A legacy of superior and innovative lens design and manufacture under the Cooke name that continued throughout the 20th century beginning with still portrait, telephoto and process lenses, through the development of acclaimed Cooke cine and television lenses, and continues today by Cooke Optics Limited, with award winning 35mm cine prime and zoom lenses.
Cutaway cross-section of Early Cooke lens of Cooke Triplet design offering critically fine definition right up to the margins of the photographic plates.
The Cooke Triplet
Dennis Taylor was understandably excited about his development, and on 7th September, 1893 wrote a letter to Taylor, Taylor & Hobson, enclosing a photo of York Minster taken with "a trial lens constructed on my new principle, having a equivalent focal length of 7 1/4 inches. The exposure was made on an Edward’s Landscape Plate (Slow) and with a stop equal to F/7.7 (by careful measurement)."
He goes on to say: "You will see that the Minster wants a decidedly wide angle to get it all in, consequently I had to raise the rising front by 1 1/2 inches so that the lens is tried more severely than if used centrally opposite a 7 1/2 x 5 plate which size it is manufactured for. On submitting this print (or rather the negative) to an experienced amateur photographer, after looking carefully at it and without my asking, he said that if he had been using a 7 1/4 Ross Portable Symmetrical or other lens of such type, he would not expect to get so good a result without having to stop down to F/32, a conclusion which I had myself independently arrived at."
Having no desire to enter the photographic lens business, T. Cooke & Sons offered the manufacturing rights to Taylor, Taylor & Hobson of Leicester, optical instrument makers who had a reputation for producing quality optical products since 1886 when William Taylor founded the company in Leicester with his brother, Thomas Smithies Taylor. William Taylor's philosophy: "Don't do what everyone else can do; go out for something new," coined in 1886 holds true at Cooke Optics today.
The first Cooke photographic lens was made by TT&H in 1894 based on Dennis Taylor's Cooke Triplet patent of 1893. (There is no familial relationship amongst Dennis Taylor and brothers William and Thomas.). TT&H went on to produce subsequent lens designs by Dennis Taylor through Series V. The licensing agreement stated that the lenses would be sold under the trade name "Cooke". The very first lenses made were brass and included the inscription "H.D. Taylor's patents."
In 1895, the Cooke lens was awarded the only medal of the "Royal Photographic Society given for improvements in lenses within recent times."
The TT&H Cooke lens catalog of 1897 states:
"Lack of sharp definition at the margins, and blackness and lack of detail in the shadows, are among the commonest defects of photographs. The introduction of lenses which, without the use of stops, yield definition uniformly fine throughout their plates, marks quite a new era in photography."
Today, triplets of various kinds are used almost universally for lenses of intermediate aperture sold on smaller still cameras.
This was the beginning of a legacy of superior and innovative lens design and manufacture under the Cooke name that continued throughout the 20th century beginning with still portrait, telephoto and process lenses, through the development of acclaimed Cooke cine and television lenses, and continues today by Cooke Optics Limited, with award-winning 35mm cine prime and zoom lenses.
A photo of the ship Endurance, lodged fast in ice, from the 1921 Cooke lens product catalog. The photo was enclosed with a letter from Sir Ernest Shackleton.
Their ability to withstand extreme climatic and atmospheric conditions made Cooke lenses the choice for many expeditions beginning with the famous Shackleton Antarctic Expedition.
The expedition's official photographer, Frank Hurley, chose a Graflex camera fitted with a Cooke 12 inch f 3.5 lens and 6 3/4 x 8 1/2 inch and 4 3/4 x 6 1/2 inch glass negatives to capture the day-to-day life endured by the men, according to one source. The Cooke Series VIII lens was used on both Shackleton Polar Expeditions "for long distance views in the Antarctic," according to a 1920's Cooke lens catalog.
When the expedition’s ship, The Endurance, became lodged in ice, Mr. Hurley was forced to leave most of the photographic plates behind, which ultimately sank with the ship. The plates he chose to salvage reflect a stunningly crisp account of hardship, leadership and comradeship that have been beautifully developed and exhibited at museums in the U.S., including the Museum of Natural History in New York City and the Field Museum in Chicago as well as in the U.K. at the Fox Talbot Museum.
Alfred Steiglitz' Eastman View 2D Camera (c. 1921) mounted with his Taylor, Taylor & Hobson RVP lens (c. 1890). Photo courtesy of George Eastman House, Rochester New York.
