Announcing C-4 Precision Optics

Published April 1, 2015

Or, What I Did Over Winter Slow Season

Those of you who read my blog regularly know I’m not a huge fan of sameness. But new lens releases, lately, have tended to have a lot of sameness. Don’t get me wrong, there have been some excellent lenses released; marked improvements and refinements have taken place. Other than (arguably) the Canon 11-24 f/4 lens, though, there haven’t been a whole lot of exciting new designs that aren’t like anything else on the market.

Most of you also know that I’m friends and coworkers with Brian Caldwell (the man who designed the Coastal Optics 60mm Macro, Metabones Speedboosters, and a number of other great optics) and Aaron “The Lens Whisperer” Closz, who I’m certain is the best person in the U.S.  at optically adjusting lenses.

So one day, we all went out to lunch. One beer led to another, and pretty soon we decided what the world needed most was another lens manufacturing company, and we were just the boys to do it. Brian knows everything there is to know about lens design and likes to think outside the box, so he was an obvious choice. Aaron knows everything there is to know about optical testing and adjustment and likes to think outside the box, so he was an obvious choice, too. I write a blog and was paying for all those beers, so that got me included.


Next we needed a catchy name. With Caldwell, Closz, and Cicala being the founders, the name was obvious: C-4 Precision Optics. Why C-4 you ask? Well, there are several versions of that. It could be because there was a lot of beer being consumed at lunch and our counting skills had deteriorated. Or it might be that there’s a silent 4th partner (there is, actually, but her name doesn’t start with a C). Or perhaps we feared that C-3 would lead to a bunch of Star Wars jokes. No wait, I just realized that my name has two C’s in it, so that’s 4 C’s total.

Plus we liked the whole explosives tie-in. The only things cooler than optics are explosives. Unless we had some exploding optics or were making optical explosives or something. So we got a cool logo made, and opened up shop. Then we dropped the cool logo because Brian hated it, and well, it’s hard to have a lens designing company without a lens designer.

You Want to Hear About What’s Coming? Sure You Do

After the initial meeting, we all did what we do best. Aaron and I had some time to kill, so we got a bunch of lens elements from the bins of used elements we keep around here,


found some cardboard shipping tubes, and used trial and error to try making some lenses. We didn’t really have much success, although I did end up with a nice kaleidoscope.

Brian got out his fancy computer programs and such and did what he does; certainly making him worth the exorbitant salary C-4 pays him. (OK, we don’t really pay him anything, but we let him play with our MTF bench when he’s in town. That’s better than money, right? Right! At least that’s what I told Brian.)

Brian focused (pun ever so intended) on designing lenses for m4/3 and mirrorless systems. Why? Maybe because Canon and Nikon already have lots of lenses. Or because mirrorless is the wave of the future. Or because that’s the default setting on his computer. In other words, I don’t know why. He just did, OK?

To be honest, I try not to ask Brian a lot of questions unless he’s been drinking beer. When he’s sober his answers usually sound like

which I generally don’t find very helpful, unless you define helpful as “making me feel pretty stupid.” So anyway, the designs Aaron and I arrived at aren’t quite ready for production. Brian did a little better, and I’ll show you the first three designs C-4 Precision Optics plans to pursue.

The Mark of the Beast

C-4 Optics first design is a 66.6mm f/0.666 for Micro 4/3. Sure, we could call it a 67mm f/0.67, but that would ruin a really cool nickname, now wouldn’t it?

This will be a manual focus lens available in a Cinema housing. It will be rather large for a micro 4/3 lens, with a 4.5″ front element and a length of roughly 6 inches. Still, the ability to shoot at f/0.67 will make the size irrelevant for a lot of photographers, and cinematographers won’t find it any larger than other Cine lenses.

66.6mm f/0.666 Micro 4/3 lens duagram.


The design uses six High Refractive Index elements. It actually incorporates the same principles used in Speedbooster optics, so despite the very wide aperture, aberrations are minimized, even when using the lens wide open.

The Night Stalker

This lens will make you want to buy an A7 series camera if you don’t already have one. Our second design is a 150mm f/1.0 lens. Because of its short back focus distance, it’s for mirrorless cameras only, but will cover a full-frame sensor. Again, it’s manual focus only, but with the A7’s focus-peaking filters, manual focus is a breeze.

