Ever had a lens scratch affect picture quality?

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by ralf, Nov 21, 2001.

  1. John Fielder mentions in his book “Photographing the Landscape” that
    he regularly uses a lens with a big scratch on the front element. He
    states that this scratch doesn’t affect picture quality at all.

    Question now for all the perfectionists out there: did you EVER have
    a lens which was so scratched that it affected the picture quality?
    If yes, what kind of scratches did it have and what was the effect
    (flares, blurriness)?
  2. No, not at all. This grounding process with accuracy of 1/1500 mm is useless procedure of high-tech freaks at C**/N**/L** and other manufactures and coatings were just developed to pull up some money for new lenses 20years ago from us - poor photographers.<br>
    BTW: JPG compression doesn't affect picture quality either, have you seen some ever ? JPG pic's are lookin' pretty well, don't they ?
  3. I am sure that a lot of heavy cleaning marks on a lens do affect image quality: less resolving power and microcontrast (very fine details), more blurriness when shooting against light source. While a few scratches on a lens don’t at all, or a little bit.

    I have lenses restored (repolished and multicoated): f2.8 80mm Xenotar on Rolleiflex, a few Sonnar’s, Elmar’s, Dagor’s. The difference in image quality is significant when comparing pictures made with them before and after restoring.

    I also noted that super wide angle lenses with a large front element having very heavy scratches don’t lose its performance. I compared two the SWC/M, one with scratches, no any difference in image quality.
    Also I had heavy scratched but superb performer the Nikkor 2.8/20mm.
  4. Only in 35mm. About ten years ago I bought (for a very good price) a 1.4 35mm L**** Summilux lens that is perhaps 30 years old and has quite a few cleaning marks and additional scratches on the front element. It's fine except when a strong source of light is within the frame, which causes flare and low contrast. I've spoken to folks who strip and recoat these lenses, and I may have that done some day. My old Rollei and Speed Graphic have similar scratches, but I don't notice any effect.
  5. I once had a very scratched Canon FD 85mm 1.8 lens that looked like someone had rolled the front element around in gravel, I bought it for $40. It produced sharp and contrasty images so it must have been OK, I didn't compare it to a perfect example though. I think the fine cleaning fog type scratches that you get from years of overcleaning a lens are much worse. However,if the scratches are not too deep, the lens can be recoated. I had a 17mm lens that had been over zealously cleaned over the years recoated in the UK for about £60 including disassembly and reassembly. The image produced before the recoating was appalling, no contrast and loads of flare. I was very sceptical that the work could be done properly but the results after the recoating were great. The work was done by -

    Optical Instruments
    39 Neville Court,
    27/43 Neville Road,
    CR0 2DS

    Tel. 020-866-49799

    I did have a problem though, I had to send the lens back to them once as they reassambled it with the focus collar way too tight the first time.
  6. One of my three Minolta Autocord TLRs has a taking lens with small scratches and cleaning marks on it yet it nevertheless takes the best picture of them all, including one with lenses that are (visually) flawless! As the saying goes, if it ain't broke...

    That said, who in the US does a good job of restoring lenses? There's an interesting lens available at a pawn shop near where I work and I'm tempted to buy it but only if the total cost after replacing the shutter and having it restored/recoated is no more than 1/2 or so of what I would have to pay for one in mint condition. Any recommendations?
  7. Minor scratches, particularly on the front, don't seem to have much, if any, real affect on image quality other than that already mentioned. My experience, with old Rollei Zeiss Planars that are 40+ years old is haze caused by oxidation. This of course reduces overall image contrast. I had one Rolleiflex Planar 80mm lens with haze and separation repaired by Focal Point in Louisville, Colorado. Cost about $225, but this lens produces dramatically improved images. Quality is right up there with my modern Hasselblad Planar, and slightly better in sharpness.
  8. Have to say my experience echoes what was said above. A small scratch or two, some internal dust or bubbles, or a few light cleaning markes, I see no affect. A slew of cleaning marks, or any internal haze you can see with a flashlight, will have a definite affect on SOME images eapecially backlit lighting and those taken at wider apertures, where contrast and color saturation can be much lower, and flare becomes more of a problem.
  9. I was talking with one of my older photographic friends the other day about this subject. He has done wedding photography as well as scientific photography at Stanford U so I value his opinion. He said that for wide angle retrofocus lenses a large defect on the front element can show up in the images made at the smallest apertures because the depth of field is great enough to include the defect. It may not be in focus but it won't be totally out of focus either. I've been meaning to try this out with a removeable defect like a sticky black bit of paper.

