how hard is it to scratch a lens?

Discussion in 'Native Lenses' started by colbycheese, Apr 6, 2014.

  1. colbycheese

    colbycheese Mu-43 Veteran

    May 1, 2012
    Way up there.
    So any one have any idea how hard it would be to scratch a lens? Also, would doing a cleaning maybe once every one or two months cause a lens to get scratched? And i am talking about a proper cleaning where you blow the dust off first and use lens tissue with lens cleaner until clean. Can this kind of cleaning really scratch a lens? Maybe i am obsessing over it but it must be harder than that to scratch a lens. I have a lens filter which i should use, but it has a scratch on it and i just bought it. (The scratch can only be seen if you pass a light over it). So can a lens really be easily damaged by a proper cleaning?
  2. mattia

    mattia Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 3, 2012
    The Netherlands
    Don't clean your lenses unless you need to. A dust off with a blower, brush off dust with a lenspen if needed, and use a microfibre cloth if absolutely necessary.

    It's not that lenses are super fragile, but if there's nothing there to clean off, why subject it to unnecessary touching? The rear lens element is the one I'm always a little more careful of. I haven't scratched a single one of my lenses (that I've noticed) by doing things this way. The body of the lens, sure. Bit of wear and tear. The glass? Easy enough to keep pristine using the system above. I have a UV filter I will put on in really harsh conditions (i.e. wind and sand, or salt spray), but it's not on there by default.

    Also, a scratch or two on the front element will likely never, ever be visible on any photograph you take. There's a great picture on lensrentals somewhere taken with a lens that has a totally cracked front element, and it's surprising how little you notice. In theory, if you damage the coating, you might get odd reflections/refraction.
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  3. pdk42

    pdk42 One of the "Eh?" team

    Jan 11, 2013
    Leamington Spa, UK
    Unless you rub hard with something gritty on the cloth, normal cleaning with a cloth will not scratch it. Actually, you have to try pretty hard to scratch a lens. There's a video made by DigitalRev which shows them trying to wreck cameras - take a look at that to see how hard lenses really are!
  4. colbycheese

    colbycheese Mu-43 Veteran

    May 1, 2012
    Way up there.
    thanks for the answer. I am just very worried that all my pictures are being wrecked by my cleaning. Is there any way i can be totally sure that there is nothing wrong with my lens? I see this weird haze when shining a light through it. It is there even after i cleaned it. I need a way to ensure that everything is fine. Would a local camera store be able to do a complete inspection of the front element?
  5. Fmrvette

    Fmrvette This Space For Rent

    May 26, 2012
    Detroit, Michigan
    Real Name:
    I've been using blower/lens fluid/lens paper for 45 years and have never scratched a lens nor damaged a lens coating. Currently in the field I use a Lens Pen and have yet to damage a lens.

    Not to say it can't happen - but all of the damaged lenses I've ever seen have resulted from contact with another object, not cleaning. I wouldn't want to test diamonds on the front element, but I have no compunction against using a Lens Pen or fluid (assuming the fluid isn't dripped onto the element but rather onto the lens paper first).

    I generally use filters (and not cheap ones) to keep yucky stuff from getting onto the lens, but sometimes I forgo the protection.

    (There are as many opinions about filters as there are about whether to shut your computer off or leave it running, and I don't care to get into that fray again; suffice it to say a number of my lenses have filters installed. YMMV and I have no problem with those who disdain filters).

    I shoot quite a bit at the local zoo and small children with ice cream cones and sticky fingers are a hazard, not to mention our feathered friends and various and sundry other creatures. Thus the lens wears a filter and I wear a hat :biggrin:.

    I've never scratched a filter by cleaning one and have, upon occasion, been reduced to washing the entire filter in soap and hot water to remove some sticky substance or other (which is why I like to have one in front of the front element). Tree sap is the absolute worst; one would imagine it not to be a problem except for parked cars, but if one is photographing squirrels at an inopportune moment...well stuff happens.

    I currently use caps (front and rear) on lenses while they are in the bag; some folks don't, they swap 'em out and forget about such niceties as lens caps. I use a Domke bag and there is little enough protection and the canvas material is rough so I prefer not having the lens elements exposed while in the Domke. Again, YMMV.

    I would refer you to the LensRentals article on lens scratches - once one has seen it one tends to quit worrying overmuch about lens scratches:

    And LensRentals also has an article on filters, which may make one think twice about inexpensive filters:

    I hope this helps.

    I might suggest that you contact the seller or maker of the scratched filter and see about a warranty replacement.


    • Like Like x 1
  6. mattia

    mattia Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 3, 2012
    The Netherlands
    Just take a picture and try not to overthink things. Any 'haze' type look on a new lens is kukelt just internal reflections. On an old vintage lens it may be haziness in the coatings themselves. Just age. Not something to worry about.

