Steven Manios Sr., a camera optics pioneer and former owner and president of Century Precision Optics, died on January 3 from complications of Covid-19. He was 82.
Manios was born in Athens, Greece on September 4, 1938 and lived through Greece’s Great Famine of 1941. He made the move to Los Angeles at 19 years old and became an apprentice to Chris Condon, a family friend and owner of Century Photo Supplies. He paid his dues during his early Hollywood career and developed top-notch skills as an optical craftsman. He would go on to buy the company from Condon in 197.
His career in Hollywood spanned five decades and during his life as an optics trailblazer, Manios developed numerous optical devices, including wide-angle and telephoto lenses, that became standard equipment in film and television production. He was awarded several U.S. patents and earned the patronage and friendship of many of the industry’s top cinematographers.
His work in adapting the Canon 150-600 zoom lens to professional use brought Century Precision Optics a Technical Achievement Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1992. Manios was recognized with the Society of Camera Operators’ Distinguished Service Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016.
As the company continued to grow over the decades, he renamed Century Precision Optics and it became a major supplier of specialty optical equipment. Its Tele-Athenar telephoto lenses were widely used in filming action sports and wildlife, including for the film Endless Summer and the TV series Wild America and Hawaii Five-O. His company also created a custom relay system used in shooting model sequences in Star Wars: A New Hope. It also developed specialized lenses used by the U.S. military to test weapons systems and by auto manufacturers in crash tests. Other gear aided underwater photography and newsgathering.
Century Precision Optics continued to flourish by creating innovative products into the 1990s. Manios eventually sold the company to Tinsley Laboratories in 1993, He remained on its board of directors until 1998. Continuing to develop optical devices into the 2000s, Manios saw a need for a high quality, wide-angle, short-zoom lens for Steadicam cinematography. Working with Angenieux, his design resulted in the Angenieux 15-40 T2.6 Optimo, the first in the company’s popular Optimo and DP series of zoom lenses.
Manios is survived by his wife, Linda; children Athena, Steven Jr. and Dina, and seven grandchildren.