150mm f/1.0 lens diagram

This lens has three ED (extra-low dispersion) elements and two aspheric elements. Yes, it’s a BAL (big ass lens – are you starting to see a pattern here?) with a front element 6 inches in diameter and a length of around 9 inches. But did I mention it’s a 150mm f/1.0? Go find me a smaller 150mm f/1.0. Or just any 150mm f/1.0. I’m waiting. . . .

The Flying Saucer

AKA The Light Bender, this is another lens that covers a full-frame mirrorless sensor. It will also make that little girly-man 15mm thing you call a fisheye lens cower in fear and shame. This, my friends, is The Mother of all Fisheye Lenses. It’s a 4.9mm f/3.5 Fisheye that has a 270-degree angle of view. That’s correct. 270 degrees.

That means this lens not only shows everything from one side to the other (for the mathematically challenged among you, that would be 180 degrees), it actually shows stuff that’s behind you. Like this. (OK, it’s an awful drawing, but the camera would be the white box, the lens is the blue thing and the 270-degree field of view is in black. We actually have to design the housing to make sure the lens is forward enough to not catch the camera body in the field of view.

Making a lens this wide without horrible color fringing is quite a challenge, requiring five ED elements and some other special glass types. And I should probably mention the front element is 8.2 inches in diameter, so it can double as a shield or a small dinner plate.

Who is going to want this? I don’t know, but the possibilities are endless. Aim it straight up to the ceiling and you’ll see all the walls, doors, and windows in the room (not to mention a fair amount of the floor). Put two of them back-to-back and capture a panorama of everything, with lots of overlap, too. Face them towards each other and – never mind; as Egon Spengler taught us all, “Don’t cross the streams. It would be bad.”

And don’t think we haven’t noticed that copies of the Nikon 6mm f/2.8 fisheye lens have sold for over $30,000 and they’re 30 years old. Even though our lens will be much wider than a measly 6mm, we promise to bring it in well under that price point. So if you own one of those classics, my friends, sell it now while there’s still a market. Because C-4 is going to blow that market up, mark my words.

The soon-to-be obsolete Nikon 6mm f/2.8 fisheye lens. Source unknown.

When Will They Be Here?

Patience, my friends, patience. The optical designs are done, but mechanical housing designs and tolerancing is just beginning. Prototypes have to be made and tested before actual manufacturing can begin. Funding is also an issue, and we may have to crowdsource funding for actual production after the prototypes are made.

But they will be made, they will be assembled and tested in the U. S., and optically they will be the most accurately toleranced lenses on the market. And we expect to have at least one of them available before the end of this calendar year.

Brian Caldwell, Aaron Closz, and Roger Cicala; C-4 Precision Optics

April 1, 2015.

A lot of truth is said in jest. Eminem

In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.  George Orwell

Author: Roger Cicala

I’m Roger and I am the founder of Lensrentals.com. Hailed as one of the optic nerds here, I enjoy shooting collimated light through 30X microscope objectives in my spare time. When I do take real pictures I like using something different: a Medium format, or Pentax K1, or a Sony RX1R.

Posted in Other
  • Lynn Allan

    Interesting. However, for static objects, a lens in portrait orientation in the 24mm to 28mm focal length range makes very nice panoramas.

    For landscapes without exaggerated foregrounds, you typically don’t need a pano-head to avoid stitching errors.

    180 deg to 225 deg FOV is not difficult and still avoid a really short, squat aspect ratio over 2:1 or 3:1.

    See example of morning rainbow (partially double) with Colorado Front Range in the background with Sony FE28 and 6 images:

    Ulta-wde-panos up to 360 deg FOV aren’t difficult with 6 or 7 images and 14mm Samyang in portrait orientation.

    4 captures is usually enough in landscape orientation. I normally use 5 and a D.I.Y. non-spherical pano-head that is more stable and rigid than many spherical pano-heads. The aspect ratio tends to obviously look squat, however.

    Very late dusk at the top of Loveland pass with Loveland Ski resort in background … before wind picked up too much.

