Welcome to the Panasonic GH2 Guide for filmmakers. I wrote this due to the wonderful feedback on my tutorials in which many of you asked for more help than just improving your video quality with the hacks and patches. You will find the Hack pack and program in chapter 3. & More patches in Chapter 4. But unlike the respective posts i added a few more things in this little guide book. You can ask your questions here from now on or in the previous posts, i will answer and see them either way.
Hi! Welcome to The Panasonic GH2 Guide for Filmmakers. This book will assume you are familiar with film making basics and will use phrases like F-Stop, aperture, Iris etc as they are needed without too much explanation. That does not mean we will not go into great detail with learning functions of the camera or how it uniquely handles lenses and the mts format it captures to or how to manipulate the codec as well as hundreds of other things. It just means we assume you a familiar with film making to a basic extent and the guide aims to use that knowledge to speed up the time it takes you to master this camera. We may cover some film making techniques but only when it’s relevant to the feature being discussed. This guide is meant for the filmmaker that used to work with a different camera and just purchased the Panasonic GH2. It is a strange new world, you want to jump into you first project but the GH2 is not exactly a point and shoot experience, far from it. This guide is not a manual for the camera either although we will cover just about every function of the camera critical to your film’s success but we won’t go into features like how to take a photograph, only video features. This guide was written to bring you up to speed so that you can jump into your first project as soon as possible. Being new to the GH2 especially if this is your first DSLR is going to have its learning curve. We are here to minimize the time it takes you to go from zero to hero. This struggle is a classic scenario for anyone coming from traditional film cameras whether it be 8mm, 16mm cameras or bigger digital cameras such as the HPX, DVX and various other choices in the prosumer market.
First of all let us get this one out of the way, the Panasonic gh2 is often grouped with DSLRs but the GH2 is not a DSLR. SLR refers to “Single Lens Reflex” a mechanism employed in just about every photo camera of the modern era. The mirror that sits behind the lens reflects the image to the view finder and moves out of position when the film needs to be exposed. This design made its way well into the digital era in which the film was replaced by a sensor. Before the sensor set up earlier photo cameras exposed to film but used other digital features on the camera body, thus was the birth of the DSLR, the digital single lens reflex camera. Cameras these days are moving to a digital only work flow and using digital sensors instead of exposing film or a combination of newer and traditional technologies.
What makes the Panasonic GH2 so special? This camera is unique in that it is a hybrid camera offering professional quality for both video and photography all in one body. The camera’s chip offers the best video quality a DSLR can deliver today and to make matters more attractive with the use of certain enhancements the camera well exceeds the image quality of far more expensive cameras aimed at the professional market. Having purchased this camera will open you to a fantastic variety of lenses, film like depth of field, image quality and the versatility of the small size of this camera. Besides producing more detail than the average dslr the Panasonic gh2 has no moiré and aliasing issues like the cannon crowd suffers and boosts a higher quality imagery offering more resolvable detail in both its 720p and 1080p resolution choices. With the hack we cover later on it is able to resolve more detail in the 1080p mode than the other options under $5,000 and competes with the $5,oo0 market. The camera offers a host of features and settings but by time i’m done with you, you will be a GH2 master, making great looking films will be second nature.
Chapter 1 Which SD Cards to buy
In order to get the most out of your camera you will have to make the right choice here. Too often is this great camera crippled by the weakest link, the sd card. You won’t be making that mistake. Which SD card to purchase will depend on how much you plan to get out of the GH2. If you are reading this then you probably plan to get the most you possibly can of out the video quality rather than photography performance. Getting the most out of the video capability translates to more than good filmmaking habits such as good lighting and composition. It involves increasing the specifications the camera was designed to run at. Primarily this means increasing the overall bitrate as well as other behavior of the AVCHD specification. To do so you will learn how to use Ptool in order to patch the firmware which dictates how the encoder will treat the data it is processing. By default the camera runs at 24 mega bits per second. For a high quality film like image you will want at least double or much higher than this specification. The reality is that you may not need it for everyday shooting but you will have a great advantage if you are using the camera for professional filming. More data means more accurate color grading and manipulation of the images in post-production, especially if you are green screening or want to get more latitude out of the images. If you are working on a film then you should defintly aim for the highest quality it can muster and for every day use you can still shoot well above stock quality but without eating up unnecessary data, yet certainly still an upgrade. Improving the performance of the camera will be directly linked to how much performance you need out of your SD card.
