This is a side by side comparison of a 50mm Panavision C-Series Anamorphic lens and a Hawk V-Plus 50mm Anamorphic.

With the C-series the image stretches vertically only, as the lens focusses, where as the Hawk changes the shape of the image horizontally as well as vertically. This is mainly due to the completely different designs of the two lenses. The C-series is essentially a spherical prime at the back end and an Anamorphic front element; between the two however is an Astigmatic correction lens that moves on a gear; this corrects the lateral breathing as the lens focusses.

The Hawk on the other hand is again essentially a spherical prime at the back, in-front of that is the Anamorphic element (in the middle of the lens), then infront of that is a diopter as the front element that moves back and forth to focus. So the Hawk focusses without any correction resulting in lateral and vertical breathing.  The other obvious difference in these two designs is the way the lenses flair.

With lens flair it should be first noted that Anamorphic lenses are often chosen for the way they flair, despite lens designers trying to minimise it as much as possible. Films such as Close Encounters, Alien more recently Transformers deliberately use anamorphic lens flairs as a cinematic style to great effect (but that’s a topic for another time).

The flairs in these films are caused by intense sources of light hitting the convex anamorphic element of the lens. Due to the fact that the C-series have the anamorphic element on the front of the lens it is exposed to alot more of the light source thereby creating a much bigger flair across most of the image. The Hawks on the other hand have the anamorphic element in the centre of the lens shaded from being hit by as much of the light source giving much less flair.

Conventional wisdom then would indicate the Hawks are better at dealing with flair; and this is true, but ironically, and maybe due to the films I have mentioned, anamorphic flairs have become very popular and DPs want their anamorphic lenses to flair as much as possible.

So both lenses are very good; personally I find the lateral breathing of the Hawks an issue but some people will not. As for flairs you either love them or hate them…. I love em!

Just to be fair ‘The Lives Of Others’ was shot on Hawk anamorphics, a film I think is beautifully shot.