A Shattered Rear Element for Portraits: Any Guess What the Results Are Like?

One of the worst experiences any photographer can go through is breaking a piece of gear beyond repair. The question is, however, at what point is "broken" too broken to use?

In this video, Christopher Hamberger shoots a series of portraits using Nikon 35mm f/1.4 Ai-S with a shattered rear element. As you may know, damage to the front element is generally the least severe on image quality and lenses with small chips or scratches can hurt your heart, but don't usually have that much of an effect. I would have thought, however, that shattered elements on the other hand, whether they be from the front element, rear element, or somewhere in the middle would certainly render a lens unserviceable. So Hamberger did the next best thing — he kept using it. 

I will be the first to admit that I'm surprised how interesting the results were and in many of the cases, quite pleasing. I would even go so far as to say that I can imagine that there are photographers out there who would happily use filters to achieve the same look. While it is certainly not a look I want in one of my own photographs, I liked them and wouldn't at all mind seeing them pop up on my Instagram feed. 

Have you ever used a lens with a damaged element? What did you think of the results?

James Madison's picture

Madison is a mathematician turned statistician based out of Columbus, OH. He fell back in love with film years ago while living in Charleston, SC and hasn't looked back since. In early 2019 he started a website about film photography.

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I'd be more concerned about glass bits getting on the sensor.

His camera is a Nikon F3 - film camera. But yes, glass chunks are worrisome.

Beat me to it.

Although he was using a film camera, you'd think it would be a sensible idea for the author of this post to highlight the fact that doing this may damage your camera if you were to try it yourself.

Naaah. It’s called Darwin’s selection.

Or the flipping mirror.

EXACTLY my thoughts.

Nope, no, and no.

I am curious James, did you pay a licensing fee to Antwan Bank Williams for the music you used on the video soundtrack.

I am pretty sure the guy who made the video, Christopher Hamberger is responsible for licensing the music in his video. Not James, as he did not produce the video.

I hope not. I hate musicians. They think their music is the best. Plus they make the worse party hosts because they only play their favorite music and if you don't like it, you are told that "you don't know anything."

Brahms post was probably written in jest

EDIT: Actually maybe not. Apparently he thinks up skirt photography is still street photography.

If it wasn't licensed, YouTube's bots would have killed the video by now.

In short, terrible. I was expecting a better effect but the truth of the matter is that as soon as you break any glass element in the lens you're not going to be able to nail focus so unless you like soft photos with a bit of weird light diffraction then its a no from me.


Feel I saw this two years ago? Last year?

A plastic bag over the lens or filter smeared on the edges with vaseline will get a similar effect.

Good way to drive new/used body sales... depp.