Better Lens Protection Than a 1A / UV / Skylight Filter

Before I begin, the camera pictured is my Nikon F75.

There’s a good chance you’ve got a filter on the front of every lens you own. That’s not a bad thing, heck if you’ve got Canon L lens you’d better, it’s “required” by design for sealing. You probably stick on on every lens just to protect it, a sort of cheap insurance. What’s a $17 filter compared to a $220 kit lens? Besides you can pull the filter off an clean it, and it might protect your front element. That’s all true, but I’ve done something else with two of the six lenses (hey I’m not saying I don’t like filters,) I’ve had in the last two years.

Observe the front of the lens where it contacts the table.

Instead of putting 1A filters on two lenses I put rubber collapsible lens hoods on them. They’re actually quite useless as lens hoods, and frankly neither lens really benefits from a hood, even when you’d assume it would. What they ARE really good for is protecting the lenses, especially Nikon VR (Canon IS) lenses.

Nikon recommends you turn the VR system off when you’re not using the lens. In theory this locks those elements in place and prevents damage due to impact. I suspect they’re not just being over cautious to avoid warranty claims. Because of the way VR works it’s possible a sharp impact could mess with your lens.

The rubber hoods screw on like a filter. The diameter is slightly large than the barrel of the lens (at-least with both of the ones I have.) That means they land on the table before the front of the lens when you put the camera down, and they hold the lens up when it’s resting. That provides what seems to be considerable impact protection. They ones I have are made of stiff but compressible rubber (and plastic rings).

They also extend past the front element (though vignette isn’t really an issue,) mitigating some risk of impact damage. You’d basically have to drop the lens (objective down) onto a particular size rock in order to hit the front element.

In reality, objective lens impact damage in for the form of chips is pretty rare (and not necessarily crippling.) Dust pitting is also rare, and usualy only reduces contast. If you don’t believe me that front element damage is mostly inconsequential Roger Cicala has a post that will back me up on that. His business http://www.lensrentals.com/ rents out over 2,600 lenses, as incredible prices. Oh and they actually ship to Canada!

I’m not saying you shouldn’t use a 1A filter (four out of six times in the last two years I’ve chosen filters,) but in some cases this might be better, and you can do both!

Personally I don’t like adding more glass to the optical system if I don’t have to. Many lenses already internally exclude UV, but if you’re finding UV artifacts, or scattering to be a problem in your photography (you’re probably not) you might want to try a 2B. I suspect many of the 1A filters sold are really 0 filters. A real Kodak/Wratten 1A filter should be very slightly pink.

As a matter of utility, vignette is only a problem with the hood extended at the wide end of the 18-55mm.


† The Nikon F75 (N75 in the USA) was Nikon’s last consumer grade film SLR. It’s able to support modern AF-S and VR lenses, has a DoF preview button, iTTL flash, exposure bracketing, and is mind bogglingly light weight. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. I’ll be writing a post on it soon.

Until then you can read Ken Rockwell’s review of the Nikon F75; and soon I’ll write a post (which will surely blow your mind) on why I don’t dislike him anymore.

‡ The two lenses being the AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G, and the AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR.

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