Grahame N's Web Pages
from Grahame L. Newnham B.Sc.
THE WIDESCREEN STORY
Images seem to have arrived in various shapes - originally this was in the form of drawings and paintings, but by the beginning of the last century (1900 onwards), photographically produced moving pictures had arrived in the entertainment arena. Picture or screen shape generally seems to have settled at a ratio of around 4:3 or 1.37:1 - that is the image is say 4 foot wide by 3 foot high. An understanding of these ratios is important once we try to comprehend widescreen formats.
I should say that there are many books on the subject of widescreen film systems which will be useful if you have a general interest in the subject. It seems there were attempts at achieving a very wide picture even in the early days of moving pictures, and I think it was a Frenchman Henri Chrétien who invented a sort of distortion lens if you like, that could 'squeeze' a standard image into a compressed image (horizontally) in the standard film frame which on projection could then be used to 'unsqueeze' the photographic image on the film, achieving the widescreen effect.
In the early 1950s, film companies were desperately trying to find gimmicks to attract customers away from their newly purchased television sets and back to the cinema seats. It was Twentieth Century Fox in the USA that exploited Henri Chrétien's widescreen invention and marketed this new gimmick as CinemaScope. By 1953 the first CinemaScope feature film The Robe had been released to cinemas around the world.
Well some cinemas at least! In the UK, major distributors like J. Arthur Rank were not keen to introduce a system which required new cinema screens and special lenses on the projectors. So the new format was offered to private cinemas - I remember that in Portsmouth, it was the Troxy in Fratton Road, not far from Fratton Railway Station, (now a discount shoe warehouse!), that opened with this new film and format. There were queues round the block, and the film ran for weeks. Naturally Rank and the other 'biggies' quickly paid up and did their conversions - CinemaScope had arrived.
So as soon as the big screen arrived, the smaller fry followed suit. In the UK, it was Ross who produced the Expandascope lens for the showing of CinemaScope prints. This was available for use on 16mm projectors, so that soon widescreen could be exhibited in smaller halls. These lenses are rather chunky, so could hardly be used on a cine camera for amateur filming. Incidentally, expanding a cinema picture to twice the normal width by a 'distorting' lens means light loss, some because of the picture width, but also caused by the anamorphic lens itself.
Ross Expandascope CinemaScope lens
Ross Expandascope CinemaScope lens again - side view
The CinemaScope projected image ends up twice as wide as a normal picture - hence lenses are quoted as 2 x, but the picture ratio is actually 2.39:1. So a cinema screen that was 30 foot wide, would have to open out to 60 foot to screen a CinemaScope print. Naturally there were other patented widescreen cinema formats like Superscope, Techniscope, Metroscope, Camerascope and VistaVision to name just a few. Most ended up with prints that would fit existing cinema equipment, later widescreen systems needed different lenses or even upgraded equipment, but I recommend a little extra reading elsewhere! The Amateur Cine World magazine has some interesting articles and widescreen lens reviews in the December 1956 edition.
Almost at once, in the mid. 1950s an amateur widescreen interest was supplied by lens adaptors. These lenses for amateur filming would be adaptors that were used for filming fitted on the cine camera lens; then after film processing, the same adaptor lens would be used on the projector lens. Manufacturers tended to just go for a 50% increase in the picture width, meaning that a 40 inch wide picture would become 60 inch using a widescreen adaptor lens. This means the lens is a 1.5 x ratio giving a screen picture ratio of 2:1. So really these widescreen adaptor lenses, whilst more compact and lighter in weight, are really no use for projecting commercial CinemaScope films.
THE DELRAMA WIDESCREEN LENS ATTACHMENT
This device was made by a Dutch company based in Old Delft. Holland. The one for amateur filming, based on prisms, seems to have been advertised in the UK in the early / mid. 1950s. Initially there were versions with adaptors for popular 8mm and 16mm amateur cine cameras. Soon it was also available for ninefivers. The quoted 'squeeze' ratio for the amateur Delrama lenses was 1.5 x meaning these were not really useful for showing commercial Cinemascope films which have a 'squeeze' ratio of 2 x.
