I was privileged to sit on a panel of advisors for one of the lens manufacturers last year. I was allowed to give my input to a design team that was working out the lens of the future. I doubt I’ll live long enough to see most of these recommendations come to life, but I decided that I’d share my general ideas here in a post.
1. Lighter weight please. My first request is that the manufacturers continue to seek out and find lighter-weight materials. Composites can be stronger than steel. While the glass is always going to be the heaviest component, the rest of the lens needs to be lighter still to make it easier to carry and use. Heck, I don’t need lots of vibration reduction if you can make my five pound lens weigh a pound less.
2. New technologies please. Canon developed a technology called Diffractive Optics. It’s used in their EF 400 F/4 lens. It works well and makes the lens much smaller and lighter than it would be otherwise. But what happened? There’s been no additional DO lenses from Canon. And what about other optical technologies? I am afraid that the lens makers use the old tech because it’s safe, cheap and easy. Time to take chances. Let’s see what we can do to change the rules. We don’t need to do things the same way we always did.
3. Lens with built-in filters please. Why not simply build in both neutral density and polarizers right into the lens? This would allow the flip of a button to deploy the filter. If we can build drop in filter holders for big lenses, then there’s no reason in my mind why we can’t build the two most often needed filters (ND and Pol) right into the lens itself.
4. Better video integration please. DLSRs that shoot video (hybrids) aren’t going away. This is a growing trend. So why not make lenses that are better suited to video? Why not incorporate the follow focus gears? Carl Zeiss has in fact already done this on their CP.2 lenses and we need to see more of this on the traditional low-cost camera brand lenses.
5. Bring back the aperture ring please. Yes I know, many of you reading this have never even seen an aperture ring. But in the old days, turning that ring set the aperture and the field marks on the glass made it easy to set the hyperfocal distance of the lens via focusing around the aperture marks. I miss that. I really do.
These are just five of the dozens of points I made on the panel. I know some of these will make it to market. Some will not. Some will be here very soon. Some will come a long time from now. But it’s fun to speculate.