The Moment Anamorphic Lens & Me

Hello again, yet another iPhone-related post from me. Yay? I don’t know how I feel about it either. Let’s begin.

First let me just say that I went with the Moment anamorphic lens largely because I watch their YouTube videos and really like them. They are warm, they are funny and they are informative. I enjoy the filmmakers and their iced latte obsession and I don’t care who knows it.

Originally I was intrigued by the Moondog anamorphic lens, thanks to films like Tangerine and High Flying Bird, and I would have bought that if they had any kind of web presence and related products (also I am attempting to future-proof my purchase since my phone is old and it was unclear how best to do that with Moondog). Moment makes great videos, has a funny Twitter account and they have a nice website that sells most of the related gear and gizmos you need to shoot with their products.

I’m trying to say – I wanted to be seduced and Moment was ready.

I’ve written about shooting on an iPhone a lot and because of that deciding to buy this lens and try it out felt/feels weird. I’m presently on day seven and I’ve been shooting all kind of things and the results are absolutely mixed. I’ve taken some pictures I really like –

IMG_2556-2.jpgIMG_2554-2.jpg

Despite goofing and making these JPEGs instead of TIFF files (it’s not biggie but I am certainly seeing how little I can do with these images in Lightroom compared to how I normally shoot) I like the results.

I bought the anamorphic lens for shooting video so that, mostly, is what I have been testing. Again the results have been fairly mixed. One of the main reasons for this, which I did not think about (despite watching the wonderful videos that Moment makes about their products) is what I actually need to shoot with this lens.

Let’s break that down.

  1. A Moment case. The case is needed because this is how the lens attaches to the phone. I bought one. They offer different versions and I went with the cheaper case since I was trying to keep the cost down. That being said, if I intended on shooting only with my phone I absolutely would consider their more expensive cases since they have a built in battery and the life of my iPhone 7+ is quite terrible. Case cost – $39.99
  2. The lens itself – $149.99.
  3. You need an app to shoot video with. I already own Filmic Pro and the Moment Pro Camera app (so I am not including the cost of these here) it’s $15 for the Filmic Pro cinematographer kit or $6 (I think, I already own it and don’t see the total cost for upgrading) for the Moment app.

This is where I stopped spending and, ignoring tax, I spent $190 for a case and lens to shoot on my iPhone. To my mind, this is a bit much but it is an anamorphic lens and as we all know they do not come cheap (except for phones, which is how we ended up in this mess in the first place).

Okay so with these three items I can shoot anamorphic footage on my phone. Except…when are we shooting? Where are we shooting? Why are we shooting?

Day one was basic tests inside my house to see if the footage really looked all that different. Given that the location was boring and the subject matter even more so I am going to spare you samples of this…mostly.

Day One Tests - Playroom Figures.jpgDay One Tests - Dining Room Light.jpg

What did not become apparent to me until day two was that shooting outside during the day means you “need” a neutral density filter. I put need in quotes because you can get away without it but as anyone shooting video knows ND filters are quite wonderful and allow you to capture drastically better images shooting in daylight. Somehow I didn’t think of this beforehand.

So, day two largely consisted of me running around trying to be clever shooting in downtown Worcester. Now that Filmic Pro has a decent log setting  I definitely find my way of shooting (ie. not being clever and pushing whatever is in my hand far beyond its limits) is less awful. I think I came away with some decent shots despite not having an ND filter. That being said I certainly would have had an easier time exposing my images and getting everything looking better had I been using one.

examle-of-when-nd-would-be-good-e1563560561623.jpg
ND would have saved my bacon here

So if I keep using this setup I need to get a ND filter onto the camera. Looking at the Moment website I see they have this covered, it’s a two-part purchase.

  1. Filter Mount – $39.99
  2. ND filter 0.9 – $85.99

(I would recommend looking on B&H at the Tiffen ND Filter sets they sell. Those sets have three filters of varying strengths and the total cost is less than this one lens on the Moment site.)

So I’ve spent $190 and now if I want to properly shoot outside in the sunlight I need to spend another $126. Not counting the money I previously spent on apps this would bring me to $316.

But lets address the elephant in the room – sound. Everything I have shot so far has essentially been b-roll footage and I’ve been using the built-in microphone to record my sound. This is not going to cut it if I want to just use my phone to make videos with my shiny new lens.

So what do I use?

The Moment people use a Shure mic in their videos and my searches make me think it is the MV88. This is the one area that their website does not have gear for and it is disappointing because I’d like to be sure that I am looking at the right thing. The MV88 sells for $150 on B&H and honestly I know nothing about it. If I have to buy a mic I’ll go with one I’ve heard of from a brand I use, the Rode VideoMic Me-L (or perhaps the new Rode Wireless Go). It sells for $79.

rode_videomic_me_l_directional_microphone_for_iphone_1529930169_1419053.jpg

That puts me at $395.