Advert in the Amateur Cine World magazine dated Aug1956
Incidentally a similar Delrama lens systerm was later used in the commercial cinema in the Technirama process - but obviously somewhat larger and more complicated!
Delrama widescreen lens attachment for amateur film making
Amateur 8/16mm Delrama review - Amateur Cine World Dec1956
In the USA, the Delrama widescreen lens attachment was marketed as the Vistascope - see the photo below:-
The Delrama (made in Old Delft, Holland) sold as Vistascope in the USA
Going forward to the 1960s, the late keen 9.5mm cine dealer Larry Pearce (trading as L.G.P. (Cine), began offering these lenses with adaptors for 9.5mm cine cameras with prices around £10!
Advert in the Group 9.5 Review magazine dated Nov1966
Currently I don't have one of these lenses in my collection, they were a bit heavy and chunky to attach easily to 9.5mm cine cameras (or 8mm ones either!).
THE ELGEET WIDESCREEN LENS ATTACHMENT
We read on the internet that 'Elgeet' was founded in 1946, at Rochester, USA, by David Goldstein. Initial lens products were for a government navigation aid, hence a brand name of Navitar was adopted for some of the earlier camera lenses which seem to have become collectable in the USA these days.
Elgeet widescreen adaptor lens - probably 8/9.5mm version
The 'Elgeet' widescreen adaptor lens fits into the aspherical adaptor lens category. Not yet found a UK advert to date this lens, but I guess from the mid.1950s. I think there were two models marketed - one intended for 8mm and the other (larger), for 16mm cameras. This neat 8mm version was also supplied for 9.5mm cine cameras I guess. The lens itself has a 19mm diameter threaded end, and could be supplied with the correct mount to fit individual cine cameras. The lens I have is marked - Elgeet Wide-Screen Cinematar, - is quite lightweight and neat. - easy to fit on smaller cine cameras and can probably be fitted, using an adaptor or stand, onto the average smaller cine projector.
Another 'Elgeet' widescreen adaptor lens. This one is fitted with a 'push-on' adaptor
The ideal feature of the 19mm diameter thread is that it immediately screws into the normal 9.5mm Pathé 'H' mount lenses; like those on the Pathé National 11 or the Pathéscope 'H' and "Prince". The photo below shows this neat set up. Naturally I hope to try this out (if my tiny stock of outdated Fuji Provia will still process OK!). (gln - 11Feb2016)
An 'Elgeet' widescreen adaptor lens fitted to the 9.5mm Pathéscope 'Prince' cine camera
PATHÉ / PATHÉSCOPE 9.5MM DUPLEX WIDESCREEN
So just in the mid. 1950s, the 9.5mm film gauge was losing ground to Kodak's 8mm double-run format and in France, Pathé decide to try 9.5mm 'double -run' widescreen.... ????? The word goes that at a boozy lunch in Paris (Pathé and Kodak film coating divisions were merged in France as Kodak-Pathé - (still are) ), when a Kodak rep. suggested 9.5mm 'double-run' ...... Well everyone knows what company directors get up to after a few bevys.
Pathé in France introduced a 'double-run' 9.5mm format. With 9.5mm film exposed sideways (OK twin perforations), then after the film is turned round in the camera for the second run. After processing, the original 9.5mm film is slit to make 50 foot of 9.5mm monoplex - (well 4.75mm wide film to run in a projector sideways). The product 9.5mm (4.75mm), widescreen, with no need for special lenses.
9.5mm Duplex sdvert in th Amateur Cine World magazine dated September 1956
Needless to say - an utter failure - the new camera was nice - sold well as normal 9.5mm and models also for 8mm and 16mm, but this fiasco was the nail in the coffin for Pathéscope in the UK. See my equipment lists for more details. The format really didn't give a decent widescreen image either.
