While my first article on flaring concentrated on the source of light being inside the image frame, this time around I would like to investigate the behaviour of the lenses with the source just outside the frame.
Why is this important?
My previous test showed you what will happen when you include the sun in your frame. If you don’t want it in your frame but would like to shoot against the light anyways (for a backlit portrait for instance), you should always wear protection, in the form of a lens hood.
With the hood on, you can avoid flaring from most angles the sun could come at your lens, but not all of them. You see, if the sun is just slightly outside the frame, the hood won’t help you either.
This test is to illustrate what happens if that scenario comes true.
How did I test?
I did the same thing I did in my previous flaring test but I moved the light source outside the image frame.
This shot shows the image with a 35mm lens to show you how far out the “sun” was:
As you can see, the light source is in the corner of a 35mm field of view. With the two lens hoods I have for 50mm lenses, there was no visible difference to the flaring pattern introduced in any of my lenses, meaning that they don’t help in such a case.
Results wide open
Let’s first look at the behaviour with all lenses wide open. (Never mind the details you can make out in the black backdrop. These are the legs of my chairs around the dinner table.)
Note that the Helios is a 58mm lens and the Rikenon is 55mm. This effectively narrows their field of view further, which should result in less flaring. While the Helios clearly doesn’t profit, I think that the Rikenon – previously failing in the flaring test – greatly profits from that fact.
Many of these lenses handle the flaring pretty badly to be honest. The Takumar, the Zuiko and every single one of the last 6 in the lineup came out terrible in this round.
The Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 Ai clearly wins this one, probably because of the smaller size of the front element compared to the Planar and the 50/1.2 Ai-S. You can also see the YN multicoating at work, retaining contrast nicely.
Now, the results improved in the last test when the lenses were stopped down, so all will be fine, no?
I won’t give you the soft treatment here, letting you adjust while we compare aperture by aperture. No, we go straight to the smallest I shot, because I couldn’t bare going any further. You’ll see why right away.
Results at f/4
Contrary to my expectations, the flaring gets worse the more you stop down your lens. By f/4 it’s already quite terrible in all of my lenses and the only way I could see somebody rejoicing over that would be for “cinematic” purposes. I hear, Mister Bay is a sucker for lens flares.
What do you think?
I personally like the flaring produced by the Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 Ai-S, because it’s rather homogenous and soft, reducing contrast throughout the scene. The non-EBC Fujinon also looks rather pleasing to my eye and should make for some nice low-contrast “lomo” pictures when used right.
The Tessar would be your lens of choice if you want beautiful “god rays” coming through tree branches in a foggy scenery.
And lastly, the Helios nicely hints at its special behaviour with extremely reduced contrast opposite the light source. This could be seen in this image here, where the sun was above my subject, outside the frame:
No special filters were used on that image, this effect is really caused by the lens itself.
I absolutely recommend to always use a lens hood with these old lenses, unless you have the sun in your back.
On the other hand, some of these lenses offer nice potential for special, characteristic images that otherwise could only be achieved using photoshop.