Set Aside 25 Minutes to See This Intriguing Video on the History and Science of Lenses

Filmmaker John P. Hess at Filmmaker IQ brings us the highly informative video below, which expertly documents the science behind the evolution of photography’s most vital tool—the lens.

The video is just over 25 minutes long (but worth it!) and Hess begins with one of the earliest, and most fascinating, examples of what could be a lens crafted from crystal—known as the Nimrud lens (750-710 BC), while its true purpose remains a mystery. He then moves on to the earliest Greek and Roman mention of a simple type of lens—Aritophanes (446-386 BC) in a play titled The Clouds (424 BC)—known as a burning lens that was used to start fires.

Hess then describes the science behind how a modern lens focuses light using lasers and light bulbs to highlight the lesson. He goes on to explain the benefits of using lenses made from different types of glass together to eliminate certain aberrations and the use of multiple lenses (in groups) to solve aberration problems.

It's a long video, for sure, but definitely worth watching if you're fascinated with lenses. (Yeah, that's us!) Hess expertly reveals how each discovery through the ages leads to the next in our never ending quest for the most perfect piece of glass.

(We also highly recommend this slightly shorter clip where Hess explains the science of camera sensors.)