The Pentacon Six System
by TRA

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