Classic lens designs often used glasses containing lead, thorium, cadmium and similar dopants.

These materials are rather taboo in what counts as electrical equipment and accessories in many locations these days, or at least the exemptions are time-limited and/or in dispute.

Are some contemporary, low element designs in reality not marketed as anything else than a full manual version, possibly even intentionally with film camera compatible mounts, so they do not constitute (an accessory for) an electrical device, in order to avoid the regulatory mess around some glass types?

  • What repercussions could come from a lead, etc glass element in an autofocus lens attached to a dslr?
    – OnBreak.
    Feb 10, 2019 at 1:57
  • None to the photographer. Many to the maker or importer. Feb 10, 2019 at 10:13
  • Can you elaborate on "environmental theater"?
    – mattdm
    Feb 11, 2019 at 1:50

1 Answer 1


This is an interesting question. RoHS is a regulation aimed at eliminating four elements from electronics manufacturing. These elements are lead, mercury, cadmium and chromium IV. I did a search and believe that such elements in optical glass are currently exempt from RoHS at least currently according to this link and this other link.

New exemption for EU-RoHS On 16 June 2017, the EU published two commission-delegated directives (EU 2017/1009 and 1011) extending the exemptions for optical and filter glass to July 2021.

I suspect the reason that older "classic" lens designs aren't manufactured with autofocusing is that many camera manufacturers don't provide specifications for interfacing with their cameras so third party lens manufacturer have to reverse engineer such interfaces. My guess is only larger lens manufacturers would have such resources and they probably use more modern lens designs.

  • I doubt a manufacturer in such a relatively small market would want to design relying on such exemptions being extended further... Feb 10, 2019 at 17:51
  • 1
    If you look at the links, mostly it is about colored filters. I really doubt that regular optical glass is a problem at all. I'm relatively certain the issue with auto focus is the difficulty in reverse engineering the interface and needing to do it over and over again for each manufacturer. The relatively small return from niche markets won't cover the engineering expense.
    – Eric S
    Feb 10, 2019 at 18:29
  • 1
    Your question makes the assumption that modern lenses don't use elements such as lead. I'm not sure that is true: spie.org/membership/spie-professional-magazine/archives/…
    – Eric S
    Feb 10, 2019 at 18:39
  • I believe when RoHS first came into effect, lenses were not exempt. That probably resulted in a few older designs being obsoleted, even if they could be brought back today. Feb 12, 2019 at 5:04
  • @MarkRansom I don’t know for sure, but a lens is more likely impacted by RoHS because the embedded electronics used lead rather than the glass. Very often with older electronics RoHS compliant components are simply not available.
    – Eric S
    Feb 12, 2019 at 15:29

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