Researching home-made lenses

Discussion in 'Camera Building, Repairs & Modification' started by Removed Account, Apr 8, 2007.

  1. Removed Account

    Removed Account Member

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    Hello everyone! My name is Justin, as this is my first post it's obvious that I am new to the APUG forums. I have been shooting 35mm for a few years, but the place I am living in now does not have enough space for a dedicated darkroom, so I had purchased a DSLR. It's nice, but it is significantly lacking in 'magic', so I have decided to make a greater effort with film. I just purchased a Crown Graphic 4x5 off ebay for a great price, and although it will be a while before I can get together the film holders, lensboard, lens, and a tripod that can support it, I am very excited and looking to try various alternative processes, especially Van Dyke and platinum/palladium.

    One other area that has peaked my interest is going to the extreme end of the homebrew theme and building my own camera and lens for a ULF size, such as 11x14 or even larger. After researching the camera bit it seems that given enough time after a few tries I could get something pretty usable. The main concern would be finding lenses to fit the camera, and not having to spend a large amount in one shot, as I am currently a broke student. I've downloaded some programs from the Linos Photonics (Rodenstock) website, Pre-Designer, and WinLens 4.4, whcih are really interesting, but am having a hard time grasping the basics. I have also downloaded several books from the late 19th/early 20th century on lens and optical design from archive.org, and gone through some books at the university library, but since I don't have an extensive physics background they go right over my head.

    I'm not expecting great, or even good results, and will keep my efforts to a barrel lens with waterhouse stops, using a cap for the shutter, since I figure any lens could beat a pinhole for combined image quality and shorter exposure times. Not to mention it would be pretty freakin' cool, and a great chance to learn more about the science of photography. Has anyone here ever attempted this before? How about knowing of any good resources for getting a handel on simple optics? I read through a Rudolf Kingslake book, I think it was called 'Elementary Lens Design', but it was more accurately called, "Elementary Lens Design for Physics Majors", LOL... I do expect it to take a while, but figuring these things out is half the fun!

    Thanks for the help, and I apologize if this is not the correct section of the forum to post this in. I'm looking forward to spending much more time on here than is healthy for me!

    BTW, if anyone hasn't been to archive.org before, it is an amazing site. Aside from the archive of websites, they have a collection of films, some new, some quite old, and particularly interesting the Prelinger archive collection of ephemeral films from schools, businesses etc... For photo or movie-film related items look for Photography, Behind the Lens, Alchemist in Hollywood, and others. Alchemist in Hollywood is particularly interesting for a look at motion picture film processing in the 40s. Be warned, some of the films on the site can be quite graphically racist or sexist, to the point where they seem more like a Saturday Night Live sketch than a serious lesson. Look for The Girl on the Magazine Cover to see what I mean. The text section also contains many interesting books that have passed in to public domain, including many related to photography.

    Cheers!
    Justing
     
  2. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    This book: http://www.amazon.com/Primitive-Pho...3046365?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1176124350&sr=8-1
    has been mentioned on APUG before, and its merits debated. You might find it interesting as a first foray into DIY lenses. Some don't like its approach, mostly because it's not technical enough or a bit misleading as to exact nomenclature on lens types. However, it will provide some affordable large format camera and lens designs using lens combinations in PVC pipe barrels with paper or cardboard stops and foamcore spacers. I'm sure someone will tell you that buying old brass barrel lenses is cheaper and will provide better results. That also may be perfectly true, but if you want to build your own, this book is a good starting point.

    Lee
     
  3. Terence

    Terence Member

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    I'll second "Primitive Photography". As stated, it's not 100% accurate, but it will get you close enough.

    The wikipedia site has some basic info as well. The multiple lens formula is is useful when combining off-the-shelf elements from places like Anchor Optical or surplusshed.com
     
  4. reellis67

    reellis67 Subscriber

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    I too have that book, and if you were looking for something to jump-start your experiments, this is a great place to start. He's got some interesting ideas in there and they seem to work quite well.

