I’ve only used Zemax before, but unfortunately have no license at the moment. Is there anyone out there with a positive experience learning/using an open source tool?
Any thoughts @Nicola?
it really depends what you need to do: Zemax is a rather capable and comprehensive software but for basic design and optimization is a bit of overkilling. I have a license for OSLO (Lambda Research): the program is ok but a bit outdated, structure similar to Zemax. There is also an EDU version, limited to 10 surfaces, which you can use for free. Another free alternative is KDP2 http://www.ecalculations.com It is rather capable, but I did not use it for any serious design.
OpticsStudio (née zemax) is the best I have used, but it is definitely expensive to keep!
Every so often I search for another open-source or cheaper solution, but none have been up to snuff.
good tips, thanks! in looking into pyrate (which looks promising) I came across this paper which might also be of interest @hgibbs:
Qioptiq has a free (but closed source) option here - https://www.qioptiq-shop.com/en/Optics-Software/Winlens-Optical-Design-Software/Free-Winlens-Basic/?cur=3
Pyrate looks quite cool!
WinLens3D also works well for my job. it has a free version of WinLens3D Basic