While you often see people using DSLRs or mirrorless cameras around town or at tourist spots, you hardly ever spot them using a lens hood. This is a shame, as a lens hood is a very important item. In this article I will introduce 3 reasons why beginners especially should use a lens hood. (Edited by studio9)
What is a lens hood?
If you look at the lenses of people using DSLRs or mirrorless cameras around town, you’ll find that most people tend to shoot with the lens alone, without attaching a lens hood. There may well be some who don't even know such a thing as a lens hood exists, as it is not standard issue in entry-level DSLR and mirrorless camera kits. However, a lens hood is a very important item.
A lens hood is an accessory that you attach to a lens, which, if we liken it to a person, is like a hat or helmet that they would put on.
Three reasons why we wear a hat or helmet are as follows:
1. To avoid strong sunlight
2. To protect the head
3. To look good
The same applies to a lens hood as there are good reasons for using it as well.
Here, I will introduce three reasons why it is better to use a lens hood, and the effects of using one. There is almost nothing to lose from attaching a lens hood, so it would be a good idea to attach one, especially if you are a beginner.
1. A lens hood blocks strong sunlight for improved image quality
This is the original function of a lens hood. A camera lens is comprised of a combination of many convex or concave lens elements, with around 10 lens elements used for starter level lenses, and around 20 for high grade lenses.
When strong light such as sunlight enters the lens during a shoot, the light is reflected between the lens elements, which can result in phenomena that lower image quality, such as flaring and ghosting.
When you attach a lens hood, it acts as a visor, shutting out strong sunlight that enters from an angle. A lens hood can cut out harmful light not needed by the lens, allowing you to take photos that bring out the full capabilities of the lens.
EOS 5D Mark III/ EF 24-105mm f/4L/ FL: 24mm/ f/4, 1/5sec., ISO 2500
Shot without a lens hood. Circular ghosting is visible at the top right of the photo, with flaring surrounding it.
EOS 5D Mark III/ EF 24-105mm f/4L/ FL: 24mm/ f/4, 1/6sec., ISO 2500
Shot with a lens hood.
Do note that the lens hood only cuts out light from the side and not from the front, as you can tell by its design. Therefore, depending on the scene, you might not notice any effect at all when using the lens hood. Moreover, recent lenses have a special coating on the surface, and the structure of the lens minimizes reflection of light in the first place, so there may not be that many scenes where image quality is dramatically improved through using a lens hood.
That said, it’s still a good idea to attach a lens hood. I often encounter scenes where there is strong sunlight from the setting sun in the evenings, for which I was glad I had my lens hood with me. The light from street lamps can be surprisingly strong, and it is also in nightscape scenes like these—which don’t seem to require lens hoods whatsoever—where lens hoods make their effectiveness most keenly felt.
To sum up, attaching a lens hood may not improve image quality in all cases but it certainly won't make it worse, so I recommend using one.
Lens hoods come in 2 shapes
Standard petal lens hood
The most commonly used shape is the so-called petal lens hood (also known as a tulip of flower hood), which has curved notches. This is a highly effective hood that has been cut to a size that is just big enough without the hood itself being visible in the frame.
An example of a petal hood is the lens hood that is used with the EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM kit lens (EW-63C, sold separately).
Lens Hood EW-63C
Cylindrical lens hood, often used with telephoto or prime lenses
The cylindrical lens hood is often used with a telephoto lens. An example of a cylindrical lens hood is the one that is used with the EF-S55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS II kit lens (ET-60, sold separately).
Lens Hood ET-60
2. A lens hood protects the lens from dirt and impact
With the high-functionality afforded by lenses these days, probably the biggest reason for using a lens hood is this — to protect the lens. Using a lens hood has a similar effect to what you would expect from a protective filter for your lens, as it provides additional protection.
Physically protects the lens face
Have you had any frightful experiences of banging into someone or hitting something while walking around with your camera hanging from your shoulder? If you are using a lens hood at such times, unless it is an extreme case, the lens face will be protected from any damage.
This is the lens hood I often use, and as you can see, it has a lot of fine scratches on it. If it wasn't for the lens hood, the lens itself would have been scratched in this way instead.
Keeps fingerprints off your lens!
When shooting without a lens hood, you can inadvertently touch the lens face, leaving fingerprints behind. Have you experienced looking at your lens after the shoot to find that the lens face is rather dirty? Moreover, when photographing children or pets, they may place their hand on your lens or even lick it. A lens hood can protect your lens from that kind of dirt. Preventing your lens from becoming dirty means better image quality!
Without a lens hood, you may inadvertently touch the lens face, making it dirty. While fingerprints can be wiped off, you can feel more at ease while shooting if it is harder for the lens to become dirty in the first place. A lens hood protects the lens from impact and dirt that a protective filter alone cannot prevent.
3. A lens hood might even make your camera look cooler
The final reason is to do with fashion sense. After all, humans do sometimes wear hats to look good, don’t we?
Simply attaching a lens hood can make the camera look cool, and there are some people who personalise their lens hood by affixing stickers or other decorations. If you adorn your camera with a fashionable strap, it seems like a waste not to have anything attached to the lens.
On the left is how the lens looked with the lens hood attached during the shoot. It changes the appearance of the lens, making it look cool. On the right is how I attach the lens hood when storing the lens. The hood sticks out a bit laterally, but attaching it upside-down makes it less bulky.
So those are my three reasons for using a lens hood. As you can see, using one can bring very significant benefits. So for those of you who don't use a lens hood, why not consider trying one out?
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