THE HILOSCOPE WIDESCREEN LENS ATTACHMENT
Another make of anamorphic widescrren adaptor lens suddenly occured to me - the 'Hiloscope', which again I think was popular in the UK sometime in the 1950s. I can't recall seeing one in the flesh, but I believe these were discussed at some time either by the 'Centre Sprocket' columist in the Amateur Cine World magazine or in the Pathéscope house magazine. In fact I believe at one time Pathéscope actually distributed these lenses in the UK. The Hiloscope was made in the UK by W. Watson and Sons Ltd. trading from High Holborn, London and Bells Hill, High Barnet; who were optical goods manufacturers, including quite decent microscopes.
I found an advert for the Hiloscope after a quick 'google' but maybe I'll eventually find a better example. Certainly a fairly neat lens, easier to use on a cine camera than some of the larger efforts; and there was a viewfinder, which saved guessing the picture size!
Hiloscope anamorphic adaptor lens with mount and viewfinder
Maybe someone can add a few more details, but I seem to remember these were just 1.5 x ratio - giving a 2:1 picture shape, not true CinemaScope.
Hiloscope anamorphic adaptor lens with mount and viewfinder on 8mm Bolex cinecamera
Amateur Cine world magazine advert - June 1958
(these worked fine on 9.5m cameras as well I recall)
THE HYPERGONAR WIDESCREEN LENS ATTACHMENT
Advert in French 'Cinéma Chez Soi' magazine - December 1957
The original inventor of the 'squeezed' photographic image was a French fellow by the name of Professor Henri Chrétien way back in the 1920s I think (do some quick googling to check this!). His company did produce one of the first squeeze lenses for the cinema and he was able to register the Cinemascope patent in France. In the 1950s when widescreen was all the rage for home movies for a while, a 'scope lens was produced by an offshoot of the Berthiot company.
Above we see the little neat version used for mostly 8mm cine cameras (there was one for the smaller Bolex 8mm cine cameras). I think it worked fine for 9.5mm cameras too. A larger version was available for 16mm and 9.5mm cameras with larger lenses - there is an advert below. It would be nice just to try the small version.
These Hypergonar lens adaptors are quoted as ' 2 x ' - hence really the full Cinemascope ratio of around 2.33:1 - i.e. the picture is twice as wide as it is high. A bit of light loss there then on amateur gear!
Again, for some reason, when these widescreen adaptor lenses have been reduced to 'bargain box' prices at European Film Fairs, I notice that with this American craze for widescreen, prices on ebay are up in the hundreds!
Advert in French 'Cinéma Chez Soi' magazine - February 1957
Ideal on a 9.5mm 'Prince' cinecamera - neat and lightweight - I teally must find one to try!
THE ZENASCOPE WIDESCREEN LENS ATTACHMENT
This example is on the French ebay site and priced at 599 Euros - wow!!
The interest in widescreen photography seemed to wane at the end of the 1950s, but later in the 1960s newer type lenses appeared on the market. I think 'squeeze' lenses were quite easy to grind, so there were profits to make if interest could be generated again.
The ZenaScope widescreen lens attachment - ratio 1.5 x
- supplied by our friend Mervyn Richards who kept 9.5mm going for some time!
The ZenaScope is believed to have been UK designed and manufactured. I certainly remember the Widescreen Centre (run by Tony Shapps) in London, supplying these lenses and one already fitted to the 9.5mm 'Prince' cinecamera - I myself have had an example on the shelf for many years - time perhaps to give it a try out! The ZenaScope was another of the standard 'squeeze' adaptor lenses, based on sphericically ground optics rather than prisms and mirrors like the Delrama. The ZenaScope lens is a 1.5 x ratio giving a screen picture ratio of 2:1. (Like 6 foot wide by 3 foot high).
The British made ZenaScope was supplied in a well designed mount fitted tio the 9.5mm Pathéscope 'Prince'
cine camera - the mount included a suitable viewfinder - fixed to the camera simply by the top rhs body screw.
