What to Test On Your New Camera Lens
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What to Test On Your New Camera Lens

Whether or not you’ve simply picked up a brand new camera lens at retail or are contemplating shopping for one second-hand, realizing how to take a look at and consider a lens can prevent money and time. On this information, I’ll present you ways to test a lens for the commonest flaws, all with none specialised instruments.

It’s essential to test any lens you obtain, as a result of even when it’s coming model new from a good retailer, there may be something from pattern variation to harm from delivery. Issues get even trickier when shopping for used – identical to a used automotive, you not often know precisely how the earlier proprietor handled it.

The main potential points embody decentering, bodily harm to the lens parts, sticky aperture blades, extreme mud between the weather, and points with the zoom or focus mechanisms. All of those are fairly straightforward to test, and in immediately’s information, I’ll present you ways to discover any points early and simply.

Sony a7R V + FE 20-70mm F4 G @ 70mm, ISO 100, 1/125, f/5.6


The weather inside the lens want to be centered to yield one of the best picture high quality. Decentered parts may cause quite a lot of picture high quality points – mostly, one portion of the image showing softer than the remaining. There isn’t any good workaround or repair for decentering, and even sending the lens off for restore is hit-or-miss. It’s greatest to take a look at for decentering as quickly as you get the lens, and return it if it’s a nasty copy.

To be clear, all lenses are going to have slight variations from copy to copy, and that is nothing to fear about. Advanced lenses, particularly zooms, virtually all the time have some minor decentering and pattern variation points. The essential factor is to get a lens that performs inside your wants.

The take a look at for decentering is straightforward, and proven under. Simply bear in mind to comply with all the parts of excellent seize method. Shoot from a tripod, use digital shutter (or EFCS), and use a shutter delay mode. You too can take a look at Spencer’s detailed information right here for more information.

  1. Discover a viewpoint with a distant, detailed topic on a transparent day.
  2. Put that topic on the middle of your body, set your aperture to the widest worth, and focus by way of stay view / AF-S.
  3. Both set your publicity manually or make use of the publicity lock operate to keep the identical publicity between photographs.
  4. With out refocusing, change your composition in order that the topic is within the prime left nook of your body. Take your first image.
  5. Recompose once more to transfer the topic to the highest proper, seize a second photograph. Proceed to transfer the topic to every nook on the backside, taking pictures two extra pictures.
  6. Open every picture in your pc, and crop or zoom to isolate the topic within the respective corners. Whereas you are able to do this in a pinch with camera playback, the bigger, sharper pc monitor is a better option.
  7. Evaluate the 4 photographs. The issue is that if one or two pictures are considerably worse than the others. If all 4 are about the identical, your lens is performing equally throughout the body. For those who discover a nasty nook, repeat with a distinct topic to verify the end result.

As a reminder, you’re not likely on the lookout for total lens sharpness on this take a look at. Loads of lenses have weak nook sharpness (or weak sharpness normally) which is unrelated to decentering. This take a look at merely measures decentering.

The higher left
The higher proper – blurrier, indicating a decentered lens!

Sticky Aperture Blades

A lens’s aperture blades want to transfer persistently and precisely into place inside your lens. Sticky or broken blades gained’t type the right form, or gained’t transfer in sync together with your camera’s different capabilities. This may be significantly noticeable at excessive body charges on fashionable cameras, the place high-speed bursts of 15 FPS or extra can put an enormous demand on the aperture mechanism.

To test aperture efficiency, you’ll want to cycle from the utmost to minimal aperture on the lens. For lenses with a handbook aperture ring, it’s straightforward – simply rotate the aperture ring, whereas trying on the lens. The blades ought to transfer easily between positions, and the aperture form ought to seem constant. The form will not be spherical, relying on the lens, however you shouldn’t discover a blade protruding.

On different lenses, like Nikon’s G collection, there’s no aperture ring. As a substitute, I’d recommend mounting the lens to the camera and switching to video mode. Not like in photograph mode, the place the camera could not cease down till the shutter is triggered, video mode ought to drive the aperture to the particular worth you’ve chosen. Comply with the identical process because the handbook test, biking via the vary and looking ahead to any blades which are uncommon.

Right here you possibly can see the aperture blades are all uniform.

