Laowa announces Proteus 2x anamorphic lenses for Super35 sensors

Laowa announces Proteus 2x anamorphic lenses for Super35 sensors

DPReview News

Venus Optics has announced a new series of anamorphic lenses, the Proteus 2x Anamorphic Series. The Laowa Proteus 2x lenses deliver a constant 2x squeeze ratio for Super35 image sensors.

What is an anamorphic lens?

Anamorphic lenses are specialty lenses that project an image onto the image sensor that is compressed along the longer dimension. In the case of the Proteus 2x lenses, '2x' is the 'squeeze ratio,' or the factor by which the projected image is compressed along the longer dimension. An anamorphic lens uses a specialized optical design to fit more horizontal data (assuming typical video orientation) onto the sensor. This distorts the image, so a circle would appear like an oval, so you must stretch, or de-squeeze, the video during post-production.

In the case of the Laowa Proteus 2x Anamorphic Series, the lenses create 2.39:1 footage with minimal loss of resolution. After de-squeeze, the lens also works with 4:3 or 6:5 sensors to offer 2.66:1 or 2.4:1 aspect ratio footage. The 1 signifies the height of the frame, whereas the other number, such as 2.39, represents the width. If you put a common video format, 16:9, into the same format, it'd be 1.77:1, so de-squeezed footage shot with an anamorphic lens is significantly wider than that.

Anamorphic lenses allow you to create a wider, more cinematic look to your footage without cropping your sensor and losing valuable pixels. Consider cropping a 4:3 aspect ratio Super35 sensor to create 2.66:1 footage. If you cropped the footage from the sensor, which is a 1.33:1 ratio, you're losing a significant portion of the frame. In the quick example below, we illustrate how an anamorphic lens allows you to use the full area of your image sensor to create a wider final video.

(1) The larger blue rectangle is 4:3. The wider orange rectangle is 2.66:1. The perfect circle is a hypothetical centered subject.

(2) A 2x anamorphic lens on a 4:3 image sensor stretches the image such that it fills the entire 4:3 image area. However, that distorts the subject.

(3) Using software, you can de-squeeze the anamorphic footage, thus creating a 2.66:1 final aspect ratio while using the information from the entire 4:3 image sensor. De-squeezing also returns the subject to its natural appearance.

The anamorphic lens distorts the orange area such that it fits the full blue 4:3 frame. This, of course, makes everything look unnatural, so you must software to de-squeeze the image. Some cameras, such as the new Panasonic S5 IIX, offers in-camera anamorphic de-squeeze display options to make it easier to work with anamorphic lenses. They simulate a de-squeezed view on the screen so you can better visualize the look of the final processed footage.

To learn much more about anamorphic lenses and how they work, read our in-depth guide to anamorphic photography

Laowa Proteus Series 2x anamorphic lenses

Now that we've covered the basics of anamorphic lenses and why you'd use them, let's talk about Laowa's new lenses. The new Proteus lenses come in 35mm, 45mm, 60mm and 85mm focal lengths, and each prime lens has a fast T2 aperture. As a quick aside, many cinema lenses use t-stop instead of f-stop (e.g., F2.8) because t-stop measures the amount of light that goes through the lens and reaches your sensor, whereas f-stop measures the physical opening of the lens, which corresponds to but isn't always the same as the amount of light that reaches your sensor.

Alongside differences in how images are projected onto your sensor, anamorphic lenses also deliver distinct lens flare. The Laowa Proteus lenses include blue, amber and silver lens flare options. Since the lenses are cinema-oriented, they offer user-friendly cinema housing. The cinema housing includes unified gear positions, 0.8 mod gear, identical outer diameters (114mm) and filter threads (105mm), and universal 300-degree focus throw.

The Laowa Proteus 2x anamorphic lens series comprises four prime lenses, with 35mm, 45mm, 60mm and 85mm focal lengths. Each lens has a T2 aperture.

The lenses vary slightly in terms of length and weight. The Proteus 35mm T2 and 45mm T2 are the shortest at 182mm (7.2"). The Proteus 60mm T2 lens is 198mm (7.8"). The Proteus 85mm T2 is the longest by a wide margin, at 240mm (9.4"). The two shortest lenses weigh around 2.4kg (5.3 lbs). The 60mm lens is the lightest at 2.3kg (5.1 lbs). Unsurprisingly, the largest and longest lens, the Proteus 85mm, is also the heaviest, weighing 2.95kg (6.5 lbs).

Regarding focus, all four Proteus lenses offer the same minimum focus distance of 55cm (1.8'). The lenses promise minimized focus breathing, which ensures that objects appear relatively the same size regardless of the focus distance. This is important when performing dramatic focus throws, so static foreground and background elements appear stationary when changing focus.

The lenses aren't all the same length and weight, but they each share the same outer dimensions, focus throw, aperture throw and gearing.

All Proteus 2x lenses are compatible with Laowa's 1.4x full-frame expander, allowing each lens to cover a full-frame image sensor. The lenses come in Arri PL and Canon EF mounts. Each lens is available separately for $4,999 each, although two-lens bundles are also available for $9,499. One kit includes the 35mm and 60mm Proteus 2X lenses, while the other includes the 45mm and 85mm cine lenses. To learn more and view available purchase options, visit Venus Optics.

Venus Optics has also announced a special reward program for the new Laowa Proteus Series. If you are among the first 100 customers to order one of the Proteus sets, you can earn up to a $1,200 cash rebate after submitting a short film and behind-the-scenes video using the Proteus lenses. For more information, visit this dedicated page.

If you're interested in more compact, affordable Laowa anamorphic lenses, the company released a set of compact anamorphic lenses for APS-C/Super35 sensors last summer, the Laowa Nanomorph series. You can learn much about these 1.5x de-squeeze lenses here and check out a hands-on video review below.