Early Cooke Series II, f/4.5 Portrait Lens.
Cooke Portrait/Soft-Focus Lenses
Clarence White and Alfred Stieglitz, master impressionist photographers, among others, used a Taylor, Taylor & Hobson lens known as "The Rapid View" or "Portrait Lens" (brass lens engraved "R.V.P.") produced by TT&H in the late 1880s. By 1913, because of the influence of these acclaimed photographers, the company received numerous requests for the RVP lens that predated the sharp Cooke Anastigmat. In response to an avalanche of requests, they reproduced the single lens RVP as the "Cooke Achromatic Portrait Lens f/7.5" (as engraved) in four focal lengths: 10.5 inch for 4x5, 12 inch for 5x8, 15 inch for 6.5x8.5 and 18 inch for the 8x10 format. The "new" versions of these lenses included an iris diaphragm.
A Cooke lens catalog of 1913 notes, "Whoever expects sharp definition will be disappointed, but the photographer who desires softness and roundness coupled with fine modeling and a true perspective will be both astonished and delighted."
Subsequently, a series of Cooke Portrait lenses were produced called "Portrics", "Portrellics", and "Portronics", though none were engraved with those names. Instead, they were engraved with their respective series numbers: Series II, f/4.5 (the most popular of the Cooke Portrait lens series which later prompted Series IIB, IIC, IID, and IIE ), Series IIA, f/3.5, and Series VI, f/5.6.
These early soft-focus lenses were sharp anastigmats that employed a diffusion adjustment allowing the photographer to distribute any degree of softness evenly throughout the plate. The most refined way to use these variably-soft lenses is to set the diffusion adjustment first, to give the amount of softness desired over the image, then afterward focus on the part of the subject you want to appear sharpest.
During World War I, British ocean liner Lusitania was torpedoed by the Germans and sank 7 May, 1915, killing more than 1,100 civilian passengers and crew. In 1936, "one of the best British super-speed lenses, one of the world-famous series of Cooke Lenses were selected for the exacting work of obtaining motion pictures from the deck of the sunken Lusitania" which still rests today under 295 feet of water near the coast of Ireland.
In 1924, the Cooke Aviar lens for general photography appeared in the company’s catalog as the Cooke Series II f/4.5 in 8 focal lengths ranging in price from £6 to £30.
The Aviar Lens
The Royal Air Force adopted the Cooke Aviar Lens in 1916 as the best aerial lens obtainable.
With the onset of World War I, there arose an urgent demand for aerial reconnaissance lenses. At first, the need was satisfied by the British government purchasing German lenses from the public. Then Arthur Warmisham designed a new Cooke lens (British patent no.113590) that was accepted as superior in performance to foreign lenses.
From the Cooke lens catalog of 1921:
Mr. John H. Gear, F.R.P.S., when President of the R.P.S. [Royal Photographic Society], in 1916, made the following statement in his opening address about the comparative test that was made: -- "I may say that plates were exposed simultaneously at an altitude of several thousand feet with a Zeiss and the new Cooke lens, of equal foci, the latter now known as the 'Aviar': the plates received identical exposures and development. I was subsequently asked to give an opinion upon the quality of the lenses used in making the negatives, not knowing what lenses had been used. Very little examination was necessary before I unhesitatingly selected one negative as being superior to the other—that one was made with the British Lens." The Leicester firm deserves the congratulations of British photographers and the public, for having removed the stigma from British Science and Manufacture that English Lenses were inferior to German, especially at a time when there are war difficulties and shortage of suitable optical glass.
Their majesties toured the factory and were introduced to some senior staff and long serving employees. The Leicester Mercury newspaper reported that their majesties displayed great interest in both the technical and human sides of the work with several of the royal party commenting that they had never before seen work of such interest.
The Aviar lens was then adapted for general photography in 1924, becoming one of the most favoured of all high-grade anastigmats among both amateurs and professionals. It was produced in various focal lengths until about 1962.
The Cooke Speed Panchro lenses were a development of the Cooke Series O lens (shown here from a 1926 product catalog). The Series O lenses were the first to be designed with an aperture of f/2.0.
