Optics and Optical Engineering Books

book review score+5

Modern Optical Engineering, 4th ed.
Warren J. Smith
SPIE / McGraw-Hill, 2008

This is an outstanding textbook on optics. Smith starts out by describing the paraxial equations and shows how they can predict the behavior of optical systems. Even though we may sometimes use OSLO or Zemax to do the actual calculations, there's no substitute for understanding them.

Optics for Smith means primarily geometrical optics: aberrations, lenses, prisms, mirrors, stops, glass, coatings, radiometry, MTFs, and mounting, specifying, and manufacturing of devices that work in or near the visible part of the EM spectrum. There's little discussion of lasers, LEDs, gratings, sensors, fiber, light sources, mechanics, or holograms, and no quantum mechanics, electronics or exotic stuff like acousto-optical devices. But for what it covers, the 750 pages here make this by far the best book on the topic.

Take the sections on optical system layout. Before jumping in and trying to optimize a design (something that I've discovered firsthand is nowhere near as easy as it sounds) the optical engineer needs to develop an intuition about where to start. Just where are you supposed to put the aperture stop, for example, and why does it matter? No other book provides the depth of insight as is found here. Some parts of this book overlap with Modern Lens Design , but for the most part the two books complement each other: this book teaches you how to think and start designing, while MLD shows you what the results should look like if you do it properly.

On the downside, there are lots of misprints regarding figure numbers. The focus, so to speak, is almost exclusively on the visible range, with a small section on IR and almost nothing on UV lenses. On my copy, the middle of each page was noticeably lighter than the edges, as if the printer was running out of ink. Get a copy before the printing plates wear out completely.

feb 24 2013

book review score+1

Optical Systems Engineering
Keith J. Kasunic
McGraw-Hill, 2011

I really wanted to like this book. There are some useful equations, and the writing style is excellent, but the fact is there's not really enough here to help anyone actually design much. It's more of a high-level overview designed to orient a newcomer to the field. The section on lenses and aberrations is a simplified version of Smith. The rest is bits on radiometry, detectors, and optomechanical design. All of it good, but unless you're a beginner most of it is a review of stuff you probably already know. The style is much like Hobbs's Building Electro-Optical Systems: Making It All Work, which is very likable and very popular.

This book would be great for a manager looking for an overview, but I suspect that engineers will need a lot more. Here's an example. On page 170, it says: “If these stops are not sized correctly then they will become the limiting apertures for the system etendue.” Yes ... I can see why that would be true ... but the statement is of no actual practical value, because instead of telling us how to size the stops, the discussion just changes to a different topic.

Here's another example. On page 219, it says: “a laser's or LED's high level of spectral brightness is not useful unless it is emitted over the wavelengths needed for the application.” Again, obviously true and totally useless. Argh.

This book is not the best for lens design, but it contains useful information on other topics such as detectors, sources, and optomechanical design.

book review score+4

Diffractive Optics
Design, Fabrication, and Test
by O'Shea, Suleski, Kathman, and Prather
SPIE Press, 2003, 241 pages

Diffractive optics is the science of diffraction gratings, Fresnel lenses, and holograms. Using diffraction, engineers and scientists can manipulate light with unprecedented power, creating lenses that far surpass conventional lenses in many respects. Because diffractive optical elements (DOEs) have an extremely large negative dispersion, they can also be very effective in counteracting chromatic aberration of conventional lenses. But there's widespread confusion about just how good DOEs really are and how difficult it is to make them. Thus, this book is a valuable introduction to the design of DOEs for optics engineers.

The first few chapters discuss the theory, starting from basic EM wave theory and using fairly sophisticated math, mainly differential calculus and Fourier transforms. This is followed by a discussion of the simpler, more practical approximations and their limitations. Then gratings and diffractive lenses are introduced, followed by a general survey of DOE fabrication and photolithography.

A minor problem is that the mathematical notation is not always consistent. Authors randomly use ex or exp(x), sometimes in the same equation. Another drawback is that the limitations of DOEs are skimmed over. The reader might wonder, if planar diffractive optic lenses are so great, why aren't we all using them in our eyeglasses? By reading between the lines in this book, I conclude the answer must be their high cost and their extreme wavelength dispersion compared to refractive lenses. Refractive optical elements are still the best solution for most optical devices. But for other applications, diffractive elements are becoming ubiquitous. This book will provide a solid understanding of how to design and fabricate one, should you so desire.

 aug 06, 2011

book review score+2

Infrared Optics and Zoom Lenses, 2nd ed.
Allen Mann
SPIE, 2009, 164 pages

Brief discussion of infrared optics and design techniques for infrared (mainly 8-12 and 3-5 μm). Mostly describes how specific IR reflective and refractive zoom lenses from various military contractors have been designed. In missile applications, the lenses are often used only once before getting broken. Optical materials in the infrared, such as silicon and germanium, have low dispersion and very high indexes of refraction, which allows achromatic lenses to be made easily. Last third of the book consists of reprints of patents. The emphasis is visual and conceptual rather than mathematical. You won't learn any optics from this book, but most of the diagrams are clear enough to make out what's being presented.

