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11-17-2009, 09:46 AM   #1
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Replacing front lens element

Okay, this is probably a stupid question. Can front lens elements be replaced, and if so what is a typical cost range?

I am trying to decide whether to keep blowing big money on a UV filter when I get a new lens.

11-17-2009, 10:22 AM   #2
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Really depends on the manufacturer, the age of the lens, and whether it's still under warranty.
11-17-2009, 01:07 PM   #3
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Gotcha. I am just trying to figure out the cost vs. benefit if putting UV filters on all of my lenses. It occured to me today that for all the money I have spent on UV filters I could have almost purchesed another lens outright.
11-17-2009, 01:15 PM   #4
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Not to mention the fact that your photos could possibly be sharper if you hadn't used a filter....

Filters for protection... The biggest scam in the history of photography.

11-17-2009, 01:26 PM   #5
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Let's assume that the filter does not degrade the IQ for now. That has been a subject for much ink and paper and many electrons....

The cost of UV filters is like insurance against damage to the front element of the lens. How often does it happen to you?

The UV filter can reduce the frequency of you having to clean the front element of the lens, resulting in longer lifespan of the lens. How much longer do you think it is?

If and when you sell the lens, the claim that the lens has a UV filter since day 1 may bring higher sale price. How much higher do you think the price is?

Only you yourself can answer the questions.

I myself don't use UV filters. It is not because of the cost. I don't use UV filter even when I already have the filter.

But I do try to use lens hood whenever I can.
11-17-2009, 02:58 PM   #6
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You all make good points. Thats why I am on the fence. When I recently got into this hobby, I had quite a bit of sticker shock with regards to lenses, thus the "I must protect them" mentality. But I am starting to recognize the benifits of going without the protective filters.
11-17-2009, 08:02 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by apisto Quote
Okay, this is probably a stupid question. Can front lens elements be replaced, and if so what is a typical cost range?

I am trying to decide whether to keep blowing big money on a UV filter when I get a new lens.
What a coincidence - I was just thinking about this the other day after reading about someone who ordered a front element for his Canon 70-200/4L. I recall that it only cost $40 USD. However, keep in mind that on this lens the front element is more like a built-in filter, to protect the soft underlying flourite element. I'm not sure what front elements "typically" cost for Pentax lenses, but I'd be interested in knowing myself.

To answer your question, front elements are usually not too hard to replace, but it depends on the lens. Also, with older lenses you run the risk of parts being out of stock and/or expensive.

Also, you can get front elements repolished/recoated for not that much money - there are shops that specialize this.

That said, I think I'd still look into having some form of protection for my lenses. I too feel that UV filters are way overpriced for what you get - instead, I will go with lens hoods, as these can also help improve IQ.

Last edited by photogerald; 11-17-2009 at 08:14 PM.
11-17-2009, 09:48 PM   #8
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You know, I can't recall the last time I read about someone breaking the front element of their lens. I can, however, recall reading about a good many instances where a lens was dropped or mishandled, causing the UV filter to splinter.

This always made me wonder, did the UV filter really save the lens, or are they just more fragile than the actual elements thereby putting the glass at greater risk of scratching? Personally, I subscribe to the theory that if my lens drops on the front element hard enough to shatter it, I will probably have bigger problems with the rest of the lens. After all, the front element is just one of 7-15 (on average) other elements, all of which have to be in precise alignment to ensure a proper image.

So for me, my preferred method of protection is just using a hood. Not only does this make my images better, unlike a filter which at best does nothing and at worst induces flare, it makes the chance of me scraping the front element against something almost nonexistent.

11-17-2009, 09:59 PM   #9
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Photo Club "Mentors" advice to a new member

  1. Filters are for film
  2. Hoods are for flare reduction
  3. Straps are for equipment protection.
EDIT: I don't think they meant to exclude CirPol and ND filters from DSLR use.

Last edited by monochrome; 11-17-2009 at 11:07 PM.
11-20-2009, 12:02 AM   #10
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Buy crummy UV filters. Seriously, for 95%+ of all photographic situations, the cheapest multicoated glass UV filter will be perfect and will not degrade the image at all. And maybe you're going "oh yeah of course, being glass and multicoated, but those aren't cheap", but you'd be wrong. They can be had for about $9 for an 82mm size, imported from China and places like that.

Further, it's a common misconception that UV filters only protect against if you drop your lens onto the concrete sidewalk like an ice cream cone, and all you have to do is "handle your equipment carefully" and you don't have to worry about anything. 100% WRONG. Not using a UV filter will allow sand and other particulates to amass on the front element of your lens, and when you go to clean them off, the harder particulates can and will cause permanent scratches to the coating or even the glass itself. THAT is why you always use a UV filter, not for silly reasons like protecting it if you decide to use your lens in a game of football.

A UV filter of reasonable but CHEAP quality will NOT affect your lens' image quality in any noticeable way. Optics do not work like that, and it's even more unlikely the longer the focal length of the lens. The only thing you might possibly have to worry about is a slightly weaker flare resistance, but then you need to stop shooting into the sun. You can go blind doing that anyway. Using the hood that came with your lens will help greatly as well. But you don't have to worry about silly things like softer images, worse colours, or any other nonsense.

