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A Short History of Fast Normal Lenses
Old 07-03-2016   #1
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A Short History of Fast Normal Lenses

A Short History of Fast Normal Lenses

Double Gauss, Triplet and Tessar Designs

In 1817, C. F. Gauss described a telescope objective consisting of a pair of meniscus shaped elements, one positive, and one negative. By doubling the basic Gauss lens in 1889, A. Clark was the first to describe the “Double Gauss” lens design [DOUBLEGAUSS].


In 1893, as optical manager of T. Cooke & Sons of York, makers of astronomical telescopes, H. Dennis Taylor designed a 3-element lens (“triplet”) which was able to correct all 7 Seidel aberrations [SEIDEL]: spherical aberration, coma, astigmatism, field curvature, distortion, axial chromatic and lateral chromatic aberration. In the US this design was patented in 1895 [TRIPLET].


In 1890, Paul Rudolph - while working for Zeiss - developed the "Anastigmat" with two cemented doublets. In 1899, he separated the doublets to produce the four element, four group Unar lens. In 1902, he improved the Unar's performance by joining the two rear elements into one cemented group, and named the result Tessar [TESSAR]. On first glance, the Tessar looks like an extended Cooke triplet, but it was indeed derived from a Double Gauss design.

Over the last 110 years, the basic Tessar design has been used in many designs by most camera manufacturers. From the early Leitz Elmar 50mm f/3.5, to the modern Leica M-Elmar 50mm f/2.8 and Nikkor-P 45/2.8 AIs, its simplicity, size and optical performance were at the base of many successful commercial camera designs. Tessar example pictures taken with a Leitz Elmar 5cm f/2.8 in Leica Thread Mount (LTM) can be found here.

Triplet Derivatives

The Ernostar

Based on an extension of the Cooke Triplet to four and five elements by Charles C. Minor [MINOR], in 1919, Ludwig Bertele (Ernemann Co.) replaced the front two elements of the Cooke Triplet with two cemented doublets. The first “Ernostar” was born and released as 10cm f/2 lens for use on 4,5x6cm sheet film. In 1920, Bertele improved his design to a maximum aperture of f/1.8 [ERNOSTAR].


Due to it’s compactness and performance, the above basic 5 elements in 4 group lens configuration has been used in many short tele photo lenses until today, among others the Asahi Takumars 85mm f/1.8, 85mm f/1.9, 105mm f/2.8, 120mm f/2.8, 135mm f/3.5, the Zeiss Sonnar (C/Y) 85mm f/2.8, 100mm f/3.5 and 135mm f/2.8, the Zeiss Sonnar (CG) 90mm f/2.8, and the Pentax 85mm f/2.0, 105mm f/2.8 and 120mm f/2.8.

The Sonnar

After Ernemann Co. was acquired by Zeiss-Ikon, in 1931, Ludwig Bertele completed the design of a modified Ernostar for 35mm film format, the 50mm f/2 “Sonnar” [SONNAR].


The similarity of the Sonnar to the late Ernostar is striking: the only basic modification is the replacement of the Ernostar air space between the second and third elements with an additional low dispersion glass element. With this invention, Bertele reduced the number of glass/air surfaces by two. Prior to the invention of coating in 1939 [COATING], every glass/air surface would account for an additional transmission loss of at least 5%, being reduced to less than 1% when substituted by cemented glass/glass interfaces. The name Sonnar had been used previously by Contessa. By acquiring Contessa, Zeiss also acquired rights to this name. In 1932, Bertele released an f/1.5 version with an additional cemented interface on the rear component. This allowed correction of higher-order spherical aberrations worsening with the wider lens aperture.

When German patents were opened to free use after WWII, both 50mm f/2 and 50mm f/1.5 configurations were used for Japanese and Russian Sonnar re-incarnations, among others the Canon LTM 50mm f/1.5, the Nikon rangefinder lenses 5cm f/2.0, 5cm f/1.5 and 5cm f/1.4, and the Russian Jupiter-8 and Jupiter-9 Sonnar copies. Probably the commercially most successful fast Sonnar was the Nikkor 5cm f/1.4, manufactured in both LTM and Nikon RF mount.


Example pictures taken with an LTM copy of this lens can be found here.

