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Lenses with the fewest number of elements?
Old 04-17-2017   #1
Redseele
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Lenses with the fewest number of elements?

Hi all,

I've been doing some reading about microcontrast and 3D pop lately (I know it's a controversial subject, so I don't intend to start a flaming war). One of the things claimed was that the least amount of elements in a lens usually leads to more microcontrast and real-life likeness and pop, albeit with less corrections.

From my own experience, from every single lens I have tried over the past years, Leica and Zeiss lenses always had an edge over everyone else's (Nikon, Canon, Zuiko, etc.) and older lenses (at least amongst those I have tried) tend to have the most microcontrast. I have seen this the most in a few lenses I have owned: a Summaron 35mm 3.5, the Summicron 50mm 1st version Collapsible, but also modern Zeiss glass and old Sonnars. I know that all of these have much fewer elements than, say, modern SLR lenses (some of which, particularly zooms, have up to 20 elements).

So I was wondering, what are the very simplest designed lenses? As I said, I have no intention to start a flaming war about optics theory, but I really am wondering if for my style of photography there might be some gems I have never heard about.
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Old 04-17-2017   #2
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Old 04-17-2017   #3
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Less glass more goodies? You must try Brownie with meniscus lens then.
I'm on my second Canadian one.

I can't find micro-contrast in many modern lenses which I used to have on DSLRs and some common ones I have tried on digital M. But modern Zeiss 50 1.4 ZE lens I' used on Canon 5D was outstanding for 3D and some nice micro-contrast was present under good light at f5.6-f8. It only and totally sucked at f1.4 .

On Leica, RF side, I'm finding what for me the micro-contrast is more visible on bw film than on digital sensors. I liked Elmar-M 50 2.8 for it. It was making prints not flat at all. But to me the king of micro-contrast is my Summarit-M 35 2.5.
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Old 04-17-2017   #4
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Human eyeball has 1 lens element.
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Old 04-17-2017   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nukecoke View Post
Human eyeball has 1 lens element.
And the image requires considerable post processing.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 04-17-2017   #6
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The least amount of lens elements is easy,

Pinhole... no optics at all!

Can't beat 0
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Old 04-17-2017   #7
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Several slow, long focus Leica lenses consist only of cemented doublets. It's when you want a wider angle or a faster lens that you need more glasses.

In the 1930s the choice in standard lenses was stark: lower resolution with higher contrast (Zeiss) or lower contrast and higher resolution (Leitz).

To quote a well-known politician, "Who knew it was so difficult?"

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R.
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Old 04-17-2017   #8
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I have one of these modern Wollaston Meniscus single element lenses: http://re-inventedphotoequip.com/Lenses.html

It's a soft focus lens, and is somewhat challenging to focus, plus I have to use an old dark slide as the "shutter" and hope I guess the exposure correctly (I have a variable ND filter for it as well). It uses waterhouse stops, whole stops only (but I could probably do the math and make an f/6.8 if I wanted to)

Here's the same subject at f/4 and f/8:

02-09-14-3 by Drew Saunders, on Flickr

02-09-14-4 by Drew Saunders, on Flickr

I also have an Imagon (2 elements) with a shutter that's easier to use, but still difficult to focus.
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Old 04-17-2017   #9
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Cooke triplet should be the simplest corrected lens.
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Old 04-17-2017   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gerikson View Post
Cooke triplet should be the simplest corrected lens.
Not really. Doublets should be more corrected than meniscus lenses. But as I said before, to quote a well-known politician, "Who knew it was so difficult?"

Simplistic explanations of complex phenomena will rarely satisfy those who even begin to understand the subject. But frighteningly many people don't even begin to understand the subject.

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R.
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Old 04-17-2017   #11
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Not even close to the lowest number of elements but Tessar lenses consist of four elements in three groups.
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Old 04-17-2017   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by narsuitus View Post
Not even close to the lowest number of elements but Tessar lenses consist of four elements in three groups.
Being Cooke triplets with one group consisting of a cemented doublet. Tessars are stunning at f/6.3; often good at f/4.5; usually not too bad at f/3.5; and rarely any good at all at f/2.8 (or worse, faster).

