Nano crystal coating

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by louis_rosenthal, Jan 8, 2012.

  1. So yesterday I was working at an electronics store here in Switzerland and was talking to a Nikon promo guy.

    While he seemed to really know what he was talking about when it came to gear, including all kinds of different cameras, one point that really surprised me is that he said every lens should have a protective filter on it.

    According to him, not only does it protect from scratches and the like, it also makes it easier to clean, that cleaning the front element with a cloth too much could ruin the nano crystal coat!

    Now for one I always thought it would take a lot to damage that, two, that it's not just on the front element (if at all?), and three protective filters on high quality glass are a shame. I've experienced first hand what horrible quality can result from using such filters, and over the course of 4 years, using about 10 different lenses all the time i've never once scratched a lens.

    so the question is: can one ruin the nano crystal coat? And perhaps what are your opinions about using protective filters?

  2. Louis, there have been numerous endless and impassioned debates on the topic of protective filters here on in just the past couple of years. For some reason, folks get really bothered by this topic. Each time the subject is raised, it brings the advocates on both sides out of the woodwork as if salt had been freshly rubbed into their wounds. ;-)
    Do this Google search: {damage protective filter} , and you will have more to read about this topic than you ever could possibly imagine. I see very little reason to start another thread on this topic. Introducing the factor of nano-coatings won't change anything in this endless debate.
    Tom M
  3. it's actually mainly about nano coating, not the filters, just can one damage the nano coating by rubbing a cloth on the front element.
  4. There were drawings showing lens cross section with surfaces on which nano coating was applied.
    I do not remember the lens, but it seems that this coating is applied to internal surfaces only.
    Possibly a different lens could have different coating?
  5. ah yes, that resolves it, perhaps one might rub through the front element and then the nano coat huh. ;) :D

    thanks for pointing that out :)

  6. The Nano coating is applied to all surfaces of all elements as far as I'm aware. I cannot say how robust the coating is, but I would think that damage to the outer most surface would have little impact on the the overall effectiveness. I doubt if the occasional clean would have much impact. It sounds like the rep seems to think Nano coating is some sort of spray-on filter added to the the front of the lens, which it obviously isn't. Even a scratch on front element would have no visible effect on image quality as seen in the real world. Lenses are designed to be occasionally cleaned.
    Edit: I see the outer surface is not coated. makes sense.
  7. I have also seen indications that the nano crystal coat is only applied to interior surfaces, in fact, in some cases only ONE interior surface.
    I am a filter user on most o my lenses. Exceptions are those with a recessed enough front element that nothing is likely to bump them, such as the 50mm f1.8D and 55mm micro.
  8. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    As Peter and Frank pointed out, as far as I know nano coating is typically applied to only 1 or 2 internal elements. I bought the 60mm/f2.8 AF-S macro lens a few months ago, and that lens has one internal surface with nano coating:
    You can reach that diagram by visiting the 60mm AF-S lens page on Nikon USA's site:
    And then click on the Lens Construction icon on the right column.
    I tend to use protective filters precisely because it is much easier to clean my front element, as sometimes I shoot at rainy, misty, or dusty condiditions. Frequently I just use my shirt to clean the filter, something I would not do on an actual lens element. However, if some guy tells you that a protective filter can protect the fragile nano coating on the very front surface of a lens, you can probably ignore the rest of his comments. That does not come across to be someone who knows what he is talking about.
  9. I stand corrected. I'm surprised that by coating only one surface it works so well. Can we assume the other elements have a different coating?
    At least we agree that the rep didn't know what he's talking about.
  10. indeed in this regard he did not, and I'm glad he was wrong or all my lenses would have screwed up coats :D
  11. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Right, every lens element surface should be coated; Nikon uses the term Super Integrated Coating (SIC). However, if a lens has nano coating, that is applied on very few surfaces.
    When the D3 was introduced four years ago along with the VR versions of the 400mm/f2.8, 500mm/f4, 600mm/f4 as well as the 14-24mm/f2.8 and 24-70mm/f2.8 zooms, all with nano coating, Nikon published an interview with two of their engineers about nano coating:
    As extreme a wide angle as the 14-24 is, it is quite resistent to flare:
    There are quite a few samples from various people on this forum. How big a role nano coating plays I have no idea.
  12. So, a sales rep who sells not-so-cheap filters is recommending you buy a filter for each of your lenses? How surprising! (Not.) I've never had any damage at all to any of me lenses due to not having a filter, despite nearly daily use outdoors. I have had an expensive lens badly damaged when a filter broke and scratched up the front element.
    Kent in SD
  13. I had a similar experience to Kent. A filter shattered, scratching the front element of my 70-200 vr. Various people suggested that if the filter was not in place, it may have been the front element of the lens shattering instead - which woud obviously be a much more serious problem - however due to the way it occurred I personally feel that this would not have happened.
    Anyway, it seem that with "protective" filters, there is no right or wrong answer. If you want to use them go ahead, if not, you're probably not missing out on much.
    Regarding the original post, I also understand that nano coat is only applied to one (or perhaps more) internal lens surfaces, so it seems your promo guy was either talking through ignorance, or intentionally misleading you with the goal of selling you an expensive and probably unnecessary filter.