Double Gauss Derivatives

The Planar

In 1896, Paul Rudolph modified the basic double Gauss configuration by thickening the negative elements and reducing airspace as much as possible, for correction of spherical and sagittal/tangential astigmatic aberrations. Rudolph also inserted a "buried surface" into the thick negative elements of a cemented interface separating two types of glass having the same refractive index, but different dispersive powers. The result was the original “Planar”, a lens with 4 groups of 6 elements ([PLANAR]). During the following 40 years, this design was hardly used: light loss on the large number of glass/air surfaces caused very low contrast. However, the invention of coating ([COATING]), allowed the first commercially successful design of a Planar based lens, the Zeiss 58mm f/2 Biotar, released in 1939:


Today, most high-aperture normal lenses supplied with consumer cameras are based on this original Biotar design. The following is an incomplete list of classic normal lenses using a similar 6 elements in 4 groups configuration, where example pictures taken with the last two lenses can be found here.
  • Zeiss Planar (CG) 45mm f/2
  • Zeiss Planar (ZM) 50mm f/2
  • Zeiss Macro-Planar (C/Y) 60mm f/2.8
  • Zeiss Pancolar 50mm f/1.8
  • Schneider Xenon 50mm f/2 and 50mm f/1.9
  • Meyer Orestor / Pentacon 50mm f/1.8
  • Helios-44 58mm/f2
  • Helios-77 50mm f/1.8
  • Hexanon (LTM) 50mm f/2.4 LTM
  • Nikkor-H (F-mount) 50mm f/2

The Extended Planar

Splitting the Front Doublet

The extended Planar has 6 elements in 5 groups, one cemented group behind the aperture, and the group in front has been separated (“Aufgeloester Sechs-linser”). This lens design was first calculated by A.W. Tronnier 1937 for Schneider-Kreuznach, as “Kleinbild-Xenon”. It later becoming popular as 50mm f/2 Ultron with Compur Shutter [ULTRON]:


The following is an incomplete list of classic normal lenses using a similar 6 elements in 5 groups configuration, where example pictures taken with the last two lenses can be found here.
  • Asahi Takumar 55mm f/1.8 and 55mm f/2.0
  • Pentax 50mm f/1.7 and 55mm f/1.8
  • Yashinon 50mm f/2.0 and f/1.7
  • Zenitar 50mm f/1.7
  • Volna-1 50mm f/1.8
  • Volna-9 Macro 50mm f/2.8
  • Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 AIs
  • Olympus OM Zuiko 50mm f/1.8

Ultron Back Extension

The basic Ultron design was extended by adding an element to its back as first calculated by A.W. Tronnier in 1932. This design became very popular for fast 50mm lenses in the 70s. One of the most successful such design was patented by Glatzel and Behrens [EXTULTRON] and used for the Zeiss Planar 50mm f/1.4 lens, used among others for the Rolleiflex SL35 system.


The following is an incomplete list of classic normal lenses using a similar 7 elements in 5 groups configuration, where example pictures taken with the last five lenses can be found here.
  • Zeiss Planar (C/Y) 50mm f/1.7
  • Pentax (FA) 43mm f/1.9
  • Pentax (A) 50mm f/1.2
  • Canon (EF) 50mm f/1.4
  • Yashica 50mm f/1.4 and 55mm f/1.2
  • Porst 55mm f/1.2
  • Zenitar 50mm f/1.4
  • Voigtlander 50mm f/2.5 Color Skopar
  • Voigtlander VM 50mm f/1.1
  • Minolta AF 50mm f/1.4
  • Olympus OM Zuiko 50mm f/1.4
  • Olympus OM Zuiko 50mm f/1.2
  • Pentax-M SMC 50mm f/1.4
  • Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 ASPH (LTM and VM)

Biotar Back Extension

Horace William Lee [XENON] extended the basic Planar design with an additional rear element in 1935. This same patent was used by Leitz in their first high speed normal lens in 1936, the 5cm f/1.5 Xenon (Leitz XEMOO), followed by the 5cm f/1.5 Summarit (SOOIA) in 1949 and by the Summilux 50mm f/1.4 in 1959 (SOOME), all three sharing the same basic lens configuration.


The following is an incomplete list of classic normal lenses using a similar 7 elements in 5 groups configuration, where example pictures taken with the 50mm Summilux (v2) and the Nikkor-S 55mm can be found here.
  • Zeiss Pancolar 55mm f/1.4
  • Zeiss Planar 55mm f/1.4
  • Mamiya Rolleinar and Sekkor 55mm f/1.4
  • Tomioka 55mm f/1.4
  • Vivitar/Cosinon/Chinon/Sears 55mm f/1.4
  • Canon (FL) 58mm f/1.2 and 55mm f/1.2
  • Nikkor-S 55mm f/1.2

Biotar and Ultron with added Front Element

Based on Max Berek’s original Summitar design [SUMMITAR] (SOORE, a Planar with extended, cemented doublet as front element), in 1952, Ernst Leitz GmbH patented extensions to both Ultron and Biotar designs by adding an additional glass element to the front, separated by a thin “air element” [SUMMICRON]. This patent was underlying one of the most successful Leitz designs, the seven element collapsible Summicron (SOOIC).


