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A History of the Photographic Lens [Hardcover]

Rudolf Kingslake
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

November 11, 1989 0124086403 978-0124086401 1
The lens is generally the most expensive and least understood part of any camera. In this book, Rudolf Kingslake traces the historical development of the various types of lenses from Daguerre's invention of photography in 1839 through lenses commonly used today.
From an early lens still being manufactured for use in low-cost cameras to designs made possible through such innovations as lens coating, rare-earth glasses, and computer aided lens design and testing, the author details each major advance in design and fabrication. The book explains how and why each new lens type was developed, and why most of them have since been abandoned. This authoritative history of lens technology also includes brief biographies of several outstanding lens designers and manufacturers of the past.

Frequently Bought Together

A History of the Photographic Lens + Optics in Photography (SPIE Press Monograph Vol. PM06) + Applied Photographic Optics
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Editorial Reviews


"This book is well illustrated, clearly written and a most useful source of knowledge about lenses. It will interest historians of photography, camera collectors and amateur photographers. For any first-time would-be buyer of a good camera, it will prove an invaluable aid."
"[Kingslake has written] an instructive and entertaining account of the development of lenses from the earliest simple double convex lens to the meniscus, to doublets and triplets, achromats and apochromats and even aspherics, and including the most elaborate telephoto and zoom lenses used today."
--John N. Howard, OPTICS NEWS
"Kingslake has done an outstanding job of writing a readable book....
Rudy Kingslake is today's first name in optics. His new book belongs in every camera collector's library."
"Rudolph Kingslake is eminently qualified to write this book...It is...a rich source of references to books, papers, and most importantly patents, where much of lens design knowledge is archived."

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 334 pages
  • Publisher: Academic Press; 1 edition (November 11, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0124086403
  • ISBN-13: 978-0124086401
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 6.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #80,779 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Five star book, 3 star reproduction quality June 11, 1999
This classic book on the large format photography lens is a must for serious enthusiasts. I have used my local library's copy so much that I decided to buy the book. Boy, was I let down when it came from It turns out that this is a poor quality reproduction, the original plates having been lost by Academic Press. The text and line drawings are OK, but the halftones stink, and I am disappointed that I paid $51 dollars for this book. It should be described on the Amazon web page as a reproduction-grade book and should be priced at $24.95.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
If you've moved from 35mm photography to medium format, you are no
longer confronted with lenses called "Minolta 28-70mm/2.8
G," but rather Tessars, Planars, and Super-Angulons. In medium
format, you're still limited to using lenses provided by the
manufacturer of your camera, but if you move to large format, where
almost any lens can be used on any camera, things become really
convoluted. In short, lens manufacturers give names to their designs
in much the same way that car manufacturers give names to their
Kingslake provides a history that will help the
photographer unravel the advantages of different lens designs as well
as serve as an excellent resource to the classic lens collector.
Diagrams are provided for most significant lens designs up to the
1980's. There are chapters on optical glass and lens attachments. Be
warned that about a third of the 300+ pages are biographical sketches,
with portraits, of important figures in the development of the
photographic lens. This may be of value to some, but less to others.
There is also a very useful, separate, index of lens names, and a
glossary of many of the technical terms used. (Although the index
seemed to leave out some names, such as Protar, which ARE discussed in
the book!).
I didn't find the quality of this printing
objectionable, as did another reviewer. In fact, most of the figures
are line drawings, and aren't really subject to bad
Now for the inevitable complaints.
Kingslake assumes
that the reader has some knowledge of lens design, or at least of
common aberrations.
Read more ›
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Rudolf Kingslake's "History of the Photographic Lens" is not only one of the most informed histories of lens design, but also serves to remind photographers, amateur and professional alike, of the value of older lens designs, largely abandoned in this "modern" computer age. Not only will everyone whose interest in photography far outreaches their credit line or bank account enjoy this retired lens expert's chronicle, the book will also serve to recommend some of the very same optics, still available today, for those wiling to experiment with the vast range of used photographic lenses on the market. The value of my own images relies, in part, on the knowledge that certain designs, such as the Dagor or the Protar can still be used to advantage in larger formats where the need to enlarge is minimal or nonexistent. While some reviewers would like to se the more information on later developments in photographic lenses fom the second half of the century on, I am glad that this text is still in print and hope it shall remain so. rk.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I won't speak to this as a book for photographers, but rather as one for optical designers. Kingslake covers many of the basics of why such-and-such a design form is good and how it compares to others, detailing everything in a chronological format. He also talks about unusual products such as the Hypergon, which had a spinning cogwheel in front of it. Ingenious!

The book is also useful because Kingslake frequently provides patent years, countries and numbers for the designs he discusses.

The back third of the book is an encyclopedia of biographies of those people who contributed to photographic lens development in one way or another.

One reviewer complained of bad print quality. I can't comment on that because my version is from the early 90s and has no quality issues.

Read this book if you want the answers to questions such as "In the early days of photography, why did groups of people use to sit in a semicircle when having their portraits taken?"

Also, check out Optics in Photography (SPIE Press Monograph Vol. PM06).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good historical overview from someone who knew. September 23, 2004
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Rudolf Kingslake was educated in optics in England then made his way from England to the USA and became in 1937 the head of the Kodak lens design department. This was a time when the strong hand of a leader was allowed to create excellence. Kodak made the famous Ektar Large Format lenses during his leadership. These lenses still compete with modern day lenses (at least those of the 1980's) even though today's modern glasses were not available to him and they do lack the modern flare reducing coatings. So this man is an authority on the history of lens design. I wish he gave more opinion and reputation type remarks since he must have seen it all in lens design. He includes brief comments on lens designers and gives their photo or sketched portraits from the late 1700's through the 1900's. An historically important book though not as complete as I would have liked. Rates a 5 for historical importance alone.
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