tap that glass
December 28, 2006 1:51 PM   Subscribe

I'm interested in fitting odd lenses -- and making custom lenses -- to/for digital cameras and digital video cameras. I'm not terribly concerned with the electronic side of things, so you shouldn't be either. What I'm looking for is a crass/crash course in optics -- something (a book, a video, a class, a kit) that will teach me the basics of optics and allow me to force photocopier lenses, telescopes, and microscopes onto unsuspecting recording devices.
posted by fake to Technology (9 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
For cool experimental effects, try bottles, drinking glasses, vases, glass bricks, bumpers, hubcaps, etc.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 3:01 PM on December 28, 2006

weapons-grade pandemonium is right. shoot thru coloured saran wrap, bottles, etc... Look for odd reflections in windows and garden gazing globes, stuff like that. One of my favourite photos was a sunset over the Boulder foothills that I shot with my little point n shoot through the ruby lenses of my Rudy Project sport sunglasses. The dual lensflare I got in the shot from the extra 'element' plus the odd orangey glow from the ruby lenses is just phenomenal.

for example, go onto flickr and check out the TTV pools (through the viewfinder). there's a whole photography subculture devoted to shooting digicams thru the viewfinders of old cameras, i.e. Duaflex, etc. That Flickr link has some further information on alternative optics in the pool description / discussions as well.
posted by lonefrontranger at 3:48 PM on December 28, 2006

b1tr0t, I appreciate the advice, but I *do* need a book, as many of the lenses in my posession are not attached to the things they once were, and were not designed to be interchangeable.

WGP, thanks, I'm sure bumper-grade distortion is interesting, but I'm more concerned with ultra-macros and lenses with huge apertures.

Lonefrontranger, I'm aware of the TTV pools/work, and it's one of the closer things that I've found to the kind of work I want to do.

So, does anybody have any book/video/kit recommendations? There's no canonical lens design manual... or optical theory book? I'd rather not approach this stuff from a totally naive perspective when there must exists years of accumulated knowledge.

Please keep in mind I'm not so much interested in weird effects as I am in having the technical skill to deliberately and correctly hook up this lens to that sensor, etc.
posted by fake at 5:04 PM on December 28, 2006

If you don't get a good answer, I'd suggest using Amazon to look up user reviews of books listed in the references of some of the more technical wikipedia articles, and use some of the other Amazon tools (users who purchased this book also purchased that one, etc) to check the user reviews of the other top contenders.
It's a pain, but in some other esoteric fields I've been able to determine the "canonical" book this way.

posted by -harlequin- at 5:24 PM on December 28, 2006

Some book recommendations:

-Photographic Lenses by C.B. Neblette, it's older but explains the foundations of lens design.
-The Photographic Lens and Photographic Optics both published by Focal Press.
-Physical Optics in Photography by G. Frank.
-Another possible candidate is; Applied Photographic Optics
-This is a stretch, but might be useful; Primitive Photography

Also check mkaz.com he may have some additional information on lens building that'll help.
posted by squeak at 6:18 PM on December 28, 2006

Take a look at Oslo LT free optical design software. There is user manual online and a good general references section too.
posted by Fins at 6:37 PM on December 28, 2006

Go to the library, and ask a reference librarian to help you find some good books. Inter-Library Loan was made for this. Librarians, good ones at least, enjoy this sort of challenge, or so the reference librarian at the Univ. Library tells me.
posted by theora55 at 6:54 PM on December 28, 2006

This reference may be of some assistance in recognising the limitations of lenses and seeing how and where they deviate from optimal performance. There's a lot of theory included.
posted by polyglot at 8:39 PM on December 28, 2006

They are way, way above my level of photography, but I do remember MIT's open courseware having some courses involving optics and lenses.

You can find one of them here, but there may be more.
posted by ztdavis at 10:21 PM on December 28, 2006

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