Sharpness test shots: MZD 75-300 II with and without UV filters

Started Apr 25, 2014 | Discussions
NZ Scott
NZ Scott Veteran Member • Posts: 4,853
Sharpness test shots: MZD 75-300 II with and without UV filters
7

Hello campers,

There have been a few threads recently in which a few old topic-chestnuts have reared their heads, resulting in the usual heated debates.

1) UV filters, with some detractors going so far as to say that the extra layer of glass "ruins" shots, while their proponents say that they see no appreciable loss in image quality.

2) The 75-300 II lens, with everybody agreeing that it's a bit softer at the long end, but with some quite vitriolic assertions about the degree to which this is so.

Furthermore, one person who uses the 75-300 II stated that he noticed an appreciable drop in sharpness when using a specific filter, the Hoya Pro1 Digital Multi-Coated UV, but no drop in sharpness with another brand.

Well, I happen to own the 75-300 II, a Hoya Pro1 Digital Multi-Coated UV, and another highly-regarded filter - the B+W 010 MRC UV with Nano coating.

So, it's Friday afternoon and I can't be bothered working on my novel but I've run out of ways to procrastinate. Why not do some test shots? Okay, lets.

I began the test thus: I mounted the 75-300 II on my E-P3, then mounted the camera on a tripod (Sirui 1204x carbon-fibre with Photo Clam PC33NS ballhead), extended only the first portion of the legs, retracted the centre-post and locked everything down hard. I set the camera to manual mode, ISO 200, f8, 1/20 sec, which produced 1/3-stop over-exposure in my living room, which has a constant source of natural light, and turned off the IBIS. I moved up close to my target, a papyrus painting that my missus bought in Cairo, auto-focused on the pharaoh's left hand using the smallest focus box, and I took the following test shot in Raw (later converted to jpeg using standard ACR settings and without being cropped) using 2-sec antishock:

I then take a series of shots at 75mm, consisting of the following:

1) "Naked" lens

2) B+W filter

3) Hoya filter

I rack out the lens to 300mm and move back so that the image is framed exactly the same as it was at 75mm - or, at least, as closely as possible - and take the following shots:

1) "Naked" lens

2) B+W filter

3) Hoya filter

CONCLUSIONS:

1) My 75-300 II is significantly sharper at 75mm than it is at 300mm, with fine details being smudged away at the longer focal length.

2) There is NO DIFFERENCE in image quality between any of the three filter/non-filter parameters. When really pixel-peeping at 400 per cent magnification, the B+W filter was very slightly SHARPER than the naked lens/Hoya at 300mm (judging by the tiny hair above the pharaoh's wrist and a couple of blemishes on the papyrus to the right of the pharaoh's upper arm)

The first result was not a surprise to me, as under real-world shooting conditions I have found the 75-300 II to be consistently very sharp out to 220mm (occasionally matching my 60/2.8 Macro at closer distances), occasionally ver sharp at 250mm, and a little soft at 300mm.

The second result was a surprise. I had been expecting the Hoya to produce slightly softer images, but it did not. I had been a bit worried that some soft-ish images I had taken in Africa at 300mm were possibly affected by my use of the Hoya, but I am now confident that it was more likely the shooting conditions and the lens itself.

Neither filter has EVER flared on me while using the 75-300 II.

I'll post 100 per cent crops (from near the centre) below.

Right, there's one hour of my life gone - what to do with the rest of the afternoon?

First, at 75mm:

Second set, at 300mm:

Questions and comments welcome, of course.

