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Moment is making an anamorphic lens for DJI drones

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Image: Moment

Moment is expanding its line of add-on camera lenses beyond smartphones for the first time, with plans to launch an anamorphic lens for DJI drones.

The lens clips on to DJI’s Mavic 2 Pro or Mavic 2 Zoom and works with either drone’s existing camera to capture a wider field of view, complete with cinematic lens flares. A crowdfunding campaign for the lens is launching on Kickstarter today. It sells for $199, with plans to ship in November. Moment says it’ll sell the lens at retail for $300.

Moment made its name selling lenses that clip on to the back of a phone, offering different fields of view and more options for photographers. As interest in traditional Instagram posts has waned, Moment co-founder Marc Barros says the company has found room for growth by appealing to vloggers and filmmakers. Drones, he says, were the other key tool filmmakers have started relying on.

“We just looked at what people were using,” he says. “They all had a phone, a big camera, and a drone.” Moment’s team says they were able to fly the Mavic 2 Pro in heavy winds with the new lens attached, and it didn’t affect the drone’s performance.

In addition to the new lens, Moment is selling clip-on ND and CPL filters for both its own lens and the drones’ built-in lens. It’s also made a new iPhone case that’s slim enough that the phone can slip inside the drone’s controller without it being removed. The filters will sell for $99 on Kickstarter ($120 at retail), and the case will go for $25 ($30 at retail). Because the Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom have different cameras, separate lenses and filters will be sold for each model.

Moment’s ND filter.
Image: Moment

Moment launched its first anamorphic lens last year. At $150, it’s Moment’s most expensive lens, but it’s also one of the cheapest ways to start shooting anamorphic, a format that usually requires pricey lenses for high-end cameras. Barros says Moment expected it to be a niche product, but it’s become the company’s “number one selling lens,” with around 50,000 units produced so far.

Creating a lens for a drone comes with some added complications. DJI’s drones use a gimbal to stabilize the camera and record smooth footage, and clipping a heavy lens on the front would disrupt its ability to properly balance. To fix that, Moment has reduced the weight of its existing anamorphic lens by changing the housing from metal to plastic. (The glass remains the same.) A clip that secures the lens on the camera also includes a weight in back to properly counterbalance the added heft. Moment’s existing anamorphic lens was already among the lightest in its lineup, which means it could be harder for the company to adapt other lenses, like its telephoto, for use on drones, too.

Because the lens is being added on top of an existing lens, it comes with some drawbacks. You’ll have to reattach it every time you start up the drone. It also doesn’t work as well at all focal lengths. Since the drone camera is already pretty wide, the effect is limited unless you punch in.

The lens hooks around the camera and onto a clip that serves as a counterweight.
Image: Moment

Then there’s the problem with shooting anamorphic: anamorphic lenses squeeze footage to fit more on the sensor, and that footage then needs to be de-squeezed in order to properly view it. That means panorama photos won’t turn out properly. It also means that, when monitoring your footage, it’s going to look a little strange. Moment says it’s talking to DJI about potentially adding the ability to automatically de-squeeze footage inside the drone’s controller app, but that’s not a sure thing at this point.

Still, in a world where drone footage is increasingly common and all looks about the same, Moment thinks its anamorphic offering will win over a lot of filmmakers who are looking to stand out. It also appears that Moment will be one of the only companies — if not the only company — to offer clip-on lenses for DJI drones.

Barros says the development of the lens is mostly done and that Moment now needs to figure out how many units to actually make. “This is the least risky of all the Kickstarters we’ve done,” he says.