Richter Cine Collimators and Test Projectors

Richter Cine Collimators and Test Projectors

©2016-2020 Jorge Diaz-Amador, all rights reserved

Updated: 5 April 2020

Richter Collimator
Richter Autocollimator system owned by CinemaTechnic (Sold in 2009)

Above: Richter Cine R2 Autocollimator setup with 254mm Objective, LED Mini-Maglite, M2 Focal Plane Micrometer, ARRI PL Lens Standard on Model B Optical Bench.

Foreground items: Fiber Optic Light Guide Adapter, 60mm & 130mm Collimator Objectives, ARRI Standard and ARRI Bayonet Lens Standards.

This was the original CinemaTechnic collimator which we used for all our lens and camera service  from 2000 through 2006. The unit pictured above was sold in 2009.

Richter Cine Equipment

Richter Cine Equipment was an American company, based in upstate New York, that manufactured autocollimators and lens test projectors specifically designed for use in testing photographic and particularly cinematographic optics.

Richter_Cat_Pg1_474w_Ct-Logo
Richter Cine catalog cover showing Ken Richter with AMPAS Technical Oscar

The company was founded around 1960 by Kenneth Richter, who was a cinematographer and a filmmaker specializing in travelogue films, who had a university background in optics and astronomy.

By the 1980’s the Richter Autocollimator system became very widely used in the motion picture camera and lens industry. It was the standard instrument used to calibrate focus of cine lenses in rental houses worldwide. In 1985 Kenneth Richter was awarded an AMPAS Technical Award (Technical Oscar) for his Autocollimator.

Production of the autocollimators and the Lens Test Projector were wound down by the late 1990’s. Richter Aero Equipment ended operations by October 1998. After Kenneth Richter’s passing two years later, the last remaining old stock was sold off.

Today Richter Cine Autocollimators are highly sought after in the second hand market. The represent by far the best value in lens testing equipment. However, the newest Richter Cine products are now over 20 years old.

When purchased used (internet auction sites, for example) the systems are always out of calibration.  After reconditioning and upgrades, their accuracy rivals that of systems at 5 times the cost.

Richter R-2 Autocollimator

Richter Cine R-2 Reflex Autocollimator

Richter Cine’s best known product is the R2 reflex autocollimator. The system was comprised of an autocollimator block (the reflex unit with reticle, beamsplitter and eyepiece), a collimator objective, and light source. It was possible to see the image reflected by film in the aperture of the camera being tested when a lens and camera were tested together.

Richter Collimator Reticle Image
Image of the original Richter Cine reticle, as see through the collimator while testing a very sharp lens (iBE Null)
Later style Richter Cine collimator reticle image
Later style Richter Cine collimator reticle, image captured by our HD Video Relay system

The R-2 Autocollimator forms the heart of the Richter Cine collimator system.

Richter 275mm Collimator Objective and R-2 Collimator Block
Richter 275mm Collimator Objective and R-2 Collimator Block
Collimator Objectives

The objective lenses used to project the reticle image out to the lens being tested are called Collimator Objectives. In the Richter Cine system they are always fixed focus on infinity. Focal lengths between 60mm and 2000mm were available, but objectives longer than 254mm are rare. The different focal lengths accommodate testing a range of lenses, with longer focal length objectives required to test longer focal length lenses (at least a 2:1 focal length ratio is needed)

Richter M-2 Focal Plane Micrometer (analog) with CinemaTechnic EF Mount
Richter M-2 Focal Plane Micrometer (analog) with CinemaTechnic EF Mount
Richter Cine M-2 Focal Plane Micrometer

The Focal Plane Micrometer (FPM) forms an indispensable part of a modern collimator system for testing photographic and cinematographic lenses. With the FPM you can view the image reflected off a highly polished reference reflector that simulates the image plane. The reference reflector can also be precisely moved toward and away from the lens being tested to check the position of best focus.

The original Richter M-2 units lacked the support post and were mounted on a horizontal beam allowing them to be moved tangentially to the optical axis. All M-2 units have a large analog micrometer head. The earliest ones have a micrometer calibrated in inches to 0.0001 in. Later models have a metric micrometer calibrated to 0.002mm.