The later “rigid” or “Dual-Range” Summicron (SOSTA) shared the same basic lens diagram with the SOOIC, albeit computer-optimized by Mandler himself. Example pictures taken with the SOSTA can be found here.

Other examples of the front-extended Biotar and Ultron designs are the Canon Rangefinder 50mm f/1.2, the 50mm f/0.95 and the Nikkor 5.8cm f/1.4, respectively. Example pictures taken with the Canon f/1.2 LTM lens can be found here.

The 35/1.4 Summilux

In the late 1950s, Mandler and Wagner extended the Biotar design with a small 7th element after the aperture to achieve the fastest wide angle lens of its time, the 35mm f/1.4 Summilux [SUMMILUX].


Leitz re-used the above basic 7 element in 5 groups configuration for the Summicron-M 35mm f/2, and the Summicron-C 40mm f/2. For photos taken with a CV 40mm f/1.4 lens with the same design, see here.

Starting with the first computer-optimized Leica lens, the Dual Range Summicron, Mandler and his team designed many classic Leica lenses until his death in 2005. Performance characteristics of some of his best know classics can be found in [MANDLER].

Summary: Genealogy

During 2013, I used 16 different 50mm lenses on film, to demonstrate characteristics of the above lens designs (click for photos). Here is how these lenses fit in their "family tree":


Online References

Below are several links that I can recommend for further study:

Paper References
  • [DOUBLEGAUSS] Alvan G. Clark, ‘Photographic Lens’, Patent US 399,499. (1889)
  • [SEIDEL] H. D. Taylor, ‘A System of Applied Optics’. (1906)
  • [TRIPLET] H. D. Taylor, ‘Lens’, Patent US 540,122. (1895)
  • [TESSAR] Firma Carl Zeiss in Jena, ‘Sphärisch, chromatisch und astigmatisch korrigiertes Objectiv aus vier, durch die Blende in zwei Gruppen geteilten Linsen’, Patent DE 142,294. (1903)
  • [MINOR] C. Minor, 'Photographic objective ' , Patent US 1,360,667. (1920)
  • [ERNOSTAR] Ludwig Bertele, ‘Objektiv’, Patent DE 428,657. (1926)
  • [SONNAR] Zeiss Ikon Aktien Gesellschaft, ‘Photographisches Objektiv’, Patent DE 570,983. (1933)
  • [COATING] Firma Carl Zeiss in Jena, ‘Verfahren zur Erhoehung der Lichtdurchlaessigkeit optischer Teile durch Erniedrigung des Brechungsexponenten an den Grenzflaechen dieser optischen Teile’, Patent DE 685,767. (1939)
  • [PLANAR] Firma Carl Zeiss in Jena, ‘Astigmatisch, spaerisch und chromatisch korrigiertes Objektiv’, Patent DE 92313. (1896)
  • [ULTRON] Klemt Gunter, Macher Karl Heinrich, ‘Optical objective system of the Gauss type comprising five air-spaced members’, Patent US 2,683,396 (1954)
  • [EXTULTRON] Karl-Heinrich Behrens and Erhard Glatzel, ‘Photographisched Objectiv vom erweiterten Gauss-Typ’, Patent DE 2,232,101. (1972).
  • [XENON] Horace William Lee, ‘Lens’, Patent US 2,019,985 (1935)
  • [SUMMITAR] Max Berek, ‘Photographic objective’, Patent DE 2,171,640 (1939)
  • [SUMMICRON] Gustav Kleineberg and Otto Zimmermann, ‘Photographic objective lens system’, Patent US 2,622,478. (1952)
  • [LAGER] James L. Lager, `Leica - An Illustrated History, Vol. 2: Lenses', ISBN-13: 978-0963697325 . (1993)
  • [SUMMILUX] Walter Mandler and Erich Wagner, ‘High aperture photographic objective’, Patent US 2,975,673. (1961)
  • [MANDLER] Reginald P. Jonas and Michael D. Thorpe, ‘Double Gauss lens design: a review of some classics’, Proc. SPIE 6342, International Optical Design Conference 2006, 634202. (2006)


Last Edited: Jul 4th, 2016 (RR)
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Old 07-03-2016   #2
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Nice work, Roland!
I actually bookmarked this thread for reference.
Also shamelessly swiped your lens block diagram chart from smugmug for my own reference. (If that's bad let me know.)
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Old 07-03-2016   #3
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Thanks Roland, very interesting, and of personal interest for some of the lenses I own.

