View Full Version : Flare resistance of modern lenses

Paul Kent
4-Jan-2006, 20:14
Requests for lens suggestions usually invoke considerations of cost, weight, and coverage. However, I rarely see any comments about the flare resistance of lenses: is it possible to have the sun in the frame without any flare, or at least only minor flare?

For example, I own the much-praised Fujinon 240A. This lens is ideal for backpacking being very light, with great coverage. However, using my "factory fresh" sample it is impossible to have the sun in the frame (e.g. for a sunrise landscape composition) without shot-destroying flare. I see this problem consistently even with a good hood. Assuming that the flare is typical behaviour - the lens is perfect in every other use - it is a stand-out clunker compared to e.g. a 75mm Nikon, 90mm Schneider, 150mm Fuji, and 400mm Fuji T. My experience with these is that, as expected, due to the sun being smaller in the frame, wide lenses are best. However, even the 400mm is not that bad and can be used if the sun is partly occluded. It is much better than the 240mm.

How do other modern lenses compare? How about Schneiderstocks around 210mm? Has anyone systematically tried lenses to find which are best for this problem?

Thanks for your comments - I think this could be a good addition to the archives.

4-Jan-2006, 20:32
i've always gotten at least some flare if sun shines any part of the front element. this is with mulitcoated 6 element/4 group schneiders.

your best bet would probably be a modern mulitcoated lens with as few glass to air surfaces as possible ... like one of the nikon tessar designs.

4-Jan-2006, 20:41
There are actually two problems -- flare and internal reflections.

Doug Dolde
4-Jan-2006, 21:50
I have shot directly into the sun many times with my Super Symmar XL 110mm with no flare at all.

Brian Vuillemenot
4-Jan-2006, 21:57
In contrast to Doug's experience, I've noticed flare several times with my SS XL 110 when shooting sunrises/sets directly at the sun. It's more the irregular red blob type of flare than the ghostly pentagon-shaped flare. It's still a great lens, though! I've also have regular flare problems with a Fujinon SW 105 (the older, single coated version). I've never had flare with any of my Rodenstocks (Grandagon-N 75, f/6.8; Apo-Sironar-S 150 and 300).

Eric Leppanen
4-Jan-2006, 23:23
One approach I've wanted to try is to point the lens directly at the sun (so that flare artifacts don't track diagonally across the image), then use shift to achieve the desired composition. Not sure how well this technique will combat flare, but I figure it's at least worth a shot.

When shooting directly into the sun, I've occasionally gotten flare artifacts with all my SSXL's and APO Sironar-S's, so even the best multi-coated designs are not immune. My experience so far is that the best flare-resistant designs currently available are the SSXL's and the Cooke XVa; usually the flare artifacts from these lenses can be easily corrected in Photoshop. I shot a recent sunrise using the Cooke XVa 311mm and Sironar-S 300mm, and the Cooke had fewer and less intense flare artifacts (Cooke flare artifacts are a luminescent green, whereas the SSXL's and Sironar-S's are red). I haven't flare tested the longer Cooke focal lengths.

Walt Calahan
5-Jan-2006, 05:53
I'll second Eric Leppanen's experience with the Cooke XVa. Whatever Cooke has done with this lens, it is amazing in reducing flare. Hat's off to the Cooke engineers.

I've also shot with the Fujinon W 180 into the sun with very good results. Not as good as the Cooke, but still usable. Haven't tried with with my other lenses - yet - so can't report.

Steve Hamley
5-Jan-2006, 06:05

If you shoot into the sun, especially sunrises and sunsets, you need to evaluate lens flare characteristics and consciously look where that iris ghost is and if it's acceptable.

My experiences mirror yours and Eric's, except I don't have the Cooke. I sold my Fuji 240A (MC) because of flare - same experience you describe, and a friend also sold his Fuji 180A (SC) because of flare. I'm currently using one of Kerry's 240mm Germinar Ws (not fully evaluated yet) although it's a tad heavier than I'd like, and testing a 9-1/2" f/6.8 Dagor as a lightweight candidate for this focal length.

I agree the SS XL series is flare resistant. Pointed into the sun, I get a minor amount of flare, either correctable or not objectionable, and a light iris ghost. My 135mm Apo Sironar-S produces a pretty bad (brighter and less dense - on transparency film) iris ghost, but contrast-reducing flare is acceptable or manageable. I've only had one shot trashed by the Apo Sironar-S iris ghost, a B&W shot with a bare tree, in which the iris ghost was perched on the end of a branch like a Christmas tree ornament! It was just in the wrong place and I didn't look for it while composing.

I'm under the impression that any lens can produce an iris ghost and flare under the right conditions, but certainly all lenses, even of the same formula, are not created equal. Several knowledgeable people seem to think that the frontal area of the glass contributes to flare, the larger the glass the more flare or higher probability of flare, but this doesn't explain why the tiny Fuji As seem to be considerably more flare prone than most other lenses of the same formula with larger glass.


John O'Connell
5-Jan-2006, 07:32
My 355 G-Claron (late vintage, single-coated) produces a couple of pentagons in the opposite corner to the sun, often just washed out enough not to be seen on the groundglass. My Sironar MCs produced razor-sharp pentagons, though I had fewer problems with the 210 than the 150. My Fujinon 90/8 seemed quite flare resistant.

I won't bore you with the details of my prewar lenses' performance. I'm not crazy about the way these lenses render most things, but the snowstorm haze they produce makes you extra careful about the possibility of flare in your compositions.

Jason Greenberg Motamedi
5-Jan-2006, 10:20
Paulr's advice to seek out "a modern mulitcoated lens with as few glass to air surfaces as possible ... like one of the nikon tessar designs" is spot on. My 450/9 Nikon-M appears to be quite flare-resistant. In general the fewer glass/air surfaces the better. Perhaps, if you can foot the bill, something like one of the multi-coated Kern Dagors, which have only four glass/air surfaces, as opposed to six for a tessar or eight for a plasmat.

Oren Grad
5-Jan-2006, 10:26
An MC Geronar, perhaps? I believe those are air-spaced triplets.

Steve Hamley
6-Jan-2006, 06:12

The fellow that sold the 180 Fuji A uses a Caltar II-E and likes it very much.