As I said earlier, It's when you want a wider angle or a faster lens that you need more glasses.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 04-17-2017   #13
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The Novoflex 400 and 600mm lenses have 3 lenses.
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Old 04-17-2017   #14
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The Rodenstock Imagon is a favorite of mine, I have a complete set in shutter and barrel.

A cemented doublet - two elements in one group.

I sold my short Imagons (120 & 150) to my good friend "Mr. Pentacon Six".
His complete report on my custom made lenses is here:

https://www.pentaconsix.com/imagon.htm
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Old 04-17-2017   #15
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Some early Canon SLR telephotos (R600mm and R800mm, for the Canonflex) had only two elements.

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Old 04-17-2017   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ko.Fe. View Post
Less glass more goodies? You must try Brownie with meniscus lens then.
I'm on my second Canadian one.

I can't find micro-contrast in many modern lenses which I used to have on DSLRs and some common ones I have tried on digital M. But modern Zeiss 50 1.4 ZE lens I' used on Canon 5D was outstanding for 3D and some nice micro-contrast was present under good light at f5.6-f8. It only and totally sucked at f1.4 .

On Leica, RF side, I'm finding what for me the micro-contrast is more visible on bw film than on digital sensors. I liked Elmar-M 50 2.8 for it. It was making prints not flat at all. But to me the king of micro-contrast is my Summarit-M 35 2.5.
Elmar M for sure. Also 50 APO
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Old 04-17-2017   #17
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The cemented doublets are achromats. This design, typically with one element flint glass and one element crown glass, predates photography. Achromats were invented for telescopes. Many manufactures of long lenses used achromats. True telephotos eventually replaced achromats. Zeiss, Leica, Novoflex, Kilfitt, Astro-Berlin, Tewe, Canon, etc, etc all used the classic achromat design.
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Old 04-17-2017   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by View Range View Post
. . . True telephotos eventually replaced achromats. . . . .
Not completely, and even then, only for convenience (shorter lens barrels), not for image quality.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 04-17-2017   #19
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For what it's worth, there's one 90mm Elmar version with three elements.
http://www.l-camera-forum.com/topic/...elmar-triplet/

That might be the Leica record for anything shorter than 400mm or so.
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Old 04-18-2017   #20
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Here is my take on micro contrast. Your subject is a series of black and white strips gradually decreasing in width. The image is likewise a series of strips until the lens can't resolve them and that part of the image is grey (i.e. the average of black and white). Good micro contrast lenses preserve the 'blackness' and 'whiteness' of the strips until they can no longer resolve, but the transition is quick. Lenses with poor micro contrast resolve the lines but as 'dark grey' and 'light grey'. They might have much greater resolution (ability to distinguish strips) but the overall impact is not as punchy as a lens with less resolution that resolves 'black' and 'white' until it can no longer resolve. It's a subtle effect to do with how the lens aberrations effect the black and white strips. If the aberrations allow the lens to resolve (i.e. you can see the strips) while also allowing some light to spread out round the strips, the lens will have good resolution and poor micro contrast. This is completely different from macro contrast (or flare) which is light bouncing off glass-air interfaces and getting all over the place: this light effects all the strips, even the widest strips, equally. The Sonnars had good flare resistance because the number of glass air interfaces was minimised and good micro contrast because the 7 elements allowed a high degree of correction. I think to get good micro contrast you need a well corrected lens.
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Old 04-18-2017   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jcb4718 View Post
Here is my take on micro contrast. Your subject is a series of black and white strips gradually decreasing in width. The image is likewise a series of strips until the lens can't resolve them and that part of the image is grey (i.e. the average of black and white). Good micro contrast lenses preserve the 'blackness' and 'whiteness' of the strips until they can no longer resolve, but the transition is quick. Lenses with poor micro contrast resolve the lines but as 'dark grey' and 'light grey'. They might have much greater resolution (ability to distinguish strips) but the overall impact is not as punchy as a lens with less resolution that resolves 'black' and 'white' until it can no longer resolve. It's a subtle effect to do with how the lens aberrations effect the black and white strips. If the aberrations allow the lens to resolve (i.e. you can see the strips) while also allowing some light to spread out round the strips, the lens will have good resolution and poor micro contrast. This is completely different from macro contrast (or flare) which is light bouncing off glass-air interfaces and getting all over the place: this light effects all the strips, even the widest strips, equally. The Sonnars had good flare resistance because the number of glass air interfaces was minimised and good micro contrast because the 7 elements allowed a high degree of correction. I think to get good micro contrast you need a well corrected lens.
That pretty much sums it up -- and as I said earlier, In the 1930s the choice in standard lenses was stark: lower resolution with higher contrast (Zeiss) or lower contrast and higher resolution (Leitz).

