New Nikon Patent Points to Possibility of a Future f/0.7 Mirrorless Lens

Apertures can get pretty big, but a new patent from Nikon seems to imply that a future Nikon 1 mirrorless lens could weigh in at f/0.7. The patent, which gives an example of a 32mm f/1.2 (pictured above), clearly states that the new technology could successfully yield smaller numbers due to optimization of the aperture diameter, flange back length and image circle.

SLR owners shouldn’t get too excited though, due to the complexity of the innards the smallest practical aperture for an SLR is f/1.2, and even those lenses can get a teensy bit pricey (a 50mm f/1.2 USM from Canon will run you ~$1,500 on Amazon). Mirrorless cameras, on the other hand, can take advantage of smaller f-stops — hence the patent.

(via Nikon Rumors)

P.S. Here’s a fun fact: f/0.7 is actually one of the largest known apertures ever used. It was found in two 50mm NASA-produced Zeiss Lenses that were modified to work on Stanley Kubrik’s movie cameras for candle light only scenes in the movie Barry Lyndon.

  • Thomas E White

    This is exciting news. I love my Nikon 1 v1 and welcome any additional lenses I can add to my collection.

  • wickerprints

    Because the word “aperture” in photography refers to an opening through which light passes, it is perhaps clearer to write “large aperture” = “fast aperture” = “small f-number” = greater light-gathering ability.

    Nikon F-mount bodies are capable of at most f/1.2, due to the diameter of the mount and the distance from the flange to the focal plane as required by the reflex mirror.  Canon EF-mount bodies are capable of at most f/1.0, because the mount diameter is larger and the flange focal distance is smaller.

    Mirrorless bodies with small sensors have the potential for very fast f-numbers, because it is possible to place condensing optics extremely close to the shutter.  Such lenses are not new, as pointed out by the article–the idea is a bit like the opposite of a teleconverter, which increases focal length and image circle diameter at the expense of light-gathering ability.  Using a condensing group behind a long focal length lens decreases the focal length and the image circle diameter, but increases light-gathering ability.  This is precisely the technique used to design the Zeiss lenses used for Barry Lyndon.  But it is only possible if you can put the optics closer to the image plane.

  • stanimir stoyanov

    Very interesting, but can you explain how you use an f/0.75 aperture with an SLR/cinematic camera (like in Kubrick’s case)?

  • wickerprints

    The lens used by Kubrick could not have been used in conjunction with a reflex mirror.  Any reflex camera design that uses the Zeiss Planar 50/0.7 would require mounting the lens with the mirror in the locked up position.  This should be immediately obvious from the diagrams in the following article (in Italian, but the diagrams tell the story):

    In any case, a cinematic camera–i.e., one which uses film to record a motion picture–would not be a reflex design anyway.  A mirror would get in the way of exposing the film at 24 fps.

  • Wombat

    If you read the articles online about it, you’ll see that the rear of the lens was almost touching the film.