The design and selection of lenses for aerial photography present on the whole no problems not already encountered in photography of the more familiar sort. Indeed, the lens problem in the airplane camera is in some particulars more simple than in the ground camera. For instance, there is no demand for depth of focus —all objects photographed are well beyond the usually assumed "infinity focus" of 2000 times the lens diameter. Such strictly scientific problems of design as pertain to aerial photographic lenses are ones of degree rather than of kind. Larger aperture, greater covering power, smaller r distortion, more exquisite definition—these always will be in demand, and each progressive improvement will be reflected in advances in the art of aerial photography. But many lens designs perfected before the war were admirably suited, without any change at all, for aerial cameras.
Of the utmost seriousness, however, with the Allies, was the problem of securing lenses of the desired types in sufficient numbers. The manufacture of the many varieties of optical glass essential to modern photographic lenses was almost exclusively a German industry, which had to be learned and inaugurated in Allied countries since 1914. In consequence of this entirely practical problem of quantity production without the glasses for which lens formula? were at hand, some new lens designs were produced. Whether any of these possess merits which will lead them to be preferred over pre-war designs, when the latter can again be manufactured, remains to be seen. 44
While the glass problem was still unsolved, aerial cameras had to be equipped with whatever lenses could be secured by requisition from pre-war importation and manufacture, and later, with lenses designed to utilize those glasses whose manufacture had been mastered in the allied countries. It is important that the historical aspect of this matter be well understood by the student of aerial photographic methods, for the use of these odd-lot lenses reacted on the whole design of aerial cameras and on the methods of aerial photog-graphy, particularly in England and the United States. Almost without exception the available lenses were of short focus, considered from the aerial photographic standpoint; that is, they lay between eight and twelve inches. This set a limit to the size of the airplane camera, quite irrespective of the demands made by the nature of the photographic problem. Lenses of these focal lengths produced images which, for the usual heights of flying, were generally considered too small, and which were, therefore, almost always subsequently enlarged. Such was the English practice, which was followed in the training of aerial photographers in America, where exactly similar conditions held at the start with respect to available lenses. French glass and lens manufacturers did succeed in supplying lenses of longer focus (50 centimeters), in numbers sufficient for their own service, although never with any certainty for their allies. The French, therefore, almost from the start, built their cameras with lenses of long focus, and made contact prints from their negatives.
Practices adopted under pressure of an emergency to meet temporary practical limitations often come to dominate the whole situation. This is particularly true of aerial photography in the British and American services. The small apparatus built around the stop-gap short focus lenses fixed the plane designer's idea of an airplane camera, and the space it should occupy. This was directly reflected in the designs of the English planes, and the American planes copied after them. Meanwhile the American photographic service in France associated itself with the French service, adopting its methods and apparatus, and using French planes whose designs were not being followed in American construction. The task of harmonizing the photographic practice as taught in America, following English lines, with French practice as followed in the theater of war, and of adapting planes built on English designs so that they could carry French apparatus, was a formidable one, not likely to be soon forgotten by any who had a part in it.