Suppose I really must try my example, which has sat on the shelf for so many years!!
There's details in the UK 9.5mm club magazine "The 9.5 Review" dated January 1969 in the Tony Shapps "Widescreen" page - "The ZenaScope works on the same principle as the majority of widescreen lenses that are constructed from cylindrically-ground elements, in that it compresses an extra amount of view on to the existing frame area, and then opens this up again when you project. The ZenaScope is a two element anamorphic that transmits virtually all the light - a great advantage with widescreen, of course. It is also of generous proportions, which in turn lends itself for use on the majority of 8mm zoom lens cameras, and 9.5mm cameras. As it is of fixed focus construction, you are naturally limited to how close you can approach your subject without using supplementary lenses, but in good light this is no disadvantage."
"To get the best out of the ZenaScope it is essential that you refocus it to your usual projection throw; this is a point that I intend to take up with the manufacturers, because they do not mention this at all, in fact they do not supply instructions as such. I feel that this is a most important point, and buyers should know that this lens will give tthem jolly good results provided they know it is fixed focus."
"Having said all this, I can tell you that I get some good results with it and had great fun playing about fitting it on to a great variety of cameras. Fortunately I have one of those very handy Uni-mount universal mounting brackets (£6-6s.) and this made it easy to change cameras. I found that, on the whole, the lens performed better with the special lens hood (£2-12s.6d extra) than without it. I suppose I should have expected this, but for many years I have not bothered to use a hood and got away with it. This is obviously not possible with the ZenaScope as it has a very exposed front element."
"The actual lens itself sells for £16-10s. plus 7s 6d post and packing - and how they produce it for the price these days I'll never know. It is British throughout, in fact it is the only British made anamorphic lens as far as I know." - Interesting, but a bit of 'waffle' - then his Widescreen Centre were selling the thing!
ISCO WIDESCREEN LENS ATTACHMENTS
Don't currently have much information about Isco products - think there were a few different widescreen lens adaptors supplied by this German company. In the UK the Widescreen Centre generally advertised their products - usually for 8mm cine cameras.
Think this Iscorama set with Centascope widescreen lens was sold by the Widescreen Centre in the UK
The outfit shown above would originally come with a cine camera adaptor, the stand shown is used with the cine projector. The adaptor lens was marked 'Centascope' - a name used by the Widescreen Centre I believe. Adaptor lens ratio was 1.5, giving a picture format of 2:1 - not true Cinemascope.
THE PALAMORPHOT WIDESCREEN LENS ATTACHMENT
Advert in the 1968 Angus Tilston 'Guide to 9.5mm Services & Equipment'
Thanks to the guide booklet mentioned above, we read that the Palamorphot attachment was British made, giving a widescreen format of 2:1 (squeeze ratio 1.5 x) and was quite neat at just 3 inches length and weighed-in at 10.5 ounces. At the time (1968) the 9.5mm version (and probably 8mm) sold for £12 - 10sh. As with most other widescreen adaptors, it could be used on both the cine camera and the projector.
In "The 9.5 Review" for December 1967, the Palamorphot anamorphic lens adaptor was offered to Group 9.5 members at a special price of £11, supplied by Norman Hallett, with a Uni-Mount lens fitting being supplied by Peter Stent Photo-Cine. These were both widescreen specialist dealers at the time.
The Palamorphot anamorphic adaptor lens fitted to a 'Prince' cinecamera
with the Uni-Mount lens fitting - 'The 9.5 Review' September 1967
Having eventually found the Group 9.5 magazine "The 9.5 Review' for September 1967, we learn that this anamorphic lens had just been introduced.
THE KOWA - PROMINA WIDESCREEN LENS ATTACHMENT
Because the Kowa widescrren lens is mentioned in the advert above, I thought I should include it in this page. This is a 'true' Cinemascope lens giving the correct ratio of 2 x, or a screen image of 2.66:1. Quite a chunky lens with a focussing adjustment - really just intended to fit onto the cine projector (normally 16mm) for the showing of widescreen Cinemascope feature films. Normally one sets the focussing ring for the lens to screen distance, then focus the picture using the actual projector lens.