Cooke Speed Panchro
Horace W. Lee designed the Cooke Speed Panchro, a cine prime lens that chromatically enhanced an image when filming under restricted illumination. Developed several years before ‘talkies’ came into being, the advent of sound films created a great demand for faster lenses because arc lamps could no longer be used, making much existing equipment obsolete. Cooke Speed Panchros combined a relative aperture as wide as f2.0 with an angular field of view and definition previously impossible with much smaller apertures.
Before the Speed Panchro, Cooke Series VIIIB Telephoto Anstigmat, f 3.5 lenses "were used extensively at Hollywood for Cinematograph film production," according to an early Cooke lens catalog.
September 9, 1926, Kinematograph Weekly, The Observation Window column reports: "Over a hundred Taylor-Hobson Cooke lenses of various focal lengths are used by the photographic department of the Famous Players-Lasky studios. This interesting information is contained in a letter, copy of which has been forwarded by Taylor, Taylor and Hobson, Ltd. to the Bell and Howell Company of America from Frank E. Carbutt, Famous’ director of photography. It is a concrete fact which emphasizes the world reputation of British-made lenses and their recognized superiority for all classes of photography. Mr. Carbutt adds that these lenses have, without, exception, given perfect satisfaction and that they have yet to find a poor Cooke lens."
The magnitude of The Famous Players-Lasky's use of Cooke lenses is vast considering the following: The Famous Players-Lasky dominated theatrical distribution through its ownership of production, distribution agencies and theatre holdings. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission investigated the company for restraint of trade. According to excerpted testimony from The New York Telegraph, April 24, 1923, "this combination of effort stifles competition, inasmuch as its competitors are unable to secure first run showings of their pictures. The complaint also charges that the corporation is the largest theatre owner in the world, and controls showings of the pictures through its ownership of Paramount Pictures, the distribution corporation." At the time, Paramount was releasing sometimes two features a week. Famous Players Lasky, through their various companies including Paramount and Artcraft produced all of the films starring Mary Pickford from 1913 to 1919.
Cooke lenses were also used to document the Mt. Everest expeditions in 1922 and 1924. Captain John Noel, the expedition's photographer, used a Newman Sinclair camera, specially made by Mr. Newman, weighing 40 pounds. It's rigid frame construction was designed to hold 400 feet of 35mm film and a specially made 20 inch Cooke Series VIII f5.6 Telephoto lens. A Cooke product catalog of 1930 said that the lens "made a fine reputation when they were used for motion pictures of the climbers from a distance of two miles."
A letter to the company from Captain Noel in 1985 says that the highest station he reached at Everest was 23,000 feet and another was a rock ledge at 22,000 feet. He was able to get a "very clear view" of the signal sent to them at base camp number 3 "by Odell at No. 4 camp to tell us of the death of Mallory & Irvine, last seen ascending only 600 feet from the very top of Everest then hidden by the driving snow."
Twenty-nine years later, Tom Stobart, official filmmaker for John Hunt's Mt. Everest Expedition with Sir Edmund Hillary, achieved 35mm standards of quality while shooting "Conquest of Everest" entirely with 16mm Cooke lenses.
"For every branch of photography in all climates and conditions they are unrivalled." The nuances of the 1914 Shackleton expedition were captured so successfully by Captain Frank Hurley that Cooke lenses were chosen again for the 1922 expedition to the Antarctic. Frank Hurley (left) and Ernest Shackleton shown in ad photo above at Patience Camp.
On 26 April 1923 at Westminster Abbey, a Cooke lens captures the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of York (Prince Albert and Lady Elizabeth, now known as the Queen Mother).
Whilst there was no broadcast to the nation as with present day Royal weddings -- because authorities feared that "disrespectful people might hear it whilst sitting in public houses with their hats on" -- a Cooke lens captured the event, and the beautiful architecture of the Abbey in glorious detail.
The Duke and Duchess of York, 26 April 1923 on the balcony at Buckingham Palace, taken with a Cooke 20 inch Telephoto lens.
The Graflex Series C camera was "one of the most desirable Graflexes ever produced," according to Richard P. Paine in his book A Review of Graflex published 1981. That camera was supplied with a Cooke 6 1/2 inch, f 2.5 anastigmat for film size 3 1/4 x 4 1/4 , and was considered the "fastest lens ever built into a Graflex," according to Paine. The camera was made from 1926 to 1935.