Most cards will tell you what write speed, data per second they can sustain reliably right on the face of the card, such as “30MB/s” or 30 megabytes per second. It is very simple then to determine if the card will handle the patch you want to run. Just remember that 1 megabyte = 8 megabit, the following example is how I would evaluate the prucahse worthiness of an SD card.
Example: You want to run Aquamotion V2 a patch which runs at 100mbs (megabits per second). You look at your card and it claims a sustained write speed of 32 MBs, 32 megabytes a second. Since 1 megabyte = 8 megabit, you have the possibility of running a patch as high as 256mbs, or 256 megabits per second.
Generally speaking most class 10 cards will allow a decent level of performance but cheaper cards won’t often meet these criteria, just because it is a class 10 doesn’t mean it’s a great card. Besides doing the math on whether a card can handle the new mbs or not, there is such a thing as brand quality. Generally I would recommend that you not run the card more than 70% its maximum ability if you want to depend on its stability in the field. Transcend cards are solid and popular but look up the sustained write speed, is 100mega bits per second its limit? Then buy something better because you will not happily run the Aquamotion V2 patch with that. If you stick to no more than 70% its max write speed to be safe, you will seldom encounter write errors which will lock up your camera and you will have lost the shot! and maybe the job as a result of loosing said shot. For example personally in post, I like to build my own computers and works stations for editing my films with my own two hands. I can run my computer’s cpu at 6.2mhz which is fairly unstable and often crashes or i can find it rarely crashes and runs amazing at 4.5mhz. The Stock setting was 3.6mhz, this is a similar logic and reality. Don’t use cards that can barely run at those speeds you need maxed out or close to it. Brand is certainly a factor as well which can kind of complicate things with build quality concerns, let alone just mbs vs MBs…
I recommend the “Sandisk Extreme” series. These cards run at 45MBs which is well above the average patch. This is a solid investment in quality and performance especially for the price. Currently Amazon has the best prices on these. You really cant go wrong here way better than transcend and still very affordable.
For Really top notch patches like Driftwood’s Senda, Mysteron and especially Mysteron BURST mode check out the “Sandisk extreme pro” series which run as fast as 95MBs, this is especially a solid card for Mysteron BURST mode which is incredibly demanding on the cards write speed. The other upside is longer run time. Since you are shooting such a high bit rate smaller cards will give very short recording times. This card not only supports the highest patches but also gives a better run time with it’s a 64gb capacity. It is a little pricey but the quality makes up for it. I would recommend the 64gb extreme card above for the must have. This one below is for those really extreme settings you probably don’t use as often. Burst mode is amazing! but should still should rarely give you too much trouble with the extreme series. If you find that it does take a look at the 95MBs Extreme pro card below.
I will write more on brand quality soon but for now Stick to Panasonic Gold and Sandisk for the really high quality patches and transcend for most patches that don’t exceed 100mbs.
Chapter 2 Setting up your camera
Recommended set up for hacked GH2 : Body only, 20mm 1.7 Lumix lens, 64gig Sandisk 45mbs, & Extra Battery:
……OR<……(The 32gig (45mbs) Sandisk card will get the job done but as you use higher quality patches you will notice your recording time is going to go down considerably somtimes down to even 30min or less. If you need the extra time go for the 64gig (45mbs). I would say just shell out the extra cash for the 64gig 45mbs because sooner or later you will want to film with the top notch patches.)
To get the best image quality possible out of the Panasonic GH2 you are going to want shoot in a 1920×1080 resolution, 24 frames a second, the AVCHD codec and the Smooth color curve. This is of course assuming you want to get the most latitude and dynamic range or the flattest image possible. For the best latitude you will want to stick to the SMOOTH color profile with all of the options set to -2. The smooth profile uses a curve that handles highlights with a smooth roll off. With the saturation dialed back, muted colors will lend well in post when you are trying to create your look and color grade the footage. A Flat image with the least contrast possible is what you want to take into post production. Anything too saturated or with too much contrast will create problems since you will be STUCK with that look and it will severely limit the color grading options and creativity when you get to post.
-Set the dial on top of the camera to the setting that shows the letter M proceeded by the image of a traditional film camera “Creative Movie Mode”.
-Now go into the menu by pushing the Menu/Set button next to the LCD screen
-The first menu in Creative Movie Mode : has 3 film settings. Select the middle option “24p CINEMA”
Now go down to the second set of options or the “Motion Picture” screen.
– Set Film mode to Smooth with all the options set to -2 and hit Memory to save it.
