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Ever had a lens scratch affect picture quality?

Ralf Hoenes , Nov 22, 2001; 01:37 a.m.

John Fielder mentions in his book “Photographing the Landscape” that he regularly uses a lens with a big scratch on the front element. He states that this scratch doesn’t affect picture quality at all.

Question now for all the perfectionists out there: did you EVER have a lens which was so scratched that it affected the picture quality? If yes, what kind of scratches did it have and what was the effect (flares, blurriness)?


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Petr Zavadsky (CZ) , Nov 22, 2001; 03:47 a.m.

No, not at all. This grounding process with accuracy of 1/1500 mm is useless procedure of high-tech freaks at C**/N**/L** and other manufactures and coatings were just developed to pull up some money for new lenses 20years ago from us - poor photographers.
BTW: JPG compression doesn't affect picture quality either, have you seen some ever ? JPG pic's are lookin' pretty well, don't they ?

Victor Randin , Nov 22, 2001; 06:39 a.m.

I am sure that a lot of heavy cleaning marks on a lens do affect image quality: less resolving power and microcontrast (very fine details), more blurriness when shooting against light source. While a few scratches on a lens don’t at all, or a little bit.

I have lenses restored (repolished and multicoated): f2.8 80mm Xenotar on Rolleiflex, a few Sonnar’s, Elmar’s, Dagor’s. The difference in image quality is significant when comparing pictures made with them before and after restoring.

I also noted that super wide angle lenses with a large front element having very heavy scratches don’t lose its performance. I compared two the SWC/M, one with scratches, no any difference in image quality. Also I had heavy scratched but superb performer the Nikkor 2.8/20mm.

Richard Baznik , Nov 22, 2001; 07:26 a.m.

Only in 35mm. About ten years ago I bought (for a very good price) a 1.4 35mm L**** Summilux lens that is perhaps 30 years old and has quite a few cleaning marks and additional scratches on the front element. It's fine except when a strong source of light is within the frame, which causes flare and low contrast. I've spoken to folks who strip and recoat these lenses, and I may have that done some day. My old Rollei and Speed Graphic have similar scratches, but I don't notice any effect.

Mike Watkins , Nov 22, 2001; 07:32 a.m.

I once had a very scratched Canon FD 85mm 1.8 lens that looked like someone had rolled the front element around in gravel, I bought it for $40. It produced sharp and contrasty images so it must have been OK, I didn't compare it to a perfect example though. I think the fine cleaning fog type scratches that you get from years of overcleaning a lens are much worse. However,if the scratches are not too deep, the lens can be recoated. I had a 17mm lens that had been over zealously cleaned over the years recoated in the UK for about £60 including disassembly and reassembly. The image produced before the recoating was appalling, no contrast and loads of flare. I was very sceptical that the work could be done properly but the results after the recoating were great. The work was done by -

Optical Instruments 39 Neville Court, 27/43 Neville Road, Croydon, Surrey CR0 2DS

Tel. 020-866-49799

I did have a problem though, I had to send the lens back to them once as they reassambled it with the focus collar way too tight the first time.

Jeffrey Goggin , Nov 22, 2001; 09:47 a.m.

One of my three Minolta Autocord TLRs has a taking lens with small scratches and cleaning marks on it yet it nevertheless takes the best picture of them all, including one with lenses that are (visually) flawless! As the saying goes, if it ain't broke...

That said, who in the US does a good job of restoring lenses? There's an interesting lens available at a pawn shop near where I work and I'm tempted to buy it but only if the total cost after replacing the shutter and having it restored/recoated is no more than 1/2 or so of what I would have to pay for one in mint condition. Any recommendations?

Greg Jones , Nov 22, 2001; 11:31 a.m.

Minor scratches, particularly on the front, don't seem to have much, if any, real affect on image quality other than that already mentioned. My experience, with old Rollei Zeiss Planars that are 40+ years old is haze caused by oxidation. This of course reduces overall image contrast. I had one Rolleiflex Planar 80mm lens with haze and separation repaired by Focal Point in Louisville, Colorado. Cost about $225, but this lens produces dramatically improved images. Quality is right up there with my modern Hasselblad Planar, and slightly better in sharpness.

andrew schank , Nov 22, 2001; 12:07 p.m.

Have to say my experience echoes what was said above. A small scratch or two, some internal dust or bubbles, or a few light cleaning markes, I see no affect. A slew of cleaning marks, or any internal haze you can see with a flashlight, will have a definite affect on SOME images eapecially backlit lighting and those taken at wider apertures, where contrast and color saturation can be much lower, and flare becomes more of a problem.

Duane Kucheran , Nov 22, 2001; 12:55 p.m.

I was talking with one of my older photographic friends the other day about this subject. He has done wedding photography as well as scientific photography at Stanford U so I value his opinion. He said that for wide angle retrofocus lenses a large defect on the front element can show up in the images made at the smallest apertures because the depth of field is great enough to include the defect. It may not be in focus but it won't be totally out of focus either. I've been meaning to try this out with a removeable defect like a sticky black bit of paper.

I know that when I'm checking a lens hood for vignetting on a wide angle lens and the lens is stopped far down, the vignette edge is quite sharp even though it's not that far away from the front element.

Food for thought,



Trevor Littlewood , Nov 22, 2001; 01:37 p.m.

An interesting point made there by Duane Kucheran, that a wide angle lens with front element scratch(es), especially at a tiny aperture,would be more like to show image degradation because of depth of field effects tending to bring the flaw to something approaching focus.

That makes sense and clearly, to widen that subject a little, it means that blemishes on filters mounted on any lens, but of course especially on wide angle lenses are more likely to show as degraded images when the lens is well stopped down.

Trevor Littlewood.

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