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R.
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Old 04-18-2017   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
That pretty much sums it up -- and as I said earlier, In the 1930s the choice in standard lenses was stark: lower resolution with higher contrast (Zeiss) or lower contrast and higher resolution (Leitz).
This was the case when spherical abberrations were limiting. Modern optical glass, lens design and construction mean that this is no longer the case, so we can have lenses with high contrast and resolution. Usually this is based on cost and size considerations during design.

The OP should read some technical optical works, rather than uninformed rubbish on the internet. If you have modern lenses and your old lenses have higher microcontrast you are either judging good old lenses against bad modern ones, measuring the wrong thing, or you need to better understand what you are seeing.

Marty
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Old 04-18-2017   #23
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Nothing to do with the current debate but the stunning Leitz 400 and 560mm Telyts have only two elements in one group.
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Old 04-18-2017   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Freakscene View Post
This was the case when spherical abberrations were limiting. Modern optical glass, lens design and construction mean that this is no longer the case, so we can have lenses with high contrast and resolution. Usually this is based on cost and size considerations during design.

The OP should read some technical optical works, rather than uninformed rubbish on the internet. If you have modern lenses and your old lenses have higher microcontrast you are either judging good old lenses against bad modern ones, measuring the wrong thing, or you need to better understand what you are seeing.

Marty
Dear Marty,

Indeed -- but the other limiting factor in the 1930s was the absence of coating, which exacerbated the problem.

Also, I understand from my few lens-designer acquaintances that the advent of wave front calculations (as distinct from ray tracing) made an enormous difference.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 04-18-2017   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
Indeed -- but the other limiting factor in the 1930s was the absence of coating, which exacerbated the problem.
Absence of coating decreases performance for both low contrast high resolution and high resolution low contrast systems. The effect is different but it's there for both types of approaches.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
Also, I understand from my few lens-designer acquaintances that the advent of wave front calculations (as distinct from ray tracing) made an enormous difference.
That's what I meant when I mentioned lens design. Current model based approaches are even better.

There are still different approaches that can reach the same outcome, but the tools and materials are vastly more refined.

Marty
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Old 04-19-2017   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Freakscene View Post
Absence of coating decreases performance for both low contrast high resolution and high resolution low contrast systems. The effect is different but it's there for both types of approaches.


Marty
Dear Marty,

Indisputably; but for the importance of the introduction of coating, compare coated and uncoated versions of the pre-war Leica and Zeiss designs.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 04-19-2017   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nukecoke View Post
Human eyeball has 1 lens element.
Not quite, actually it has two. The cornea is the major refracting element, not the lens. So it's actually a doublet of sorts. As Roger says, it does need a lot of post-processing!
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Old 04-19-2017   #28
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Quote:
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The cornea is the major refracting element, not the lens.
Learned something new. All this time I thought the cornea was nothing more than a clear protective filter that protected the lens from dust and damage.

Thanks!
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Old 04-19-2017   #29
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Learned something new. All this time I thought the cornea was nothing more than a clear protective filter that protected the lens from dust and damage.

Thanks!
What I said is a bit of a simplification, since there's the aqeous humour behind the cornea and the cornea bulges to make a lens shape out of the aqueous humour - but it's still not a 1-element system. However, we digress!
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Old 04-19-2017   #30
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The Spiratone 100mm f4 Portragon T-mount is a one element lens.
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Old 04-19-2017   #31
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I remember my mom claimed that a pinhole "lens" should have no distortion.

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Old 04-20-2017   #32
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Hi,

Back to the question which was "So I was wondering, what are the very simplest designed lenses?".