– Set REC QUALITY to 24H
– Set EXPOSURE MODE to M, This will allow you to take control of your aperture and shutter during recording.
Optional but highly recommended: Go down to the third menu screen that looks like a C and a wrench. Set Histogram to on. The histogram is crucial! When you cant trust your eye or the LCD screen a histogram will accurately tell you if your clipping your highlights or if you are under exposed, it’s a great tool you shouldn’t pass up on.
With compatible lenses this will determine whether or not it will auto-focus continually during recording in an attempt to keep the subject in focus at all times. Not generally recommended for a film but can be useful at times in casual situations.
Note: If this is set to on you can still manually focus by half pressing on the rec button and turning the focus ring.
Off: You have to focus by turning the focus ring on your own
Generally i love this setting and tend to keep it on. It boosts the exposure in darker areas exclusively. When would you NOT want more dynamic range? The default setting is OFF
Try them, i use the second one the most but metering mode really depends on your style of lighting and preference. They can each useful in the right lighting.
When this is set to ON the camera will try to cut out wind-noise on the internal mics, nothing you cant do in post. I recommend leaving this set to off.
MIC LEVEL DISP
Set this to to ON unless you don’t want your mic levels on screen Even in that situation it’s good to have it ON so you at least know your cameras mic is not broken and that you’ll be able to sync your sound without a visual clap. Also, to impress your Canon friends whose cameras don’t do that.
MIC LEVEL ADJ
Determines microphone sensitivity. Generally 2 suits most situations just fine and if anything i go down to 1 in louder situations.
EX. TELE CONV
This is a nifty feature that doubles your focal length. It scans the center of the sensor recording 1080p in about 4x “zoom” compared to off. IT IS NOT A ZOOM feature, It doesn’t degrade the image. This can be very useful with lenses not designed to cover the sensor. For example an old c-mount lens from your old Bolex camera. You can adapt it to the GH2 and if you get sever vignetting… problem solved.
Remember Zebras? Its the same thing! If any part of your image is severely over exposed to the point that there is nothing but white, no detail there. It is going to blink and flicker in a solid black covering the over exposed area. I keep this off and instead rely on the histogram. You could do a combination of the two but its far from necessary since the histogram already gives you all the information you need.
Chapter 3 How to hack the Panasonic GH2
Tthe Panasonic GH2 right out of the box performs as well and exceeds the image quality of some the more famous DSLR alternatives for Video. Vitaliy Kiselev hacked the GH1 back in its day to well exceeds it’s software / firmware limitations and earlier this year he has managed to crack the encryption on the GH2.
Why would you want to hack the GH2 ? It does look great under stock settings as it is but if you consider the hack enables the ability to film more detail and resolution, especially for film, there is a lot to gain from the boost in quality. Shadows can be pulled in post better (dynamic range) and over all resolvable image is increased (closer to film detail) amongst many other useful features such as 25p for the pal community.
-Higher Bit-rate for Video creates film like image detail & motion quality.
-Ability to allocate data towards Motion vs still scene detail quality.
-Higher Bit-rate for Audio, Boost audio quality from 192,000bps to 440,000bps
-Pal & 25p framrate by switching PAl & NTSC in camera.
-Unlocked ISO up to 12,800k enables you to shoot in extreme dark conditions or overcome a slow lens
The actual hacking of the camera is much easier than many would have you believe and no it will not void your warranty!! it is a simple process to revert to the stock firmware if you ever need to send it to Panasonic for maintenance. The following are simple foil proof steps i have prepared to make the process as simple as possible with my GH2 hack pack!
Neumannfilms has made an excellent walk through of my website and a step by step “how to hack” video. If you find my written instructions difficult, they make you nervous or you simply prefer to learn things visually. The video above will walk you through the process and show you how to download and install the tools below.
Download The GH2 Hack Pack (<--this is the link) Everything you need is in the folder. Easy!! Step 1 : Download the Gh2 hack pack and unzip the folder. Step 2 : Run "Ptool3.64d (200212)" step 3: Load Firmware, "GH2__V11" Step 4: The letter J will be highlighted in green along the button, click the letter J to load the patch settings. Step 5: Select Save Firmware and save it as GH2__V1x , the x can be any number from 0 - 9 just don't over write the original firmware so don't use..1! Step 6: Put the new firmware on your GH2 SD card, (Freshly formatted and with a full battery charge) With the firmware now on the card you can disconnect and turn the camera off. Step 7: Turn the camera on and push the play/preview button. The camera will detect the firmware and ask you if you want to update, select yes. Please be careful not to interrupt the update, don't push any buttons or turn it off during the update because it will likely brick the camera. Step 8 : Wait a minute and you are set! Enjoy !!
