Welcome to practical physicsPracticle physics - practical activities designed for use in the classroom with 11 to 19 year olds

Comparing short cameras and long cameras

Class practical

Comparing the curvature and shape of long and short focus lenses.

Apparatus and materials

For each student

Plano-convex or biconvex lens + 7 D or 150 mm focal length approx

Plano-convex or biconvex lens + 2.5 D or 400 mm focal length approx

Cleaning tissue

Bath of water and detergent

Wall, paper or card to form a screen

Health & Safety and Technical notes

Read our standard health & safety guidance

Soap and water are good for cleaning the lenses. Alternatively, use a soft cloth for cleaning spectacle lenses. 

room with two camera


a Feel the lens with your fingers, to judge the curvature, and then clean it with the optics cloth or soap and water. 

b Hold the + 7 D lens in your fingers and catch the image of a distant window (or lamp) on a wall or a sheet of paper. Repeat with the + 2.5 D lens. 

Teaching notes

You might ask students: 

Which lens makes the larger image? Which lens needs a longer camera? What kind of lens would you expect to find in a tiny camera used by a secret agent? 
The weaker lens produces the larger image but also needs a longer camera. 
This experiment was safety-checked in January 2007

Related guidance

The longitundinal lens formula and sign conventions

Dissectible model eye


Cookie Settings