Well, my money's on the Kodak meniscus f/11 fitted to the Vest Pocket Kodak (VPK); fixed focus and using 127 so miniature by most standards. I know there's a lot of variation in the posh versions of the VPK; one of them even could be focused (gasp!). But for simplicity it can't be beaten.

There's a book "The Soldier's War" by Richard Van Emden that has dozens of photos in it from the Great War and almost every one was taken with a VPK. And there's lots on the www.

Add to that Kodak's Panatomic film (new in 1933) and their claim that a half VPK negative could be enlarged to exhibition size photos and it should be a winner. BTW, half VPK means 40mm by 32-ish.

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Old 04-20-2017   #33
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I'd like to mix my personal view on this. I think a sonnar has more elements in it than a tessar but to me the sonnar formula is the one resulting in the most interesting transitions from focus to non-focus. hence less cut-out more pop-out a.k.a. 3D-pop
Also Zeiss is said to have generally more of this so it all might be a question of details like coating and overall (company inherent) stradegy towards designing a lens not only the number of elements/lenses.
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Old 04-20-2017   #34
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The standard "meniscus" used in the VPK was actually a cemented doublet. Shouldn't really matter so far as contrast is concerned since there is no air space between the elements.

At the time the only cameras in Kodak's range with single element lenses were the Brownie box cameras (and even then the larger ones had achromat doublets.)

There's a person on flickr with an album of nice shots taken with a Brownie Model D, one can judge the results for themselves: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ericsw...57630920246298
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Old 04-20-2017   #35
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while we are at simple lens MF cameras - the Agfa Clack corrected the the meniskus with a bend film rail - basically the same trick the human eye uses (sort of). it gets quite good results actually. I'd use mine more often if film wouldn't be that expensive (I rather use a "real" camera, not to waste the good stuff)
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Old 04-20-2017   #36
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Quote:
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I'd like to mix my personal view on this. I think a sonnar has more elements in it than a tessar but to me the sonnar formula is the one resulting in the most interesting transitions from focus to non-focus. hence less cut-out more pop-out a.k.a. 3D-pop
Also Zeiss is said to have generally more of this so it all might be a question of details like coating and overall (company inherent) stradegy towards designing a lens not only the number of elements/lenses.
Both the Tessar and the Sonnar are derivatives of the Cooke triplet, the Tessar with the third element replaced with a cemented doublet and the original 50mm Sonnars with two elements replaced with cemented groups: 1-3-2 (glasses per group) for the f/2 and 1-3-3 for the f/1.5.

And to quote from a conversation with the late Dr. Hubert Nasse of Zeiss -- Google his name if you're not familiar with his work -- "You can do all the modelling and theory in the world, but the only way to find out how a lens performs is to make it." Which he was in a position to do...

I have tears in my eyes as I write this, because I only just learned that he had died when I Googled his name to provide a link. He was an unbelievably nice person and an incredible enthusiast as well as a brilliant optical theoretician and lens designer.

Best,

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Old 04-20-2017   #37
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It's amazing to think that there's so much history behind lens designs... not only the actual lenses, but manufacturing processes, designers, political events (think of FSU lenses as a consequence of WWII), etc. Thank you Mr. Hicks for letting us know about Dr. Nasse.
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Old 04-20-2017   #38
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Now... what about lens for LTM or M-mount with the fewer elements?
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Old 04-20-2017   #39
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Redseele View Post
Now... what about lens for LTM or M-mount with the fewer elements?
Many of the longer, slower Visoflex Telyt heads are cemented doublets (and so are the period Novoflex lens heads). It will hardly go any less than that...
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Old 04-26-2017   #40
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Originally Posted by tunalegs View Post
The standard "meniscus" used in the VPK was actually a cemented doublet. Shouldn't really matter so far as contrast is concerned since there is no air space between the elements.

At the time the only cameras in Kodak's range with single element lenses were the Brownie box cameras (and even then the larger ones had achromat doublets.)

There's a person on flickr with an album of nice shots taken with a Brownie Model D, one can judge the results for themselves: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ericsw...57630920246298
Hi,

This is Kodak's opinion:-



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