*Mac users are getting a “.cpgz” added to the firmware file name after the .bin. The correct extension for the firmware is .bin, that is what the camera looks for, fix that before trying to load it in camera.
*Keep i mind you can use the patches from the patch pack instead of the one included by just dropping them in the same folder. Their respective letters will light up and you can just click those instead.
**Remember to view basic hardware set up for hacking in CH.2 and recommended SD Cards in CH.4**
Chapter 4 Improving Video Quality: Patches
Example of a scene i shot & graded In After Effects using “Spanmybitchup v1″ A Driftwood Intra AVCHD
The above example illustrates an untouched “before” image which is a still frame from a video shot with the GH2. The second image illustrates the most basic advantage of patches, increased detail in shadows. This was shot using “Spanmybitchup v1″ A Driftwood Intra AVCHD patch which is the lowest quality of the intra patches. Notice how much detail was revealed when I pushed the shadows in that right background area. Before the patch was applied the codec had a bad habit of just throwing away the information in darker areas. Without the patch if you tried to brighten these darker areas in post it would reveal a kind of mush and not nearly as defined detail like it is now making it a useless gesture in attempting to increase latitude or pursing the look of film. Being able to capture more detail in the shadows and revealing it increases the perceived latitude we brings us much closer to the look of film which is the king in this respect. This is critical because it means we do not have to be afraid of losing all that data and can focus more on exposing for highlights knowing the shadows aren’t a total loss. The other advantage of the higher fidelity is color correction and grading is far more accurate and produces crisper and cleaner results than working with videos with less data in them.
When testing new patches, low light and shadow quality is one of the areas i focus on the most when determining how effective or high quality a patch is. After all more shadow detail basically equals more dynamic range. Recent advances have made it possible to make Intra-AVCHD level patches without the side effects of losing the ability to have automatic file spanning. I loaded an Intra-AVCHD Patch and set out to test it in low light. After shooting a low light scene i graded it in after effects with red giant colorista II color correction tools. I used Driftwood’s Patch “Spanmybitchup v1” to film the scene.
As you may have already guessed “Spanmybitchup v1” is designed for full spanning compatibility featuring files spanning correctly even on lower end cards. I highly recommend it because its the Intra-AVCHD patch that uses up the least data while keeping an excellent film like image. A 32gig SD card will run you approx 1hr with “Spanmybitchup v1”. That’s pretty good considering Intra-AVCHD is supposed to eat up data like crazy. Consider that under stock settings a 32gig card would have been able to record about 3 hours vs the now 1hr max with this Intra Patch.
Here is a low light example of a scene i shot & graded using Driftwood’s “Spanmybitchup v1”
(Different grading than the example above)
Actor: Cristian Paul
So that’s it. If you are looking to shoot professional footage, especially the most film like highest quality images you can squeeze out of the Panasonic GH2, then look no further! I bring to you The Driftwood patch pack featuring the best Intra-AVCHD patches. I haven’t had to design any patches or do any math since Driftwood entered the scene. THANK YOU! I have not made a single patch since the last ptool release. Kudos to all the excellent “Intra” Work.
Download The Driftwood Patch Pack What’s Included:
Sedna A Q20 High Detail matrix
Video Bitrate 24H=154000000 Megabits
Video Bitrate 24L=77000000 Megabits
Q20 is REALLY pushing the Quantisation to best levels without having to use AQ. Q20 Bitrate is measured to detail and will achieve in places AQ3 or AQ4 size bitrates without distorting Q so much as before.
Mysteron & Mysteron Burst : Top notch 24pH Intra setting with deblocking. 720p50/60 (GOP3/6) Workling and spanning. HBR / 1080i INTRA. Plus special burst mode setting of Mysteron giving 170M+ recordings and 900k Intra frame sizes at 5 secs hi detail, longer at less detail. Burst is not intended for always on or for normal use
Video Bitrate 24H=154000000 Megabits
ideo Bitrate 24L=77000000 Megabits
Mysteron Burst mode
very hi quality i frames for 5 secs
Video Bitrate 24H=176000000 Megabits
Video Bitrate 24L=77000000 Megabits
Quantum X ‘SpanMyBitchUp v2b’ For v1.1
Video Bitrate 24H=100000000 Megabits
Video Bitrate 24L=5000000 Megabits
The most compatable of the bunch for lower end cards but still offering intra level quality.