When you’ve checked that the aperture operates appropriately throughout the vary, I’d recommend checking it at excessive body charges too. For this test, select a stopped-down worth like f/16, set your camera to handbook publicity mode, and intention at a topic with constant lighting. Keep away from topics lit with LED or fluorescent sources, as these may cause points with flicker or brightness. A daylit scene is a lot better.

Set your camera to the very best framerate it may obtain, and shoot a burst of pictures. This burst ought to have a really constant stage of brightness between frames. Overly shiny or darkish frames symbolize improper aperture operation.

Whereas this challenge can seem on any lens, it’s significantly prevalent on older lenses, the place the mechanism has worn out and the lubrication on the blades has gone dangerous.

Injury and Mud On Lens Parts

Whereas the dangers posed by minor scratches and dirt are sometimes overstated, it’s nonetheless essential to test for each components in your new lenses. As Nasim reveals in his article on the impact of mud on lens bokeh, mud or scratches within the mistaken place can affect picture high quality. Luckily, in Nasim’s case, the mud speck was on the uncovered floor of the rear ingredient, and subsequently straightforward sufficient to clear. If this mud was on the inside, nonetheless, issues can get so much trickier.

To test for mud, fungus, and scratches, I’d recommend making use of a very good level mild supply. Whereas you should use your cellphone’s LED mild, I’m a fan of a devoted inspection mild, just like the one I listed in my information to my favourite images equipment.


Some stage of mud on and within the parts is unavoidable, however extreme quantities or giant chunks ought to be trigger for concern.

To check your lens for mud and scratches, take off each entrance and rear caps, and begin by casting a raking mild throughout the entrance ingredient. Rotate the sunshine all the best way across the lens, on the lookout for any scratches, cracks, or vital mud spots. Additionally, take a look at the state of the coating. Aggressive cleansing (or simply age) may cause harm to these lens coatings, which may lead to points with flare.

Carry out the identical test on the rear ingredient. Whereas some lenses have recessed parts, making it tougher to spot points, it is best to nonetheless have the ability to see vital issues. Whilst you’re at it, test the  the aperture lever and lens mount contacts in the back of the lens. These ought to be in fine condition, with out corrosion or harm. No screws ought to be lacking from the lens mount, both.

Lastly, take into account shining the flashlight via the lens and looking out via the opposite facet. Make sure to flip the sunshine to a low brightness otherwise you’ll harm your eyes! Relying on the lens’s aperture mechanism, it’s possible you’ll want to manually transfer the aperture lever or set the aperture ring to enable mild via. That is a straightforward manner to test for mud, fungus, and different points on the inside parts.

Points with Zoom, Focus, and Stabilization Mechanisms

I don’t anticipate any points with zoom or focus mechanisms on a brand new lens, however for used lenses, these capabilities can run into a variety of issues. The most typical is a scarcity of straightforward motion within the zoom or focus rings. This could signify points with the gears, just like the presence of grit within the delicate mechanisms or a damaged coupling. (Don’t neglect, some lenses function focus or zoom “by wire” – that means there’s no bodily coupling, and also you gained’t know of any zoom issues till you’ve turned on the camera and examined it out.)

Merely holding the lens in individual is often sufficient to inform if there are any main zoom or focus points. Zoom via the vary and see if it sticks. Test the main focus ring to see when you really feel any grit within the mechanism. If potential, activate the camera and zoom/deal with some take a look at topics. Lastly, when you’re at it, don’t neglect to take a look at the operate switches and lens buttons, if relevant.

For the picture stabilization system, test that it really works correctly when enabled, and that it “docks” appropriately when turned off. Some VR methods have a faint rattle to them, even when turned off and functioning appropriately, so don’t take this as a nasty signal essentially. Additionally, each AF motors and VR mechanisms could make some noise in operation, however significantly loud sounds or whining when focusing ought to each advantage nearer seems.

Sony a7R V + FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II @ 50mm, ISO 100, 1/320, f/7.1

Not one of the take a look at I’ve coated on this article take very a lot time, however all of them could make an enormous distinction when shopping for a brand new lens, particularly used! Merely taking a couple of minutes with a brand new lens to run via these checks will allow you to keep away from buying a lemon. Let me know within the feedback when you have some other questions on checking a camera lens for harm!

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