  14. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    I had a similar experience to Kent. A filter shattered, scratching the front element of my 70-200 vr. Various people suggested that if the filter was not in place, it may have been the front element of the lens shattering instead - which woud obviously be a much more serious problem - however due to the way it occurred I personally feel that this would not have happened.​
    Chris, I read in some study about auto accidents, in a few % of the cases wearing a seal belt would actually cause more harm, but in by far the majority of the cases seat belts save lives. That is why there are seat belt laws. However, there are exceptions.
    But the purpose of protective filters is not to save the lens from impact type damages. Way back in 1973/1974 when I was a teenager using my first SLR, I dropped a lens on concrete. The impact smashed the Minolta metal lens cap and the Hoya protective filter. The filter shattered and I had to bring the lens to Minolta so that they could remove the filter. However, there was not even a scratch on the lens. Back then, little did I know that in the next 30+ years, no filter would save any one of my lenses from impact damages again. Part of it is due to the fact that I might have drop only 3, 4 lenses in 4 decades.
    As I said, today I use protective filters mainly because it is much simplier to clean in the field. I keep my lenses free of water droplets, dust, etc. as much as possible. A cleaner front element means better images; it is that simple.
  15. If you live on the coast you are constantly cleaning your lens, I don't use a filter anymore but I am very careful there isn't a grain of sand on any of my cleaning cloths or the lens.
  16. If you read the account of the development of Nano Crystal coating, you'll find buried in it this key phrase "In addition, the material would have to be strengthened to cope with the rigors of consumer product manufacturing."
    Now to me, the implication of this is that Nano-crystal coating is a naturally delicate material, incapable of withstanding mechanical abrasion. It's therefore unsurprising that it's so far been restricted to use on the internal surfaces of a lens, but since any internal cleaning would be a job for a specialist repairer, that shouldn't really bother the average user.
    My concern, ever since reading that Nikon article around a year ago, is with the long-term stability of Nano-crystal coatings. I've seen some early (~20 year old) hybrid glass-plastic aspheric lenses where the plastic has started to microscopically craze, giving a hazy appearance to the asperical elements, and ruining the contrast of the lens as a result. So obviously some manufacturers don't care very much about the longevity of their products.
    I don't want to incite any paranoia, but I'd like some assurance from Nikon that this new coating technology won't decompose or lose adhesion after a few years!
  17. If you're experiencing "horrible quality" on filtered lenses, you're using cheap filters.
    I've used protective filters on my lenses for over 50 years, and find no difference in quality of test shots with or without.
    And I'm a quality/resolution freak, using the best film and optics available to get the highest definition.
    - Leigh
  18. Sorry... duplicate post
    - Leigh
  19. Zeiss had a problem with some of their $15,000 microscope lenses, the "cement" on some element pairs could freeze during shipping, something to do with -30C in unheated aircraft cargo holds. The lens was effectively junk and needed a factory rebuild if this happened. Optimal optical performance comes at a cost.
  20. Nikon takes robustness and long life quite seriously. I am sure they have done testing regarding the expected life of the coating, but we will only know for sure when the nano coated lenses are a couple of decades old. I think other aspects such as autofocus and optical perfomance mean that many lenses will not be used by their original owners 20 after purchase. This is without any decay of the nano coating.
  21. Ilkka--
