How World-Class Cinema Lenses Are Made

How does one make some of the best cinema lenses money can buy? It’s a surprisingly hands-on approach.

In this video from Kristian Hampton of Wex Photo Video, he shares a recent trip to the Cooke Optics factory in Leicester, England. The informational behind-the-scenes factory tour follows each step in the lens making process.

There are some interesting revelations that are shown here. For one, Cooke will opt for traditional machinery over high-tech CNC machines in the creation of some of their lenses. Also, they produce their lenses as made-to-order so that each lens in the set ordered have consistent properties. This process may not be the most efficient, but the world-class quality of their products speaks for itself on why they’ve chosen to work this way. And of course if you’re paying the price for a Cooke cinema lens, nothing less should be expected.

Cooke cinema lenses have been used on countless sets, from “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” to “Game of Thrones,” and it’s very likely that your favorite movie or television series were shot with them. Now you know the level of detail behind every shot, even before “action” is called.

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Ryan Mense's picture

Nothing wrong with that. You could probably think of them like a business-to-business company where common name recognition to the non-buying public isn't that important. Seeing this tour I can't imagine them being able to scale the operation too much anyways to support general consumers. The wait time ordering on B&H already says 3-4 months.

Cooke? They are a huge and old name in the cinema industrie, with many AAA titles shot on those lenses.
They are however unknown in the photography industrie, because they only make cinema lenses >20.000$

Ian Knaggs's picture

I live a few miles from this factory and was lucky enough to have a personal tour around the facility recently. It is a really impressive setup with a friendly and enthusiastic workforce that take great pride in their awesome products.
They seem to be little-known in the photographic industry but are among the top lenses for cinematographers - truly world class with well over 100 years experience in their field and an amazing history too!
Many thanks for a great article!

Barbara Lowry's picture

Cooke has a long history in photographic lenses. Take a look: Today, we make two lenses for large format still photography, the Cooke PS945 for 4x5 and the Cooke Series XVa Triple Convertible for 8x10. See: Also, there are many photographers that have remounted old Cooke Speed Panchro cinematography lenses for their 35mm still cameras in order to get The Cooke Look. What is The Cooke Look? See: See how today's cinematographers describe it.