Richter S-2 Focal Plane Microscope
Richter S-2 Focal Plane Microscope
S-2 Focal Plane Microscope

This relatively rare S-2 has a housing nearly identical to the M-2 but replaces the micrometer with a microscope. The image is formed on a reticle, representing the image plane, and the microscope allows viewing that image at 50x magnification.  This accessory was intended for checking focus scales.

Richter Model A Collimator Holder
Richter Model B Optical Test Bench
Richter Model B Optical Test Bench
Optical Test Bench

There were two benches, Model A and Model B. The Test Bench is the support that allows the collimator system to be used, as it is difficult to use a hand-held collimator. The Model A, referred to as a “collimator holder” was a single-rod version only meant for testing small cameras, like SLR still cameras.

The far more common Model B uses dual precision ground steel rods and recirculating ball bearings and allows for different rod lengths to be used. The Model B is the support that allows the collimator system to be used as it allow for the R-2 Collimator Block and Objective  and the M-2 FPM to be kept in alignment. The top of the pivoting test table can also be used to mount cameras for checking ground glass focus (film cameras) or Flange Focal Depth (digital cameras) using a calibrated test lens.

Richter Cine Lens Testing Standards
Richter Cine Lens Testing Standards
Richter Cine Nikon F Lens Standard on a M-2 Digital FPM
Richter Cine Nikon F Lens Standard on a M-2 Digital FPM
Lens Testing Mounts (Standards)

In order to test a lens on the M-2 FPM, you need a lens mount that can me attached to the M-2 (which uses a large diameter fine pitch thread).  Richter Cine called their mounts Standards. Each was made to be the same length as the flange focal distance of the camera mount.

Richter Cine made a large number of mounts, many for camera systems that are now obsolete. Richter did make a PL mount but never made a Canon EF mount.

Original Richter Cine light source for collimator
Original Richter Cine light source for collimator
Light Sources

The original light source for the R-2 was a large lamp house that held an incandescent light bulb surrounded by a spherical reflector. This was powered by a simple power supply with a rheostat to reduce voltage in order to vary the light intensity.

This type of light source suffers from a very warm color temperature, especially when dimmed, and generates a great deal of heat which must be isolated from the R-2 block or it will affect accuracy.

Today these original light sources are considered obsolete. The bulbs they used (16mm projector optical sound lamps) are no longer available.

Later models used a fiber optic light guide and a variable light source. A Fiber Optics Tri-Color light source was the last version made.

How an Autocollimator Works

For photographic and cinematographic lens testing, autocollimators are primarily used to check focus. Experienced operators can also judge image quality subjectively. The autocollimator projects the image of a test reticle through the lens being tested and onto a simulated or real image plane. That image is reflected back through the test lens and the autocollimator and diverted to the eyepiece where it can be observed by the operator.

CinemaTechnic Collimator testing a P+S Kowa 135mm
CinemaTechnic Collimator testing a P+S Kowa 135mm
More about how autocollimators work (page in development)
CinemaTechnic has taken up the task of bringing the Richter Cine system into the 21st Century:
Calibrating Richter R2 Block
Calibrating Richter R2 Block beamsplitter alignment on custom autocollimator setup
Reconditioning and Calibration for Richter Collimator

HD Video Output Upgrade for Richter Cine Collimators

Richter M-2 Digital Micrometer Upgrade
Richter M-2 with CinemaTechnic Digital Micrometer Upgrade

EF Mount for Richter M-2

New Lens Testing Mounts for Richter Cine M-2
Complete Richter Autocollimator Systems

For more information, please contact us via email:

***

All text and photos ©2016-2020  Jorge Diaz-Amador. All text, images and other content on this site are original copyrighted works. CinemaTechnic and Jorge Diaz-Amador own exclusive rights to this content under the United States Copyright Act of 1976. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this website’s author and owner is strictly prohibited.

We are now actively monitoring for infringing websites that copy our content.

Published 2016-02-23    Last update: 2020-04-05

DMCA.com Protection Status Protected by Copyscape

Optics for Motion Pictures and Digital Cinema

error: Content is protected !!