It's All In The Lens: Anamorphic Vs. Spherical

When it comes to the art of cinematography, nothing is more important than the choice of lens. From the depth of field to the aspect ratio, everything relies on the choice of lens. But with so many options and so many formats to choose from, how do you make the right decision for the look you want? In order to achieve the look you have in your head, you need an understanding of the different kinds of lenses, specifically the difference between anamorphic and spherical. 


While any cinephile or photographer probably already knows about these two types of lenses, they are far from being universally known. Any cinematographer or photographer must know the difference between anamorphic and spherical and the effects that both have when it comes to shooting. 


Wide Vs. Sharp: What's The Difference?

Without even knowing it, lenses affect the way we perceive and think of certain video content. Whether it be a shallow depth of field or a tight focus on the subject being shown, the way a shot is set up and composed affects us in ways we could have never imagined. This is even more evident when it comes to the difference between anamorphic and spherical lenses. To break it down into the basics, an anamorphic lens offers an other-worldly look, usually with a wider aspect ratio that's stretched across the screen. Think Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood or Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time In Hollywood. 


On the opposite side of anamorphic is the spherical lens. This type of lens offers a more natural and realistic look while also providing a tighter look onto the subject being filmed. This type of lens was prominently used in Robert Eggers' The Lighthouse and Luca Guadagnino's Call Me By Your Name. A spherical lens has a sharper image, allowing for minimal distortion for your shot. 


Up close image of digital camera lens


Will You Look At That: The Impact Of The Two Lenses 

When it comes to video content, the look of the video is of the utmost importance. But the arts of photography and videography are so much more complex than simply setting up a camera and hitting record. There's an assortment of variables that one must take into consideration when it comes to setting up a shot. The most important is knowing what type of lens you need when it comes to bringing your vision to life. 


While it may go unnoticed by the untrained eye, anamorphic and spherical lenses offer two entirely different looks when it comes to composing a shot. For example, anamorphic lenses capture the shot's distorted sides, providing more attention to the center of the shot. This allows you to provide all focus on the subject of your shot by putting them in the center. 

On the other hand, spherical lenses provide a sharper image that puts the entire shot into focus without any distortion.


So How Much Will This Cost Me?: The Price Difference 

It should be no surprise that anamorphic lenses cost a whole lot more than spherical lenses. This is due to several reasons, but primarily because of how few focal lengths these lenses have. When spherical lenses have eighteen different focal lengths, anamorphic only has three. This makes the anamorphic lens much more valuable and in demand. This limitation in focal length also makes it harder to light an image and block your image. Anamorphic lenses are usually used with bigger budgets, whereas spherical lenses are usually used for independent projects that have a lower budget or cost. 


At CFF Media, we offer premium video content designed to help you go further. CFF Media is directed by a team of production professionals, who create stunning, tailor-made video content with creative concept designs that relay your company's values and generate results. Collectively, our team will provide a comprehensive plan, innovative design, and exceptional delivery to any project. The mission of CFF Media is to communicate your company’s values through stunning visuals and creative design. We strive to tailor each project to best embody each company’s media vision. Contact us today to get started on your next project.


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