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Old 07-03-2016   #4
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Very informative !

Thank you for your fine contribution, Roland.
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Old 07-03-2016   #5
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Thanks. And bookmarked too, like few other threads. Wonderful to have this history.
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Old 07-03-2016   #6
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Thanks, guys.

Quote:
Originally Posted by daveleo View Post
Also shamelessly swiped your lens block diagram chart from smugmug for my own reference. (If that's bad let me know.)
NP, Dave, there are a bunch of other relevant diagrams as well, which are not inlined above (https://ferider.smugmug.com/Technical/Lens-Diagrams). Just note that I made them by measuring sometimes tiny pictures from the web or books, they are not super accurate.

Also, corrections, or additions to the lens lists are welcome.
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Old 07-03-2016   #7
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Many thanks, very interesting. This should be a sticky thread for anyone wishing to locate this information.
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Old 07-03-2016   #8
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Neat presentation. Your photo project shows it is hard to go wrong with a 50, seems like most of them can produce reasonable to outstanding results. I have a 55 mm f2.2 Fujinon which I understand is a 4 element design. It was a lens produced to help lower the retail price of their base model the Fujica 601 series SLR. The outside sleeve of the lens is plastic and has disintegrated, one day it just crumbled into several pieces. The inner helical is metal however and the lens is still operable. After reading this I shall have to try it out, just to see what a 4 element lens looks like compared to my late production 50 f1.8 Zuiko or the 50 f2 Sears lens that came with Sears model of a Ricoh KR5.
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Old 07-03-2016   #9
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Great! I have it even shorter after I looked at the pictures in OP. It is started like a burger, but ended up looking like a birthday cake!
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Old 07-03-2016   #10
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Thanks for the report, Roland. Scientific reports on lenses are always informative to me.
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Old 07-03-2016   #11
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thanks, and subscribed to this thread.
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Old 07-03-2016   #12
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Thank you for the information - you posted it in a very clear and understandable way .

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Old 07-03-2016   #13
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Very informative - thanks for your work and clear and lucid presentation.
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Old 07-03-2016   #14
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Biotar Back Extension

Why are there so many 55 mm lenses here? Is this design better suited for such a focal length?
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The following is an incomplete list of classic normal lenses using a similar 7 elements in 5 groups configuration, where example pictures taken with the 50mm Summilux (v2) and the Nikkor-S 55mm can be found here.
Zeiss Pancolar 55mm f/1.4
Zeiss Planar 55mm f/1.4
Mamiya Rolleinar and Sekkor 55mm f/1.4
Tomioka 55mm f/1.4
Vivitar/Cosinon/Chinon/Sears 55mm f/1.4
Canon (FL) 58mm f/1.2 and 55mm f/1.2
Nikkor-S 55mm f/1.2
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Old 07-03-2016   #15
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Thanks for doing this! Somebody make this a sticky, immediately!
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Old 07-03-2016   #16
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Amazing contribution, Roland!! Yet again, I'm dumbstruck by the depth of knowledge seen around this place. Thank you for this substantial work.

Can you say a bit about why no Voigtlander rangefinder lens shows up on these lists?
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Old 07-03-2016   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rob-F View Post
Thanks for doing this! Somebody make this a sticky, immediately!

where's the "like" button ??
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Old 07-03-2016   #18
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Danke schön!
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Old 07-03-2016   #19
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Is C F Gauss mentioned here the same Gauss who derived the Normal Distribution (Gaussian)?
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Old 07-03-2016   #20
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Quote:
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Is C F Gauss mentioned here the same Gauss who derived the Normal Distribution (Gaussian)?
Yup, check out: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Friedrich_Gauss
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Old 07-03-2016   #21
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Thanks. He was a physicist and he had created many things in his life. I used to show my students the German 10DM note which was dedicated to his inventions.
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Old 07-03-2016   #22
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Thanks again, all, glad you like it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamie Pillers View Post
Can you say a bit about why no Voigtlander rangefinder lens shows up on these lists?
The 40 I already had, Jamie. I just added Voigtlander Color Skopar, and the 1.5 and 1.1 Noktons. Even though the 1.5 is an aspherical, it can still be considered a back-extended Ultron, similar to 1.1 Nokton and Color Skopar. And the 50/2 and 3.5 Heliars didn't fit in my simplified concept (there are other 50mm lenses with more complicated double Gauss derivations). Attached the diagram of the aspherical Nokton.