The Cooke Series III, f 6.5 lens was made for the Auto Graflex (1906 to 1923), Auto Graflex Jr. (1906), Revolving Back Auto Graflex (1906 to 1908), 3A Graflex (1907 to 1926), and Press Graflex (1907-1923). The Cooke Series IIIa, f 6.5 fit the Revolving Back Auto Graflex (1909-1941). The Cooke Series IV, f 5.6 fit the Revolving Back Auto Graflex as well as the 1A Graflex (1909-1925) and Home Portrait Graflex (1912-1940). The Cooke Series II, f 4.5 fit the Telescopic Revolving Back Auto Graflex (1912-1914), the Speed Graphic "Top Handle" (1912-1927), Auto Graflex Junior (1914-1924), Telescopic Revolving Back Graflex (1915-1923), Revolving Back Graflex Junior (1915-1923) and Compact Graflex (1915-1925). The Cooke 11 inch, f 5.6 telescopic lens fit the Revolving Back Graflex Series B. The Cooke 158mm, f 3.5 fit the Revolving Back Graflex Series D (1928-1947).
May 28, 1926, From the British Journal of Photography - "Where Cooke Lenses Go – We are interested to learn that Taylor-Hobson Cooke lenses, fitted to Bell-Howell Eyemo cinematographic cameras, have been used with great success upon many recent expeditions to remote parts of the globe. Amongst them are included the Amundsen-Elsworth North Pole Expedition, the African and Mongolian Expedition of the American Museum of Natural History, the Third Asiatic Expedition, the Speejax Expedition, the Wilkins North Pole Expedition, the Alaskan Geological Survey of the United States Department of Interior, the Byrd Polar Expedition, the Smithsonian Chrysler Expedition to Africa and the Bering Sea Expedition. On May 9, Lt.-Commdr. Richard E. Byrd reached the North Pole by aeroplane and returned to Spitsbergen in 15 1/2 flying hours, and Capt. Amundsen’s airship ‘Norge’ passed over the North Pole on Wednesday, May 12. Both these aerial expeditions carried Eyemo cameras fitted with Taylor-Hobson Cooke f/2.5 lenses."
By 1935 the Cooke Speed Panchros for cinematography were supplied in 8 focal lengths working at f/2.0: 24, 28, 32, 35, 40, 50, 75 and 108mm. They were designed to cover standard format 0.631 x 0.868 inch. (Brit. Pat. 377,537. U.S. Pat. 1,955,591 - 1931)
Cooke Speed Panchros
July 1930, from an article in The British Journal of Photography: "It deserves to be better realized in the photographic world to what extent Taylor-Hobson lenses have come into favour in the sound-film and silent-film studios in England and in Hollywood. The Cooke lenses of very large aperture have been establishing themselves increasingly in film production for several years past, and are now in use to an extent which is very gratifying to those knowing the merits of British products. In the same way Taylor-Hobson projection lenses have secured something like a monopoly among the ‘super cinemas’ in this country for projecting these same films. Frequenters of the movies may reckon therefore that most of the pictures which they see are both produced and projected by means of lenses made in the Leicester factories."
Virtually all Technicolor pictures were made with specially modified Cooke Speed Panchros until the early 1950s.
The year 1931 marked a further achievement. During the development of the Technicolor colour process, it became evident that the provision of a beam-splitting prism behind the objective in the Technicolor 3-strip camera made it impossible to use the wide angle objectives generally available at that time. The problem then, was to provide a lens of short focal length and wide relative aperture having the long back focal distance necessary to clear the prism whilst maintaining the high standard of definition expected from a Cooke lens.
Horace W. Lee's 1931 design (British patent 355.452) for the inverted telephoto lens did more than was demanded from it,: its unusually high correction for chromatic aberrations and remarkable vignetting characteristcis rendered it suitable for colour photography and contributed to the success of the Technicolor process.
"The most notable feature of these lenses, however, is the inclusion in the 30mm design of what might be called the inverse telephoto principle, whereby the back focal length is considerably longer than the equivalent focal length." (The Technicolor Process of Three-color Cinematography, by J.A. Ball, vice president and technical director, Technicolor Motion Picture Corp., Journal of Motion Picture Engineers, Vol. XXV, August 1935, No. 2, pp. 127-138.)
Walt Disney gained exclusive rights to the Technicolor technology for animation for the next three years, taking the opportunity to win two Academy Awards for short films: Flowers and Trees (1932) and The Three Little Pigs (1933).
