Lens flare and lens hoods

Week of August 21, 2005

Q: When taking shots of the moon & sunsets, how can I stop the light reflection of them off the camera lens? The pics show faintly depicted multi moons, and the same for the sun just before sundown. Sometimes the color of the circles will be the coating color on my lens. I am using a Nikon D70 Camera and a 70-300mm Nikon lens. l have also tried my circular polarizer and a half color, half clear filter but still have the same problem.
-Ron Ring
Sheldon, MO

A: What you are encountering is called lens flare. You noticed that he flare images are the color of the lens coating, which provides a clue as to what is happening.

Bright, sharply focused sources of light such as the sun, moon or stage lights reflect off of the lens surfaces within camcorder and camera lenses. The complete lens is made of many different lens elements, and the more elements there are, the greater the likelihood of flare.

Lens coatings are designed to reduce flare and increase color saturation, as well as keep colors consistent from lens to lens within a brand. So, if you change from your
70-300mm Nikon lens to a 28-70mm Nikon lens, the colors will look the same. If you mix lens brands, the colors are likely to change somewhat as you change lenses.

Zoom lenses are composed of many different elements, often twelve or more. This increases the likelihood of flare a great deal. If you buy a prime (non-zooming) lens, the optical designs are much simpler, with many less lens elements to cause reflections.

Finally- are you using a lens hood with your lens? Using the lens hood that is supplied with your lens will greatly reduce the incidence of flare, though it is unlikely that it will eliminate it if the source of light is in the image itself.

Point and shoot camera users can shade the lens with their free hand to get the same effect as a hood, without having one. Try it!

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