NWS Instruments AG

We are pleased to introduce a new feature on our website, the “Latest News” section. This allows us to bring you periodic news and updates about our business, people, products as well as feedback from customers. It’s also where we will highlight progress on projects and important events and revelations we’ve come across. We hope to see you here often!

Impetus for the founding of NWS Instruments AG is explained, and the first public activity detailed in the first NWS Instruments AG “Latest News” article. It describes the core reason we have structured the business the way we did, and why we think this will benefit our customers.

It is crystal clear now in 2019 that “taking a good picture” for most people does not require a bulky camera anymore. Many smartphones serve casual users very well. In fact, the pace at which smartphone cameras improve is breathtaking and with every new product, more innovations step in to make “picture taking” easier for these casual users, and the experience is more and more forgiving. As a result, point-and-shoot cameras which long since generated the cash flow and investment capital needed for R&D in digital and optical technologies dwindled. Camera companies struggled to develop new products at the same pace, and DSLR and lens prices started to climb.

People whose livelihoods is making photographs – commercial photographers who express, illustrate and document –started to wonder if they can ever maintain the necessary quality edge over the “wannabe’s” and if the companies whose tools they depend on can stay in business.

We saw this trend coming nearly 15 years ago when smartphones first started to appear and gradually witnessed the unfolding of these events as expected – the decline in camera shipment volumes, the inevitable price increases, the prominence of zoom lenses over primes, the exit of smaller industry players, and perhaps the most worrisome, the decline of photographic technique as software and AI step in to create pictures even when the photographer cannot. Consumers love this, commercial and expert photographers not so much, because a masterpiece must reflect the photographer’s intent at the moment of creation, not just software and AI.

We founded NWS Instruments because we believe we can serve commercial and expert photographers well. We know how they make their living, what tools they need, what techniques they use, and how they can stay ahead of their competition. We stay close to them and ask lots of questions, and draw on our own experiences from using cameras from half-frame to ultra large format, and lenses from over 100 years old to the latest and greatest. And – most importantly – we have the technical expertise to turn innovative optical ideas into reality.

After much discussion, our first public activity was to lay the foundation of what we plan to do in a White Paper submission at the Deutsche Gesellschaft für angewandte Optik (DGaO) annual gathering in May 2018. Drs. Michel and Horneber presented on the two topics we felt were critical to the advancement of commercial and expert photography – high resolution lens design and the discipline required both in design and manufacturing to realize these advances in the final products. This White Paper has since been peer-reviewed and is published as part of the proceedings of the 2018 DGaO. A copy of this White Paper is attached here.

In future “Latest News” releases, we will address the process of bringing designs to manufacturing, our supply chain decisions, and how these affect the outcome of our products. We hope to shine a light on the path we took to deliver what we promised to every commercial and expert photographer who have written to us, expressing their critical needs and the same high standards we set for ourselves. We hope to see you again then.

This Labor of Love

The incredibly hard work of building our business from the ground up – akin to building a castle one stone at a time – means that everything we do impacts our future. We make risk-adjusted decisions on every single step along the way, from design, sourcing, manufacturing to quality assurance, and we know every single surface, angle, tolerance, ring and bearing and what they do like our own child. The commitment to delivering the innovation our customers expect is absolutely ironclad.

And to get everything correct, it took us much longer than we had originally planned.

Announcement Feedback

Since our Press Release from January 14, we received very enthusiastic responses and inquiries from all over the world. Especially in the DACH region (Germany, Austria and Switzerland), where commercial photography is still practiced with the demanding disciplines of guilds, their unmet needs for optical excellence reinforced our decision in the exceptional optics and mechanics we announced.

Among the many interesting inquiries were the suitability of our 23APO and 110APO instruments for “medium format” use. The implied definition of “medium format” in these questions ranged from 33x44 digital to 42x56 as in 6x4,5 film. We find it prudent to issue the following clarifications:

  1. For the 23APO, the image circle is 70mm. This comprises 43,2mm for 24x36 full-frame coverage and an allowance of ±13,4mm for off-axis movement. The 55mm diagonal of the 33x44 digital format fits inside 70mm and allows a ±7,5mm off-axis movement. And the 70mm diagonal of the 6x4,5 film format takes up the full 70mm image circle, and does not offer any movements.

    More importantly, the 23APO was designed primarily for 24x36 full-format use with movement flexibility. Its distortion characteristics were optimized so that on-axis images render nearly unnoticeable distortion while extreme off-axis movement may require post-production correction. We made this decision to maintain high resolution performance across the field even when off-axis, and to contain the size and cost of the instrument.
  2. For the 110APO, the image circle is limited to 55mm at infinity, and expands very slightly in the close focusing range where it is expected to be used frequently in scientific, industrial, medical, food, jewelry and tabletop applications. Therefore, in close focusing range, the possibility for minor off-axis movements exists.
  3. 3. The 23APO and 110APO instruments are designed and optimized as a combination set for 24x36 full-frame applications.

While the plans for our first instruments are fixed, we are also listening. We had overwhelming interest in medium format coverage, and since format coverage also dictates focal length selection, we will incorporate these factors in our future roadmap planning.

The Road Ahead

Since the January announcement, we worked closely with our factory partners to deliver prototypes to our beta-testers, who are acknowledged expert commercial photographers in Germany, Austria, France, the UK and the US. Many of them have been involved in the product definition phase of our development so our designs closely reflect their feedback.

Most importantly, they consider our optical instruments “tools of the trade” and that they must deliver the performance we promised, optically and mechanically. We delivered the first prototypes in May and their feedback is being carefully evaluated with many enhancements to be incorporated in series production.

Official Launch, Pre-Order and Kickstarter Impact

Pushing manufacturing precision to new limits in our designs and uncompromising beta-testing is a painstaking process as it includes extensive field-testing as well as incorporating many resulting engineering changes.

We intend to rigorously follow this process without compromise and as a result, expect that our launch date of Q1 2019 will be revised to be during Q3 2019.

We will continue to bring you updates.


Niederlenzerstrasse 10
CH-5600 Lenzburg