Review: Ulanzi 1.33 and 1.55XT anamorphic lenses

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Many modern smartphone cameras now come with multiple lens options, which could lead you to think there is little point in attaching a third-party lens, although this duo of Ulanzi lenses may change your mind about that.

Image: Ulanzi
Image: Ulanzi

First off, what is an anamorphic lens? Essentially, an anamorphic lens ‘squeezes’ the image onto film or digital camera sensors, allowing for wider aspect ratios than would otherwise be possible with a traditional lens. The effect is quite dramatic - a lens like the Ulanzi 1.55XT tested here extends the horizontal field of view by 58%.

Images captured with an anamorphic lens also result in more cinematic images with shallower depth-of-field, while also creating an oval bokeh effect.

And while in recent times many anamorphic phone lens adaptors have come along, often these have been expensive options. By comparison, the reasonably priced Ulanzi anamorphic lenses tested here will set you back $53.95 USD ($80 AUD).

Captured with the standard iPhone 12 Mini lens.
Captured with the standard iPhone 12 Mini lens.
Captured with the Ulanzi 1.55 lens and edited with the Moment app.
Captured with the Ulanzi 1.55XT lens and edited with the Moment app.

The tech

These are simple “aviation quality” aluminium lenses with multi coated glass and a 17mm threaded adaptor that are attached to the main phone camera by either using the supplied clips or screw on adaptor, or preferably with a dedicated threaded phone case.

If used with a regular phone camera you will get a compressed image or video file. To “desqueeze” this footage you are best using apps such as Filmic Pro V7 or Pro Camera by Moment, and the latter also works with still images – as does the Filmic Firstlight app, although this is compatible with the 1.33 lens only.

Uchisar, Cappadocia, Turkey, captured with the Ulanzi 1.55XT and edited in Moment.

Alternatively, you can use the Desqueeze mobile app after capture, or use desktop editing software to desqueeze, with the aspect ratios being 2.81:1 with the 1.55XT and 2.4:1 for the 1.33X.

The lenses fit on any smartphone with the two included clips, and come with an adapter for attaching 52mm filters, a small bag, and a cleaning cloth.

Build quality

Build quality of both lenses is solid, and in long term use they have stood up well, although the 1.33X has become a little sloppy on the adjustment ring over time. I also managed to lose the lens cap, which has meant the lens coating has also become a little mottled over time, but that does not impact the image quality greatly.

Uchisar, Cappadocia, Turkey, captured with the Ulanzi 1.55XT and edited in Moment.

In use

Once you grasp the basics, such as making sure your lens is the right way up and that you pay attention to keeping your lines and perspective relatively straight, these are really fun and easy to use with their relevant camera apps.

It’s worth noting that if you do shoot with the Moment app that the app’s controls are overlaid with the image, which can be irritating on such a wide lens.

Image quality is surprisingly good, and it’s hard to notice any degradation. If you do like that sci fi-esque lens flare, you can create it by shooting directly towards a light source.

The results

Build quality & durability – 4/5

Build quality is a lot better than you would expect at this price point, although you will need to keep them covered to avoid coating scuffs when in your pocket – as with any lens.

Features – 4/5

These are simple lens adaptors that do one thing only, and they do it pretty well too.

Image quality – 4.5/5

There is no noticeable image degradation with these lenses when compared to the standard phone camera lens.

Value for money – 5/5

It really is hard to go wrong with these lenses at this price point. They are a fraction of the cost of other quality alternatives

The wrap-up

I’ve been using the 1.33X lens for a while now, and it really has been fun and has added a new dimension to my mobile photography and video. The 1.55XT is a step further and is perhaps even more fun.

These are surprisingly good quality lenses and are well worth the investment for anyone who takes images or video with their phone, and I highly recommend them. 

You can find out more about the Ulanzi Anamorphic smartphone lenses here. 

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