    - Randy
     
  5. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    Good large format photography was done well over a hundred years ago with a landscape lens, much like the cemented doublet achromat in the better box cameras. The modern close-up attachments (sometimes called close-up filters or dipopter attachments) are somewhat similar. The very best of these are cemented doublets. Strong filtering can reduce the effect of chromatic aberration in simple lenses. Very small apertures can reduce some other aberrations. Such lenses should have the convex surface towards the film, with the aperture in front of the lens. The optimum spacing between lens and aperture might best determined for a particular lens by experimentation.
     
  6. c.d.ewen

    c.d.ewen Subscriber

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  7. Ray Heath

    Ray Heath Member

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    g'day Justin

    i've been doing a lot of work in the last 2 years with a homemade simple lens camera using a magnifying glass for the lens

    what started as a simple project to create LF negs for alt printing has turned into an ongoing obsession
     
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  8. markbb

    markbb Member

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    Justin,
    why not forgo the 'pleasure' of making your own lens, and just use a pinhole?
     
  9. Ray Heath

    Ray Heath Member

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    g'day Mark and Justin

    if i may,

    pinholes and simple lenses create different images and are used differently

    a pinhole image is kinda sharp with incredible depth of field, a simple lens creates an image that can be very sharp in the centre and soft on the edges

    a pinhole image is what it is, a simple lense's degree of softness can be controlled by aperture

    an image created by pinhole may need an extremely long exposure, especially with paper negs when the paper has an effective ISO of 6, where as a simple lens exposure can be much shorter

    so, they are different, one is not better than the other, they just create a different aesthetic
     
  10. PHOTOTONE

    PHOTOTONE Member

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    Grinding the optical glass into appropriate shapes I would assume could be a daunting task without proper lab equipment, however there are available various single optical elements in different types available from vendors, such as possibly Edmund Scientific, which possibly could be assembled into a lens with fairly good qualities.
     
  11. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    Why go to the trouble and expense of making a lens when you can buy a better lens than you can make, and for less than the cost of making one?
     
  12. Ray Heath

    Ray Heath Member

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    g'day Dan
    that's not actually true and extremely simplistic

    making a lens need not be expensive

    the aberrations inherent in simple lenses create a different look

    where i live LF lenses are very thin on the ground and are not cheap
     
  13. Chazzy

    Chazzy Member

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    I've been very tempted to try to construct a lens of simple design, just for the sheer fun of it. Many soft-focus lenses had just a couple of elements. I would be very interested in knowing what elements and what spacing would be required to make something like the Struss pictorial lens, which I understand was very basic in concept. Given the interest that has been shown on the Internet in comparisons between pictures taken with different lenses, I think that an article on soft focus lenses for View Camera which also included diagrams of the lenses and construction suggestions for one or two varieties would be absolute dynamite.
     
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  15. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    Ray, you have access to the Internet. Don't know what you mean by cheap, but I've bought quite satisfactory lenses in barrel that would cover large formats for as little as UKP 5 plus postage from sellers on eBay. And I've found similar bargains on sellers' own sites. It is, though, true that these steals aren't abundant and may be less abundant now than they were when I was a-stealin'.

    Oh, yeah, if the manufacturer's propaganda is to be believed, the UKP 5 marvel will cover 8x10 with movements.
     
  16. Ray Heath

    Ray Heath Member

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    well Dan, the times i've looked at gear on the net in various places, including APUG, nobody wants to deal with buyers from Australia

    anyway, the point is i don't want to use a lens that is already available, i want to create something from nothing

    my lenses are made from magnifying glasses mounted in plastic storm water pipe fittings which are made to mount on my homemade cameras that use my homemade darkslides
     
  17. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    Ray, thanks for the reply. I didn't really mean to question your practice, but was wondering whether the original poster's plan to make his own lenses was the right decision for him.

    Cheers,

    Dan
     
  18. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

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    This discussion takes me back to my junior high school days in the 40's. Two friends and I took apart anything optical we could find and re-assembled the lenses to use on our 4x5 Graflexes. The height of our success was a lens of approximately 5 foot focal length. A second tripod was used to hold it up as we made exposures at great distances both at night and by daylight.
     
