More on Color Correction


by Roland Christen



"Is it true that there is range of achromat glass (crown/flint) and
there is a range of ED glass and there is a range of flourite lenses
as well? By "range", I mean the degree that the glass can correct chromatic
aberration (leaving everything else such as spherical aberrations as
equal)."

The answer is NO and YES. NO, there is no range of achromat color correction. Achromats are made from ordinary glasses that have no special dispersion characteristics. An achromat is made with a crown positive element and a flint negative element. These glasses are made with various oxides, which give them their strength and durability. Normal dispersion glasses will correct the colors from C to F to 1 part in 2000, or the focal length will vary by .05% from red to green to blue, and approximately .25% for violet. The amount of color halo you see around a star with any aperture will be inversely proportional to the focal ratio. Thus an f15 scope will have half the color halo of an F7.5. A 20"F15 achromat scope will have the same size color halo as a 4"f15 achromat, but because the 20" has 1/5 the size Airy disc, the color relative to the Airy disc max resolution will be 5 times worse for the 20" vs. the 4" scope. What happens if you add a third element? Nothing, the color correction is still 1 part in 2000. You can add 50 elements, and you won't gain anyhting. YES, there is a difference between various ED and Fluorite scopes, but it is not really the ED or Fluorite that governs the amount of correction, but the mating element. Normally, even the worst ED design will have 4 times better color correction than a normal achromat, but it could easily be 20 times better simply by choosing a different mating element. The more expensive the ED, the easier it is to mate it to a corresponding negative element to achieve perfect color correction. You can make an ED lens with an ED positive element, and a flint negative element just like an achromat, but the color correction will not be very good, perhaps a semi-apo. By choosing a Short-Flint or Crown-Flint you can get better correction, but not perfect cancellation of secondary color - perhaps 4 to 6 times reduction depending on the combination. To get perfect cancellation over a wide wavelength range you would mate the ED with a negative element made with Crown glass. These are the most difficult to make, so commercial Apo makers avoid these. What gives the ED material the ability to correct color? It is the chemical composition of the material which is based on fluorides instead of oxides. Fluoride based glasses have a different dispersion characteristic caused by absorption bands that are further away in the ultraviolet (this also allows them to pass UV light more readily). The drawback of fluoride based glass is that the bonds that fluoride forms with other materials are weak (oxide compounds are very strong and super hard). The fluoride material is hard to polish and stains more readily in some cases. One more comment, it is possible to make a so-called "ED" lens and have normal achromat correction of 1 part in 2000. There is one glass that some call ED - FK5, which will produce the same correction as any normal achromat combo. It's also exceedingly cheap. Schott has given FK5 the designation FK (fluoro-crown), but it has no particular color correcting properties in the normal visual wavelength range. Very confusing, yes? Roland Christen, ASTRO-PHYSICS

Return to Roland Christen Images and Essays.