People are paranoid about scratching their lenses. So much so that they’ll actually put filters over the end of them, intentionally degrading the overall image quality to prevent “ruining” them and degrading the image quality (yeah, I know). But is it really that big of a deal? Is a fingerprint or a scratch on your lens that bad?
In this video, Chris and Jordan at DPReview test out a bunch of different levels of dirt and damage on lenses on both the front and rear elements to see exactly how much difference it makes to the image quality. Some of the results are actually quite surprising.
The video shows that that lens damage and dirt can have an effect on your images that ranges anywhere from “what scratch?” all the way up to almost completely unusable. In certain conditions, you’re definitely going to notice the issues, but a lot of the time you probably won’t unless they’re extremely deep scratches or there are a lot of them.
It was actually quite surprising just how little the scratches, fingerprints, dust, water droplets and other issues had on the images when you watch the video. And you can see the actual photographs over on DPReview if you want to inspect them a little more closely.
While some may see this video as an argument for using UV filters, even if they do degrade the image quality slightly, I don’t think I’ll ever go back to using them myself except when I shoot film. I haven’t killed a lens element for the last 15 years of not using them, and in the event that I do… Well, I’ll just get it repaired or replaced if it ends up being a problem in my images.
Some of my favourite shots have actually come from using 50-year-old scratched up bargain lenses I’ve discovered on eBay.
Do you shoot with scratched lenses without a care in the world? Or do you do everything you can to prevent scratches and cover all your lenses in UV filters?