Class Central is learner-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

University of Colorado Boulder

First Order Optical System Design

University of Colorado Boulder via Coursera


Limited-Time Offer: Up to 75% Off Coursera Plus!
7000+ certificate courses from Google, Microsoft, IBM, and many more.
This course can also be taken for academic credit as ECEA 5600, part of CU Boulder’s Master of Science in Electrical Engineering degree. Optical instruments are how we see the world, from corrective eyewear to medical endoscopes to cell phone cameras to orbiting telescopes. When you finish this course, you will be able to design, to first order, such optical systems with simple mathematical and graphical techniques. This first order design will allow you to develop the foundation needed to begin all optical design as well as the intuition needed to quickly address the feasibility of complicated designs during brainstorming meetings. You will learn how to enter these designs into an industry-standard design tool, OpticStudio by Zemax, to analyze and improve performance with powerful automatic optimization methods.


  • Introduction to Geometrical Optics
    • This module introduces rays, which we use to describe the motion of light through air and materials. The course overview describes the goals of this course and gives tips on how to make the best use of the course materials to be successful. The lectures introduce the material. The in-video questions, lab demonstrations, PhET interactive demonstration, practice problems, and homework assignment allow you to get actively involved in learning the material.
  • Optical System Design in OpticStudio
    • In this module, you will learn how to enter the description of an optical system into OpticStudio, analyze the performance of that system using various calculations and plots, and finally optimize that design by defining a merit function and search variables.
  • First Order Ray Tracing
    • This module applies Snell's Laws to the curved interfaces of lenses and mirrors. You will learn the graphical and mathematical tools you need to calculate image size and location for thin lens and mirror systems. This foundation is essential to build more complex optical systems.
  • Thick Optics and Mirrors
    • This module extends the analysis of the previous module to include the effects of real, thick lenses. You will learn how to input this factor into your optical system analysis and design.
  • First-Order Ray Tracing of Multi-Element Systems
    • For multiple element optical systems, the mathematical tools introduced in this module will make analysis faster and more efficient. In this module, you will learn how to cascade multiple lens systems using matrix multiplication.

Taught by

Amy Sullivan and Robert McLeod


4.3 rating at Coursera based on 307 ratings

Start your review of First Order Optical System Design

Never Stop Learning.

Get personalized course recommendations, track subjects and courses with reminders, and more.

Someone learning on their laptop while sitting on the floor.