I would like to attempt to create a schematic for a simple or small compound lens, but the process seems very daunting. I have thoroughly read 'Science for the Curious Photographer: An Introduction to the Science of Photography', and fully understand most of the lens concepts and the basis of optics like index of refraction, Snell's Law, etc.

Knowing this, what is the process of designing a lens, and where do I start? If you could provide any resources that would be very helpful.


1 Answer 1


I'd expect that virtually all lens design and analysis these days is done with optical design software like Zemax or Code V. Unfortunately, these products are priced for people and companies that make a (substantial) living working in the field. However, I have come across an optical design tool for Windows called OSLO that offers a free version with reasonable limitations. I've just downloaded it, and it comes with some relatively simple lenses in its library, like a Petzval 50mm f/1.8. It doesn't look like the easiest software to get started with, but there are some users' guides on the download page.

Screenshot of Petzval lens in OSLO

  • \$\begingroup\$ Wow that actually is an incredibly awesome program. I just played around with it for half an hour and it seems pretty self explanatory as far as the simple functions. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dylansq
    Commented Apr 12, 2012 at 2:34

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