by Scott Prahl

OSLO is great. OSLO is horrible. In the hands of a craftsman, OSLO can do some great things. Unfortunately, in your hands, its primary product is cursing and an increase in blood pressure.


OSLO (Optics Software for Layout and Optimization) is produced by Lambda Research Corporation who generously provide a free windows executable that works with up to ten surfaces. (Mac or Linux users should run the windows executable in the WINE environment.)

The first thing is you'll need to do is to install OSLO on your computer.

Just the basics

You would like to do a more sophisticated design, but cannot even replicate the trivial single thin lens imaging situation that you already understand.

I assume that you know about concave & convex lenses, radius of curvature, index of refraction, and can do a simple paraxial ray trace by hand through one or two simple (thin) lenses. (If not, then the old Edmund's Brochure has a nice overview).

You've downloaded and started OSLO, but despite your l33t computer skills, you realize that there is a bit of reading of the manual required. Somewhat surprisingly, you've actually tried reading the User Guide but remain baffled. You might have even tried to watch the videos, but found them either too trivial or too arcane. Now you're at the point where your only hope is The Google. Somehow you ended up here.

A few frequently asked questions

The simplest possible single-lens ray-trace tutorial

Beginning optimization (starting with a landscape lens)

Simple Mirror examples


Interpreting OSLO results

  • Spot Diagrams
  • Aberrations
  • Paraxial
  • Entrance and Exit Pupils

Doing something interesting in OSLO

  • Bending Lenses
  • Metrics
  • Minimizing spherical aberration
  • Minimizing chromatic aberration

OSLO Lens files

  • Simple PCX
  • Simple Biconvex
  • Keplerian Telescope
  • Galilean Telescope
  • Acrylic Lens