Bell & Howell Cooke Varo Zoom Lens.
The First Zoom Lens for Cinematography
The first non-telescopic complex zoom lens for cinematography was the Bell & Howell Cooke Varo 40-120mm Lens (British patent 398,307, Arthur Warmisham) for 35mm format. The lens was manufactured and sold by Bell & Howell.
The lens came equipped with a special saddle that attached to a standard tripod plate. The saddle held the Varo lens and the camera ensuring correct alignment. The definition is critical at all parts of the zoom, at a standard much higher than previously attained with other contemporary zooms. The lens had adjustable stops and the focal length of the Varo lens was changed by rotating a crank.
George Noville, executive officer on board the S.S. Jacob Ruppert during Admiral Richard E. Byrd’s second Antarctic Expedition 1933 to 1935, with a Bell & Howell Eyemo camera fitted with a Cooke lens. Photo taken November 1934.
Bell & Howell Eyemo Camera Lenses
In 1935, the Director of Photography of Metro-Goldwyn Mayer studios said, "All of our productions are made with the Taylor-Hobson Cooke Lenses at least 50% of our productions are made with Speed Panchros. I will try to name a few pictures that were made with Speed Panchros: Rasputin, Reunion in Vienna, Viva Villa, Going Hollywood, Riptide, Treasure Island . . . and others too numerous to mention. As I said before all of our productions are made with Cooke Lenses as this Studio is practically 100% Cooke equipped." (Quoted from a 1935 Cooke advert.)
The extremely successful Bell & Howell 35mm Eyemo cine camera was sold exclusively with Cooke lenses. Used by all major film studios, the camera was especially suited to stunt shots and a variety of special effects. Charlie Chaplain, Hal Roach, Cecil B. DeMille and others used Cooke lenses and Eyemo cameras exclusively.
"In the United States, Paramount, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and Warner Bros. used Cooke Speed Panchros almost exclusively. Fox, R.K.O., United Artists, Columbia, Universal, and other studios were using them increasingly. In England, all film producers, including British Gaumont, British & Dominion, London Films, and British International Pictures, used these lenses. In other countries, Cooke Speed Panchros were used by the Russian motion picture trust, in Australia by Cinesound and Australian Films, and by leading studios in Austria, France, Italy, Germany, India, Japan, and South America." (Quoted from a 1938 Bell & Howell brochure.)
Later, the equipment was standard issue for World War II Camera operators.
Bell & Howell
The Series II Cooke Speed Panchros for cinematography were distributed exclusively through Bell & Howell in London and Chicago. The Series II lenses were developed for higher definition in wide screen presentations and to cover standard format 0.723 x 0.980 inches. By 1945 they came in focal lengths: 18, 25, 32, 40, 50 and 75mm. The 100mm, f/2.5 Deep Field Panchro was released in 1946.
The consumer market was also gaining momentum:
"George Eastman [of Eastman Kodak] told WT [William Taylor of Taylor, Taylor and Hobson] that 90 percent of the 16mm film used in America passed behind lenses made in Leicester." (The Life and Times of William Taylor, page 74. Written and privately published by Harry Dagnall.) This quote dates back to the early 1930s but George Eastman’s statement proved true through at least the 1950s. The popular Bell & Howell Eyemo cameras used for newsgathering, documentaries and by the armed forces during World War II came supplied with Cooke lenses, as did the Bell & Howell 8mm Filmo camera for home movies.
In 1932, Horace W. Lee patented (British patent 376,044) the Cooke Series XV Triple Convertible, which provided three focal lengths, with each half comprising two cemented doublets. The components gave excellent performance throughout the various focal length combinations.
Ansel Adams, famous American landscape photographer, shot many of his most famous images using this lens, as documented in his book "Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs." He appeared on BBC-TV stating that he used a convertible lens for many of his photos, then said, almost as a throw-away line, "A Cooke of course." This lens was made between 1935 through about 1962. The Series XV lens is difficult to find on the used market today, but is still sought-after by 8x10 inch format photographers due to it exemplary performance.
Cooke Process Lenses and Process Prisms helped expert cartographers and photographers provide the armed services with maps and charts of every description during World War II. Cooke process lenses were made from 1921 and were the first Apochromatic Process Lenses of British design. By 1947, three-quarters of the photo engravers in Great Britain and America were using them because of their uniformly keen definition.