    I know that when I'm checking a lens hood for vignetting on a wide angle lens and the lens is stopped far down, the vignette edge is quite sharp even though it's not that far away from the front element.

    Food for thought,


  10. An interesting point made there by Duane Kucheran, that a wide angle lens with front element scratch(es), especially at a tiny aperture,would be more like to show image degradation because of depth of field effects tending to bring the flaw to something approaching focus.

    That makes sense and clearly, to widen that subject a little, it means that blemishes on filters mounted on any lens, but of course especially on wide angle lenses are more likely to show as degraded images when the lens is well stopped down.

    Trevor Littlewood.
  11. I have an old Commercial Ektar with a Moon-sized crater in the rear element. I dabbed a little black ink on it so it wouldn't spread light around. Seems to be fine. I can't prove it, but I bet lots of small, fine scratches are worse than one big one.
  12. Ralf

    Some years back I bought a 50mm Zenzanon S lens(Bronica) and on close inspection with a magnifying glass, I noticed that the coating on the front element looked like crazy-paving. It was really bad. Somebody must have cleaned it with Harpic. The crazy thing is. It was clearer and sharper by far, than the two other examples of this lens I had previously used. I sent it back in disgust, thinking it would be a bad investment. But then found out later that the supplier had sold it for half the original price. I was gutted.
  13. Once when checking a roll on the lightbox I noticed all the macro shots had a "splodge" on them, while the distance shots were fine.

    Took a look at the lens and lo and behold there was the "splodge",
    removable thank God!

  14. Years ago I purchased a Mamiya C 105 - 210 Zoom lens for a song because of a nasty chip in the front element. The main part of the chip is about 1.5 mm in diameter, and it has three little cracks radiating from it for about 2 millimeters. The results have always been as good as I expected from a zoom of this type, however. Some years afterward I purchased another one in pristine condition, mainly because it was embarrassing to use the damaged one in public. At the time I did some tests to see if there was any obvious improvement in quality. I found I could create marked flare and a very feint shadow of the damage by shining a very bright light on the front element from the side. Under the same conditions the new one was equally unusable, simply because of the flare from the light on the front element. Test done on Kodak VPS, because that is what I had in the camera at the time. A very expensive exercise in keeping up appearances.

    In contrast, I have a plain 80mm f2.8 with serious circular cleaning marks (aquired with a good camera body) that is very slightly fuzzy in comparison to another good identical lens. Somewhat like a soft-focus lens. (Tested using Ilford Pan F developed in D76, using 8X magnifyer on negative.)

    As previous posts have suggested, cleaning marks and hazing are probably far more damaging than a single scratch or imperfection.
  15. no, but a chin scratch can. was on the sidelines at the LSU game today and just when i broke my pose to scratch an itch on my cheek (the one on my face), i missed a touchdown toss.
  16. I have a Yashica 124g with a few dust specs internal, and a Vivitar series one 28-90 with bad scratch on front element, with no apparent problems. In fact, they are among my favorites. I was told by a local camera place that a scratch on the rear element is more serious because it was closer to the film plane, although I'll admit that the above post about wide angles and front element makes sense. Certainly a front element scratch or scratches will cause more flare, but you should always use a lense hood anyhow. Lastly, if it's a portrait lense, a scratch may even be a good thing.
  17. This might be a bit old.

    Recently I acquired two lenses to stand in for my Contax system. On rainy days I would prefer to have the Zeiss lenses sitting at home and use the Yashica instead. The lenses are : A Yashica 24 F2.8 and a Yashica 35 F2.8.

    The 24 has a slight scratch in the front element which measures about 1mm by 2mm. It also has some cleaning marks. The 35, though it looks like new outside, already fogged up near the rear element, and on back of the front element, there are numerous signs of fungus eating into the glass. I bought the lenses thru individual sellers on the Internet and discovered the shortcomings only when I collected them.

    However, the test shots came out fine and amazing. The 24 is as good as any other 24mm Japanese prime lens. What amazed me is, I expected the images produced by the 35mm to be poor and louzy, but it produced some wonderful pictures with vibrant colours even on a dull day.

    So I suppose a few scratches on the lens is ok. I saw some pros really abuse their camera bodies and lenses. So they said: ' tools are meant to be used, not pampered.'

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