    I can't disagree with anything you said, even though we don't really know for sure. The current Nikon lenses are excellent optically, but their electronics could well be their Achilles heel in decades to come. This fascinates me! Remember that on my Chamonix 4x5, I'm using lenses from the 1850s and 1860s. Those lenses work as well now as they ever have. It's entirely possible that seventy years from now my old E.G. Wood and Voigtlander lenses will still be going strong, while my state of art Nikon lenses are unusuable. Maybe we are indeed living in a throw-away world. Since photography began lenses have become more optically complex. Starting with two elements (achromatic doublet) in 1839, then going to four (Petzval 1841, rapid rectilinear 1866,) then six (Heliar, doppel anastigmat 1890s,) and now what, 18, 20 elements? Perhaps the trend will reverse at some point and we head back to more simplicity. To be fair, designing lenses to last 150+ years probably isn't a criteria for Nikon. Maybe the makers of early lenses would even be surprised their products are still being used?
    Kent in SD
  22. The discussion re using filters is old argument. Many photographers, including professionals would be horrified if you didn't have a protective filter on your favorite lenses. Others would never think of inducing another potentially reflective and flair producing surface to their favorite lenses. It doesn't mean the Nikon rep didn't know what he was talking about at all.
  23. Barry--
    The OP is reporting that the Nikon rep told him the filter was to protect the fragile nano-coating. As others have pointed out here, those coatings are only on elements buried deep inside the lens. Either the Nikon rep didn't know that about his own product, or he did know it and was just trying to scare the OP into buying some Nikon filters there is some real question if needed at all. (And they AREN'T needed to protect the nano coatings.) Either way--ignorant or deceptive, that rep does not come off looking good in this reported instance.
    Kent in SD
  24. I've nearly always used good-quality multicoated UV filters on my lenses, mainly as protection against dust, mist, rain and condensation - not to mention my own clumsiness when removing or replacing a lenscap or hood. However I noticed a long time ago that using a UV filter changed the focus of a 100-300mm f/4 zoom, and also marginally affected its image quality. Ever since then I've removed filters if not needed for weather protection, and also for any really critical work. So generally I treat my UV filters as a secondary screw-in lenscap. This means I can shoot something quickly if necessary by just popping off the clip-on cap, and when the subject allows a more leisurely treatment, the filter comes off too.
    Having said that, I have a couple of lenses where the front element is so large and so close to the filter rim that it would regularly get thumbprinted or scuffed by the lenscap if not for the filter. So on those lenses the filter tends to stay put most of the time. As for a filter protecting a lens against drop or impact damage - don't be silly! That's not the sort of protection it's designed to give.
  25. Hey Shun, have you posted your thoughts on the 60/2.8 AF-S since you got the lens? I did a quick search but didn't see it if you did. I for one would be interested. Since I picked up my D700 my trusty 35-70/2.8 has been glued to the body but I have been considering picking up the 60 based on the reviews and my love for the 55/3.5 and 55/2.8 manual lenses both in focal length and sharpness.
  26. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Tony, the 60mm/f2.8 AF-S is an excellent macro lens, but I mainly use it to photograph cameras and lenses when I do reviews. For insects, flowers, etc., I prefer longer macro lenses such as the 105mm and 200mm. The latter has a tripod collar, which is a big plus.
  27. Thanks Shun! I've used the 105 VR as a rental and loved the results but hated the 'process', its like a soup can on the front of my camera. If I ever got into macro seriously I'd want that 200 like you say for the working distance.
  28. I have a Hoya HMC UV(0) filter on every lens I own with the exception of my 600mm f/4 ED-IF AIS Nikkor. These are very high quality, and therefore not cheap, filters. And God forbid something happen to the filter, it is a whole lot easier to replace than getting a new front element for the lens. And since all my Nikkors are AI/AIS, some of them dating to the mid 80's it is unlikely that Nikon even still stocks replacement glass elements.

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