Lens names: How the heck do they come up with these things?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous Equipment' started by Removed Account, Aug 11, 2007.

  1. Removed Account

    Removed Account Member

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    Something that has baffled me ever since becoming involved with photography is the thinking behing naming lenses. I've read that Tessar comes from a Greek word which I do not know, but that has something to do with its four element design. Where do the names like Summicron, Summilux, Rodagon, Angulon, Raptar, Componon, Xenon, Claron. Noctilux I think I get, f/1 so it's good at night and the word nocturnal makes me think that Nocti- might be Latin, but where does the -lux come from? Anyways, just curious about all this! Thanks again,

    - Justin
     
  2. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    -lux = light.

    Summar is perhaps derived from the same Latin root as 'summit' or other words denoting 'maximum' or 'top' (as in Fuji's Greek-rooted 'Acros'), and when you do something better you need a new name (Summitar, Summicron) while faster demands even more variation (Summilux). "Angulon' and 'angle' (implicitly, 'wide angle') seem reasonable, and as well as the Noctilux you have the earlier 'Nokton'. The first two letters of 'Elmar' reputedly derive from Ernst Leitz (and the prexeding lens was the Elmax, E.L. + Max Berek, the lens designer).

    Tesseres, tessera (sorry, can't easily do Greek characters) is Greek for 'four' so a four-glass Tessar derivative of a 3-glass original (Cooke Triplet) makes sense.

    Some are by analogy: the '-ar' ending seems popular, and some are just plain fantasy. You need to be pretty bored to try to work them all out: I think Hektors may have been named after Max Berek's dog. And I know that Pasinons were PAS-inons, Peter A. Sheen being the UK importer. You have to allow that many of the people who named lenses had the benefit of a classical education -- and that many others didn't!

    You will no doubt recall the prediction that no good could come of television, as it is a bastard word derived from both Greek (tele) and Latin (vision) roots. How right they were!
     
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  3. Antje

    Antje Member

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    "Lux" is latin and means "light". "Summi" might hint come from "summa", meaning "the highest" or something. So it's maybe at the peak of lenshood, that summicron? An "Angulon" might come from angulus, which is an edge. Something that is good at edges? "Xenon" might come from "alien" (whatever that might mean in a lens), while "Claron" might hint at "clara", meaning something is bright and distinct or famous. Hope that helps!

    Antje
     
  4. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Or indeed just clear/claire/klaar
     
  5. gr82bart

    gr82bart Subscriber

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    This thread obliquely explains the Holgon.

    Regards, Art.
     
  6. MikeK

    MikeK Member

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    How about the derivation for an Emil Busch A-G Rathenow "Glyptar" which I guess is a Tessar design.

    I have a 75mm f3.5 front mounted on an old compur shutter. Looks more like a small process lens. Picked it up on Ebay about 5 years ago with a bunch of other stuff - been sitting in the botton of my lens draw until I saw this thread.

    Mike
     
  7. glennfromwy

    glennfromwy Member

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    I think they just eat spicy food before they go to bed. Gives 'em bad dreams and such. :D
     
  8. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    Pentax Takumar lenses were named after Takuma Kajiwara.
     
  9. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Glypto- has to do with paintings, tablets and suchlike, as in "glyptoteque", a collection of paintings. So a "Glyptar" could be a lens made for photographing paintings.

    The -ar suffix often denotes a Tessar derivative.

    In an obliquely related way, the -gon suffixe is derived from gonus, or angle. so most lenses ending in -gon or -on and wide angle lenses, or they are especially rectilinear reproducing angles correctly. Rodagon would then be a Rodenstock "gon".
     
  10. eddym

    eddym Member

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    OK, so how do we explain the Lensbaby? :wink:
     
  11. Edwardv

    Edwardv Member

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    What an education!
     
  12. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    A little more?

    Back in 1866, Steinheil in Germany and Dallmeyer in England patented virtually identical lenses at practically the same time. Steinheil called his "Aplanat", and Dallmeyer called his "Rapid Rectilinear".

    Both of those names make some kind of sense, but to understand why they make sense we have to go back to what was available before then:

    The earliest lenses were simple meniscii (plural of "meniscus"), which had a fairly wide field but lots of distortion, poor speed and lots of field curvature. Then along came Maximilian Petzval and his rapid portrait lens which was fast enough to take portraits in a single sitting without breaking for tea...

    But that didn't help the landscape and architecture photographers much, since Petzval's lens only had about 10 degrees of sharp coverage (look at Jim Galli's wonderful pictures, which show very clearly what happens outside the sharp center).

