Video shows how badly scratches and dirt on your lens affects your photos

Jun 18, 2020

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Video shows how badly scratches and dirt on your lens affects your photos

Jun 18, 2020

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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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?

[via DPReview]

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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3 responses to “Video shows how badly scratches and dirt on your lens affects your photos”

  1. Tyler Ingram Avatar
    Tyler Ingram

    I have a 70-200 that had its front filter ring break off but the glass is still intact. It broke my fall on the ice. My son was holding my hand, he was jumping along, slipped on the ice, he pulled me down.. my lens was behind me so I landed on it…

    my other lens has a broken filter ring too, though it’s still attached to the lens. I had to drop my camera and jump into a hatchery pool to save my daughter from drowning.

    Both lenses seem to work fine. I miss my weather sealing on my 70-200 though…. lol

  2. Adrian J Nyaoi Avatar
    Adrian J Nyaoi

    Scratches on front elements has no effect on the quality of the images. It is like shooting a subject through a mosqutoes netting with your lens press close to the netting. The netting will not be visible in the image

  3. Albin Avatar
    Albin

    Learned this early on, when there was a lot of online fanatiicism by and product sales to new owners. As a practical default I keep a CPL filter on out of doors and remove it when not wanted. It’s both protective and must-have for certain sky, water and reflective glass situations and takes strong sunlight down a bit. Still, something to be said for fogging the lens with a breath and applying a clean cotton tee-shirt.