S

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(unknown member) Veteran Member • Posts: 3,010
Re: Sharpness test shots: MZD 75-300 II with and without UV filters

That's interesting because I never use a filter on my lenses even though I have a set for my smaller lenses.  I am looking pretty hard and I can't see a difference. Do you have these on your Flicker site? I've noticed that on DP photos don't appear as sharp. However relative to each other the filter used doesn't seem to matter or even if there is no filter used..  The only thing I can say is with the 16mp sensor the difference between the 75mm and 300mm shots may be more pronounced in terms of sharpness. It would be interesting to see how that would compare.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/90891174@N04/

NZ Scott
OP NZ Scott Veteran Member • Posts: 4,853
There's a difference between good UVs and cheap ones

Tony8232 wrote:

That's interesting because I never use a filter on my lenses even though I have a set for my smaller lenses. I am looking pretty hard and I can't see a difference. Do you have these on your Flicker site?

No, I reserve my Flickr site for shots that I'm pleased with for some artistic reason.

I've noticed that on DP photos don't appear as sharp. However relative to each other the filter used doesn't seem to matter or even if there is no filter used..

Well, here I would make the point that there really is a difference between using good-quality UV filters and cheap ones.

I've never noticed any degradation in image quality using the top-quality B+W UV filters (and I've taken tens of thousands of shots with them), but I have noticed flare and loss of contrast with cheaper filters, particularly a fake Kenko I was using for a while.

The only thing I can say is with the 16mp sensor the difference between the 75mm and 300mm shots may be more pronounced in terms of sharpness. It would be interesting to see how that would compare.

I agree.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/90891174@N04/

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(unknown member) Veteran Member • Posts: 3,010
Re: There's a difference between good UVs and cheap ones
1

I have an E-PM1 (12mp) and E-PM2 (16mp) and that same lens. I will try to set something up in my garage.

Tom Axford Veteran Member • Posts: 6,988
Re: Sharpness test shots: MZD 75-300 II with and without UV filters

Thanks for posting these tests.

It's gratifying to see that your conclusions are consistent with my own, which I set out about six months ago in this article: "Should You Use a UV Filter on Your Lens?" as the topic came up so frequently in these forums.

Personally, I use Hoya HMC UV filters on nearly all my lenses. Hoya also sell more expensive PRO 1 Digital filters which seem to be better only in being thinner than their HMC filters. Optically, I think they are the same (Hoya themselves do not claim any better optical performance for the more expensive range).

sigala1 Veteran Member • Posts: 3,899
Magic Hoya filter

Looks to me like the Hoya filter makes the photo sharper than not having a filter a all.

G1Shooter Contributing Member • Posts: 685
Re: test results

Thanks for posting.

I always use high quality UV filers as lens protectors as I shot moslty outdoors and frequently in some nasty conditions (wet, dusty, etc.). As you say, it is easier to clean or replace the filter than the lens.

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3dwag
3dwag Veteran Member • Posts: 4,410
Re: There's a difference between good UVs and cheap ones
1

Thank you for your work and thorough presentation.

I agree that there are IQ differences between filters. Years ago I noticed this, and now I only use the B+W MRCs (there are other good ones, no doubt, but I stick with what I know and trust).

One thing I would recommend the next time you do such a test: for the highest precision - manual focus, using magnifier to fine-tune.

In general, if there are noticeable effects due to the filter, there will be dependencies on the lighting and subject matter, and will be more noticeable with wider focal lengths and/ or nearer focus distance.

Cheers,
Dennis

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Olfdee Regular Member • Posts: 134
Re: Sharpness test shots: MZD 75-300 II with and without UV filters

NZ Scott wrote:

Images I had taken in Africa at 300mm were possibly affected by my use of the Hoya, but I am now confident that it was more likely the shooting conditions and the lens itself.

I'm not sure you can be so sure, as you testing conditions:

in my living room, which has a constant source of natural light, and turned off the IBIS. I moved up close to my target,

were way different: many lenses behave in different manner at close and far focus distances (eg. focus breathing), also in your room light was not strong enough (looking at exposure times) and not directional enough to trigger possible side effects in filters (and lens itself!).

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Sho-Bud
Sho-Bud Contributing Member • Posts: 647
Re: Sharpness test shots: MZD 75-300 II with and without UV filters

An interesting test, but could you also do an outdoor test? I'm more afraid of extra flare and loss of contrast if there is sunlight on the lens.

