In this article I would like to look at how my lenses handle a bright source of light inside the image frame.
What is Flaring?
Lens flares are the result of light being scattered on lens surfaces (See this Wikipedia article for more information).
Flaring can be observed when a bright source of light shines directly on the lens, be that inside the frame or slightly outside the frame. A lens hood can protect the lens from lens flare introduced by a source outside the frame though.
The flare can take the shape of the aperture (and many other beautiful shapes) or simply manifest itself as a bright haze all over the image, thus reducing contrast.
Usually we try to avoid lens flares, but sometimes they serve a special purpose, e.g to introduce drama in a scene.
How did I test?
A black background with my IKEA Jansjö LED lamp in front of it, directed at the lens.
This image shows my setup and how it would’ve looked if the contrast was not reduced at all.
This replicates a scene in which the sun is positioned in the upper right corner of the image frame.
Note that a lens hood can’t help in this specific scenario.
Wide open comparison
Let’s compare all the lenses wide open first.
I have to say, I really love the shapes and colours some of my lenses produced here.
However, it becomes clear that none of the contenders fares well against a source of bright light in the frame centre. At least not wide open. On the other hand, the lenses usually improve upon stopping down, don’t they?
Let’s go by aperture then
Comparison @ f/1.4
Obviously, not all my lenses can do f/1.4, so several were left out here.
Note, that the Nikkor 50/1.2 Ai-S @ f/1.4 doesn’t really differ from the shot @ f/1.2.
We could say that the Planar T* retains the most contrast, although when you look at the picture it doesn’t seem that great.
The Olympus clearly suffers from the most flaring (least contrast) but it has only one tiny blob to show, whereas others present real masterpieces of art in the lower left corner.
The Nikkors both fare quite okay with only one large bloom around the lamp and not so huge blobs in the opposite corner.
The Takumar and the EBC Fujinon both look similar, advanced multi-coating and such, with large, beautifully shaped blobs and some crazy flaring shapes. The Fujinon (non-EBC) follows close behind.
The Rikenon lacks the pretty coloured blobs but they are massive. On the other hand, it has almost the least amount of flaring around the light source, which is pretty impressive.
Comparison @ f/1.8 or f/2
My 50/1.8 lenses were shot wide open here, so was the Helios 58mm f/2, all the others were stopped down to f/2 and the Tessar couldn’t be bothered to take part yet.
Keep in mind that some lenses are now wide open versus others that have already been stopped down by a full stop. This will be an advantage for flaring but not so much regarding the Bokeh as a future test will show.
The Zeiss Planar T* now clearly takes the lead with the T*-coatings showing what they’re made of. The Rikenon on the other hand got worse with a massive hexagonal blob forming already (the coating at work again..) and so does the Olympus.
The two Nikkors improve only slightly but the Takumar now looks much better regarding flares.
Both the Fujinon lenses also lost that circular scattered flare.
The new arrivals don’t fare so well, though. The Yongnuo is a complete mess and so is the Helios but that’s part of the charm of this lens (and I won’t blame it for that).
The Pancolar shows some weird flaring patterns, with loads of scattered ring shapes but it appears harmless compared to the Color-Ultron which is totally weird.
Comparison @ f/2.8
Now even the Tessar jumped in and all other lenses have been stopped down by at least 1 stop.
As expected, the Planar T* is running ahead of the field.
However, the Yongnuo seems to benefit a lot from stopping down 1 stop, as does the Pancolar, although the scattered flaring keeps the result from being stellar in both cases.
The two Fujinon lenses, as well as the Takumar, improved a lot on the flaring with noticeably higher contrast. The Nikkors improved only marginally.
The Olympus and the Rikenon both start to introduce massive blobs annihilating the benefits of reduced flaring
The Tessar is a complete waste of time, significantly worse than the Color-Ultron, which is still quite terrible. And they both lack the pretty blobs in the lower left corner.
The Helios still looks hideous.
Comparison @ f/4
After stopping down several stops on all lenses, this is how they handle flaring.
The blobs were reduced noticeably in all lenses, that’s a good thing.
However, all the 50/1.4 lenses experienced an increase in flaring again, whereas the 50/1.8 lenses all got rid of their annoying flare patterns (and so did the Tessar). This is a weird observation and cannot possibly be a coincidence.
Obviously, you should desperately try to avoid getting the sun inside your image frame. It can seriously hurt your eyes and destroy your images, unless you shoot Live View (or a Mirrorless with EVF) and aim for that instagram-effect.
It can help to cover the sun whn you can’t avoid having it inside the frame. E.g. behind your models head, behind a tree, building, etc.