XELMUS APOLLO VS. ATLAS ORION ANAMOPRHICSBy Bokeh Rentals | February 20th, 2022
Since their release in 2018, Atlas’ Orion series of anamorphic lenses have become remarkably popular among digital filmmakers. This six-lens package of primes includes a 32mm, 40mm, 50mm, 65mm, 80mm and 100mm lens.
Xelmus put itself on the map in 2019 by launching the Apollo series of full-frame anamorphics, also comprised of six focal lengths: the 40mm, 50mm, 60mm, 75mm, 100mm, and 135mm.
The Atlas Orion and Xelmus Apollo have retail prices of $14,000 and $12,000, which means they’re the rare class of lenses that can capture professional-grade images and remain somewhat accessible for modest budget productions, whether independent films, music videos, or commercial work.
These two lens series live in the price-tier that’s nearing state of the art, but still significantly less expensive than Hollywood-ready anamorphics like the Cooke FFs (~$36,000) or the Zeiss Master Anamorphics (~$43,000).
Therefore, these lens series rose to the top of the heap as cinematographers looked to satisfy the newest, most polished rendering of that coveted anamorphic-digital look.
XELMUS APOLLO – BETTER LARGE FORMAT COVERAGE
The most notable distinction between the Orions and Apollos lies in the recording formats. Although Atlas advertises Orion’s ability to shoot anamorphic full-frame, there is a critical limitation: The Orion can shoot Super 35 sized frames with its 31mm image circle size—but to shoot anything larger with edge-to-edge coverage, cinematographers will need to attach a 1.6x LF Extender. While this doesn’t necessarily compromise image quality, the need to purchase an accessory, not-to-mention depend on the extender shot-by-shot, could be a dealbreaker for filmmakers who prioritize large format shooting. Xelmus’ Apollo lenses, on the other hand, have image circle sizes ranging from 33-60mm, and are much more capable of shooting formats larger than S35.
The 1.6x LF extender turns an 80mm lens effectively into a 127mm
ATLAS ORION – BETTER UNIVERSAL T-STOP
Although the Apollo lenses have a larger image circle, the Orion lenses have more extensive aperture capabilities. The Orion lenses have a universal maximum T-stop of T2.0-T16, giving its anamorphic look incredible low light ability. Additionally, the more flexible the aperture is, the more control the user has over lens flares—an essential trademark of the anamorphic look. The Xelmus Apollo lenses, on the other hand, have maximum T-stops that range from T1.6 to T2.8. If you’re renting multiple lenses—as most users would be when using primes—this could make the Apollos trickier to implement. For instance, if you have a complex lighting setup for a scene that requires multiple focal lengths, the DoP needs to be sure that the aperture setting used is shared between lenses, or else changing lenses will require reconfiguring the lighting altogether. This could become a familiar headache for lower budget shoots that need as much natural light as possible and can’t afford lengthy set-ups between takes.
CONVENIENT MECHNICAL DESIGNS – BOTH LENSES
Although the differing apertures complicates swapping out Apollo lenses, both the Apollo and Orion lenses have similar enough lengths and weights; the former ranging from 4.52” to 17”, and the latter ranging from 6.7” to 10”. As far as weights, the Apollo ranges from 3.3lbs-4.29lbs, and the Orion from 4.7lbs-6.7lbs. Weights and lengths aren’t usually among the primary considerations for those renting gear, but when cinematographers are prepping their rigs and shotlists, a few pounds or inches could mean a world of difference in terms of scheduling and gear requirements.
The Atlas Orion Look
Whereas the Apollo stretches to cover large formats, the Atlas Orion is more focused on a consistent anamorphic visual style. As Atlas’ official site lays out, the Orion lenses embrace traditional anamorphic qualities, like “waterfall bokeh”, “streak flare”, and “pleasing barrel distortion”.
Even though the Atlas Orion Anamorphic lenses can’t shoot full-frame, they still have plenty of applications. Take, for example, this Ariana Grande music video with over half a billion Youtube views:
Although some setups in the video don’t take the Orions to their maximum capabilities—you can still recognize the lenses’ impressive potential. The anamorphic quality brings the expanded field of view to this music video, which allows more information to be packed into the frame, as a 50mm shot on an anamorphic lens has a wider field of view than 50mm spherical. The result is a more dynamic frame, which is perfect for music video and commercial projects, in which time is of the essence. The Orion lenses also create beautiful anamorphic flares, such as the vibrant sun flares present in the daytime exteriors. Atlas released a limited, “Silver Edition” of its Orion line in 2021. These lenses are built from the same mechanical design of the original Atlas set, but tweaked for more expressive, neutral-colored lens flare, and different falloff characteristics. The Xelmus Apollo Look
Interestingly, Xelmus designed its Apollo lenses to include Panavision’s patented anti-mump technology to limit frame breathing to the vertical axis. This means that when the focus is racked, the frame won’t widen in both dimensions. It’s a subtle change, but frame breathing is noticeable enough that, in the 1950s, leading Hollywood stars complained of their faces looking bloated when racking focus (appearing as though they had the mumps).
The Xelmus Apollos also have superior close focus when compared to both editions of the Orions. For instance, even the Apollo’s 135mm lens can capture crisp images from 20 inches away, whereas the Orion’s 100mm lens can only focus on an object 42 inches away.
The above Josiah Johnson music video showcases the Apollo’s anamorphic look, including everything from its chromatic aberration, close focus capabilities, and striking light flares. In comparison to the Orions, the Apollos aim to minimize barrel distortion on its wider lenses, as visible in the wide tracking shots. Atlas Orion Anamorphics or Xelmus Apollo Anamorphics?
Because these two lens packages have comparable price points, Individual users should have a list of priorities before visiting rental houses. If a cinematographer wants anamorphic in a larger format more than all else, then they’re better off with the Xelmus Apollo package. However, if S35 is more than enough, and the cinematographer in question is more attracted to a nuanced anamorphic style with vintage throwbacks, then the Atlas Orion series is most likely the answer.
DoPs should do their research beforehand and check out plenty of demo footage before deciding which lens packages’ look to embrace. Either way, both the Xelmus Apollo lenses and Atlas Orions are safe bets for capturing stunning anamorphic images in 2022.
Rent Xelmus Apollo Anamorphic FF lenses from Bokeh Rentals
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