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Chips and Scratches on Lens Glass & Its Real Effects on Image Quality
  • Everybody wants to keep their lens glass in top shape right?
    But what is the real world effects of having scratches and chips in the glass? Does it really show up in the image or is it merely cosmetic? I'm sure there is some psychological reasoning to wanting to have immaculate glass all the time, and having such scratches and even chips would rub most of us the wrong way, hence wanting to sell and replace the lens altogether.

    I just bought a really nice lens for a very good price due to the fact it has a few chips and scratches on the front glass.
    However, the seller states it has no effect on the image quality.
    So I received the lens (a Canon FD 85mm F1.2 L), and initial tests do not show any signs of the chips or scratches, which is a win for me.

    Does focal range matter concerning if the chip or scratch will show up in the image? I'm sure for macro lenses it would affect, but telephoto lenses might be more forgiving.

    Anyone's thoughts and experiences in using chipped or scratched lenses, please provide!

  • 3 Replies sorted by
  • It might show in bokeh and certain OOF monochromes... Normally, it has no effect whatsoever.

    With fungus and such it is worse - it can seriously deteriorate lens performance, both in terms of sharpness and flaring. (don´t ever buy a lens with fungus unless you know you can clean it)

  • Scratches on the front lens are far less problematic than any defect on the rear. Only exception are very wide lenses at small aperture at close range, where you may start to see deformations or spots.

  • I remember reading this a few months ago... http://kurtmunger.com/dirty_lens_articleid35.html

    I would say the impact on images for "small" scratches and a little surface dust/smudge is pretty minimal. You might catch the odd reflection of course. In addition, the subject matter could make the scratch or dust more visible. For example, in a picture of a blue sky or solid color, specks are more easily noticed - easily correctable. In movies, I've noticed that the specks are more easily detected in the same circumstance, or when the camera is panning/moving.