Cylindrical Lenses Information

Show all Cylindrical Lenses Manufacturers


cylindrical lenses selection guide     cylindrical lenses selection guide   

Image credit: Knight Optical | Thorlabs, Inc.


Cylindrical lenses are optical lenses which focus light onto a line. Unlike spherical lenses, which focus light onto a point, cylindrical lenses stretch images by focusing light onto a one-dimensional plane (a line).


Cylindrical lenses are so named because of the presence of a curved optical surface, which may be considered as part of a cylindrical cross-section. They have a variety of uses and applications, including:


  • Modifying aspect ratio
  • Laser output correction
  • Focusing an image on a monochromator
  • Imaging of elongated targets

The image below shows the use of a cylindrical lens, and the effect of varying its relative position, in a beam-shaping application.


cylindrical lenses selection guide 

Image credit: EKSMA Optics




As a type of optical lens, cylindrical lenses share many attributes and specifications with other lenses. For information about a cylindrical lens's important optical points and conjugate ratios, please see IHS GlobalSpec's Optical Lenses Selection Guide.


Lens Shape

The table below describes four common cylindrical lens shapes and their attributes. Positive (or converging) lenses focus light to a point behind the lens, while negative (diverging) ones scatter light.




Ideal conjugate ratio




< 5:1

 cylindrical lenses selection guide




 cylindrical lenses selection guide



Infinite, finite > 5:1

 cylindrical lenses selection guide



< 5:1

 cylindrical lenses selection guide

Image credit: ODEC | EKSMA Optics


Wavelength Range

Cylindrical lenses can be designed to operate within specific ranges of the electromagnetic spectrum; these ranges are largely determined by a lens's material of construction. These ranges are not mutually exclusive, and lenses may be built for use within two adjacent ranges. For example, a lens may be designed to operate in both the infrared and visible ranges, or visible and ultraviolet ranges, etc. Manufacturers may specify lenses as:


  • Infrared - used within the 750 to 2500 nm range.
  • Visible - used within the 380 to 750 nm range.
  • Ultraviolet - used within the 4 to 380 nm range.


cylindrical lenses selection guide

The electromagnetic spectrum, showing the relative positions of the ultraviolet, visible, and infrared spectrums.

Image credit: NASA



Optical Surface Quality

A cylindrical lens's surface quality rating is based on the MIL-0-131830A(1963) standard. The standard specifies two different types of surface defects:


  • Scratches are surface defects with lengths many times their widths.
  • Digs are surface defects with nearly equal lengths and width.


Scratch-dig ratings consist of two numbers separated by a hyphen, as in x-y. The x in this formula refers to the maximum allowable width of a scratch — expressed in tenths of a micron — while the y refers to the maximum width of a dig, expressed in hundredths of a millimeter. For example, a cylindrical lens with a 20-10 scratch/dig rating specifies that any scratches have a maximum width of .002 millimeters (2 microns), while digs must not exceed .10 mm in width. For both scratch and dig specifications, smaller numbers are desirable.



Optics manufacturers often specify optical surface flatness using a "peak to valley" (P-V) measurement. This value is the difference between the relative highest and lowest points of the optical surface. P-V is expressed as a ratio of a set wavelength, as shown in the table below. When expressed as a fraction, a higher denominator indicates better quality.



Surface flatness

Relative quality



Very low

Lowest quality; suitable for noncritical applications.



Typically used for beam splitters; not suited to high power applications.



Suitable for many laser and scientific applications.


Very good

Most precise quality; suitable for critical wavefront control applications.





Spectra Physics - Cylindrical Lenses

Related Products & Services

  • Achromats

    Achromats consist of two or more elements, usually of crown and flint glass, that have been corrected for chromatic aberration with respect to two selected wavelengths.  They are also known as achromatic lenses.  This area includes micro achromats as well.

  • Fresnel Lenses

    Fresnel lenses resemble a planoconvex or planoconcave lens that is cut into narrow rings and flattened. If the steps are narrow, the surface of each step is generally made conical and not spherical.

  • Gradient Index Lenses

    Gradient index (GRIN) lenses focus light through a precisely controlled radial variation of the lens material's index of refraction from the optical axis to the edge of the lens.

  • Optical Lenses

    Optical lenses are transparent components made from optical-quality materials and curved to converge or diverge transmitted rays from an object. These rays then form a real or virtual image of the object.  This area includes micro lenses.

  • Spherical Lenses

    Spherical lenses, also known as singlets, are transparent optical components consisting of one or more pieces of optical glass with surfaces so curved that they serve to converge or diverge the transmitted rays from an object, thus forming a real or virtual image of that object.  This area includes micro spherical lenses as well.

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