Chapter 5 Audio : Hacks & Hardware
Improving the audio quality of the Panasonic GH2 can be done with the hack via Ptool to increase the BPS of the audio from 192,000bps to 440,000bps. Just add it to the patch you are currently using. You will lose the ability to preview the videos on camera but its not a bad trade off. That’s the simple method via in camera settings but what about external methods? Syncing in post is common in the film world and big names include the infamous marantz and the zoom products for the indie crowd. Only one of these is perfect to keep on board or on a shoulder rig / cage offering the unique opportunity to feed directly into the camera and avoiding post syncing.
The zoom h4n is a great tool for recording audio on set while you film with The Panasonic GH2. The downside used to be having to sync in post and while this is a common practice when shooting with film, the digital crowd may not be as patient. As a result you may want to plug in an H4n directly into the camera. This is a great idea but the only problem is losing the ability to monitor audio with your headphones/line output plugged into the gh2 or the h4n. There is also a difference in the line level between the H4n and the gh2. The solution to this is the wonderful Sescom cable that will give you a headphone tap as well as get your line into the gh2 from the h4n. Sescom has designed this cable specifically for the Panasonic GH2 and it handles the audio and level difference while giving you a headphone tap! Fantastic.
Combining the two you will now have the ability to use professional microphones via the h4n and not worry about syncing! Thanks to this cable design you can still monitor audio from the h4n but Depending on the microphone you use, on board mics, or externals you will have to readjust your levels (volume) to match but that’s just about as complicate as it will get.
I highly recommend using the hack for audio in Ptools for your GH2 and setting it to 448000 bps. This will allow you to use higher quality audio settings in the h4n and maintain fidelity when running the line into the GH2 but it is optional.
Chapter 6 Lenses & Crop Factor
The Panasonic GH2 is a micro four thirds camera which means it is sporting a sensor about 75% smaller than a full frame 35mm camera producing a 2x crop factor. This means that you will have a greater depth of field for the MM reported on your lenses by nearly 2x (although many are reporting it is closer to 1.8x) This has its disadvantages but does present unique advantages as well. Due to the shallow distance between the sensor and native MFT lenses just about any other kind of lens can be adapted to the Panasonic gh2 as well since most lenses require a greater distance between sensor and lens. This means that with the use of the many widely available adapters out there you can use fancy cannon, Nikon, Leica glass as well as native Micro Four Thirds lenses.
The above image illustrates the crop factor in comparison to popular sensor and frame sizes. If you came from a traditional film camera for photo you will want to compare 35mm to four thirds system to understand the difference in crop factor.If the whole image above was a persons face then you can understand how using a four thirds camera will only get you the nose and mouth for example im comparison to the full image. This is easily fixed by taking a few steps back. Considering the sensor on the Panasonic GH2 is newer and does not exhibit all those aliasing and moire issues I consider this a small trade off for the increase in quality.
It is important to keep the crop factor in mind when making a lens purchase. If you have a 50mm lens then it is going to look and function as if it were a 100mm lens when used with the GH2. This can present problems if you are in doors and cannot take a few steps back to adjust for how much closer you are to the subject with this camera. On the other hand it can be very useful as well in the opposite scenario where being twice as close would be an advantage. It should be noted that when adapting glass to the GH2 with the various brands and adapters out there it will also present some unique challenges if you are the kind of user that relies on automatic focus. For film it is rare to rely on automatic anything but just keep in mind that many of the cheaper adapters out there will not give you electronics so that the camera can control the lens as it would a native one and you may be stuck with manual operation. Since this is a guide for film making it is hardly an issue but I can see how some users may not want to work manually when shooting casually or are novice at camera work.
