In 1926 Horace Dall commenced optical work, with interests covering both microscopes and telescopes. Soon (1928), he was making solid eyepieces of the Tolles type. Eventually he developed skills in making lenses of the smallest size to be incorporated into microscope objectives of the highest numerical aperture; this culminated in an objective with a N.A. of 1.92 (a record). The lenses were jewelled elements worked with diamond dust. During World War 2 he repaired all the microscope lenses damaged in the U.K. that had originated with the German firm of Leitz.
Horace Dall had an exceptionally inventive mind – and was so active in developing his ideas that he had insufficient time to formally write them up, hence much of his work remains unpublished. He did, however, keep extensive notebooks of his researches into optics. These, along with many prototypes, are now in the custody of the Science Museum, London. Combining his interests in travel, optics, and astronomy, Dall developed a number of portable, ultra-lightweight telescopes. He discovered that by incorporating what is in effect a long working distance, low-power microscope with a Cassegrain telescope he had an instrument with several advantages. The image was erect, the secondary small, and by use of a suitably placed internal stop, sky-flooding was eliminated without the use of shade tubes. Always looking for improvements in optical performance he hit on the idea of modifying the classical Cassegrain telescope by employing a prolate ellipsoidal primary mirror with a spherical secondary: independently discovered by Kirkham in the U.S.A. the type is now universally known as the Dall-Kirkham.