9/05/2010

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Lens hoods
The purpose of a lens hood is to prevent flare, which c an seriously degrade the image quality of photographic lenses. A longer hood offers better flare protection than a short hood, but when the hood exceeds a critical length vignetting sets in. Therefore, a lens hood needs to be carefully chosen. The optimum hood depends on the philosophy behind the hood, with the shape and size as the key parameters, and on the lens aperture and subject matter. Several lens hood c onsiderations will pass in review in this article. I will not disc uss issues such as choice of material—I leave it to the imagination of the reader that an effec tively blackened hood is more useful than one whose interior shines as a mirror. Rather, I concentrate on size and shapes. Although I am the first to admit that the contents are partly of an ac ademic nature, the material could be vital for those readers who strive after the best possible image quality.

This page has some overlap with the flare and vignetting pages, which are recommended reading to recognize the usefulness of a lens hood as well as the danger of overdoing it.

Size of the hood
A wide, long hood is a better choice than a narrow, short hood. Figure 1 exemplifies this statement for the Sonnar 135/2.8. The imageforming light collected by the lens is indicated with the gray beam that strikes the front element at the lens field angle. Vignetting sets in when a lens hood penetrates into this beam. Both indicated lens hoods, the short, built-in hood and the larger Contax metal hood #5, just clear the front element, i.e. they do not obstruct the gray beam and hence do not cause vignetting. However, the small hood allows the slanting black ray to hit the front element whereas the large hood bloc ks this ray, preventing it from contributing to lens flare (indicated by the reflections in red).

Size matters.

Figure 1. Two lens hoods on the Sonnar 135/2.8. The larger hood is the better choice as it blocks more nonimageforming light.

Influence of hood length on vignetting
Vignetting by a lens hood is called mec hanical vignetting. It is usually assoc iated with blac k image corners and an abrupt transition from bright to blac k. However, a lens hood c an also give rise to a gradual corner darkening in a similar fashion as natural and optical vignetting. The influence of a lens hood on vignetting will be illustrated with a series of sketches with an increasing hood length. Figure 2 shows the Planar 50/1.4 as is, without lens hood. The green part denotes the rim surrounding the front element. The red bars mark the lens Figures 1–7 are based on C arl Zeiss
lenses for Yashica/C ontax and their corresponding hoods, but the principles apply to any lens/hood combination. entrance pupil, which is the image of the aperture stop (the blac k bars) seen by an observer looking into the lens from the front. Finally, the purple bars correspond to the image of the rim around the rear element. Each of these elements is a circle and the clear aperture is given by their common area. The circle plot at the right of the lens is the situation relevant for the image corner. A corner object point at infinity sees the circles in

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Figure 3. For the image corner the ac cepted beam is narrower. viz. It is delimited by the common area of the green and red c ircles in the equivalent circle plot. There are also more complicated lens designs which require the inclusion of internal rims to determine the clear aperture. Since the hood does not affect the clear aperture for obliquely incident light (c f. The intersection of the yellow pencil with the front element marks the section needed for the image center. Figure 2. the intersection of the orange pencil with the front element marks the section needed for the image corner.html 2/6 . figure 3 does away with the myth that a lens employed at a small aperture uses only a small part of the front element. which is round. the image as a whole still relies on a large part of the front element. So although eac h image point uses only a small part of the front element at a small aperture. The brighter orange beam is the part of the darker orange beam that is not obstructed by the lens barrel. Note that figures 2–6 do not show refrac tion of the yellow and orange beams. the common area of all circles. figure 2) it does not lead to vignetting.4 is metal hood #4. For the image center this beam is colored yellow. The broc hure lens hood for the Planar 50/1. The Planar 50/1. The beams are c orrectly drawn up to the point where they hit the front element.9/05/2010 Lens hoods these mutual positions and is confronted with a clear aperture marked by the orange area. In passing.4 without hood at f/11. At full aperture the lens accepts a broad light beam. and should further only be considered relative to the colored circles. the entrance pupil becomes small. For the image center all circles are concentric and the smallest one defines the entrance pupil. Flare protection is offered without the slightest compromise to the design whatsoever. The Planar 50/1. Figure 3 shows that optical vignetting is no longer a concern: the oblique beam ac cepted by the entrance pupil is narrow and no longer clipped by the lens barrel. toothwalker. It is a wide hood which just clears the front element: figure 4. In this regard it should be realized that the lens elements in the sketches merely serve as a guide to the eye.. Further clipping of the oblique beam oc curs by the rear rim and what remains is a clear aperture that is substantially smaller than the aperture for the image center (optical vignetting). but the principle of the common area remains the same.org/optics/lenshood. The darker orange beam is the beam that would be ac cepted by the entrance pupil if the lens barrel weren't present and if the lens elements were larger. When the lens is closed down to f/11.4 without lens hood at full aperture. Refrac tion is indirectly taken into ac count by the position and size of the entrance pupil (Zeiss data) and the image of the rear rim (c alculated).

