DVD, surround sound, HDTV, Blu-ray and streaming media have kept the home theater category growing for years.
The final element has been added with anamorphic lens systems and companion 2.40:1 screens.
CinemaScope was an expensive upgrade option that few could afford a few years ago when it was introduced. Since that time, however, Panamorph has promoted its retrofittable, more affordable fixed lens and automated lens solutions, helping folks make the transition from 1.78:1 to CinemaScope. It’s also something that intrepid DIYers like those on the AVS Forum have been installing for a few years now, more commonly known as “Constant Image Height” projection—so you can watch super-wide movies on a projection system without unused black bar space on the top and bottom of the screen.
I recently installed Panamorph’s Anamorphic UH480 Lens. After unpacking the two small boxes, I assembled the lens and sled components, which basically amounted to securing the lens to the bracket via two thumbscrews. From there it was just a matter of plugging in the sled mechanism’s power supply and lining the lens up with my projector.
Over the course of a few months, I used it with my DreamVision Dream’E projector, as well as the Joe Kane Samsung SP-A900B and SIM2’s Mico 50.
Using the lens with each one of the projectors’ anamorphic vertical stretch processing modes along with a mismatched Screen Research 16:9 (1.78:1 traditional HDTV) screen and a 2.40 Stewart Filmscreen Firehawk G3, I found the image quality to be good to great.
The quality became better as I moved up the price ladder from my DreamVision to the flagship features of the Mico 50 mated with the Stewart screen.
What really caught my attention about having a CinemaScope solution in my house were the intangibles it brought. Having guests over and watching their reaction as the lens slides into place and the image expands while the black bars disappear is priceless. Having family and friends comment that my home theater is better than going to the movies fed my ego.
It also confirms the notion that home cinema buffs truly get this as an upgrade from the standard 16:9 screen when it comes to a more immersive movie-watching experience (to that note, read some of the comments by the AVSers who get sucked in to the Constant Image Height setup and refuse to watch films that aren’t in that aspect ratio anymore).
And if you are considering hiring a custom electronics pro to construct or outfit your own dedicated theater, he should be presenting anamorphic solutions like the UH480 in a demo room setting for you to gawk at. With an MSRP of about $7,000 for the lens and the sled kit, it’s not an inexpensive solution but it is a powerful one that your eyes won’t forget anytime soon.
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Bob is a dedicated audiophile who has been writing about A/V for Electronic House sister publication CE Pro since 2000.