Anamorphic photographs

I currently use a Fuji XPro-3 as my primary field camera. Usually, I shoot with the Fujinon XF 16mm F1.4 R WR lens, which produces super-sharp and largely distortion-free wide angle images.

While I really like my current photography setup, I am always looking to try out different lenses. Most recently, I rented1 a Sirui 50mm F1.8 Anamorphic 1.33x to try out while teaching a field course in Wyoming. The Sirui is an anamorphic lens, which means that it has a larger horizontal field of view than a typical spherical lens. When used for still photography on the XPro3, the Sirui produces images that are approximately twice as wide as they are tall (i.e., a 2:1 aspect ratio)2. Of course, you can do the same thing by cropping a non-anamorphic image, but that means you are losing quite a bit of information.

The Sirui achieves a wider aspect ratio by squeezing (or compressing) the image horizontally. This distortion is readily apparent in the raw image that is recorded to the XPro3’s APC sensor (which has an aspect ratio of 3:2):

Black and white photo of hills made up of bentonite.

A squeezed image of flatirons made up of bentonite.

To remove this distortion (or desqueeze), the image is stretched 133% horizontally (or it is compressed ~75.188% vertically)3. The resulting photographs have a cinematic feel to them, which, in my opinion, makes the lens especially well suited for photographing “big sky” landscapes.
Black and white photo of hills made up of bentonite, but one that has gone through the desqueezing process.

The same photograph, desqueezed.

A wide angle view of pink-weathering shales.

A view from the top of a resistant sandstone channel within the Clovery Formation near Sheep Mountain.

Man taking a nap with his head resting against an orange backpack.

A post-lunch nap at Goose Egg.

A picture of a road leading to a processing plant with a train in front of it. In the background is a mountain.

A bentonite processing plant near Greybull.

Black and white photo of a man writing notes with his back to the camera. In the distant foreground is a mountain.

Taking notes while mapping Sheep Mountain.

Of course, one is not limited to horizontal photographs when using the Sirui:
An alien landscape made up of beige to pink rocks that are slowly weathering away.

A view of Devil’s Kitchen on a hot, cloudless day.

A photo of the Bighorn River as it cuts through Sheep Mountain. The photographer is looking down from a ridge on the mountain.

Looking out at the Bighorn River from the top of a measured section on Sheep Mountain.

Some final thoughts:

  • The focusing mechanism seemed to be very unforgiving at long distances. Often, I ended up with images that looked great in the viewfinder/camera LCD screen, but were slightly out of focus when viewed at 1:1. Your mileage may vary.
  • The aluminum scratches somewhat easily, so I found myself treating the Sirui more gingerly than I do my Fuji prime lenses.
  • I would need to spend much more time with the lens before I would feel comfortable using it for documentation purposes (e.g., for a figure in a publication). In particular, I spent very little time examining lens distortion, which others have described4.
  • I found myself wanting the lens to be slightly wider, so I am excited about trying out the Sirui 24mm F2.8 Anamorphic 1.33x.
A black and white photo of a baggage car as it crosses the picture frame.

A slightly out-of-focus image taken at Boston Logan International Airport.

[1] I often rent camera equipment, especially if I am just trying it out. As a graduate student, I went two years where I didn’t own a camera, but solely rented for fieldwork and courses. While there are several options available for renting, I primarily use Lensrentals.

[2] The aspect ratio is 2.39:1 for video footage, which the XPro3 natively shoots in 16:9.

[3] I prefer to shrink the image rather than stretch it, as that way I am not creating new information via interpolation. Regardless of which approach you take, you must be able to adjust an image’s height or weight independently to be able to desqueeze it. In Adobe Photoshop, this action can be accomplished by going to Image, selecting Image Size, ensuring that Constrain Aspect Ratio (the link icon) is unchecked, and then multipying either the height or the width by the scaling factor of your choice.

[4] See, for example, this post.

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