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Cylindrical Lenses

Definition: lenses which focus or defocus light only in one direction

Alternative term: cylinder lens

More general term: lenses

German: zylindrische Linsen

Category: general optics


How to cite the article; suggest additional literature

URL: https://www.rp-photonics.com/cylindrical_lenses.html

Cylindrical lenses (also called cylinder lenses) are optical lenses which are curved only in one direction. Therefore, they focus or defocus light only in one direction, for example in the horizontal direction but not in the vertical direction. As for ordinary lenses, their focusing or defocusing behavior can be characterized with a focal length or its inverse, the dioptric power.

Usually, the surface curvature of a cylindrical lens is of spherical type, but there are also aspheric cylindrical lenses. Further, there are cylindrical gradient-index lenses, not exhibiting any surface curvature.


Cylindrical lenses can be used to obtain a beam focus of elliptical form. That can be required, for example, for feeding light through the entrance slit of a monochromator or into an acousto-optic deflector, or for conditioning pump light for a slab laser.

There are fast axis collimators for diode bars, which are essentially cylindrical lenses – often with an aspheric shape.

Cylindrical lenses cause astigmatism of a laser beam: a mismatch of focus position for both directions. Conversely, they can also used for compensating astigmatism of a beam or an optical system. For example, they may be required for collimating the output of a laser diode such that one obtains a circular non-astigmatic beam.


The RP Photonics Buyer's Guide contains 98 suppliers for cylindrical lenses. Among them:

See also: lenses, astigmatism

Questions and Comments from Users


I am wondering how I could collimate the beam from the exit of a monochromator.

The author's answer:

Assuming that it is a typical type of monochromator with an exit slit, a cylindrical lens, or alternatively a mirror with a cylindrical surface, will indeed be a good solution. Just place it such that the front focal point of the lens or mirror is at the position of the slit.


How do you define centration of a cylindrical lens? Usually, suppliers write something like “centration <3 arcmin” – how do they define centration?

The author's answer:

See the paragraph “centration of lenses” in the article on lenses.

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