Buy the cheapest glass MC UV filters you can find, and use them on all your lenses. $100+ B+W/Heliopan filters are a waste of money for >95% of all users and purposes. Hell, any filter under 100mm in diametre and over $20 in cost is a waste as well.
11-20-2009, 12:10 AM   #11
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Oh and to truly answer apisto's question, replacing the front element of a lens is hilariously unwieldy. Especially on more expensive lenses like, for example, the 200mm f/2.8 SDM, it would cost you almost as much as a new copy of the lens including the parts and labor, and that's if the parts were even available.

Sell your expensive UV filters and replace them with cheap ones.
11-20-2009, 12:58 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by wallyb Quote
Buy crummy UV filters. Seriously, for 95%+ of all photographic situations, the cheapest multicoated glass UV filter will be perfect and will not degrade the image at all.
Although it's highly unlikely a filter will have any impact on sharpness, it will induce extra flare.









The first two shots were from a D80 borrowed from a friend, since I was away from home without my camera. He had a UV filter on the 50mm f/1.8 and no lens cap, and it not being my equipment I didn't want to take the filter off. The third shot is from the 16-45 with a Tiffen circular polarizer. Although the hood was blocking the angle of the sun, the reflection off the car was enough to cause flare. Now, if I were shooting in a sandstorm I would definitely want a filter protecting the front element. But, I would probably also want to wrap the rest of the setup in a bag of some sort, as I'd be more worried about sand getting into the focus rings and wreaking havoc there.

As for causing damage when you clean your lenses, cleaning is something that should only be done when there is some major smudge covering the lens. I've seen enough fungus ridden lenses that produced great shots to know that specs of dust and dirt on the front element aren't going to impact the image in any way. When I do clean I always start with compressed air or a rocket blower, followed by a light touch with a lens brush, and finished off with a microfiber towel. Even if you do scratch the lens, though, you'll be impacting resale value more than you will be affecting image quality in any way.

Bottom line: if you bought your lens as an investment that would return money, use a filter. However, if you bought your lens as an investment that would yield images, don't. For the types that buy and sell lenses constantly, filter usage makes sense. How clean the glass is on a lens usually determines its value. This is especially true for pricier examples where lenses become a collector's item as much as a tool (FA*s, limited, etc). But, for those who believe the worth of a lens is the images it produces, then using a filter makes little sense. I'd rather live with the slight chance that I might scratch my lens a little, rather than the slight chance filter-induced flare would ruin a good image. In the end, that scratch won't affect my pictures, but the flare will.
11-20-2009, 01:07 PM   #13
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Kirivon, to truly tell whether it's the filter's fault, you would have to do comparison shots. So, until those are done, there's no reason to believe it's not just the lens flaring up.

And for me and many other people, the cleaning aspect isn't so much about removing things that will interfere with the IQ; no, of course small bits of dust and sand will be unnoticeable in images. The cleaning, and protecting from dust and sand, is to keep the resale value up for when you decide to sell your lens. If you never plan on selling your lens and keeping it with and bringing it to your grave, then you don't have to worry about that, but I think that is a very unrealistic scenario for the vast majority of people.

So, always use the cheapest decent UV filters you can find, especially for your expensive lenses. Don't waste money on expensive ones.
11-20-2009, 01:27 PM   #14
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I think we all need to take a step back, and read the following scientific study!

Dirty lens article

I kissed the 'protective' filters goodbye after some night time shots with massive glare (such as were shown above). If you can't tell that is flare from a filter, well, I have no response to that, honestly!

I think most any lens is more likely to come apart at the seams (broken mount, or one of the ring joints) from a fall, before the front element receives severe damage, and a hood provides ample protection (except maybe my 10-17!). It would also appear to me that anyone who drops a lens, resulting in a broken filter - well, the filters are so thin that is exactly what I would expect to happen; heck, maybe they are purposefully designed that way so people say, hey good thing it was the filter and not the lens!
11-20-2009, 01:37 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by wallyb Quote
Kirivon, to truly tell whether it's the filter's fault, you would have to do comparison shots. So, until those are done, there's no reason to believe it's not just the lens flaring up.
Very true, unfortunately I don't have access to that setup to do any tests. However, the Nikkor 50 1.8 is fairly well regarded, and I haven't heard of any terrible flare problems. Given the severity of the flare in those shots with fairly mild light sources, it isn't a totally baseless assumption to put the filter at fault, albeit an unsubstantiated one.

Perhaps I am in the minority when I consider lens purchases a sunk cost, though. To me the enjoyment of the lens and the pictures I take with it justify the expense, and the value of my lens doesn't play into future purchases. Any money I do make back is simply a bonus, since the purchase of both the new and old lens were within what I deemed acceptable for my budget. I am by no means wealthy, I just acquire gear on a year-to-year basis.
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