Pro's don't use lens caps?

Discussion in 'This or That?' started by Darren Bonner, Jun 9, 2013.

  1. Darren Bonner

    Darren Bonner Mu-43 All-Pro

    May 1, 2013
    Poole UK
    I have recently read on several threads that pro/ex-pro photographers don't use lens caps when carrying their lenses. The reason for this is to change the lenses quicker to get that shot without having to fiddle about with caps, I can understand that.
    Being a hobbyist photographer, I suppose I baby my lenses by keeping the caps on. The main reason is I don't want dust debris getting onto the glass and damaging the lenses and possibly getting into the camera too.
    Can any pro/ex-pro expand on this? Are some of us hobbyist being over cautious?
  2. cstevens

    cstevens Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 11, 2010
    Have to admit, when the camera bag is packed away then lens caps are on, however when on assignment or out on the streets, no I never keep lens caps on, I remove them all and store them in a pocket in the bag.

    I have filters on all the time to protect glass, so the worse that can happen is scratch a filter but thats never happened. Most of my lenses have hoods as well.
  3. dav1dz

    dav1dz Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Nov 6, 2012
    Depending on what kind of lens, small scratches won't show up in your images anyway.

    I put the caps on when I have a moment. When I don't, I'm not afraid to leave them in a pocket or camera bag briefly without any caps. No filters are permanently attached to any of my lenses. I carry a 58 mm polarizer that I use with step-up rings when the situation calls for it.
  4. rklepper

    rklepper Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Dec 19, 2012
    Iowa, USA
    Real Name:
    When out shooting no lens caps. I use hood hats then.
  5. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    I'm an ex pro and I never use caps for the very reason you stated. Additionally, shooting news, often you're walking very fast, running, crawling, et al ... I'd very quickly lose those caps anyway, so what's the point ... they slow you down and you'll lose them and the third reason for me ... maybe the first reason for me ... is I'm pretty lazy.

    If I'm packing for travel, sometimes I'll cap the lenses just for that little mental exercise of adding that extra level of protection.

    All my lenses are filtered, (the exception being the P7-14). In news speed is critical, there are no do-overs and the biz is extremely competitive. So if you miss a story defining shot that your competitors run on page one above the fold (lol) ... a couple of those misses and you're toast. Which is why most photojournalists use a Domke bag. Jim Domke invented/designed the bag back when he was a photog for the Philadelphia Inquirer, IIRC. He wanted a "fast" bag, one which you can get in and out quickly, because news photogs need that little extra speed, which often can make the different between getting 'The Shot' and snapping a lesser image.

    dav1dz is correct. Typically, the front element's function is purely for light gathering not focus. Smudges, scratches, dust, doughnuts, et al on the front element, while appearing to be disastrous at worst and unhygienic at best, really doesn't show up as such on the capture medium (sensor or film).

    You got to remember that most pro's, especially news photogs, views their equipment as tools. As tools, photogs know that tools are replaceable and while photogs won't go out of their way to abuse their tools, they also won't miss a shot because they baby their equipment. Additionally, pro photogs use their equipment nearly every single working day. Even in a studio situation that type of usage will wear out equipment.

    Which bring up another point. You know what the primary difference between a pro and a hobbiest? Experience. The amount of time behind the camera adds significant skill and consistency to the pro photog and lack of such time renders the hobbyest ... well a hobbyest.

    Wanna shoot like a Pro ... then start by shooting a lot, shoot everyday, shoot everything. Then self-critique, be hard on yourself, kick your own butt everyday ... then shoot again.


    PS- There is nothing wrong with babying your equipment. As a hobbyest missing a shot or two but extending the life of your equipment is probably a good thing. Every time you wipe the front element/filter your wearing down the coatings. For me that wearing down is insignificant, it may require ... mmmh ... maybe decades of wiping to effect the coatings, but for some people that is important. The intent of any hobby is for personal satisfaction, so if you feel better using caps, then use a cap. If you feel better knowing that you can change a lens faster without a cap ... then don't use a cap. Your feelings, your photography.