    Particularly with telephotos, the best protection is the hood. And that also has the potential to improve image quality, unlike most any clear or uv filter.
  7. colbycheese

    colbycheese Mu-43 Veteran

    May 1, 2012
    Way up there.
    Ok thanks. This haze I speak of is only seen when the light is shined through the lens. Maybe if i just didn't do this i could relax. I also feel bad because there was fingerprints i was trying to remove and i went through 12 tissues and it is still there.
  8. colbycheese

    colbycheese Mu-43 Veteran

    May 1, 2012
    Way up there.
    also, is there any self inspection i can do to see if my photos are ok?
  9. Ricoh

    Ricoh Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Nov 2, 2013
    Real Name:
  10. Bif

    Bif Mu-43 Veteran

    May 28, 2012
    San Angelo TX
    Real Name:
    Bruce Foreman
    The best lens cleaning method hands down is to use PecPads and Eclipse cleaning fluid. PecPads can be ordered in a bag of 100 which will last you a very long time, These are extremely soft and are lint free.

    Eclipse cleaning fluid is about the purest form of alcohol we can buy, it has no residue to leave behind and is used in some "wet" sensor cleaning. A few drops on a PecPad will loosen and take up darn near anything. My son brought in a lens with the greasiest, grungiest set of thumb prints I'd ever seen on a lens. I went through two PecPads on that one.

    Blow off the dust and anything air will dislodge first. Then use the edge of a PecPad to gently "sweep" anything else that will dislodge. Follow that with a PacPad moistened with Eclipse and gently swab and wipe at the rest. A second pad can be used dry if necessary.
    • Like Like x 2
  11. jnewell

    jnewell Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 23, 2011
    Boston, MA
    Modern coatings are very hard. If you are even remotely properly cleaning your lens, it's unlikely you'd scratch it that way. You may have scratched it some other way - an accidental contact with something hard? - if it's actually scratched.

    Obsessive cleaning is the best way to foul up a lens, even if it's hard to scratch a lens.

    In answer to whether you can see the effect of a scratch on your photos, there was a blog post at that would put your mind to rest. They tested a lens with a basically shattered front element and the photos were still quite good.
  12. Petrochemist

    Petrochemist Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Mar 21, 2013
    N Essex, UK
    Real Name:
    The haziness you see looking through the lens may be internal dust etc. which wouldn't be touched by normal surface cleaning. However again the effect this will have on your images is likely to be fairly small - mainly showing as a reduction in contrast.

    FWIW I did once manage to scratch one of my lenses, by catching the front element on a wall as I walked past. The scratches were very small, and I've never seen any sign of them in my images but that didn't stop me swearing!
  13. mcasan

    mcasan Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 26, 2014
    Use lens hoods, not "filters" to protect lens front elements.

    If a lens front element is dirty, use a bulb blower, then soft brush(if needed), and then Zeiss lens wipe (if needed). You can get the Zeiss lens wipes in a box at Walmart in the area were supplies for glasses and contact lenses are sold. The wipes are dirt cheap. In the field you can use a wipe to clean your hands or clean a wound. Keep several in your vehicles and in your camera bags.
  14. DL Photo

    DL Photo Mu-43 Veteran

    Nov 15, 2012
    Richmond, BC, Canada
    Real Name:
    When I was shooting DSLR I always had a filter on my lenses. Those lenses were over $1K each. I never saw any degradation in IQ from using a filter and did many tests to try and convince myself otherwise. Guess I went against the grain.

    Most M43 lenses are much less expensive. If by chance glass gets damaged, it will won't be crazy cost to replace. If I move to the 12-40 (no real hurry to do so), I will be adding a filter to that lens. Nothing on any of the others.

    Agree with what's been said here though. A lens hood is the best protection (unless you're shooting in sandy or salty environments). Also, clean the lens only when you think it's really needed. Oh yes......a lens cap works pretty well too :)
  15. tjdean01

    tjdean01 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 20, 2013
    Thank you for this. It made me feel much better. You can see the lenses I own in my signature. My idea was to put filters on the ones I paid a couple hundred dollars for OR the ones I really, really like. The Vivitar 28/2 is rare, pricey, and awesome; and since it's big, I keep a filter on it. The 12-32s benefit, however, is its size, so although at $300 it was most expensive lens (cheap, by most standards, but I'm broke), putting a filter on it would ruin its best quality of being small. I wanted to put a filter on my Pentax 50/1.7 because it's my favorite but doing so would mean it wouldn't fit in the slot in my lens case any more. The Konika 40/1.8 is tiny even with the adapter. Do I add a filter? Pain in the butt but your post has eased my mind. So thanks :) When I get the 75 or 42/0.95, however, I might use a filter just to be safe!
  16. Robstar1963

    Robstar1963 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 10, 2011
    Isle of Wight England UK
    Real Name:
    Robert (Rob)
    After reading to the end of the thread it would appear that the lens you are referring to is an old lens
    The weird 'haze' you are referring to could well be internal lens fungus which is caused by dampness between the lens elements
    It is quite rare on modern newer lenses but not at all unusual on lenses which have been kept in a variety of environments
    Light Lens fungus is not easy to see unless you look through the front element with a strong light source shining through from the rear element
    Sorry to suggest there may be another cause but no one else seemed to consider this as a possibility
  17. usayit

    usayit Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Filters... then rub with whatever is available. Its a choice.