Kowa-Promina Anamorphic lens for 16mm machines
Normally if one was to use this for cine filming one would need a decent clamp or stand to hold this lens adaoptor in place. I believe there were gadgets to fit on a tripod to hold the cine camera and the widescreen adaptor lens.
THE PROSKAR WIDESCREEN LENS ATTACHMENT
Another proper 2 x ratio (2.66:1 picture size) widescreen anamorphic adaptor lens designed for use on 16mm projectors when showing Cinemascope prints. In fact I think usually it is called 'Proskar-16'. However as a number of ninefivers were using this lens adaptor for filming I must include it here. Another well made (in Japan, I guess) lens with focussing adjustment. There were adaptors to fit this lens to suitable cine cameras, but it is rather heavy and bulky to film hand-held with it.
Proskar anamorphic adaptor lens
Like other older anamorphic lenses, there seems to be a craze (especially in the (USA) for these lenses these days. Prices have risen from just a few pounds to figures of up to £500 or so!! But I guess, digital cameras have encouraged the richer young enthusiasts to find 'retro goodies' to play with, leaving us oldies gasping at the prices these lens adaptors fetch on ebay today!
Page from the UK 9.5mm club magazine "The 9.5 Review" dated June 1967
THE SANKOR WIDESCREEN LENS ATTACHMENT
Yet another proper 2 x ratio (2.66:1 picture size) widescreen anamorphic adaptor lens designed for use on 16mm projectors when showing Cinemascope prints. In fact I myself use this lens on my 9.5mm and 16mm Elf / Eiki sound projectors. A full range of Sankor normal projection lenses are generally supplied with the Elf / Eiki machines so I suppose the same maker supplied this widescrren adaptor lens. A quality lens made in Japan by a company called 'Nissin' - but not quite the same as the car maker I guess!
Sankor anamorphic widescreen adaptor lens
As can be seen from the photo, the Sankor widescreen adaptor lens is threaded at the end (41mm diam.) to allow fitting to cine camera adaptor mounts. Again this lens has full focussing adjustment. Somewhat heavy for use on a cine camera though and the full Cinemascope format.
The Sankor adaptor lens neatly fitted on one of my 9.5mm Elf conversions
the Elf / Eiki mount swings down out of the way for normal projection
I use the Sankor anamorphic lens adaptor on my 16mm and 9.5mm Elf /Eiki machines - it was the standard offered for these projectors and is so easy to use in the standard Elf / Eiki flip down mount. Don't forget, fit the lens with the black line exactly at the top if you want to avoid a crooked picture on your screen! Naturally I normally find it in use with 16mm 'scope feature films, but sometimes use it on my 9.5mm machines. Why you ask? Yes there is a 9.5mm genuine 'scope widescreen printed film release - the colour sound trailer for the 1997 blockbuster version of "Titanic"!! Thanks to help from the late Derek Symonds, boss of Derann Films, I myself issued a superb 9.5mm colour print of this trailer with magnetic sound track. Sadly no more than ten copies were produced as print stock changed to polyester about the same time, and my ex-Walton perforator doesn't like polyester stock. (For details check out the Presto Films 9.5mm printed film lists, on my 9.5mm printed film catalogues section).
Probably the only ever 9.5mm cinemascope printed film ever produced!
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Created 08Feb2016 .......... Last updated: 10 February 2017 ...........
95widescreen.htm ............ ©MMXV1 Grahame Newnham's Web Pages
21Feb2016 - Hiloscope anamorphic adaptor lens added / 21Mar2016 - Hypergonar 'scope adaptor lens added
23Apr2016 - Hiloscope on Bolex camera photo added / 10Feb2017 - ACW Hiloscope advert added