Okay, moving on to day three. One of the big selling points for using an anamorphic lens is that it looks more “cinematic”. I really enjoy having more horizontal space when I shoot, largely because I mostly shoot landscapes or people and landscapes. I thought I was going to do that on day three but the weather intervened and instead I found myself shooting nighttime footage.

Nighttime Exterior - Bar.jpg

If I’m honest I was trying to see how much this lens would flare and if I could tolerate it. I think I may be one of the few people who does not like the lens flares that come from shooting with anamorphic lenses. Not just the more recent over-the-top stuff but in general I dislike the flares. They pull me out of what I am watching.

Nighttime Exterior - ATM.jpgAnyway I drove around and found a place to test the lens at night. A lot of cars and street lights were present and I shot until my little heart was content. My conclusion? Shooting on an iPhone at night still stinks. I haven’t done it since getting my A7S and after messing about with it I cannot think of a reason why I would again. Did the lens flare? Yes, although not as much as I thought it would. Do I like the flares? Not one bit.

A very basic point about shooting on an iPhone that I don’t feel anyone ever brings up – you cannot control the aperture. I forget this. I had forgotten this. As I have spent seven days now shooting only with my phone (switching between two different apps) what I have remembered is that you cannot control the aperture and the problems this poses.

In talking about ND filters for a camera this is important. The main ways I control how much light hits the sensor are the aperture, the ISO setting and shutter speed. To lose one of the three methods is a big deal. Couple that with Filmic Pro actively fighting me regarding the shutter speed so that often I am not shooting a 1/48th of a second when my frame rate is 24 and I find myself a frustrated filmmaker (I feel that altering the shutter speed is a final measure for dealing with light, I’d rather do anything else).

Shooting at night this lack of control becomes even more obvious given that boosting the ISO on an iPhone introduces a lot of noise. My Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera (not 4k, the original model) gets noisy at 800 iso. I can usually clean that up to create a usable image but 800 is the limit. The iPhone seems to introduce noise around 200 ISO. Which is not to say you can’t get good footage at night with an iPhone, again my point is: why would I choose this over my other cameras?

All of this is to say that shooting at night with available light does not yield positive results for me. But I did it and then I used Neat video and my other tools in post and tried to clean it up. Some came out okay.

My final point concerns movement. I need to test this further (as well as more with people) but it appears that there is a good deal of wobble to the camera with this lens attached. Typically when I shoot with Filmic Pro I can zoom around and chase my kids and the image is decent. Not perfect but certainly not that bizarre jello effect you get with something like the A7S. With the A7S it’s mostly the rolling shutter effect that occurs and makes the image less than stellar. I have been noticing that shooting with the anamorphic lens, even small movements I make can cause the jello wobble (which is not rolling shutter) to appear.

I’ve spent some time turning off the in-camera stabilization and recreating the same camera movements to see what, if any effect that will have. The wobble does seem to be reduced so apparently there is some issue relating to the lens and in-camera stabilization. That being said the problem is certainly the most severe when I touch the phone screen to start/stop recording. That is easy enough to work around.

I’ve briefly looked into various gimbals and stabilizers for shooting and I am at an absolute loss. First, there are many. There are many reviews for each device. I’ve briefly used a Moza Air (returned it) and the DJI Osmo (returned it) so I am skeptical as to whether I would find something that I would like. The Movi Cinema Robot seems like the least fussy, usable option…but it sells for $300. The total for all of the accessories so far is $395. So getting this gimbal (that I’ve never used and may not like using and may not need) would put us at $695. To shoot with an iPhone.

movi-smartphone-cinema-robot2.png

This is the end of my post. I’ve been shooting a lot of video and some pictures since the anamorphic lens arrived. I’ve liked a lot of the footage I’ve shot (the Old Stone Church in West Boylston in particular came out well). In part this has been because I’ve been trying to work around not having an ND filter and ended up shooting during magic hour…which is something I never do. So, partly my good results have come from not being an utter moron when shooting and following conventional wisdom.

old-stone-church-1-e1563560526697.jpg

This is an interesting situation for me to be in because I do not need this lens. I do like it but do I really want to spend another $500 on this system? Wouldn’t it make more sense to invest $695 toward gear for my A7S and BMPCC? What I am concluding this post with is a non-answer, answer. If you start by asking the wrong questions it doesn’t matter what answers you get. Unless you know what you want to shoot and why, how are you going to conclude if you need a piece of gear?

Which is me chastising myself for not having this figured out at this stage. The lens clearly produces interesting results and I love the increased room shooting anamorphic affords. I’ve only captured my children with this lens so far which is why I haven’t included footage with people. I like what I’ve seen. So…

One thing is for certain, I nailed this shot below and because of that I will forever be grateful to the good people at Moment. I got the bird. Pigeon.jpg

 

 

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