  6. Christilou

    Christilou Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 25, 2010
    Camberley, Surrey
    On my last trip, I bought protective and also polarizing filters for my Fuji XE1 and Sony RX1 and put the lens caps away safely. I also kept the lens hoods on and so I had no worries about the lenses.
  7. klee

    klee Mu-43 Veteran

    Mar 20, 2013
    Houston, TX
    Real Name:
    I think OP was referring to rear caps. for quick lens changes.
  8. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    Jeeze .. okay my take on rear caps. I always use them. Often, in the melee of a quickly moving story, I won't take the time to cap the rear element. But not because I don't want to, but more a matter of no time to do so. Now, IIRC, the stuff on the rear element will have a direct and negative affect on the image. The rear element require to be pristine the front does not.

  9. dougjgreen

    dougjgreen Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 5, 2013
    San Diego
    Real Name:
    Doug Green
    I disagree with this statement. While it's true that the occasional minor blemish on the front element won't really degrade resolution - they will certainly increase the lens' tendency to flare.

    That being said, I once picked up a good used Rolleiflex 2.8E with a Zeiss Planar taking lens for about $125 (at the time, they were selling for $500-600) because the front element was quite visibly pock-marked. And of course, the results are as beautiful as one would expect from a fine Rollei - TLR.
  10. Nordiquefan

    Nordiquefan Mu-43 Regular

    Mar 12, 2013
    I'm no pro, but I never use front caps, just hoods. I was carrying my 40D at my side on a trip to Disneyland and whacked the lens (a Tamron 17-50) on a steel bench. It left paint on the lens that was easily removed. I'd give anyone $50 if they could find where it hit. Those puppies are tough.

    I decided a long time ago to stop obsessing about the gear and just enjoy the subject matter in the images.

    Anyone concerned about how much impact lens blemishes actually have to image quality should have a look at these:

    Sent from my Nexus 4 using Mu-43 mobile app
  11. GreenGhost

    GreenGhost Mu-43 Regular

    Nov 30, 2012
    Real Name:
    Peter Liakopoulos
    Thanks Nordiquefan, those two articles just blew me away.
  12. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin .

    Oct 9, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Real Name:
    I have temporarily stowed lenses in a bag without a front cap, but never without a rear cap. My "quick change" procedure for swapping lenses includes the rear cap and I don't see much time being saved by not using one. Too much potential to get garbage inside the camera and on the sensor by not using rear lens caps.
  13. usayit

    usayit Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    I haven't used lens caps front nor rear for more than a decade now.... and I'm no pro... nor did I take notice what pro's did.

    I have dropped exactly 1 lens in my entire life.... it was while I was juggling lens caps.... damaged the aperture mechanism which resulted in a fairly expensive repair. Never again.

    I loose lens caps usually within the week I get them... usually pisses me off but then I realize that I don't use them anyways.

    I also use high quality UV filters (remove them in certain situations) because I hate carrying lens cloths. That one lens I dropped? I'm pretty convinced that the filter saved the front element too.

    Unmount, drop into bag, pickup the next lens, mount.... shoot. simple and quick.. NO FUSS.

    PS> The few journalists I've met... most really don't baby their equipment. Especially the ones that are working for a major media outlet... getting the job done is the focus. Of course I'm not saying they are completely irresponsible with the stuff either. Oh yeh... In my observation at the retail counter (been many many years ago) the typical consumer/hobbiest/enthusiast is far better equipped than the typical working professional photographer. Its no surprise that the typical enthusiast is going to be somewhat more concerned with the condition of the equipment... its natural.. and absolutely nothing wrong with that.

    I used to be involved in the resale of used equipment before digital. I built relationship with some working photogs as well as shops to keep the inventory filled. Shuffled equipment between shops and used stuff from professional use to be resold to hobby shooters. The quality of the inventory was often directly related to the photo-business. I loved the stuff from studio shooters.... can have high shutter count (I sometimes would pay to have the shutter replaced) but for the most part much better condition that those that worked the "rougher" fields.
  14. usayit

    usayit Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Trick I've learned... rub black china marker or black wax into the scratches. Then polish off the excess. Reduces flare. Sounds counter-intuitive but it does work.. especially for really deep scratches and nicks.

    On the other hand, I've had lenses with swirl polishing marks on the front elements... that does cause problems. Then again.... the coatings on those older lenses were softer too.
  15. heli-mech

    heli-mech Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Mar 9, 2012
    Vancouver Island, Canada
    Real Name:
    Front elements I can understand but there seem to be a fair number of m4/3 lenses that have rear elements that actually protrude with no bezel to protect them. A scratched/dirty rear element can have a far greater chance of affecting IQ.