    So the race was still on, to make a lens with a minimum of distortion and a maximum of speed. Putting two equal meniscii together, one on each side of a central stop, solved the distortion problem. But to get acceptable coverage you were still limited to about f:22...
    Cementing two elements of different refractive index together allowed construction of achromatic lenses, which eliminated the bothersome "focus shift": The human eye tends to see the sharpness as best when yellow light is in focus, but photographic materials were only sensitive to UV and blue light. If blue and yellow focus at different planes you need to correct for the difference between so called "Chemical focus" and "Optical focus".

    Achromatic landscape lenses had good sharpness over a reasonably wide field, but were no faster than f:10 and really needed to be shot at f:32 to be any good. And the distortion was still there.

    So someone put two of these "achromats" together like had been done with the Periskop, and the result was a reasonably fast distortionfree lens. This idea was so simple that noone knows who did it first, and it was sold under a staggering number of different names for some years. They were still only f:10 or so, but at least they were usable on calm days.

    What Dallmeyer and Steinheil did was to reverse the order of the elements in each cell, putting the high-index negative element on the outside and a lower-index positive element on the inside. This gave a lens that had (a) a reasonably flat field, (b) no distortion, (c) no focus shift, and (d) all of this at a wider aperture than the old "symmetricals".

    So Dallmeyer named his lens "Rapid Rectilinear" since it was faster than earlier rectilinear lenses.

    and Steinheil used "Aplanat" for the flatter image field than earlier lenses with similar coverage (like his own Gruppen-Antiplanet)!
     
  13. Chazzy

    Chazzy Member

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    For some reason, to me lens names and the names of drugs sound similar. I can easily imagine putting a 100mm Lipitor on one of my cameras. :smile:
     
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  15. Removed Account

    Removed Account Member

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    Chazzy, I was thinking that very thought when I posted this thread! You could have the 240mm f/1.4 Dexedrine, 1200mm f/16 Sildenafil (covers 20x24 with movements), 8mm f/5.6 Haloperidol (a low-distortion, full-frame fisheye :tongue: ) and the 450mm f/8 Venlafaxine (a soft-focus portrait lens that makes everything look better).

    I feel a new joke thread coming on...

    - Justin
     
  16. GeoffHill

    GeoffHill Member

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    Its cheese before you sleep that gives you 'cheese-dreams' Never had spicyfooddreams though
     
  17. eddym

    eddym Member

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    And maybe a Viagron for a big, long telephoto?? :wink:
     
  18. Chazzy

    Chazzy Member

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    Or a zoom. :smile:
     
  19. Blighty

    Blighty Subscriber

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    Maybe the inventor was called 'Len', hence 'Lensbaby':rolleyes:
     
  20. AgX

    AgX Member

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    Well, I looked through hundreds of lens names. You can divide them into names hinting via Greek or Latin at their characteristics, referring to the manufacturer or being pure fantasy-names.


    My all-time-favourite could have become
    the “SCHNELLARBEITER” lens.

    I don’t think the name is related to the aperture.

    (However there is quite a chance that its name relates to the lens designer E. Arbeit.)
     
  21. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    One of the doubtful ones is the Voigtländer W.Z.

    It could have been an abbreviation for "Weichzeichner" or "soft renderer", except that then there wouldn't be full stops after both letters. So the most likely explanation is that it got its name from the person who first asked for it, one Walter Zilly. Silly enough, just as silly as a deliberately soft enlarger lens?
     
  22. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    and all this time i thought
    lipitor was a bad guy in
    graphic novels, who ...

    lets just say lipids had something to do with his badness ...
     
  23. Steve Roberts

    Steve Roberts Member

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    The staff of my now long-gone photographic shop used to refer to all cheap lenses as "BottomBottle-ars" leaving customers thoroughly confused as they handled lenses made by Derek Gardner, Prinz and most things Russian.

    Steve
     
  24. George Papantoniou

    George Papantoniou Member

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    Glypton means "Sculpture" in greek. Therefore, the lens seems to have been capable of rendering the images more 3-dimensional (I guess it has something to do with the plasticity of the image). Glyptotheque is the place where sculptures are exposed or kept.

    Rodenstock has used the ending -gon for lenses that had nothing to do with wide angles (Imagon for example). I agree that it might come from the word for "angle", though...
     
  25. dmr

    dmr Member

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    There was one mentioned in a recent magazine which I had never heard of, Thambar. I did some googling and here's what I found. I don't know how accurate it is. :smile:

     
  26. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Thanks for the correction, George.