  19. Removed Account

    Removed Account Member

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    Holy cow Jim, how big was it? How was the image? Thanks everyone for your advice, I think I will give making a lens a shot when I build a camera, but for now with my first forays into 4x5 I will stick with cheapies I can dig up...
     
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  20. steven_e007

    steven_e007 Member

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    I also have the book mentioned, 'primitive photography'.

    I was a bit disappointed with it. The basic phiolosophy of trying to make everything yourself was fine, but the lenses were basically plastic spectacle lenses slotted into chunks of foam rubber. O.K. to illustrate the principles, maybe, but I really doubt whether any sort of lens can be made this way that is viable for photography. I did notice that not a single photograph in the book uses one of these home made lenses.

    But, it should be possible. I visited the Carl Zeiss workshop museum a few years ago. His early Jena workshop is preserved as it was in 1870 or something as a museum piece. Here a few apprentices would build whole microscopes and grind their own lenses in a tiny workshop with the minimum of equipment. Lenses were ground on something that looks suspiciously like a potters wheel using grinding pastes and polishing rouge. A photographic lens should be easier, being so much bigger than a microscope lens.

    A bit of brass to mount it, some basic skills on a lathe - it should be within the scope of someone who can build a large format camera to attempt at least a simple landscape lens.

    I'd love to have a go one day...

    ... but there are so many other things to do :surprised: :D
     
  21. Chazzy

    Chazzy Member

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    Well, I read a book with the same title, but the book I read had several photographs made with the lenses which were suggested for construction, sources for glass lens elements were cited, and somewhat ingenious use was made of ordinary plastic plumbing pipes--with some use of foam core, but not foam rubber. The only thing I found suspect was the suggestion of black construction paper for making Waterhouse stops--surely the thing to do would be to drill holes in thin metal stock. With a little effort he could have provided drill bit diameters for f/stops of various sizes for each lens, and the results would have been far more substantial.
     
  22. Ray Heath

    Ray Heath Member

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    g'day steven and all

    my idea was not so much to create a lens that would perform the same as a bought lens but to create something different with lots of abberations

    [​IMG]
     
  23. Joe VanCleave

    Joe VanCleave Member

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    Binocular Lenses Work Well

    Interesting discussion. I've been using a binocular lens, taken from an old pair, in a homemade lensboard on my Speed Graphic, with good results.

    The front objective lens cell of the binocular unscrews, and threads into a lensboard made from thin aircraft plywood. The optics on such binoculars are frequently found to be 'coated', meaning at least the external surfaces are; some of the nicer ones can be 'fully coated'. There seems to be some games with semantics being played by the manufacturers, so buyer beware.

    The one that I use is from a 7x50mm set, has a focal length (at infinity) of 150mm, and covers the 5"x8" format (with no movements) easily, if stopped down to about F/50. I use it stopped down in my Speed Graphic, and also wide open, at F3, using the curtain shutter to time the exposures.

    The use of binoculars objective lenses is a great little secret, so don't tell anyone! And depending on where you put the aperture stop, the bokeh can be rather nice.

    ~Joe
     
  24. reellis67

    reellis67 Subscriber

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    There has been talk of using +1, +2, etc. diopter 'filters' as lenses in the past. I always though it might make for an interesting image but never had the time to work with the idea.

    - Randy
     
  25. PHOTOTONE

    PHOTOTONE Member

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    I have heard of using a +10 close-up lens as a simple "long focus" lens, by mounting it on a tube within a tube so focus could be obtained by sliding one tube in the other. Of course this was for use on a 35mm SLR.
     
  26. Ray Heath

    Ray Heath Member

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    absolutely doable, my first experiments into simple lenses included close up filter combinations to vary focal length

    focal can be calculated from dioptre, fl=1000 divided by D (D being the rated dioptre of the lens/close up filter)
     
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