LensRentals founder Roger Cicala is known for disassembling camera gear and sharing his findings on his company blog. Now he has done the opposite: he’s sharing how he built (from scratch) a prototype 4.9mm f/3.5 “hyperfisheye” lens, the widest fisheye lens ever made. It’s a lens so wide that it can literally see behind itself.
It’s a purely mechanical lens, so you won’t find any fancy motors or stabilization systems inside.
“But even a simple lens is a very complex structure,” Cicala writes, saying that his behind-the-scenes glimpse “will probably give you a good idea of how much mechanical design is required to make even a very basic lens.”
Nikon previously manufactured an ultra-rare 6mm fisheye lens that can also see behind itself, but Cicala’s lens is superior in key ways.
“To give you an idea of what 270 degrees means, the lens sees behind itself,” Cicala says. “An ultra-wide 15mm fisheye lens gives a 180-degree field of view while an 11mm rectilinear lens is less than 120 degrees.”
“The closest thing that’s existed to this is the 1970s classic Nikkor 6mm f/2.8 fisheye, which gave a 220-degree field of view, weighed 5 kg, and can be rarely found for $100,000 and up these days,” Cicala says. “The C-4 optics lens weighs every bit as much as the Nikkor, but should be far sharper, have less distortion and vignetting, and cost somewhat less than those do today. (‘Somewhat’ being defined as ‘less than half’.)”
Just the first element in the lens alone costs about $5,000.
Here’s what the fully-assembled C-4 Precision Optics 4.9mm f/3.5 lens looks like:
You can find an in-depth step-by-step look at the assembly of this lens here.
Here’s a 46-second timelapse video of the process:
Cicala announced C-4 Precision Optics nearly four years ago back on April 1st, 2015, but — perhaps due in large part to the April Fool’s Day announcement — it seems no one took the announcement seriously then. Well, it’s clear now that the new lens startup is very much real. It’s a joint venture being run in spare time by Cicala and Brian Caldwell, who previously worked as a designer at Metabones and Coastal Optics.
C-4 has only developed two lenses thus far, and Cicala hasn’t revealed what his long-term goal with these creations is. If you’re interested in seeing what this hyperfisheye lens can do, Cicala expects to have the first set of sample photos from it within the next week or two, so stay tuned.