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What's the deal with lens hoods?

Matt T (Brooklyn) , Jul 29, 2005; 12:23 p.m.

I've been shooting SLRs as a hobby for about 7 years now...first on a Canon Rebel G, and in the past month, I have switched to a Nikon D70. With the Canon, I never bothered to use lens hoods, as I didn't know what they were used for and never really cared to investigate.

But since getting the D70 and joining this site, I've become curious. I have the 18-70 D70 kit lens and the Nikkor 70-300 ED lens.

So my questions are...what is the purpose of the lens hood? Does it really improve performance, and if so, how? Also, if you do recommend using the hood, should I use it all the time on both lenses, or only under certain conditions?

Basically, this is a general, what the heck is a lens hood used for anyway type of question.

Any help will be greatly appreciated. Thanks.


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Anupam Basu , Jul 29, 2005; 12:47 p.m.

Lens hoods are used to prevent flare - stray light getting into the lens which might cause haze and reduce contrast. Important when shooting in situations when you have bright light falling at an angle on the lens surface. Must you use one - no. But you must know which situations might call for one - then even the palm of your hand would do.

Chris Hughes , Jul 29, 2005; 12:48 p.m.

Hoods are the most useful when shooting towards a bright light source (the sun). They can reduce lens flair but more importantly they can increase contrast in those situations. You can get the exact same effect by using your hand or arm to shade the lens when light is falling directly on the front element. That's what I tend to do. I shade it with my hand and I can usually see right through the viewfinder when shade is needed.

I'm sure that others will have more detailed advice/information.

M. Hayward , Jul 29, 2005; 01:05 p.m.

The hood helps protect the lens, too. I dropped my 85mm 1.8 off a counter on a tile floor and it hit hard enought to dent the metal hood. Without it, I'm sure the glass would have cracked. It also helps keep some distance between the front element of the lens and things that might scratch it, etc. (i.e., it's a harder to get your thumbprint in the middle of the glass with hood on.)

Calderon Erick , Jul 29, 2005; 01:12 p.m.

In other words, if you can have the hood attached all the time? use it. It will protect your lens from a lot of things like in case it is dropped, your fingers might be hard to get into the lens with a hood on, also any branches or stuff that might be around you, you never know.

The main purpose for a lens hood is to cover it from flare. Lights from different directions might hit your glass and cause this flare. So with this hood your glass only sees the only light that is supposed to see, forward.

Calderon Erick , Jul 29, 2005; 01:15 p.m.

...sometimes even ambient light might cause minimum amounts of flare, this is why I'd recommend to use it all the time, you will get the best possible results from your lens.

Greg S , Jul 29, 2005; 01:16 p.m.

1) Reduce/eliminate flare

2) Protect the front element from physical/environmental contact (good to keep light rain off)

3) Makes a lens look bigger. The Nikon 500mm is very impressive with its extra long hood attached. :)

Matt T (Brooklyn) , Jul 29, 2005; 01:19 p.m.

Make it look bigger...lol. That's what its all about, isn't it?

Thanks for the quick responses guys. That's what I wanted to know...is it advisable keeping the hoods on at all times while shooting. Sounds like it is.

Isaac Wong , Jul 29, 2005; 01:20 p.m.

The only times you should NOT use the hood are 1) when you use the built-in flash (on some camera bodies) and it might block some of the flash and cast a shadow; 2) when the hood might block an AF assist light.

Otherwise use a hood whenever possible (even inside) because it provides protection as well as prevents flare and ghosting.

Steve Muntz , Jul 29, 2005; 01:30 p.m.

There are no negative effects of using a lens hood (other than blocking a pop-up flash like was already brought up). I use them all the time because you never know when you'll bump into something with the lens (and might guess wrong in a lens flare situation) and this way you'll always be protected. Lenses can still flare with hoods attached, but it will be minimized to some degree.

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