figure 6 results. At f/1. it worsens the vignetting in figure 6. As a matter of fac t. Mechanical vignetting sets in. the lens hood completely obscures the entrance pupil (the small circle in the circle plot) and no light is passed on to the image corner. Look here to examine the real thing. figure 5 represents a situation where mechanical vignetting is cured by stopping down the lens. Figure 5. Here.html 3/6 . By contrast. The sharp kink in the f/11 curve implies an abrupt brightness transition from the image towards the corners.4 mechanical vignetting manifests itself by a corner illumination that goes down from 30% to 20%.4 only a small area survives to illuminate the image corner. The curve for f/11 is identical between the upper-left and upper-right plots in figure 7: the hood has no effect on the image illumination at small apertures. The Planar 50/1. at f/11 c orner blac kening is a fac t. which shows illumination curves for the scenarios sketched in figures 2–6. An alternative view is given in figure 7. The lower left illumination charts in figure 7 c orroborate the corner blac kening at f/11. depending on the application a small amount of (additional) vignetting may even be tolerated in favor of a better flare prevention.org/optics/lenshood. However. At f/1. At full aperture the clear aperture for the oblique beam is reduced and the image corner receives less light than it would in the absence of the hood. the lens hood has no effec t at f/11. Vignetting now sets in at f/1.4 equipped with C ontax metal hood #4. The corner is dark but not blac k as it still rec eives some light. The Planar 50/1. which are completely blac k. the situation of figure 5 is established.9/05/2010 Lens hoods Figure 4.4. Where a small aperture cured the vignetting in figure 5. When the length of the hood in figure 4 is increased by 30 mm (which happens to correspond to metal hood #5). Thus. If the length of the hood is increased by 15 mm. At this aperture the light beams accepted by the lens are not hindered by the hood. toothwalker.4 with a lens hood that is 15 mm longer than lens hood #4. The dec line is gradual however and may not even be noticed in real-life images.

prac tical approach to determine whether a certain hood (or filters. compendium type lens hood. Imprac tical. The subject should be an evenly illuminated object at a large distance. Four exposures are required. A lens that is regularly used at various apertures requires hood adjustment each time another f-stop is chosen. A simple. This is illustrated by the fourth graph in figure 7. Still longer lens hoods lead to blac k corners at all apertures and the main effect of the fstop is found in the abruptness of the transition.4 with a lens hood that is 30 mm longer than lens hood #4. Unfortunately it is quite cumbersome to put this knowledge in prac tice. or a combination) causes vignetting on a certain lens consists of a series of test exposures. When the chief ray (the ray that goes through the center of the aperture) is not obstructed by the hood. a small aperture leads to black corners.html 4/6 . C alculated image illumination for the Planar 50/1. two at the lens full aperture (with and without hood) and two at the smallest toothwalker. The Planar 50/1.4 in combination with several lens hood lengths. is available as a pdf file [1]. stopping down the lens cures mechanical vignetting. From figures 4–6 it appears that the optimum length of a lens hood depends on the aperture. Vignetting is manifest at all apertures. so when infinity poses no problems a nearby subject is also safe. Figure 7. but it can be done with a continuously variable. by inspec tion of the exit pupil rather than the entrance pupil. Vignetting is less of a problem at close range than it is at infinity. A nice desc ription to figure out the optimum length. The author allows some 20% pupil area obscuration by the hood because he considers protec tion against flare more important than a small. When the chief ray is clipped. which results from the addition of yet another 15 mm to the hood.9/05/2010 Lens hoods Figure 6.org/optics/lenshood. gradual decrease in corner illumination which is normally not noticed in the image. A brick wall on an overcast day will do fine.