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Old 07-03-2016   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by raid View Post
Thanks. He was a physicist and he had created many things in his life. I used to show my students the German 10DM note which was dedicated to his inventions.
Carl Friedrich Gauss was also a big mathematician, Raid. What few people realize is that he lived in the same time period as Augustin-Louis Cauchy and Évariste Galois, they knew and corresponded with each other, even while Galois was sitting in the Bastille. All three of them did huge contributions to field theory. An amazing time for science ...

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Old 07-03-2016   #24
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Great thread and much appreciated!
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Old 07-03-2016   #25
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Cool! Thanks, Roland.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ferider View Post
The 40 I already had, Jamie. I just added Voigtlander Color Skopar, and the 1.5 and 1.1 Noktons. Even though the 1.5 is an aspherical, it can still be considered a back-extended Ultron, similar to 1.1 Nokton and Color Skopar. And the 50/2 and 3.5 Heliars didn't fit in my simplified concept (there are other 50mm lenses with more complicated double Gauss derivations). Attached the diagram of the aspherical Nokton.

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Old 07-03-2016   #26
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Excellent work, Roland! Thanks for posting this. I particularly like the diagrams - a much better representation of the optics than a typical cross section.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rob-F View Post
Thanks for doing this! Somebody make this a sticky, immediately!
Done!
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Old 07-03-2016   #27
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I've bookmarked it, too! Many thanks!

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Old 07-03-2016   #28
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Good overview for the 35mm world.

Most of the innovations in lens designs were before 35mm film. It's interesting that what is a fast lens in a long, large format is not that fast in a 50mm. The Petzval was the first fast, mathematically calculated lens design, invented in 1840 so the slow daguerreotype process would allow photographing live subjects. It reduced sitting time from about 1-3 minutes to about 30 seconds. It's F3.6 speed was seldom surpassed until the Cooke triplets about 50 years later. Some are even faster, about F3.1, which doesn't seem that fast until you consider we are talking 200mm, 300mm or longer lenses that cover huge pieces of film.

One earlier and even more important invention was by Dolland, who made nautical telescopes. In 1758 he invented a means of constructing doublet lenses by the combination of crown and flint glasses, which reduces chromatic aberration. These achromat telescope objectives are what Camera Obscura inventors started making "camera" lenses out of, then doubling them to make a double gauss. They had relatively few aberrations, but were very slow. The Daguerreotype and then Wetplate process was what drove the need for faster lenses, with fewer aberrations. Finally the Tessar came around, at F4.5 (in LF versions) it was fast enough, and very error-free.
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Old 07-03-2016   #29
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Very few Petzvals were used in small format. Mostly in early cine movie cameras. I have an F1.9 Dallmeyer cine lens, 25mm. It's from the mid 1920s, when an F3.5 Elmar or F2.5 Hektor were considered fast enough. The problem is making a fast lens in such a small focal length (50mm). Angenieux finally did it in the 1950s, getting about F0.95 out of some of his designs. Then Canon and others got faster lenses too, but they always have edge aberrations or spherical aberration.
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Old 07-03-2016   #30
raid
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Carl Friedrich Gauss was also a big mathematician, Raid. What few people realize is that he lived in the same time period as Augustin-Louis Cauchy and Évariste Galois, they knew and corresponded with each other, even while Galois was sitting in the Bastille. All three of them did huge contributions to field theory. An amazing time for science ...

Roland.
This is correct. We also have three scientists developing the Normal Distribution. Gauss was one of these three. De Moivre, Gauss, and Laplace.
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Old 07-03-2016   #31
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Brilliant! There are some links to original CZJ lens blueprints in my sticky thread in the Members Only sub forum. If you don't already have these, knock yourself out.
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Old 07-03-2016   #32
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Originally Posted by Sarcophilus Harrisii View Post
Brilliant! There are some links to original CZJ lens blueprints in my sticky thread in the Members Only sub forum. If you don't already have these, knock yourself out.
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Old 07-03-2016   #33
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Very informative, clear and coherent - thank you!
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Old 07-04-2016   #34
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There are interesting similarities with my long time published pages (began 2007 march), presentation and comprehensive history :
http://www.dg77.net/photo/tech/fasttrip.htm
http://www.dg77.net/photo/tech/fastgaus.htm
http://www.dg77.net/photo/tech/fastvarg.htm
so much that I suggest a references could be inserted in the list.

Last edited by Dguebey : 07-04-2016 at 01:27. Reason: complementing
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Old 07-04-2016   #35
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Done, Dominique, and thanks.

All, let me know if you have other good online references that you would like me to include.
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