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Do You Prefer an Anamorphic Lens or Lens Memories?

As I explain in today's "Ask Home Theater" blog, there are two ways to project a 2.35:1 movie onto a 2.35:1 screen without black letterbox bars. One way is to place an anamorphic lens in front of the projector's primary lens to stretch the image horizontally and use electronic processing to upscale the image vertically. The other way is to use a projector with motorized zoom, focus, and lens shift and several less memories to store and recall the settings for different aspect ratios. As with most things in life, each approach has its pros and cons.

If you have a 2.35:1 projection system—or you only dream about having one—which approach do you prefer? An anamorphic lens with its increased brightness and vertical resolution but potential scaling artifacts and optical distortion, or lens memories that avoid these problems at the expense of lower brightness and vertical resolution? Or are you happy with a 16:9 screen and black letterbox bars framing movies?

Vote to see the results and leave a comment about your choice.

Do You Prefer an Anamorphic Lens or Lens Memories?

chrisheinonen's picture

I have not used a lens, but I've finished up using the JVC X30 and am currently using the Sony VPL-95 on a 2.40 screen, so I can comment on how they work in practice.

- You lose around 30-35% of light going from 1.78 to 2.35. This might mean you will have to run on high power more often, and will go through bulbs faster, but you can buy a lot of bulbs for the price of a lens.
- Sometimes the memory isn't perfect. It can wind up a few pixels up or down of the target, or slightly off center. Zoom is usually perfect, and focus is good, but lens shift can be slightly imperfect.
- Memories take time to bring up, usually 20-30 seconds I can find. I have no idea how long a lens takes.
- With the memories, you learn to hate those IMAX hybrid films, like Tron Legacy or The Dark Knight due to the light overspill on the open frame scenes. The memories are too slow to switch back and forth.
- Finally, you really do want to treat your walls with something to absorb light above and below the frame to make sure the light spill will be hidden. All projectors put out some extra light, the key is to make sure you don't see it and ruin the effect.

I really like the lens memories, as it is a very affordable way to get started with a wider screen, and you can always add on a lens later. I imagine the issues I've found will improve with future revisions. I also would like at least 5 memories as then you can program in what I find to be the most common formats: 2.40, 2.35, 2.20 (70mm), 1.85, and 1.78. The little issues with lens shift I can adjust in under 5-10 seconds after bringing up a memory and don't bother me too much.

SlowpokeByproduct's picture

The best argument I found against anamorphic lens or lens memories: The 2.35:1 screen, in most rooms, will cover the entire width of the wall anyway so you might as well get a 1.85:1 screen and maximize the use of the entire surface. (Remember that you probably need room for speakers on each side as well).

Once you reach the sides, why not try to reach the floor and ceiling? That way, the 2.35:1 movies will cover the exact same maximum area on both screen aspect ratios but the 1.85:1 movies will be bigger… and no rescaling issues will be introduces.

I would much rather spend my money on a masking system than an anamorphic lens. Paying as much for a lens as the projector is a ridiculous idea to me since you sure don’t get twice the enjoyment or quality. Work less overtime and watch more movies instead, now there’s a plan.

glennQNYC's picture

Lens or zoom... In 2012 if you don't put in a 'scope' projection system in dedicated theater, you just 'shot a bogey.' If the room has a movie server and you put in a 16:9 system you 'shot a triple bogey.'
I'll take mine with a lens.

Marcus.S's picture

Everyone has their own ways of doing things and their own preferences but sometimes they may need to be convinced one way or the other. There is where articles like this come in handy.

clarkdeu's picture

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