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NZ Scott
OP NZ Scott Veteran Member • Posts: 4,853
Re: Sharpness test shots: MZD 75-300 II with and without UV filters

Olfdee wrote:

NZ Scott wrote:

Images I had taken in Africa at 300mm were possibly affected by my use of the Hoya, but I am now confident that it was more likely the shooting conditions and the lens itself.

I'm not sure you can be so sure, as you testing conditions:

in my living room, which has a constant source of natural light, and turned off the IBIS. I moved up close to my target,

were way different:

Yes, true - but the testing conditions DID replicate the kind of softness I was experiencing in Africa at 300mm (both with and without filters attached).

many lenses behave in different manner at close and far focus distances (eg. focus breathing), also in your room light was not strong enough (looking at exposure times) and not directional enough to trigger possible side effects in filters (and lens itself!).

What side effects are you talking about?

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NZ Scott
OP NZ Scott Veteran Member • Posts: 4,853
Real-world example - cheetah shot
1

Sho-Bud wrote:

An interesting test, but could you also do an outdoor test? I'm more afraid of extra flare and loss of contrast if there is sunlight on the lens.

I've not experienced flare or loss of contrast with the B+W filters, although I have experienced flare with a much cheaper filter (a fake Kenko). I also lost 1/3 of a stop in speed with the cheaper filter. I also haven't experienced flare with the Hoya filter and I haven't noticed any issues with contrast, but I can't be definitive about contrast because I've only taken 2000-3000 shots through it.

Apart from this test, I also attempted a long-range outdoor test, but the results were worthless because it was impossible to control atmospheric conditions (its' very humid in Malaysia).

However, this is typical of shots I was getting in Africa with the Hoya mounted on the 75-300, at shorter focal lengths. As you can see, there is nothing to complain about:

S

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My kit: E-P3, 12/2.0, 17/1.8, 45/1.8, 60/2.8 Macro, 7.5 Fisheye, 12-35 f2.8, 14-42 IIR, 40-150 ED, 75-300 II

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DtEW Senior Member • Posts: 2,759
Re: Sharpness test shots: MZD 75-300 II with and without UV filters

Tom Axford wrote:

Personally, I use Hoya HMC UV filters on nearly all my lenses. Hoya also sell more expensive PRO 1 Digital filters which seem to be better only in being thinner than their HMC filters. Optically, I think they are the same (Hoya themselves do not claim any better optical performance for the more expensive range).

I actually have the Hoya HMC, Hoya Pro 1 (not Digital), and the Hoya HD.

All three are similar in terms of having no discernable effect on the IQ in these sort of testing conditions.  However, the moment you point them into a light source, the differences become glaringly (or should I say "flaringly"?) obvious.  It's far from subtle.  It's all about the effectiveness of the anti-reflection (and hence anti-flare) coating.

The sequence of filters above was also my own progression over time, having initially thought that the HMC was going to be entirely "good enough" and achieve the majority of the performance of the exorbitant high-end stuff, which must be mostly snake oil supported by people with more money than sense.  All it took was a sale, a desire to mate something high-end to a Zeiss lens, and curiosity to reveal that 1) my initial assumptions were all wrong, and 2) the high end stuff commands their premium because the market is willing to support it, and 3) the market isn't stupid for something in this price range (i.e. it's not so prohibitively expensive that people won't experiment and stray out of their usual purchase range).  Suffice it to say that the initial revelation led to further experimentation up-market (and with other brands), and I found with few exceptions... there is a direct correlation between price and performance.

Hoya does note the differences in their anti-reflective coatings between models, but I think they don't market that aggressively because to do so would be an admission that filters (specifically low-end ones) can introduce a significant amount of flare when shot into a light source.

"But if you only bought our highest-end product, it would be like shooting without our product at all!" is probably not the best marketing spiel.

I use the Hoya HD with all my mission-critical (i.e. FF) gear.