By 1946, the Cooke name was associated with pioneering developments of large-aperture lenses for cinematography and television.
Pros and Amateurs
By 1955, nearly every 35mm film camera in use throughout the world was equipped with Cooke Panchro, Speed Panchro or Super Speed Panchro lenses.
In 1954, design began on the 18mm Series III Cooke Speed Panchro. Two years later, the new lens, of inverted telephoto construction, achieved an angular field of 80 degrees and f/1.7 while maintaining the modern standard of definition and resolution required for wide screen presentation. The other Speed Panchro to share the Series III distinction was the 25mm, again of reverse telephoto construction and also released in the mid-1950s.
Technicolor cameras were equipped with special Cooke Speed Panchro lenses. (See History page for the 1930s.)
In 1958, Bell & Howell 8mm and 16mm cameras were sold to the amateur photographer with Cookes of various names and focal lengths:
Bell & Howell Cameras c. 1958 sold with Cooke lenses:
8mm Sportster Tri-Lens Model 605C
8mm Sportster Duo Model 605B
16mm Autoload Model 603
16mm Autoload Turret Model 603T
8mm Cooke lenses c. 1958 for Bell & Howell cameras:
Pelotal 6.5mm, f/1.75
Trital 12.5mm, f/2.5
Taytal 12.5mm, f/1.7
Ivotal 12.5mm, f/1.4
Serital 0.5 inch, f/1.9
Serital 1 inch, f/1.9
Serital 1.5 inch f/1.9
Telekinic 2 inch, f/3.5
16mm Cooke lenses c. 1958 for Bell & Howell cameras:
Wide Angle 0.7 inch, f/2.5
Serital 1 inch, f/1.9
Ivotal 1 inch, f/1.4
Ivotal 2 inch, f1.4
Telekinic 1 inch, f2.0
Telekinic 1.8 inch, f/2.8
Telekinic 4 inch, f/4.0
Telekinic 6 inch, f/4.5
The "International Geophysical Years 1957-1958" were explorations within the South Polar Regions, also known as "Operation Deep Freeze". Special Cooke cine lenses were supplied to the British and American contingents that operated at –75 degrees F., capable of storage without damage at –100 degrees F.
Cooke Kinetal 16mm Prime Lenses
The Cooke Kinetal single focal length lenses were introduced in nine focal lengths. High precision, lightweight 16mm motion picture cameras were being produced during the 1950s offering the film industry an alternative to 35mm capture. Advances in the quality of film stocks and the cost savings compared to filming in 35mm made for an attractive alternative.
The Cooke Kinetal 16mm Prime Lenses were produced similar to those employed in 35mm cinematography: 9mm, 12.5mm, 17.5mm, 25mm, 37.5mm, 50mm - T2.0; 75mm and 100mm - T2.8; and, 150mm T4.0.
The Cinema Advances
Cooke Speed Panchros had gained a worldwide reputation for quality cine production. There was a range of unmounted optical units to choose from and mounted versions were supplied for almost any camera used in the motion picture industry.
In 1960, Director of Photography Russell Metty, ASC, used Cooke lenses with a Delrama anamorphic adapter to film "Spartacus" in Technirama. The 35mm negative was converted via Panavision printer lenses to a 70mm print.
The Cooke 100mm Deep Field Panchro was a six-element, four-component lens of extended Speed Panchro construction that corrected for all aberrations and was ideal for both colour and monochrome. Less
The lens was made with a sealed front focus unit and fixed front element that eliminated the risk of dirt and moisture being drawn into the lens and allowed for easy fitting of matte boxes and filter holders onto the front. The lens was enhanced with anti-reflective wide-band Varomag high performance coatings. This advanced technology achieved new standards in shadowed area definition, light transmission and durability, in addition to giving ghost and flare-free characteristics.
Gordon H. Cook received the 1988 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Gordon E. Sawyer Award for this and other technological advancements during his career as an optical designer.
Zoom, Zoom, Zoom
In the 1980s, Cooke introduced Super 16mm and 35mm zoom lenses in different focal ranges:
Cooke Varokinetal (CVK) 9-50mm
The 16mm version of the Cooke 10.4-52mm lens, this lens was introduced in 1975.
Cooke Super Cine Varotal 25-250mm
With an aperture of f/2.8, it was ideal for special effects and was used to shoot the original Superman film in 1978, the year it was introduced.