  • This is great news, and the prices for these behemoths should be will within reach, given the cardboard tubes. 🙂

  • It´s a pleasure to be part of the company but you three should have involved me, before taking my name to get the 4th “C”.
    And who of you drank all my beers?

  • Charlie

    I dig the *amazing* spherochromatism attained by these lenses. It can’t be any….

  • Darren

    This is possibly the funniest thing I’ve ever seen.

    (The second funniest thing was watching Jeremy Clarkson’s 3 story camper car plummet from a cliff while Jeremy, who is completely unaware of what is happening behind him, remarks about how good his ice cream tastes! Yes, that’s a Top Gear UK reference…)

    I vote for the fisheye lens. It should be real, because it would make the world a better place. It just would.

  • Ivan

    I think its kinda funny that a 150mm lens requires a mirrorless camera for the backfocus distance.

  • William Brooks

    My design suggestion would be to make the point where the lens hood meets the front element waterproof.

    This way, when gripped in the right hand, the unattached to camera lens with hood could do double duty as a beer stein. Of course left handed people would need a left handed lens, which could be phase 2 of development.

    The possibilities are endless.

    I always like to lighten my camera bag by making objects contained therein do double duty.

  • Brian was right, that logo really is rather ugly ;). Looks everything but not “precision”. Better cut the text out of Brian’s CAD tool and simply use that :).

  • Tim

    Re: Adobe Odorshop


    It’s from an elaborate 1997 April Fools Internet joke. But maybe you had to be there 😉

  • Guido

    So the April fool is, that the whole story sounds like an April fool, but it’s not. Brilliant.

  • RussellInCincinnati

    Just a fabulously entertaining post and project, thanks. Some people buy lenses based on resistance to flare and ghosting above all else. Wonder if some of the excess brainpower of the C-4 team can, at least at a glancing direction, give some thought to that topic for the 150mm dream lens.

  • Roger Cicala

    Uh, Lee, read the quotes at the end 🙂

  • Roger Cicala

    Randy, now that was funny!!

  • Sam long

    I took this as awesome and the truth. Meta April fools. It’s real.

    But seriously you need to make lenses… I’ve been working on a few ideas myself.

  • mrc4nl

    Haha that math, the first one is rather dull since the intergral of a “e” is always the term itself meaning e^x = root of pi , wich is kind of awkward thing to to,there both Irrational numbers.

    The 2nd one is a fourier transformatien, has somting to do with MTF
    i didnt know this untill i looked it up in MS word

    the third one is a standard formule in microsoft word, that tells the
    ABC-Formaula to calculate the minimum or maximum for a given function.

  • Cardboard shipping tubes are so XX century!

    …Good one guys, thanks for the laugh 🙂

  • CarVac

    Are these all spherical surfaces?

    What do the theoretical MTF charts look like?

  • Lee Saxon

    Uh…you guys should do this for real…

  • Tim

    Will you be coordinating with Adobe so Odorshop will support your new lenses?

  • NancyP

    Best April Fool’s Day post in the photoverse!

  • bluto

    I like the back focus distance on that first one!

  • Aaron

    150mm f/1.0…hehehe, that’d be awesome. Especially designed to cover a FF mirrorless, LOL. I don’t want to know what it’d cost though. Waaaaay too much.

  • Wally

    I like how the top lens element in the fisheye has to bend back on itself. Probably just the way the math works. Might be better at f/4, f/3.5 is pushing things too far.

  • Randy

    Thanks, Roger. So much meaningless data, I thought I had accidentally gone to the DxO.com site.

  • Peter K.

    To these great lens designers and benders: “Bend it like Beckham”

  • Roger Cicala

    Obican, read the two quotes at the end of the article 🙂

  • We can count on you, Roger, to blow the doors off the competition. Get those SPD detonators ready!

  • The greatest April Fools prank in photography still remains Sony’s marketing of the A7 series with “14 bit” color. Except it’s like Groundhog Day though. Every morning you wake up to Sonny and Cher and 11+7 bit color.

  • Daniel

    You made my day 🙂

  • obican

    Knew that it was going to end up being a joke (One of the blogs I definitely check on April 1 to see what kind of pranks intelligent people come up with) but I won’t be surprised if you three actually DID a full evaluation of the designs before posting this up.

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