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Ulric Veteran Member • Posts: 4,559
Re: Sharpness test shots: MZD 75-300 II with and without UV filters

NZ Scott wrote:


2) There is NO DIFFERENCE in image quality between any of the three filter/non-filter parameters.

That's the usual result when someone actually tests rather than go by conventional wisdom.

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(unknown member) Veteran Member • Posts: 3,010
Re: Sharpness test shots: MZD 75-300 II with and without UV filters

Scott O don't know who told you the Hoya filter caused problems but you can look at this.
http://www.lenstip.com/113.4-article-UV_filters_test_Description_of_the_results_and_summary.html

It basically grees with your findings.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/90891174@N04/

G1Shooter Contributing Member • Posts: 685
Re: Sharpness test shots: MZD 75-300 II with and without UV filters

Tony8232 wrote:

Scott O don't know who told you the Hoya filter caused problems but you can look at this.
http://www.lenstip.com/113.4-article-UV_filters_test_Description_of_the_results_and_summary.html

I have relied on those test results, but they are 5 years old and I wish they would do an update.

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Skeeterbytes Forum Pro • Posts: 17,944
Re: There's a difference between good UVs and cheap ones

Good stuff Scott, darn that emperical data getting in the way of pesky beliefs.

Generally use a filter on my lenses, although some have oddball thread sizes requiring YET ANOTHER filter buy that I've not taken care of. Last week was spent on the Pacific coast and I must say, between the spray and the windblown sand I've seldom been happier to 1. have a weatherproof camera and at least a smattering of such lenses and 2. to have filters to clean nightly off-lens instead of coaxing the grime off various front elements.

Have never shattered a filter but have ruined more than one via lurid scrapes, so there's that.

Cheers,

Rick

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Wormsmeat
Wormsmeat Forum Pro • Posts: 20,201
Re: Sharpness test shots: MZD 75-300 II with and without UV filters

Am I the only one that thinks the 1st (naked) shots are more saturated? Looking at the red on the arm on the right for example...

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AV Janus Senior Member • Posts: 1,994
Re: Sharpness test shots: MZD 75-300 II with and without UV filters

WOW the first thing I gotta say is: WoW that lens looks MUCH worse at 300mm than at 75mm! Please, please take another hour from your life and make a thread on that to. 75,100,150,200,250,300mm open and f8, please! 12 photos IS off / tripod and timer, that's nothing for a good guy like you!

As for my observations on the UV and other filters I must say I gave up on them since I found that on some lenses they flare or better put a flare cast on part of an image while onother lenses they dont.

Mix that with having to buy more expensive brands so you can be sure the dont mess with youur lens optical quality.

And all for what, protection... Well its to much of a hassle IMO, and on the lenses that you find out it does flare its better not to have it at all then.

So I gave up on them... YMMV

I can take and deal with the issue of ocasional flaring only if its from a necessary variable ND filter on a boosted fast portrait prime.

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Olfdee Regular Member • Posts: 134
Re: Sharpness test shots: MZD 75-300 II with and without UV filters

NZ Scott wrote:

I'm not sure you can be so sure, as you testing conditions:

in my living room, which has a constant source of natural light, and turned off the IBIS. I moved up close to my target,

were way different:

Yes, true - but the testing conditions DID replicate the kind of softness I was experiencing in Africa at 300mm (both with and without filters attached).

As long as indoors can replicate outdoors environment, that's fine.

many lenses behave in different manner at close and far focus distances (eg. focus breathing), also in your room light was not strong enough (looking at exposure times) and not directional enough to trigger possible side effects in filters (and lens itself!).

What side effects are you talking about?

Flare and stray light from not dampened internal reflections of the filter - if they are too weak (and they will be without strong light source), they won't visibly affect contrast of an image.

BTW there is a good chance in your room UV (and IR) was cut by the window glass, so one more variable (potentially) affecting outdoor results was taken out of the equation.

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