Although I like to nerd out on lens design a lot on this website, it’s not only the math and techniques of lens design that interests me. I’ve found that to learn lens design, there are many more aspects than just being able to learn the software, or just being able to calculate the ray tracing. There is a host of knowledge that can help us learn lens design.
This topic of learning lens design (rather than lens design itself) may be a little abstract, but I think they’d be interesting to you if you want to learn lens design. Hopefully, even if you’re not a lens designer, you find it applicable to what you do, or even hope to do lens design someday.
Just as Chandoo says, the dirty little secret is that we don’t want to become awesome in lens design, we want to become awesome at work. Obviously, lens design is a significant portion of the work of lens designers, so learning how to do lens design better will greatly affect our performance in our work.
Chandoo lists some great steps, so I am taking his steps and putting my lens design spin on them.
Let’s dive into the 12 steps to learn lens design (so you become awesome at work).
1. Learn every day, the lens design version
How to learn every day? I think that it is possible to pick up things that will help the lens design process if we are being attentive. Don’t underestimate the little things, the iterative stacking of knowledge goes a long way. 10 minutes a day to review something new we learned is 50 minutes for a five-day work week, and that becomes close to 42 hours in a year.
I don’t claim to know everything there is know about lens design, and I learn every day as well.
As the age of the internet grows, there is a lot of information on the web on almost any topic. For lens design, I suggest a few below:
- Archived lectures at the University Jena Institute of Applied Optics
- Several archived lectures by Prof. Jose Sasian at the University of Arizona
- Several “How-to’s” on the Zemax Optics Studio knowledge base site
- May I suggest my own blog post too?
2. Volunteer and improve a lens design at work
The process of lens design is neverending. It is possible to work on a lens design for a very long time. A lens design is never really “done”, and there are always little things we find that can improve the system.
For every lens design that I finished and shipped, I can guarantee that I can find something that could be improved. Unfortunately, under a production schedule, there is only a finite amount of time that we can spend on a project.
But it’s not just the lens design itself. It can be an improvement in the report for the lens design. Or the information in the lens diagram that we make for the manufacturing team. It could be the procedure of the lens design, like setting up the merit function versus setting up the layout of the design.
Let’s say that a colleague has a lens that does not improve at all after optimization. One of the easiest ways to learn lens design is to break the design down to learn how it works. We also have the benefit of a working system with few unknowns. I take a look at lens design patents for designs to learn from.
3. Help a colleague with something lens design related
In most workplaces, you will have colleagues to talk to. I’ve learned that to teach someone something, I have to know the subject ten times better than the person learning it. By the same token, helping other people can reaffirm our knowledge on the subject, or it can lead to looking at things a new way.
Is there a colleague in need close by? Give them a hand, you may find it helps you as much as it helps them.
4. Join a forum and solve a lens design problem
Forums can be tricky to find for lens design, but the active forums are a great place to learn. You’ll find that most of the people in the group will be happy to help out if you ask a thoughtful question.
For lens design forums, I suggest a few below:
- Zemax Optics Studio forum
- Optical Design and Analysis Software
- Optical Design and Analysis
- Illumination optical engineers
- Quora (optics)
- Reddit (optics)
Just like for #3, helping someone out in a forum can help you learn as well.
5. Get a book on lens design
I realize that there is a lot of information online. Heck, I have a website with massive posts on an alternative method to learning lens design and lens design forms that top tens of thousands of words.
That being said, books are an unmatched source of learning the process of lens design. Seriously, read just one chapter of a well-known optics textbook, not because you have to read it for a course, but because you really want to learn the material. See if you can apply that knowledge to your work.
Even if it is a book you have read before, pick it up again and re-read it. I have re-read some lens design books recently where I fully admit to not appreciating them when I first read them. Reading a book for the second or third time and getting new stuff out of it is always a huge eye opener.
For lens design books, check out my recommendations below.