A circular hood. At full aperture. Tulip-style hood. Occasionally the designation butterfly hood is encountered. but also bec ause their shape is matched to the pyramidal cone and leaves no holes. Figure 8. The ac cepted light cone that is used to illuminate the frame is pyramidal. Another strategy resorts to a rectangular shape. Figure 10.9/05/2010 Lens hoods aperture (again with and without hood). Not only bec ause they are longer. However. A rectangular hood reduced to the same length as the round hood in figure 9 would still be more effective. designed not to introduce additional vignetting. Shape of the hood So far the disc ussion involved circular lens hoods. gradual corner darkening at full aperture. The pyramidal cone is illustrated in figure 8. Black corners however are generally considered gruesome and the extension (or combination of extensions) is just not suited for the lens. A rectangular hood. Both the tulip hood and the rectangular hood are more effective than the round hood. the cross section of the cone is already rectangular at the position of the front element. This so-called tulip hood is shaped by the intersection of a cylinder with a pyramid. In the illustrations that follow a variety of hood shapes pass in review. toothwalker. The length of the round hood in figure 9 is such that it touches the light cone at four corner points. If there is a slightly increased. you probably won't notice the presence of the hood with other subjects than a brick wall or a blue sky and you are also safe. No hood. Figure 11. Voids in the plane of intersection evidence the shortcoming of a round hood: there are gaps where nonimageforming light may enter the system and introduce flare. a circular lens hood has the same rotational symmetry as the lens and aesthetically matches the round image formed by a photographic lens.org/optics/lenshood. going from the lens towards infinity. Figure 11 exhibits a rec tangular hood with the same cross sectional area as the hoods in figures 9 and 10. At small apertures. a 36×24 mm mask in case of a 35-mm camera. This has important consequences for lens hood design and the optimum lens hood is not round. the round image is not fully used as the presence of a field stop. Indeed. One method to fill these holes is to extend the round hood to create the hood in figure 10. crops the image to a rectangular section.html 5/6 . you are completely safe. and depending on the design. If the pictures taken with the extension(s) show no additional corner darkening in c omparison with the pictures taken without. the cone starts out circular at the front element and converts to a rectangular cross section at some distance. Figure 9.

Zoom lenses are often provided with a chopped tulip hood that offers reasonable protection at the wide end. but who employ them without lens hood—or tripod for that matter. © Paul van Walree 2002–2010 References [1] Erland Pettersson. There are many oc casions where a lens hood does not add to the image quality. Although the tulip hood in figure 10 is very effective with respec t to flare prevention. spherical aberration | astigmatism and field curvature | distortion | chromatic aberrations | vignetting | lens hoods | flare | filter flare | depth of field | dof equations | vwdof | bokeh | spurious resolution | center of perspective | misconceptions home | about | photos | optics | links | faq | sitemap toothwalker. but there are also many occasions where it does—even with the best lenses.to-shoot shoulder bag outfit eac h lens is best equipped with an individual hood. Figure 13. C hopped and capped tulip hood. As to the last reason. the two longer butterfly wings may be clipped to yield the chopped tulip hood in figure 12. They will either say that a lens hood is imprac tical or that their lens is so good that it does not need a hood. In a ready. it won't win a compac tness popularity poll. Some of the effectiveness may be regained by filling the two gaps that arose in the clipping procedure.html 6/6 . but which is inadequate at the tele end. which requires significantly less space in the camera bag. A chopped tulip hood. One compendium hood serves a battery of lenses. It is better than nothing though.org/optics/lenshood. Too often I notice photographers with the best lenses money can buy. An adjustable bellows lens hood (c ompendium) is a flexible solution for field work with a tripod. when prompt action is of no concern. A proper lens hood should be among the standard equipment of the serious photographer. To sacrifice some effectiveness for convenience. The 'chopped and capped' hood in figure 13 is relatively c ompac t and still offers an excellent protection against flare. The art of avoiding flare. that one is plainly wrong.9/05/2010 Lens hoods Figure 12. Final remarks Lens hoods are often undervalued and c onsidered imprac tical bec ause of the space they require in the camera bag.

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