Anamorphic tele on a budget, the SIRUI Venus 150mm T2.9 1.6x
If you are on the lookout for a budget anamorphic lens, you should definitely check out the SIRUI Venus 150mm T2.9 1.6x. Ok, ok, this is an incredibly long name; how about we call it the SIRUI 150mm x1.6 anamorphic from now on?
As the name suggests, this is an x1.6 anamorphic lens that SIRUI has recently started selling, and after playing with this lens for a bit, I am pretty impressed with what it can do, especially for the low price tag.
The case for anamorphic lenses
Since this is the first time I am reviewing an anamorphic lens, I wanted to take a few minutes and plead the case for using anamorphic lenses. If you are already familiar with the concept, hop over to the next section. If not, here is a short introduction to Anamorphic lenses.
At the base, anamorphic lenses squeeze a wide frame into a not-so-wide sensor. You can later de-squeeze the footage into a wide aspect ratio. This is very typical for movies, so footage taken with anamorphic lenses automatically looks more cinematic.
The SIRUI 150mm x1.6 anamorphic uses an x1.6 squeeze ratio. That means that the videos you capture with your 3:2 (1.5:1), or 16:9 (1.78:1) sensor will stretch to a ratio of 2.4:1 or 2.8:1. Instant cinematic. And everything looks cinematic at 2.8:1.
(SIRUI also sells an x1.25 adapter to get to a full x2 anamorphic ratio which MFT shooters will appreciate).
The SIRUI 150mm x1.6 anamorphic lens
The SIRUI 150mm x1.6 anamorphic is a beast of a lens. It is 180mm in length and weighs about 1.4 kilos. It has a filter thread of 82mm. This is a lot of lens, which makes sense because it packs a lot of glass – 16 elements in 11 groups. It is also considered a wide aperture for an anamorphic lens at T2.9.
All this glass produces an impressive image. And an even more impressive image when you consider the price tag of $1,199 (if you get in on the early bird, $1,499 after).
For a Sony FX3 shooter like me, this lens would get me from a 16:9 aspect ratio to a very cinematic 2.75:1. Of course, you can also get this aspect ratio with a regular (a.k.a spherical lens) by slapping two black bars on the top and bottom, but then you’d be throwing away about a third of your resolution into the black-bar abys. (or, you can drop the footage, and get the same results). This is why the SIRUI 150mm x1.6 anamorphic lens is so great. You get to eat your aspect ratio cake and keep your entire resolution too. You also get those incredibly cinematic halos, but more about that later.
The SIRUI 150mm x1.6 build
As with anything that I tested from Sirui (see the SIRUI Nightwaker review here), this lens is very well-built. It is made entirely of metal (which contributed to the weight). As a metal lens deserves, it has clear engraved markings for meters (white) and feet (red) on both left and right, as well as aperture markings on both sides.
To support all this glass and metal, SIRUI added a metal bracket at the bottom of the lens, where you can attach a tripod. This will remove the heavy lifting from your camera’s bayonet. (No Pun intended). Or, if you are mounting this on a rig, you can use some lens support.
The lens has two standard rings: focus and iris, with the iris ring being declicked (smooth). Both feature standard gears for follow-focus. One thing I did notice is that those rings have different tension to them. The focus ring is incredibly smooth with a 153 degrees rotation. The Aperture ring has about a quarter of a turn and is significantly more tensed. With the SmallRig MagicFiz, I was sometimes having issues getting a smooth turn. (I did get a pre-production lens, so hopefully, this is fixed in the real run).
There is one more slight irritation with the lens, and it’s the lens cap. For some reason, it is slightly curved, which means that when you place the lens on its wide side (i.e. the front), it is not 100% stable. This is easily fixed by replacing the lens cap, though.
SIRUI 150mm x1.6 anamorphic lens optics
Using the SIRUI 150mm x1.6 anamorphic was a real treat. While you can get a cinematic aspect ratio by cropping most of your image, getting those cinematic flares is a whole other thing.
As you’d expect from an anamorphic lens, the SIRUI 150mm x1.6 provides gorgeous flares when hit with the right light. And the right light can be a car, a flashlight, or a COB LED (the Colbor CL60 in this case).
The lens gives out a gorgeous Bokeh even at T2.9, and the long focal really brings the most out of the optics here. Sadly, there is a bit of breathing with the focus, which may or may not be an issue for you.
I did notice some weird behavior with some of the flares, like a duplication of the flare in certain angles. This is not a deal breaker for me, and I wonder if it can be better managed with a proper set of matte box or French flags.
The benefits of being a part of a set
The 150mm x1.6 anamorphic is an addition to an ever-growing set of x1.6 anamorphic full-frame lenses from SIRUI. So far, it has the following lenses: 35mm, 50mm, 75mm, 100mm, and the lens in this review, the 150mm.
You get all the benefits you get from a standard cine set: matching gears, the same filter thread, and so on. But here you are also getting similarity with your flares which give a consistent look to your footage.
In terms of available mount, you have a choice of RF, L, E, and Z. The different mounts have slightly different specs, so here is a table for reference.
I am going to talk price later, but SIRUI does offer a set of all five lenses in a hard case.
The SIRUI 150mm x1.6 anamorphic wants friends
Shooting with an anamorphic lens can be challenging if you don’t have the right friends. As I mentioned, the image is squeezed, so composing can be quite challenging. And even more so, if you plan to crop the frame for altering the aspect ratio in post.
The latest firmware for the Sony FX3 brought de-squeezing to the camera menu. Sadly, it only has x1.3 and x2. but x2. Another option is to use an external monitor, like the Atomos Ninja 5. Sadly, you are also limited to x1.5 or x1.8 here, but it’s close enough to compose, and you can add grids if you intend to crop the footage later.
If you do opt to use the Ninja to record the footage internally, be aware that the footage is saved in the sensor aspect ratio, and you would still need to de-squeeze in post.
That said, most editing suites don’t really have a built-in x1.6 de-squeezer, so here is a short video that explains how it’s done.
Price and availability
You can pre-order the SIRUI Venus 150mm T2.9 1.6x Full-Frame Anamorphic Lens right now from the SIRUI website for $1,199.00 USD, with the first batch already delivered.
If you want to get a more complete kit, those range from a trio (35mm, 75mm, 150mm) for $3,598.00 USD to a full set for $5,996.00 USD. For the x1.25 adapter, you’ll need to shell out about $550 more.
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Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.