Video Accessories Misc

Anamorphic Lenses and Projection Screens: Affordable?


Introduction to the Affordable Anamorphic System

When I finally took the plunge into a projection setup in my home theater, the hardest decision I had to make was what aspect ratio to get for my screen. Everything that came after that, from the screen material to the projector, was dependent on that decision. For most people it is simple and they go with a standard 1.78:1, or 16:9, ratio for their screen, as that is the HDTV standard. Years of going to CEDIA and seeing these setups with massive anamorphic screens where cinemascope films fill the whole screen had led me to go down that road. Most films that I watched seemed to be 2.35:1 or greater, and I didn't want the possibility of black bars to distract me.

All of the anamorphic setups at CEDIA are often incredibly expensive. They use automated masking screens from Stewart that can cost up to $50,000 alone, lenses from Panamorph and ISCO that also approach $10,000, and expensive projectors to drive those screens. None of this was close to falling inside my budget. Recently JVC and others had started to demo their projectors with lens memory on a Screen Innovations Black Diamond screen, which allowed them to fill the full 2.40:1 area of the screen automatically, but also hide the sides of the screen when watching 16:9 content. These worked well, but lens memory from the projectors can often be hard to setup, misalign, and requires a specific throw distance.

This year Panamorph announced their least expensive anamorphic lens, the CineVista. Now for $1,200 you can have an anamorphic lens for your system, and so the pieces for an affordable system had fallen into place. For this review I used a 122", 2.40 Black Diamond 1.4 screen, the Panamorph CineVista lens, and the Sony VPL-HW50ES projector that won our award for the Best Projector of 2012. Would I finally be able to assemble the anamorphic system I wanted, and keep both kidneys?


Screen Innovations Black Diamond 4K Screen

  • 2.40 Aspect Ratio
  • 1.4 Gain
  • 122" Diagonal
  • $3,699 MSRP

    Screen Innovations Solar HD 4K Screen

  • 2.40 Aspect Ratio
  • 1.3 Gain
  • 122" Diagonal
  • $2,349 MSRP

    Panamorph CineVista Anamorphic Lens

  • Dimensions: 5.4" L x 5" W x 3.9" H, 4.2 lbs.
  • $1,195 for Lens with Bracket
  • $1,494 for Lens with Mount
  • Sony VPL-HW50ES
  • $3,999
  • Secrets Review: Sony VPL-HW50ES Projector
  • SECRETS Tags: Sony, Projector, Anamorphic, System, Affordable, Video