You may remember Laowa fully funded their new 12mm f/2.8 lens kickstarter within 30 seconds of going live last month. Thanks to the claims of high quality and “Zero Distortion” (or really close to it), people took notice and they pre-sold over 700 lenses. At the time of the campaign launch, one of the videos for the new lens didn’t seem to get much notice. It does, however, show off a very cool feature of Laowa’s lenses.
That feature is the “Water Repelling Frog Eye Coating”. This hydrophobic coating means that when rain or other liquids splash it, they don’t stick. They immediately just roll off, leaving your front element perfectly clear. Ideal for photojournalists, street photographers, or anybody out there potentially shooting in rain or muddy conditions.
Hydrophobic coatings for things that aren’t lenses are nothing new. In fact, I’ve got a bottle of spray here for camping equipment to keep tents, jackets, boots and other things dry. They’ve also been used inside motorcycle helmet visors for years to prevent them fogging up from the breath of the wearer. Also car windshields regularly have hydrophobic coatings.
But they’re not quite the same kind of optical quality you’d hope for in a lens. Sure, looking out through your car’s windshield it might seem fine enough. Looking through an otherwise optically perfect lens with a very high resolution sensor, they’re suddenly not so clear.
Another video which also seems to have slipped through the cracks is this one from Nikon. Two years ago they showed off the water, mud and other repelling properties of their Fluorine lens coatings.
For those who don’t yet have lenses with hydrophobic coatings, there’s always Tokina’s range of Rain Dispersion Filters. They’re certainly not cheap, though, ranging from $650 for a 77mm up to $850 for 127mm. Of course, they are aimed at cinema shooters.
Hopefully this is something that more companies will start to incorporate into their lens coatings. Street photography just seems to become more and more popular as time goes on. There’s not much worse than shooting in a light rain only to get home and find half your shots have been ruined by a drop of water.
Most of my shoots are around water. In either lakes, rivers or waterfalls. My gear’s weather sealed, so from a reliability standpoint I don’t worry. But, spray does often creep onto the front element, meaning a lot of cleaning throughout a session. I might have to look into one of those Tokina Rain Dispersion filters myself.
Do you shoot in conditions where your lens can regularly get covered in rain, mud or other liquids? Does it cause a big problem for you when you shoot? How do you get around it? Or are you using a lens with a hydrophobic coating already? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.