Zeiss to launch world’s first lenses with “Transparent Aluminum” ALON elements, rumour suggests

May 3, 2018

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Zeiss to launch world’s first lenses with “Transparent Aluminum” ALON elements, rumour suggests

May 3, 2018

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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It’s being reported by Sony Alpha Rumors that Zeiss are planning to launch the world’s first lens with ALON lens elements. Perhaps a 35mm f/1.8 Sony FE mount pancake lens. ALON is Aluminium Oxynitride, which is essentially “transparent aluminum“. Yes, that’s right Star Trek technology is coming to lenses. Maybe.

The tip received by SAR is as follows…

They are preparing to announce a new compact lens series with astonishing image quality at smaller lens size. Think premium pancake lens.
The first lens of the new series will be an 35mm f1.8 with a total length of under 4cm…..
has developed a lens where several elements are made out of Aluminium oxynitride (ALON for short)

This Material has a diffractive index of 1.79 that is high compared to normal glass (1.4-1.5)
Also it is highly scratch resistant having a MOS hardness of 9
Because of the difficulty in manufacturing it will only be used in the front element and two highly diffractive elements.

So, if the rumours are true, then not every element in a new lens will be made from ALON, just a small handful. But it’s still pretty exciting.  Presumably, though, they mean refractive index, not diffractive index. A 1.79 is very high. Water, for example, has a refractive index of 1.33, and glass is typically around 1.4-1.5, as mentioned in the quote above.

YouTube video

Essentially the higher the refractive index means that the elements can be made much thinner. This means the elements are also typically lighter, too. Which is always a good thing in lenses, especially if you have to carry them around all day. And while a small and compact pancake lens might not benefit too much from that reduced weight, it’s a nice start. As the technology evolves and the price gets lower, we’ll hopefully start to see ALON elements in much longer, bigger and heavier telephoto lenses, too.

As well as reducing the thickness and weight of the elements, it should also be less susceptible to things like chromatic aberration and ghosting. Eliminating both of those things has been the goal of lens manufacturers for decades, so this should be a very cool development in that regard.

Hopefully, we’ll finally start to see truly scratch-resistant mobile phone screens, too.

[via Sony Alpha Rumors]

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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7 responses to “Zeiss to launch world’s first lenses with “Transparent Aluminum” ALON elements, rumour suggests”

  1. Kryn Sporry Avatar
    Kryn Sporry

    It’s “aluminium”

    1. Michał Chaniewski Avatar
      Michał Chaniewski

      It’s both depending on the country. It’s historically been alumium, then aluminum, then aluminium – and the second spelling is prevalent in US; the IUPAC standardisation of naming to aluminium didn’t do much to the day-to-day use. But all the confusion comes from Sir Humphry Davy who couldn’t make his mind between 1807 and 1812.

    2. John Aldred Avatar
      John Aldred

      It’s “a quote”. I’m in the UK, I call it aluminium. The quote was from a movie which was American, and that’s what they called it in the movie. Hence, why the use of that word was in speech marks. :)

  2. Alan Newman Avatar
    Alan Newman

    35 1.8 zeiss pancake. ?

  3. rifki syahputra Avatar
    rifki syahputra

    make aluminium great again..
    if they make the body, mount, and other parts out of aluminium, its gonna be 100% aluminium.. sweet

  4. Mister B. Avatar
    Mister B.

    This hurts me as a chemist.. Why not talk about silicon lenses, or glowing thorium and poisonous lead lenses?

    Right, because it’s never the elemental form that’s used, but an ionic compound of it.

  5. John Hernlund Avatar
    John Hernlund

    Relative dispersion across the visible light spectrum (change in refractive index with respect to color changes) seems to be slightly higher for ALON than a lot of common optical glasses (Schott-K, Hoya-C, etc.). Chromatic aberration will be a bigger issue for ALON elements, but perhaps they have ways to correct it?