Three become four

It was only at the beginning of 2020 that Sirui announced its first 1.33x anamorphic lens, and already the company has a collection of four focal lengths in the set. The 50mm F1.8 was followed by a 35mm F1.8, a 24mm F2.8 and now we have a 75mm F1.8 aimed at those needing a longer perspective for portrait shots. I still find it surprising that other lens companies haven’t muscled in on the action, as these Sirui models remain the only low/mid cost lenses for those wanting to shoot anamorphic on Micro Four Thirds and APS-C/S35 sensor cameras.

This new model is set to retail for $899, but as usual the lens is being launched via Indiegogo where ‘Early Bird’ offers see it going for $699.

One of the pack

The lens is very much in keeping with the existing models, with few distinguishing marks other than the focal length written on its barrel. At 130.4mm/5.13in it’s much the same size as the recent 24mm, and its 795g/1.75lbs weight is about the same too. It is notable though that while the other Sirui anamorphic lenses have quite a pronounced anamorphic unit at the forward end, this model’s barrel maintains a similar diameter for its entire length.

Angles of view

We’ll get the confusing bit out of the way now. As the lenses is designed for both MFT and APS-C sensors, the effective angle of view we should expect will vary depending on the size of your sensor as well as the area of that sensor being used to record video. We also need to take into account the 1.33x widening factor of the anamorphic unit, which gives us 1.33x more on the horizontal than you’d expect from a 75mm lens. So, the horizontal view we get with the lens is similar to that which we’d expect from a 56mm lens. Stick that on an APS-C sensor and we multiply by 1.5x to get the view of an 84mm portrait lens. On MFT we multiply by 2x to get a long portrait lens of around 113mm. If you work in C4K with certain Dual Aspect Ratio MFT sensors, such as that in the Lumix GH5s, we get about 1.125x extra width, which delivers an angle of view more like that of a 100mm lens.

So this is a lens for long shots, head-and-shoulder or close-up face shots.

Keeping it safe

The lens comes packed tight in a vacuum sealed bag to protect it on its journey from China. The only other lenses I’ve seen packaged in this secure way as those from Laowa. It’s satisfying to pierce the bag and know you are the first to touch the lens since it was finished, and that it has picked up any contaminants along the way.

Sirui recommend you store the lenses in dry conditions – actually, in an airtight cabinet with a drying agent – and that you don’t allow it to get rained on or use it near water. It clearly isn’t weather-proof.

Construction

There are 12 groups of elements in the construction of the lens, and 16 elements in total. The body is made from aircraft grade aluminium and it uses copper focusing components inside. The exterior finish of the barrel and rings is just the same as that of the other lenses in the range, with a silky black paint and fine metal ribbing on the aperture and focusing rings.

As Sirui included attachable 0.8 mod gear rings with the 35mm F1.8 lens there has been an expectation that the other lenses should have these in the box too. That hasn’t been the case though, and they are probably kicking themselves for doing it at all. It was a really nice touch, and it’s still a shame they haven’t continued this, or at least offered tailored rings as an option.

Mounts available

The lens on show here is made for Micro Four Thirds, but it will also be available for Fujifilm X, Nikon Z, Sony E and Canon EF-M cameras. On a previous occasion Sirui offered the 35mm lens in MFT and with the mount adaptor of your choice, but this time the lens comes already with the chosen mount fitted in place. As you can see, there are no electrical contacts between the lens and the camera, which means no communication of settings. If your camera has an image stabilisation system you’ll need to input the focal length in use manually, and don’t expect the lens to feature in your EXIF data.

Focus and iris

As is the case with the other Sirui anamorphic lenses, the focusing ring turns a lot more easily than the aperture ring, because we are going to want to adjust focus more often than our aperture while filming. The focus ring on this 75mm though feels much more free-flowing even than the ring on the 24mm F2.8. The rings on the 50mm F1.8 and 35mm F1.8 offer noticeably more resistance.

The rotation required to take the lens from infinity to its closest focus position is 186.05° – measured by Sirui, not by me.

The iris is declicked, obviously, and apertures are marked in full stops from the widest f/1.8 to the smallest f/16. The aperture markings are rather crowded at the extremes of the range, which may make tiny adjustments more difficult.

Close focus

Close focus is often an issue with anamorphic lenses. This model allows us to get to within 1.2m/4ft of our subject. At this distance magnification is 1:14.47 vertically, and 1:18.45 on the horizontal. This will be enough to shoot a close-up of the head of most humans and to get intimate facial expressions. It may not be enough for recording small objects though.
Previous Sirui anamorphic lenses have suffered a decrease in their anamorphic effect at close focus distances, but we will have to see how this model copes.

A 67mm thread is provided for screw-in filters and accessories. This is good news for those who already own the 50mm and 35mm lenses as these two share the same thread size. The 24mm uses a 72mm thread.


Those blue streaks

From the front the 75mm F1.8 is almost indistinguishable from the other three lenses as the design of the front element housing is almost exactly the same. The finish of the baffle opening that houses the lens surround though is much neater and more carefully made than those on the earlier lenses.

The distinctive blue glow on the front element demonstrates Sirui’s determination to induce flare with dramatic blue streaks, and the shape of the iris from the front view gives us something of a preview of the shape of out-of-focus highlights we might expect. I note from the specification sheet that the iris is constructed with 13 blades, so hopefully those out-of-focus ovals will have smooth edges too.

Accessible anamorphic

Unlike most anamorphic lenses for S35/APS-C sensors the Sirui lenses are small enough to feel balanced and appropriate for the smaller mirrorless cameras used by most of us for ‘low-budget’ film making – i.e. not Hollywood blockbusters. Though the bigger of the series this 75mm still fits very comfortably on Micro Four Thirds bodies, and will be equally at home on the other cameras it is offered for.

These lenses are small enough and simple enough to use that we don’t need to build a dramatic rig just to be able to operate them. You can just stick it on the camera and turn the rings with your fingers, which, of course, also saves the cost and faff of cages, rods and follow focus equipment.

Building a rig

Equally though, the lens can be rigged with a relatively simple set-up that can hold accessories for remote focus control. Here it’s on the Lumix GH5s with the Manfrotto/Wooden Camera Medium cage, a Moza iFocus system and some Small Rig rods. The Lumix DMW-XLR1 allows XLR audio from the Rode Stereo VideoMic X, and completes a relatively compact and easy-to-use set-up for solo handheld or tripod-mounted work. A small monitor or external monitor/recorder could easily be added to this kit, which will be useful for cameras that don’t offer internal desqueeze preview options.

Sample still

Here’s a sample shot, taken with the Sirui 75mm F1.8 1.33x anamorphic lens using the Lumix G9. This still image was taken with a wide open aperture so I could get an early gauge of resolution. Once I’ve had a bit more time with the lens I’ll post some sample video footage and a bit more of a test of the lens that investigates how it performs and what sort of characteristics we should expect from it in use.

For more information on this lens see the Sirui website.

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