Can filters IMPROVE lenses?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by GeorgeDexter, Jan 25, 2013.

  1. GeorgeDexter

    GeorgeDexter Member

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    Lots of vicious flamewars have been fought over whether to use UV or other protective filters on high end glass -- whether there is any loss in image quality, and whether it is worth it.

    But how about this: what about using a good, multicoated filter on older lenses prone to flare? Can a multicoated filter actually improve the image quality of an older lens that has few coatings, if any, or coatings damaged or worn away by years of cleaning?

    I have several 50+ year old Leica and other lenses, that are supposed to be prone to flare, etc., and I'm wondering if it would improve things if I put a filter on them.

    Summar 5cm f2
    Summicron 5cm f2
    Elmar 5cm f3.
    Culminar 135mm f4.5
    Jupiter-8 5cm f2
    Jupiter-12 35mm f2.8

    For that matter, I have some older non-Ai Nikon glass that may benefit, too. What do you think.

    Thanks
     
  2. BradS

    BradS Member

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    Without going into the physics of why...the simple answer is NO.

    Think of it this way, adding a filter adds two more surfaces of glass....which increase flare. The multicoated filter would only increase flare by a smaller amount but it would still be an increase.

    You may want to try using a good lens hood with those older lenses.
     
  3. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    I doubt it. A filter has never improved a lens for me. Filters have improved images when used to change contrast ratios, or correct color temperature. But a crappy lens or worn out coating really don't seem to be correctable. I have also experienced "improvement of images" by using a lens hood on lenses, especially older uncoated lenses... that that I consider int eh same category of improvments as mentioned above when discussing contrast or CC filters. Even a lens hood doesn't necessarily imoprove a lens but it can improve the image taken with a lens. So semantics aside of wheter filters/hoods improve the lens or the resulting images... use a lens hood on your old Leica lenses and you'll likely like the results.
     
  4. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    for what it's worth, the mtf of a system is the product oall mtfs. so, if one element is perfect(mtf=1),the product will not improve, but only be stabilized at best. consequently, the answer must be 'no'.
     
  5. PanaDP

    PanaDP Member

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    Most definitely not. The best thing you can do with an uncoated or beat up lens is to be diligent flagging stray light off the front element. If the only light hitting it is image-making light then you are getting the best that lens can do.
     
  6. GeorgeDexter

    GeorgeDexter Member

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    Ok, that seems to be a consensus. Thanks for the info.
     
  7. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    A lens hood will help reduce flare.
     
  8. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    A single colour filter (e.g. a yellow Y2) can certainly improve the black and white performance of a lens that otherwise suffers from chromatic aberration.
     
  9. jstout

    jstout Subscriber

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    Ka-chink

    Awesome. I believe (from what I know) you really nailed that one.

     
  10. elekm

    elekm Member

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    I confess to keeping a UV filter as protection on a Sonnar, which is a beautiful lens but which also has very soft glass.

    For those older single-coated lenses, a lens shade/hood works really great at reducing flare.
     
  11. John Austin

    John Austin Member

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    Regarding the flame war, both sides are correct but the correctest one depends on the situation. If you are in a clean studio environment work without. If you are on a beach on a sandy day definitely wear one, the filter will get salt and sand on it, but the lens will remain safe. Just use a bit of brian
     
  12. BMbikerider

    BMbikerider Member

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    Some lenses of course demanded that a filter was fitted for it to work properly at all, Principally 'cat' lenses AKA Mirror lenses, where there was a slot in the back to take the appropriate lens for what you were taking, but were required to finish off the optical path of the lens, but other lenses- no I don't think so.
     
  13. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Indeed, I usually use a yellow or orange filter with my Busch Vademecum set for this reason. Of course when the lens was made, plates were blue sensitive or UV sensitive, so chromatic abberation wouldn't show up on the plate, but the set came with two corrector filters for focusing to compensate for UV focus shift. The corrector filters would be removed for the shot.

    That said, a MC filter won't reduce flare on an uncoated lens.
     
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  15. pen s

    pen s Member

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    A UVa filter left on an expensive, in demand, older lens throughout it's lifetime can "improve" the resale value of that lens.
     
  16. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    i think so too, because it protects the front element from cleaningmarks
     
  17. E. von Hoegh

    E. von Hoegh Member

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    No.
     
  18. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    I like that endorsement!
     
  19. E. von Hoegh

    E. von Hoegh Member

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    Which bit though?
     
  20. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    you see, the trouble with common sense is that it isn't all that common, but the op question is a good one and not so easy to answer. i tend to believe that a good filter cannot hurt and may help to improve the optical performance of an otherwise mediocre system. it is worth a test, and we'll see.
     
  21. E. von Hoegh

    E. von Hoegh Member

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    Possibly. A monochrome filter will help out a lens with chromatic aberrations.

    But - putting a multicoated filter on a single coated (or uncoated) lens will not make it perform like a multicoated lens. It can't, if you think it through. There are all of the un- or single coated surfaces there in and on the lens, reflecting precisely as they always do. A far more effective approach would be to use a proper lens shade, which will make a huge difference in how an uncoated lens performs.
     
  22. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    Any and all filters will degrade lens optical performance very, very slightly. It does pay to buy the most expensive filter you can afford. Too many people make the sad mistake of slapping a $5.00 bottle top on a $3,000 apo lens and wonder how they could manage to "waste so much money on that lens!". Modern filter spectral coatings have reduced light transmission lost to around 1%, sometimes as low as 0.3%. None of this of course is visible in the end result.

    If a lens has worn coating, scratches, fungi or whatnot, it's not a given that any particular filter will improve the optical performance; it can't: a filter is just there to alter the characteristic of the light entering the lens. A damaged lens may well produce much more flare with a filter than without because a filter is an additional layer of glass and thus an extra reflective surface.
     
  23. nyoung

    nyoung Member

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    At risk of introducing another variable into the conversation.
    A good polarizing screen - granted difficult to use on your Leicas - will boost the color and BW contrast of any lens.
    Most people will pick out the higher contrast photo as being the better photo.
    Given that lower contrast is the primary effect of flare, a polarizing screen used with a lens hood should give you the best you can get out of any particular lens.
     
  24. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    I am glad that I am not the only one to realize this.
     
  25. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    also, if there are no stupid questions, then, the world must be full with inquisitive idiots.:laugh:
     
  26. wblynch

    wblynch Member

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    I have had photos with weird reflections from the filter. I didn't realize how often it happened to me until I went back and looked at hundreds of old pictures. It was over 20%.

    I mostly take outdoor photos in sunny/daylight conditions. But I also had a lot of flash photos where it happened.

    I also learned that I don't like polarizers either because they kill sparkly highlights like what you get on water.

    I seldom use a filter now but I try to always use a lens hood.