Is the 1.5x lens from Old Fast Glass the first anamorphic probe lens? The answer is yes. While we usually leave the "Do you need it?" question until the very end, the concept of such a unique lens getting an even more unique treatment warrants a place in your toolkit.
The 24mm f/14 1.5x Anamorphic Probe Lens is an anamorphic macro specialty lens created by Old Fast Glass of Sun Valley, California. But what is it, why do you need it, and what makes this piece of glass so unique? I chatted with Mark LaFleur, owner of Old Fast Glass to get all the answers.
The First Anamorphic Probe Lens
The Old Fast Glass 1.5x anamorphic probe lens isn't an entirely bespoke lens. Even building a normal lens from the ground up takes an enormous amount of research.
"Most anamorphic lenses are a combination of an existing spherical lens, with additional anamorphic elements, and typically an additional focus group." LaFleur said. "For instance, Todd AO anamorphic primes were based mainly on Canon K-35 and Cooke Speed Panchro primes, with Shiga cylindrical elements and focusers."
This was the same approach the OFG team took to make the anamorphic probe. A Laowa 24mm f/14 probe lens was used as a base lens and modified with a front-anamorphic adapter. Want to learn why a probe lens is so cool, check out our article on the original Laowa version.
But this wasn't just OFG slapping on an adapter to the front of the Laowa.
The 24mm f/14 Probe Lens by Laowa
"Our lens consists of a Laowa 24mm T14 probe lens and an anamorphic optical group attached to the front of the lens." LaFleur explained. "Fortunately, the lens is able to utilize the probe lens’ original focus system which has some huge advantages. The anamorphic version is able to retain the same amazing close focus distance while still hitting infinity (it can literally focus down to the surface of the font element)."
Unlike traditional front anamorphic adapters, the OFG approach was to create a lens that felt like it was designed that way on purpose, not a modification of something already on the market.
"If we had gone a more traditional method of adding a new focus group, it would have meant setting the probe lens’ focus to infinity, and then adding an additional focus group in front of the anamorphic optics. This would add significant size and weight to the front of the lens," LaFleur said. "Also, as I am sure most of your readers are aware, those types of focus systems typically have a close focus of 3’ and some are as long as 5’. That would honestly make a probe lens obsolete. The whole point is to be able to place the lens into positions you can’t put a typical lens and be able to focus on macro distances."
The 1.5x Anamorphic Probe Lens
So what kind of specs does this new lens offer? Creatives will find the original 24mm focal length of the original Laowa Probe Lens, as well as the PL mount, at a weight of only 1.34 lbs. The T stops are modified to f/stops and go as wide as f/14.
As LaFleur explained, the close focus distance is insane. According to OFG, it's zero.
Coverage is where things get a little complicated.
"The lens vignettes in the corners and vertical edges on 36 x 24mm sensors," LaFleur said. "However, it covers way beyond Super 35. For instance, it easily covers Alexa Mini LF 3.8K 16 x 9 mode. On FF, LF, and VV sensors, you will need to crop slightly. Keep in mind the field of view is extremely wide, so you still maintain an ultra-wide-angle, macro, true front anamorphic lens."
The 1.5x Anamorphic Probe lens
Creating A Need That Didn't Exist
I asked LaFleur if this lens was created due to a demand from his customers. I was surprised to learn that no one had requested the lens.
"I can’t remember a client requested one, probably because it didn’t exist," LaFleur told me. "I think due to the close focus limitations of anamorphic, and how they are typically large lenses, maybe people just assumed it wasn’t possible to get an anamorphic lens so small. It was one of the few overlooked areas in cinema lenses."
Canon Rangefinder lense rehouse by TLS in collaboration with OFG
Old Fast Glass
This statement makes me think of the iPad. When that was first released, there was either pure love or hate. No one knew what to do with it. No one needed it. We didn't know that was something we could ask for. Years later, now we see that need in full light.
The OFG 1.5x Anamorphic Probe Lens 24mm f14 is currently available to rent.
According to LaFleur, this was never meant to be a big money-making project. But the team is working on more iterations of the lens with different squeeze ratios and better full-frame coverage. Until then, this lens is bound to be seen on many productions.
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