Is it worth paying extra to get a multi-coated lens?
Q: One more item of interest that you may be able to comment on is multi-coating. I note that some of the more recently produced lenses are multi-coated. Theoretically, these lenses should be better but is there enough of an actual difference to seek them out over the more readily available single coated lenses? Any comment?
A: Multi-coating can make a big difference in a very small number of circumstances. If you shoot against the light or into the sun a lot, you should go for multi-coating, if it is available for the lens that interests you. But for most pictures taken by most people, multi-coating won't make any noticeable difference to their images.
In fact, very few shots are taken into the light. The best shots often have the light source to one side – maybe at 45 degrees to the subject – and up quite a bit, as the sun is throughout the day, which gives some modelling and shape to the objects or people photographed.
If the sun is within the image, you are unlikely to get a good picture, and may of course damage your eye or the shutter (the sun shining through a powerful lens can burn a hole in a shutter if the mirror is up). If the sun is just outside the image area, but shining on the lens, contrast will be reduced, and multi-coating might help, but a good lens shade or hood will help more.
Multi-coating may be more important with wide-angle lenses, which generally are of a much more complex optical design, with a larger number of elements than standard or telephoto lenses. However, my single-coated 65mm Flektogon produces images that are not distinguishable from my multi-coated 50mm Flektogon. I shot with a single-coated 50mm Flektogon for years before getting the multi-coated version, and didn't notice the difference for the type of pictures that I take.
So if there are two lenses, one multi-coated and one single-coated at
very similar prices and in similar condition, I suppose one would go for
the multi-coated version, which will at least be the newer of the two.
But in most cases a significant price differential is not justified.
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© TRA November 2005