Cooke Super 16 Varokinetal 10.4-52mm
This lens was first used by American cinematographer Curtis Clarke to film "The Draughtsman’s Contract," the first technically and commercially successful Super 16 feature to be made. The CVP offered advancements in filming under difficult lighting conditions in 16mm and Super 16mm formats. It began production in 1983. The Cooke 20-60mm was the 35mm equivalent to this lens.
Cooke Varopanchro, 20-60mm, T3.1
Epitomised 35mm zoom lens design, with an optical performance comparable to the finest prime lenses. Introduced in 1981.
Cooke Varopanchro (CVP) 10-30mm, T1.6
The CVP offered advancements in filming under difficult lighting conditions in 16mm and Super 16mm formats. It began production in 1983. The Cooke 20-60mm was the 35mm equivalent to this lens.
Cooke Cine Varotal 25-250mm, Mark II, T3.9
Introduced in 1983.
Cooke Wide Angle Varotal, 14-70mm, T3.1
During the development stage in the mid-1980s, valuable input was received from various customers, which prompted the company to incorporate an innovative curved front cover glass, and a noise isolator. This lens was unique in the zoom series because it included a wide angle aspheric. It was launched in 1986.
In 1988 Cooke lens designer, Gordon H. Cook, received The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Gordon E. Sawyer Award "in recognition of technological contributions that brought credit to the film industry." It was the first time this Oscar category was awarded to someone outside the United States and is the highest accolade bestowed on an individual by the Academy for technical contributions to the film industry.
Gordon Cook designed cine and television lenses during the 1960s; most notably zooms that would meet the exacting requirements of the most discriminating cinematographer.
Feature films produced in the 1980s using Cooke lenses include Superman II, Star Wars, Ghandi, and Apocalypse Now.
Cooke Varotal 18-100mm
Design was initiated at the beginning of 1987 and the lens was exhibited for the first time at Photokina in 1988. It included refinements indicated by intensive market research into operator requirements.
Cooke Cinetal 25-250mm, Mark III, T3.7
Introduced in 1992.
Cooke S4 Primes
Cooke lenses were designed and made substantially by hand in Leicester, England since 1893. Taylor-Hobson currently manufactures fine metrology instrumentation, while the legacy of innovation and quality optical design established and developed by the Taylor brothers at Taylor, Taylor and Hobson continues today under separate ownership at Cooke Optics Limited.
Cooke became an independent company in July 1998.
In 1998, designs were completed and production began on the Cooke S4 Prime, T2.0 lenses. In 1998, the S4s won a Cinec Award in Germany. In 1999 the mechanical designers and optical designer of the S4 lenses earned a Technical Academy Award for mechanical and optical excellence, and in 2000 were awarded a Technical Emmy from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
Lord Richard Attenborough officially dedicated Cooke Optics’ new 20,000 square foot facility in Leicester in February 2000.
Cooke S4 35mm prime lenses
Cooke Portrait PS945 Lens for Large Format Photography.
Photo by Clive Russ.
Cooke Series XVa Triple Convertible Lens for 8x10 large format photography. Photo by Richard West
Cooke CXX 15-40mm Zoom Lens
Cooke S4/i Prime Lens and lens circuit board.
Cooke S4k Super16 Prime Lenses
Panchro by Cooke.
miniS4/i, focal lengths: 18, 25, 32, 50, 65, 75, 100 and 135mm
Cooke 5/i T1.4 Prime Lens
In 2000, Cooke Optics Limited won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Engineering Development for the Cooke S4 35mm Prime lenses.
In 2001, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, awarded Cooke two Queen's Awards; one for Enterprise - International Trade and one for Innovation. The Export Times and Trade Partners presented Cooke with their 2001 Exporter of Year award and 2001 Product Innovation award.
In 2002, the first Cooke lens made for large format photography in 50 years is designed and made in Leicester. The new Cooke Portrait PS945 lens for 4x5 format photography is a modern reproduction of the vintage Pinkham & Smith Company's Visual Quality Series IV lens. The first lens of its type is a 229mm, f/4.5. serial no. 0001 is auctioned at Christie's in South Kensington, London on July 16, 2002 to the highest bidder for 3500 GBP. One hundred lenses were made during the first production run. In 2009, Cooke Optics began a second production run.
