Home of Professional Cinematography since 1996

Learning about Film Optics


I'm looking for resources that I can use to learn about optics, both web and books. Any suggestions?



Art Adams | DP
San Francisco Bay Area


I find these are pretty good;
Optics in Photography, Rudolf Kingslake, ISBN 0-8194-0763-1
Lens Design Fundamentals, Rudolf Kingslake, ISBN 0-12-408650-1
Modern Optical Engineering, Warren Smith, ISBN 0-07-136360-2
Priciples of Applied Optics, Partha P. Banerjee, ISBN 0-256-08860-8
Modern Lens Design, Warren Smith, ISBN 0-07-143830-0

The first is something you would read, the rest are more just reference.

Gary Mandle
Product Manager
Sony Display Products


Concepts of Classical Optics, by John Strong.

Theory of Optics by Paul Drude.

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP


This is a difficult question, because Optics is such a wide field. But
Arthur Cox's "Photographic Optics" is written (would you believe?) for
people with an interest in photographic optics. Arthur Cox was a lens
designer originally with Aldis in Birmingham (UK), then Taylor Taylor &
Hobson in Leicester (UK), then Ferrand Optical in the US and finally, before
retiring to consultancy, worked for Bell & Howell. Arthur knew his optics
and his writing is of model clarity.

Good Luck

Jon Maxwell,
Consultant to Cooke Optics


"Lens Design" by Milton Laikin is a good foundation. It's HORRIBLY edited and needs steady nerves to avoid throwing it at the wall, but it gives you the basic principals of photo lens design with some historical background.
Rod Williams
First Camera Assistant
Petaluma, California


If you want to learn about optics relevant to lenses and geometrical optics
in particular, here are my bibles.

1) "Modern Optical Engineering". Warren Smith (The book).
2) "Modern Lens Design", Warren Smith
3) "Applied Photographic Optics", Sidney Ray

One of the best overviews on optical technology in general is

"The Handbook of Optics" (3 HUGE!! Volumes). Expensive but you can buy it
on CD-ROM. It has a chapter on everything optical.

I also like "Camera Technology, The Dark Side of the Lens" by Norman
Goldberg and Erwin Puts book on Leica Lenses.

Canon's website has some nice online tutorials as does the Zeiss library.

Michael Thomas, Partner
Hyperion Development, LLC


Please bear in mind that these resources only get one so far in
understanding cine lenses. The design methods described in them need to be
developed somewhat to get the best results; and most of the improvements are
kept under wraps by the manufacturers and do not make it into the public

Ian Marshall
lens designer


Good point, Ian--although when I talk to camera manufacturers I always tell them, "I want to know enough to understand how they work, but not so much that I can make one."


Art Adams | DP
San Francisco Bay Area