Lenses and Handedness Podcast Short

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The handedness of a lens is not something I ever really thought about. That’s not to say I didn’t understand the concept of handedness, it’s just not something I ever put together with lenses.

If you’re not familiar with handedness, in any system that converts a rotational movement into a linear movement along that things axis, there are only two ways to relate those things. We’ve given these two “rules” names, after our hands, the right-hand rule, and the left-hand rule.

The focus and zoom controls on a lens follow these rules too. This means we can apply a handedness rule to a lens if we forget which way to turn it to make the focus or zoom move we want.

As a point of reference, I’ve put together this non-exhaustive list of camera/lens maker and the handedness of their lenses.

Left Hand Rule Right Hand Rule
Manufacturer Focus Zoom Focus Zoom
Canon X X
Fuji X X
Hasselblad (H-system) [1] X X
Lecia X [2] [2]
Nikon X X
Olympus X X
Panasonic [3] ? ? X
Phase One [4] X X
Sony X X
Cine Lenses [5] X X

  1. Hasselblad’s X system lenses don’t have distance scales or focus markings, so I’m unsure which rule the follow.  ↩
  2. The Zoom control on the Tri-Elmar-M 16–18–21 mm f/4 APSH and the Super-Vario-Elmar-TL 11–23 mm f/3.5–4.5 ASPH use the right hand rule, other TL lenses use the left hand rule.  ↩
  3. Panasonic’s micro–4/3rds lenses don’t have focus windows or markings, so I’m unsure which rule they use.  ↩
  4. Phase One is one of the few companies that use both rules. All of their lenses (leaf and focal plane) focus using the left hand rule. However, their zooms all use the right hand rule fro the zoom action.  ↩
  5. Regardless of manufacturer Cine lenses conform to a de facto standard of the left hand rule, whether they’re $80,000 Arri Alura Zooms or $2500 Xeen Primes (actually this applies all the way down to the $300 cine-light Rokinon primes).  ↩

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