Manufacturing camera lenses usually involves years of research, a great deal of capital, and a team of engineers to piece everything together. Not anymore, though.
Photographer Mathieu Stern has created his very own camera lens with the help of a 3D printer.
Motivated by a lifelong dream to create his own lens, Stern got to work. Rather than jumping straight into the 3D modeling phase of the project, though, Stern built the initial prototype out of cardboard. The lens used the basic components from an 1890 lens Stern had as part of his growing collection.
“It was ugly” says Stern, but it focused and was able to be used for measurements.
Stern didn’t have any experience using computer-aided design (CAD) software, so he reached out to a handful of 3D printers to see if they’d be able to make a model out of his measurements. After a handful of turn downs, Stern came across Arnault Coulet, the CEO of a French 3D printing agency called Fabulous.
The measurements were put in, the model was printed, and Stern received the final creation in the mail. The lenses were put in place and the homemade 135mm f/1.8 lens was ready to be mounted onto his Sony A7 II mirrorless camera.
As shown in the video, the lens was able to produce rather impressive results. It seems to be fairly sharp in the middle, with distortion and sharpness falling off toward the outside of the image circle.
Although it’s clear that Stern’s lens isn’t going to put up a fight with even the most affordable lenses on the market, not many people can say they’re shooting with a camera lens they designed entirely on their own.