Who Wants a Wonderscope?

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SKIN - A Wonderscope and 5D3 Raw Short Film

Some of you may be familiar with my re-housed Isco 36 that I dubbed the “Wonderscope” from my blog or Andrew Reid’s EOSHD. I have been working on a new way of rehousing the lens that would check off all the boxes on your anamoprhic wish list (an even better close focus and shorter focus throw). Read below to learn more and email me to get involved with my group buy.

Like most of us I have a soft spot for shooting anamorphic. It’s hard to resist the crazy flares, the magical depth of field and how easily the right anamorphic lens can add an organic feel to any digital camera.

A few years ago I started I started buying Isco 36 1.5x anamorphic adaptors. I had seen some great footage online. The Iscos were special because they were the only ones in existence that you could focus without simultaneously focusing your taking lens (the lens your anamorphic attachment screws onto).They also seemed to be the sharpest of the screw on vintage anamorphic adaptors.

These two features made them very expensive to collect but worth the price of admission. Another nice feature is that this lens does a 1.5x squeeze (as opposed to the traditional 2x of most anamorphics). This means that when using the Isco on a 16:9 sensor you get a final image that is 2:66:1 which is much closer to the traditional 2:35:1 of cine anamorphics on film.

To learn more about the advantages and great features of the Iscos then you should take the time to read Andrew Reid’s incredibly detailed ANAMROPHIC GUIDE

If you’ve ever used true cine Anamorphic lenses (Hawk, Panavision, Technovision and even the Zeiss Master Anamorphic Lenses) you will notice that they are not only huge but very very heavy. The Iscos became more and more attractive to me because they are the size of a baseball and with the right taking lens aren’t any bigger than a DSLR zoom lens. That meant I could use the Iscos in intimate situations (like cars or stealing locations) in a way that I can’t with traditional anamorphic lenses.

The only flaw I found with my Iscos was the close focus. Sadly you could only focus down to 6’ without a diopter (most cine anamorphics are closer to 3’ except the scorpions which go all the way down to 1’). This was great for some shooters but for me, who does a lot of self focused handheld work, this is a huge fault. This began my quest to make the Iscos into the ultimate small camera.

After a lot of research online I discovered that Van Diemen had re-housed a set of Iscos for another client and sent one of my Isco’s to be modified. Their rehousing did some great things like getting the close focus down to 3’10” and making the lens cinema friendly (like gearing it to be able to put a follow focus on). Amazingly the rehousing didn’t make the lens significantly bigger or heavier and allowed me to put it on the taking lens without any special adaptors.

I was very happy with this rehousing but I still desired things to be better. On steadicam with diopters the adaptor was a huge success on Shal Ngo and my 5D3 Raw shot SKIN but it still wasn’t perfect for the handheld work I wanted it for. Adding the extra three feet of close focus it also increased the focus throw of the lens to an unruly amount of rotations. Again, not a huge problem on a tripod but not great for hand held or quick rack focuses.

I also desired a little more close focus ability. Like I mentioned above, most cine anamorphic lenses have a close focus closer to 3’. I figured if I could even get the lens to 3’6” then it would be a true contender.

Over the past few months I have been working with Van Diemen to come up with a new re-housing for the Iscos and we are finally ready to make it happen. Our new version will have all the advantages of the current Wonderscope (cine re-housing, focus gearing, 72mm front threads for diopters and easy/safe attachment to taking lenses) but with two important improvements:

--A new focus movement that will make the entire focus range of the lens 150 degrees (same as most professional ENG lenses)

--A new even closer close focus of 3’6” (hopefully better but this is a great goal to begin with)

What is even better is that they are able to make these improvements without adding any considerable weight and size.

Engineering is about to begin so I’m writing this now to offer it up to anyone who is interested. I’m trying to get some more people involved on this first batch to drive the cost down for all of us.

Currently, with development, the re-housing is coming in around £2000.00. The more people we get, the lower I can get this price for all of us. If you have an Isco 36 at home then this is going to be one very special and professionally usable anamorphic solution.

For the first time we will be able to use this small and rare anamorphic attachment to shoot our projects in ways that are impossible with traditional cinema anamorphics. You’ll be able to attach it to any taking lens for different looks/levels of sharpness, squeeze into tight situations a Panavision lens could never dream of and do quick handheld rack focusing that has never been possible in the history of anamorphic lenses.

If you are serious about getting your Isco rehoused then please shoot me an email at andrew@andrewwonder.com. I’m going to be adding onto this order for the next week (they have to order the parts with their fall manufacture and I don’t want to miss out) so email me as soon as you can. Once I know who is serious then we can figure out final price and begin shipping our lenses in for re-housing.

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