jan 21 2013

book review score+5

Optics, 4th ed.
Eugene Hecht
Addison-Wesley, 2002, 698 pages

I feel sorry for students who have to read this book. Even though it's written at an undergraduate level, the writing is aggravating in many places. It mixes important concepts with common everyday observations that convey no new knowledge, but detract from the understanding by falsely convincing the reader they already understand it. In other places, the writing seems deliberately obtuse. Take the following paragraph fragment from page 129:

“Envision the conductor as an assemblage of driven, damped oscillators. Some correspond to free electrons and will therefore have zero restoring force, whereas others are bound to the atom, much like those in the dielectric media of Section 3.5.1. The conduction electrons are, however, the predominant contributors to the optical properties of metals.”

Here's what the author actually wants to say:

“Conduction electrons are the predominant contributors to the optical properties of metals. Electrons may be bound or free. Electrons bound to the atom are much like those in the dielectric media of Section 3.5.1, and may be envisioned as an assemblage of driven, damped oscillators. Free electrons may be envisioned as oscillators with zero restoring force.”

In other words, just read this book backwards and you'll be fine. Or as Hecht would say, you'll be fine, as shown in section 13.4.2, upon backwards reading of this book. That said, this is a decent and highly recommended textbook on optics.

 jan 22, 2013 (not finished)

book review score+5

Modern Lens Design. 2nd ed.
Warren J. Smith
SPIE/McGraw-Hill, 2005, 631 pages

Using amazingly clear writing, Smith describes how to design lenses and lens assemblies, including telescope and microscope objectives, eyepieces, triplet anastigmats, Petzval lenses, zoom lenses, and telephoto lenses. He says that even though lens design is always carried out on a computer, you have to have a design grounded in a physically correct concept before the computer can optimize it into something worth producing. In other words, you need to learn the stuff here to prevent your software from giving you an "unfortunate" (read "impossible to see through") lens.

Numerous OSLO-style aberration curves and MTF plots but no theory. For that, you have to buy Smith's other book, Modern Optical Engineering (see review at left). Sadly, Warren J. Smith died in June, 2008.

 jan 26, 2013

book review score+4

Telescope Optics
A Comprehensive Manual for Amateur Astronomers
Rutten and van Venrooij
Willmann-Bell, 2002

Design and optical analysis of various types of telescopes used by amateur astronomers, concentrating on image aberrations, resolution, alignment, and eyepieces. Doesn't get into the mechanical aspects of focusers or lens grinding, but uses lots of ray-tracing and optics equations to predict the performance of telescope optical systems. Supposedly there is software included with this book. I didn't get that with my copy, and it's doubtful that it would run on today's computers. Far more up-to-date and rigorous than Sidgwick. An excellent book for those who want to understand their scope or those who aspire to build their own.

book review score+1

Optical System Design, 2nd ed.
Fischer, Tadic-Galeb, and Yoder
SPIE/McGraw-Hill, 2008, 809 pages

Basic optics for non-optical engineers. The goal of the authors was to create an optics text that is light on mathematics, on the theory that engineers don't need to know it because they will always use computer software written by somebody else. That may be true, and helping the reader understand the subject intuitively is an admirable goal. But the authors overcompensate for the imprecision of their non-mathematical presentation by explaining obvious points over and over again in words. A good editor could have shortened this book considerably. This text covers most of the essential stuff, but later chapters drift far away from optics, and by then some readers may have run out of patience. Get Modern Optical Engineering instead.

 feb 12, 2012

book review score+5

Handbook of Optomechanical Engineering
Anees Ahmad, ed
CRC, 1997, 296 pages

Anyone who has taken apart a camera lens and struggled to figure out how to get it back together knows that they are marvels of precision engineering. (Translation: after the removal of a single screw, they have an annoying tendency to fall into a pile of seemingly unrelated parts.) But there are very few books on the subject. This multi-author work, which is mainly oriented toward telescopes, is a good beginning.

Optomechanical systems require higher precision than other engineered devices, because deviations are measured in terms of fractions of a wavelength. In structural terms, this means the emphasis is on deflection (strain) rather than stress. But like bridges, the largest load on an optical system is usually gravity.

The only disadvantage of this book is its age. There is no discussion of new high elastic modulus materials like carbon fiber (although they do discuss graphite/epoxy). Better treatment may be found in Mounting Optics in Optical Instruments 2e (2008). But this book is better for adjustment mechanisms.

Lots of tables, useful equations, and insights about materials, optical mounts, adjustment mechanisms, structural analysis, and thermal analysis. Fascinating and informative for anyone curious about the subject, and essential reading for any designer of an optical system, especially one intended for use in an extreme environment.

jan 26 2014