    I am certainly not a Pro but I am just too neurotic about this kind of thing, my caps go almost instantly when not in use. It would drive me nuts knowing my lenses were in my bag without caps. I have gotten a little less obsessive though, I used to put lenses into pouches before putting them in my bag. :rolleyes:

    Sent from my Samsung Note II via mu-43 app.
  16. DHart

    DHart Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 7, 2010
    Scottsdale, Arizona
    Real Name:
    Many pros do use lens caps and, I'm sure, many others may not... depends entirely on the nature of their work and how they need to/choose to work. That said, I don't think it matters what anybody else (pro or not) does with their lens caps...

    I see this pretty much as a "do what you have to do" situation. I worked as a full time pro for decades, but by virtue of the type of work that I did, I rarely was in such a hurry that I didn't have the opportunity to put on the caps. I did use hoods whenever possible, which affords a good bit of protection, and often had a high quality UV filter installed.

    I never created images in a war zone nor provided news coverage in a fast changing, dynamic situation. I did commercial work and portraiture, which usually involves a very different working environment (even when on location) than war or news coverage.

    As regards UV or Skylight filters for protective use, I've never noticed any negative impact on my IQ due to shooting with a high quality filter in front of the lens. I've work with filters and without... all with perfectly excellent results and would encourage anyone who is considering using such a filter to protect their front lens element to do so, if they wish. These days I only shoot m4/3 and none of my lenses wear filters... but that's just because I don't work them hard, and I have the time to handle them carefully, and put caps on them when I'm not using them.

    With regard to damage to front lens elements... over the 48 years that I've been actively involved with photography, I've worked with perhaps three dozen different lenses for large format (4x5), medium format (6x7 and 645), 35mm, DSLRs, and m4/3. Through it all, I have had damage to only 1 lens... a 65mm Mamiya lens for the RZ67 system. This is a wide angle lens with a massive expanse of front element glass. Somehow, during handling which I have long forgotten the details of, a significant chunk was made on the front element. To my surprise, I was unable to see any aberration in images created with that lens.

    As a working pro photographer, the nature of my work allowed me the time and ability to handle my gear with care and caution. I was never in such a rush that I felt I didn't have the ability to cover exposed lens elements or tuck a lens into a padded slot in a case. As a result, even after years, sometimes decades, of daily use... my gear still looked close-to-new and brought me top dollar whenever I wanted to sell gear.

    I'm, by nature, easy on things. I always handle them with enough care to maintain great condition. Not everyone is this way. Some people are just hard on things and in a short time a new item become quite used looking. Nothing wrong with either approach... you just do what you do, life goes by, then you deal with what you're left with.

    So, depending on your unique situation, where you work, how you work, what the circumstances are... you may choose to handle your gear as quickly as possible (little effort to replace caps)... or as carefully as you are able. Do what you feel you need to/wish to do and enjoy image making without worry.
  17. wildwildwes

    wildwildwes Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 9, 2012
    Brooklyn, NY
    For me it has been a 50 / 50 scenario -- completely depending on the gig. When on location shooting fashion on a beach for instance, I'd ALWAYS put the lens caps (both back and front) on when opting to go with another lens. If I'm out in the street, I still prefer to keep the caps on, although if I'm covering something that is just too fast paced and I don't want to risk missing the action, I'll leave the front cap off (albeit with a metal lens hood usually attached to the lenses in my shooting bag).

    Another weird thing I do is to remove the skylight or UV filter when I shoot (with the exception to that rule being inclement weather or an unfriendly camera location -- beach, windy location, etc).
  18. Jonathan F/2

    Jonathan F/2 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 10, 2011
    Los Angeles, CA
    Carry multiple bodies. No lens changing necessary! Problem solved. :wink:
  19. Iansky

    Iansky Mu-43 All-Pro

    Dec 26, 2009
    The Cotswolds, UK
    Hoods not caps

  20. rklepper

    rklepper Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Dec 19, 2012
    Iowa, USA
    Real Name:
    When I did shoot professionally I used 2 cameras. I had a 24-70 on one and a 70-200 on the other. That really limited the time I needed to swap lenses out.