:9 mode, that view looks more like what we’d expect from a 36mm, which can only be described as a moderate wide-angle. If you record in 17:9 with a Micro Four Thirds sensor, that view expands to something like a 32mm, which might be just about wide enough to call ‘wide’.

The lens is available in Sony E, Fujifilm X, Canon EF-M, Nikon Z and Micro Four Thirds mounts, and costs $999/£899.

If you are unfamiliar with anamorphic lenses, check out our article, How Does Anamorphic Photography Work?, which explains more about how they operate.

All-metal affair

As with the other lenses in the series, the 24mm is an all-metal affair, including the ribbing on the aperture and focusing rings. The ribbing is fine and shallow but still easily gripped, and it provides plenty of purchase even for gloved hands. The focus ring turns with much less effort than is required to turn the aperture ring, which makes sense given what they control and how we will use them. The 35mm lens came with plastic 0.8 mod geared rings to fit over the focus/aperture rings, but this model doesn’t. I’m not sure why, but it’s a shame as included tailor-made rings were a nice touch. However, it’s easy enough to fit adjustable ones.

The focus throw of the lens is precisely 189.6°, according to Sirui. This can feel like a long way when pulling from furthest to closest distances, but fortunately, we rarely need to do that. In more regular use, this allows accurate control of focus whether you are focusing by hand or with a hand/motorized follow-focus device.

In this video, I discuss the experience of using the Sirui 24mm F2.8 1.33x anamorphic lens on a Micro Four Thirds camera.

The construction uses 13 elements in 10 groups and is based around a regular 24mm lens with an anamorphic unit mounted on the front. Mounting the anamorphic group at the front gives the (moderate) oval bokeh that people crave and greater susceptibility to flare and those magic blue lines.

This is certainly a lens that picks up a point light source and turns it into a blue streak very easily, and fans of these things will be delighted. Beyond the blue streak, though, there is a very nice general flare characteristic that gives pleasing soft contrast and patches of evenly scattered illumination when there’s a light just out of frame. It’s a nice look, but also one that can be controlled and moderated to some extent with a hood or matte box.

Three in the set

Sirui’s quartet of anamorphic lenses: 35mm 1.8, 75mm F1.8, 24mm f/2.8 and 50mm F1.8.

As much as these lenses are a ‘set’, there are more than a few differences between them that may or may not be important to you. Over time the lenses are growing larger: the first lens, the 50mm, is the smallest and the 24mm was the largest until the 75mm came along. The 24mm isn’t too much bigger than the 35mm, which in turn isn’t so much bigger than the 50mm, but the 24mm is quite a lot bigger than the 50mm.

More important differences come in the form of maximum apertures and filter thread sizes, though, as the new lens is F2.8 instead of following the F1.8 path, and the filter thread is 72mm rather than the 67mm of the other models. The lens weighs between 770g (1.70 lbs) and 810g (1.79 lbs) depending on the mount, with Micro Four Thirds being the lighter and Nikon Z the heaviest.

Close focus de-squeeze

The closest marked focus distance on the lens is 0.6m (2 ft), but users will find the anamorphic effect is somewhat diminished in images shot at this end of the scale. Applying the marked 1.33x de-squeeze to footage will leave your subjects perceptibly elongated.

At its closest focusing distance, the squeeze factor of the lens becomes a bit distorted, and a full 1.33x de-squeeze will slightly elongate the image horizontally. In these cases, a 1.25x de-squeeze factor can be used instead.

I noticed this in use and used a simple, less-than-scientific test to determine that the 1.33x squeeze drops to about 1.25x at the closest focus distance. To discover this, I photographed a 25cm x 25cm square of black Cinefoil and de-squeezed the image until the Cinefoil regained its square shape. At 1.33x, the square was oblong with horizontal edges much longer than its height, but with a 1.25x de-squeeze it was much more even.

There isn’t much to be done for subjects approaching the 60cm minimum focus distance, but those at that distance and closer can be rendered with the 1.33x factor when a 1+ diopter magnifier is attached to the front of the lens. With it attached, the infinity focus position occurs at about 0.7m, and because the lens is at infinity, the squeeze factor is restored. With a +1 diopter fitted, I could focus as close as 40.5cm, though the anamorphic factor drops off to 1.25x again at that distance. A +0.5 diopter screw-in lens would also be helpful, but they are harder to come by.

Out-of-focus highlights

Since this is a wide lens with a smaller aperture and a moderate anamorphic factor, the ability to create dramatic oval-shaped bokeh is somewhat diminished. Fans of a sea of colored elliptical cat’s eyes will have to look elsewhere, as they are hard to muster with this lens. Even when focused at the closest distances with lights at infinity, and the aperture wide open, there is only a sense of squeezed circles. It’s enough to create the atmosphere of an anamorphic lens, but the look certainly doesn’t shout anamorphic characteristics, and your audience won’t ever be distracted by them.

On the whole, though, out-of-focus areas are rendered rather nicely, and the F2.8 aperture is just wide enough to allow us to create a decent degree of selective focus even at this wider focal length. Perhaps the 50mm F1.8 Sirui might suit you better if you want more drama.

This video includes sample footage shot using the Panasonic Lumix GH5, GH5s, and BGH1 in 4:3 anamorphic mode, and 16:9 and 17:9 aspect ratios to achieve different final looks.

I’ve been impressed with the lens’s sharpness and that it renders enough detail even for a High Resolution shot on the Lumix G9. When you look that closely, it’s possible to spot a moderate degree of chromatic separation in details away from the center of the lens, but the effect isn’t too bad anywhere. At normal still photo resolutions, I suspect most wouldn’t notice it at all, and it’s even less apparent in video.

No vignetting

The Sirui 24mm F2.8 1.33x anamorphic lens mounted on a Panasonic Lumix BGH1 box camera.

As has been the case with the previous Sirui lenses, if you were hoping for ‘cinematic’ vignetting, you’ll need to find out how to add it in post, as the 24mm offers pretty even illumination right across the frame. This is good news for most, as adding corner shading for atmosphere is always easier and preferable to removing it when it isn’t welcome.

Reasonably even sharpness and a lack of vignetting don’t draw the viewer into the center of the frame in the same way that some classic lenses do. This also means we can have dramatically off-center subjects without losing them due to technical errors or vintage-lens characteristics.

Conclusion

With its smaller aperture, reduced capacity for selective focusing, and scaled-down oval highlights, it might be said that the Sirui 24mm F2.8 1.33x anamorphic lens is somewhat less exciting than the previous two models in the range. However, for all its dull technical correctness, it’s still a very nice lens to use and gives pleasing results.

If you can see beyond dramatic out-of-focus backgrounds and squashed highlights, there is still plenty of anamorphic characteristic to be had, and I’m quite a fan of the soft contrast and propensity to render attractive flare before the blue streaks appear.

To make it a really exciting lens, it would need a maximum aperture of F1.8 like the other three, but that would have made it a lot bigger, heavier and more expensive. Retaining the compact characteristic and some similarity in form and scale to the other lenses is probably more important. Any bigger, and this wouldn’t be part of a set, and the idea of a highly portable, easy-to-use, low-cost lens would have been lost.

For more information on this 24mm F2.8 1.33x anamorphic lens, see the Sirui lens website.


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