In 2003, Cooke launched the Cooke Series XVa Triple Convertible lens for 8x10 large format photography. This was a modern redesign of the classic Cooke Series XV Triple Convertible from the 1940s, a lens that became popular with Group f/64 members, like Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, for capturing sharp, “straight” images. The original Series XV maintained its popularity into the 21st century amongst collectors and photographers. Cooke’s modern redesign of the classic Series XV maintained the original three focal lengths and format of the original XV while adding a new feature: combine two lens sets for five possible focal length combinations. In 2009, Cooke began a second production run.
In 2004, Cooke introduced the Cooke CXX 15-40mm Zoom Lens. The Cooke S4/i 15-40mm CXX zoom lens offers attributes beyond great optical and mechanical performance for 35mm/Super 35mm formats. Cooke's new Variable Vignetting Stop allows the high speed CXX lens to maintain T2.0 and high resolution throughout the zoom range. This innovative mechanism adjusts automatically. The benefit to you: no ramping and no flare. T2, of course. Light and comparable in size to a Cooke S4/i prime telephoto lens. And like our S4/i telephoto lenses, the CXX zoom offers an extraordinary close focus: Under 7 inches from the front element. And like the Cooke S4/i Primes - no breathing.
In February 2005, Cooke developed /i Technology and began incorporating the digital protocol into every S4 Prime lens made from that date. Cooke's /i "Intelligent" Technology enables both film and digital cameras to automatically record key lens and camera data for every film frame, which can then be provided digitally to post-production teams to streamline processes and save time and cost.
In 2007, Cooke introduced Cooke SK4 Prime lenses for 16mm/Super16. The 6, 9.5 and 12mm wide angle T2.0 lenses were designed as an adjunct to the S4 range of 35mm lenses for shooting in 16mm/Super16.
In 2009, at NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, the Panchro/i by Cooke range of 35mm lenses were announced. The T2.8 prime lenses were designed to provide a smaller, lighterweight and lower cost option for professional film makers without compromising optical quality or the “Cooke Look.” Offered in eight focal lengths, 18, 25, 32, 50, 65, 75, 100 and 135mm. All lenses are /i Techology equipped.
Originally introduced as the Panchro/i by Cooke, the lenses were re-branded in 2012 as miniS4/i to put to rest the confusion in the minds of film makers and others between the original Panchro lenses (Speed Panchros, etc.) of the 1920's thru 1960's and this newer, more modern design.
In September 2009, at IBC in Amsterdam, Cooke announced the 5/i T1.4 Prime lenses in focal lengths 18, 25, 32, 40, 50, 65, 75, 100 and 135mm. For the 5/i, Cooke’s designers developed and incorporated a novel illuminated focus scale ring into its fastest lens designed to date. All lenses are ITechnology equipped.
Cooke Anamorphic/i T2.3 Prime Lens
Cooke Metrology Lens Projector
On February 9, 2013, Cooke was honored at the 85th Academy Awards "For their continuing innovation in the design, development and manufacture of advanced camera lenses that have helped define the look of motion pictures over the last century". Cooke Optics was this year's only recipient of an Oscar® statuette at the ceremony which took place at the Beverly Hills Hotel, Los Angeles.
In April 2013, at NAB2013, Cooke announced the Anamorphic/i T2.3 Prime Lenses in focal lengths 25, 32, 40, 50, 75, 100 and 135mm. All lenses are /i Squared Technology equipped, the next generation of /i Technology, and are designed for all PL mounted professional motion picture film and electronic cameras. Cooke's /i Squared Technology* provides cinematographers and camera operators with vital information on lens setting, focusing distance, aperture and depth-of-field, hyperfocal distance, serial number, owner data, lens type and focal length in both metric and footage measurements. (* Patent Pending)
Also in April 2013, at NAB2013, Cooke announced the Metrology Lens Projector. The Cooke Lens Test Projector is the first product in the new “Cooke Metrology” product line. It was developed for one of the most critical and demanding aspects of cinematography: to ensure that cinema lenses are adjusted and maintained to the highest standards possible. The Cooke Lens Test Projector functions like a slide projector, shining an even and bright light onto a reticle. The image is projected through the back of the lens onto a flat white wall. This allows testers to see how the lens handles geometric distortion of straight lines, whether there is chromatic aberration, internal barrel flare, sharpness, where the edges fall off (shading), if the lens breathes, etc.