- Lens design Fundamentals, Rudolf Kingslake, Academic Press 1978
- A History of the photographic lens’ R. Kingslake, Academic Press Inc. 1989
- Optics 4th Edition, Eugene Hecht, Addison Wesley 2001
- Introduction to Lens Design: With Practical Zemax Examples, Joseph Geary, Willmann-Bell 2002
- Field Guide to Geometrical Optics, John E. Greivenkamp, SPIE Press 2004
- Modern Lens Design, Warren J. Smith, McGraw-Hill Education 2004
- Optical System Design, Robert Fischer, McGraw-Hill Education 2008
- Applied Optics and Optical Design Part 1 and Part 2, A. E. Conrady, Dover Publications 2011
- Field Guide to Lens Design, Julie Bentley, Craig Olson, SPIE Press 2012
- Lens Design Methods, Yoshiya Matsui, Kyoritsu Press 1972 (Japanese)
- Lens Design Engineering, Jihei Nakagawa, Tokai University Press 1986 (Japanese)
6. Participate in a lens design contest
I only know of one contest in optics, but I am planning to run a contest in the future. As I think new and interesting problems further the advancement of lens design.
For contests, the International Optical Design Conference (IODC) provides two problems with each conference, the lens design problem and the illumination design problem.
- Lens design problem 2017 (solution in proceedings)
- Illumination problem 2017 (solution in proceedings)
- Akira Yabe’s website has a list of past problems and solutions
7. Play with an unknown feature in lens design software
Let’s face it, lens design is done with software. At a certain stage, we can use the software sufficiently for our needs. If we don’t have a use for features, we won’t end up using them.
For example, I use Zemax Optics Studio quite a bit, but I rarely use SolidWorks links. There may be a hidden (to you) feature in the software that may end up being very useful if you learn to use it.
If you are not sure what to pick, may I suggest User-defined surfaces? In a nutshell, you can program any surface you want as it can be represented mathematically. This feature helps open up new surfaces in the software that may be a godsend for your work but also to other people in your field. For this example, on top of learning a new feature of Zemax, you can also learn code too!
If you don’t have a lens design program, there are some free programs out there.
- How To do lens design with WinLens [optical design software], Tolerancer, Glass Manager & PreDesigner, MachVis [lens calculator & nomogram]
- dbOptic the Optical Design Database App
- Software for Optical Systems<
- Optical Design Software
- optical design free download
- Design Tools | LightMachinery
- Free Optics Simulation Programs
- Engineering Calculations – KDP2
8. Replicate an idea from other industry to lens design
Lens designers can’t do lens design exclusively and expect to be the best they can be. There are many things we can learn outside of lens design that is either directly or indirectly linked to the work that we do. For example, you can read up on tech magazines for interesting use cases for lens designs. You can get information from tech blogs and to figure out what kinds of needs are in different industries, and find a solution for those needs with lens design.
9. Join a newsletter or subscribe to a blog on lens design or optics
Thank you for subscribing to this website, by the way 🙂
Find a website on lens design or optics that you enjoy? Subscribe to the website, and you can get first-hand information from the author whenever the website is updated.
Someone who owns a website took the time to make the material, and there is a good chance, at least for optics and lens design, that they made the effort with the best of intentions, and share their knowledge.
10. Find YouTube videos on lens design
Although I’m too old to consume lessons through YouTube myself, I’m not too out of touch to realize that visual and audio aids can help immensely with how people can learn material.
The beauty of instructional YouTube content is that there are videos on almost any topic, and most of the good videos teach us things in creative ways. They are usually very consumable, 10-30 minutes long or so, and easily accessible.
Admittedly, there are not many lens design YouTube channels, but for us lens designers, check out a few below:
- Zemax Youtube channel
- Optics Realm (Edmund Optics chief engineer) Youtube channel
- Laramy-K Optical Youtube channel (More for opticians)
11. Join an online or offline course in lens design
There are professional lens designers and teachers all over the web that can teach us lens design.
To learn lens design, I recommend the below (most are past courses, so look for a time they will open up)
- University of Arizona Short Courses
- University of Rochester Short Courses
- International Summer School Advanced Lens Design
- Online course at SPIE
I have a goal of making a course someday, and when I do, I plan to make it awesome.
12. Believe that you are awesome
Chandoo finished off with an inspirational quote and leaves us with advice that the most important aspect of becoming awesome is to believe you are awesome. No books, videos, blogs or contests can make you awesome if you don’t believe that you can be awesome.
These are my 12 ways to become awesome in lens design. What about yours?
Did I miss anything obvious? Let me know in the comments below!