Chapter 7 Anamorphic Lenses
The Anamorphic lens or lens adapter is a type of attachment that is used in combination with a prime or sometimes zoom lens. It will open up a world of possibilities in terms image quality, style, and it will completely change the way you work with your composition due to the new aspect ratio. Originally the 2x adapter was the most common type of adapter because of the 4:3 aspect ratio of 35mm film. It allowed filmmakers to create the wider cinematic aspect ratio by extending the field of view horizontally rather than cropping an image from the original frame to create a similar composition. Anamorphic adapters are attached to the front of your lens and will increase the horizontal field of view most commonly by 1.33x, 1.5x and 2x with no effect to image height. In zoom lenses going too wide will often produce a vignette which is not desirable unless you want that darkish ring around your images. Generally you will want to find a prime lens that will not produce this effect by not being too wide for the anamorphic attachment; this will prevent the prime from seeing the edges of the anamorphic lens you placed in front of it. Shooting with an anamorphic attachment will allow you to go beyond the aspect ratios common to the aesthetic of television. If your camera shoots a 4:3 frame then a 2x attachment would give you 2.35. To achieve a 2.35 aspect ratio when shooting with a 16:9 frame you will want to add a 1.33x attachment. Typically a film shot for television will be done in 4:3 or 16:9 while cinema is most commonly shot at 2.35, about twice the width of the 4:3 standards and 1.33x wider than 16:9 The Panasonic GH2 shoots 16:9 but in mpeg mode the hack will allow for 4:3 which makes the 2x adapters useful. The downside in my opinion will be that AVCHD is the superior codec but a great image can still be achieved using the mpeg method. Below I have provided a comparison of the 3 most common aspect ratios you will be asked to work with.
Characteristics of Anamorphics
Anamorphic attachments produce a number of visual properties that are common to the look and feel of cinema and as a result are highly sought after. The main reason to work with an anamorphic lens would be to produce an aspect ratio or image like that of cinemascope rather than the usual 16:9 or 4:3 commonly used for television. 2.35 is the most common cinematic aspect ratio you will see in theaters, it is wider and imitates the field of view of human perception without going too wide so as to be distracting or unpleasant which can happen if you chose the wrong adapter. Since most cameras shoot 16:9 these days you will want to find a 1.33x adapter to achieve 2.35 rather than the previous cinematic classic, the 2x adapter. Anything higher than 1.33x for 16:9 will produce an far more experimental image. Below we have the result of using a 2x attachment with a 16:9 frame which produced a 3.55 a field of view. Take note of the stretched flares produced by using the anamorphic attachment. This type of flare is common to anamorphic lenses and it is a characteristic that is sought after and when not as pronounced many will go as far as to exaggerate this look or add it into films that don’t otherwise have it. This type of lens flare occurs naturally with these lenses but it can sometimes be used ostentatiously like in the film Star Trek and Super 8 Directed by J.J. Abrams. .
This kind of image is so wide it becomes distracting for most purposes although it can work well on landscape shots and if you can make interesting use of the too wide effect. The 2x adapter is not difficult to find because of how common they were all throughout film’s history. It can however become difficult to find the far more useful 1.33x adapter for the now common 16:9 standard which just about every camera shoots these days. It should be noted that the expense of quality anamorphic lenses will be a characteristic as well, especially for a quality 1.33x adapter. They can be hard to find and few manufactures ever really mastered the art. Particularly Lomo which went on to paten their focus methods which make them the easiest to use. Combine that with their excellent quality image they are very popular and very rare.
Clamps To use an Anamorphic adapter you will learn to work with clamps because generally these lenses are not going to be made to thread with just any prime due to the many sizes out there. Anamorphic lens clamp will secure the lens one end while providing the necessary thread on the other for your prime or zoom. This is critical because an anamorphic attachment must be perfectly level with the camera or sensor. Any slant I the lens will result in a skewed image; a characteristic that is not desirable. The correct way to mount a lens is to be sure that that glass bends horizontally because that is the direction it is morphing. The curve of the lens should be bending towards the subject.
Diopters Anamorphic lenses often have the short coming of a poor minimum focal distance. This can be fixed with the use of Diopters. Diopters are essentially like adding a filter but the only effect they have on the image is as a result of their magnifying power. They can make an image sharper and shift the focal plane so that instead of only being able to focus 5 feet ahead we now have a minimum focus of 1 foot for example. The downside of the advantage is making infinity focus unachievable at times. This is by no means a deal breaker for the added bonus of sharpness and better focusing distances considering more often than not your subject is just a few feet away. Diopters can also be stacked to increase overall strength.
There are a variety of anamorphic lenses out there but these are the most common especially if you are going the eBay route.
Kowa Prominar / Bell & Howell
Of the 2x Lenses this are the best deal. The image quality is on Par with the Isocroma lenses which are a few times more expensive. The widest you should use this attachment with is a 35mm Prime lens on Micro Four Thirds
Hypergonar H Chretien Societe HiFi2 or the mnini version
These are not often mentioned but produce great cinematic quality and can also be had at a great price.
-LOMO OCT18 or OCT19 for Konvas 35mm
-Sankor 16C, 16D, 16F / Singer
-Isco CentaVision 2x
These are the best of the best but very rare and expensive
-Century Optics anamorphic
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