Most expensive lenses include a lens hood. For the cheaper lenses, you have to order a lens hood separately. Is a lens hood so important you have to use it, or can you do without such an accessory? Let’s look at lens hoods a bit in this article.
Do you have a lens hood for your lenses? If you bought an expensive lens, you probably found one in the box. For the cheaper lenses, you have to buy one separately as an accessory. The original ones are often quite expensive. Fortunately, there are third-party lens hoods that have a much friendlier price tag. You have to be careful when choosing a third party lens hood, though. If you buy the wrong one, it may lead to a serious amount of vignetting.
What’s a Lens Hood Good For?
As the name suggests, a lens hood will shield the lens, especially from light that is coming in sideways. This can be sunlight, but also streetlights, car lights, someone’s flashlight, or any other light source.
Light from this direction can cause internal reflections inside the lens, which are commonly known as flares. Depending on the lens, these flares can become very distracting. It can even ruin your photo completely. A lens hood helps in preventing flares.
Some photographers don’t realize that a lens hood is only effective if the light source is right outside the frame. If the light source is inside the frame, a lens hood won’t help at all. In other words, if you have the sun, streetlight, or someone's light in your photo, you might still end up with a nasty flare.
A Lens Hood Has More Benefits
A lens hood shields the lens from light sources that are just outside the frame. If there's an overcast sky or when there are no bright light sources nearby, you would think there is no need for a lens hood. But a lens hood can have more benefits. It will provide some physical protection for your front lens element. It will also provide some shielding against falling rain and snow.
When a Lens Hood Is a Nuisance
There are situations when a lens hood cannot be used at all or it may be a nuisance when placed onto the lens. The most obvious situation is perhaps with the use of a filter system. You have to remove the lens hood completely before you can place the filter.
Some filter systems provide a lens hood of their own. Often, these are quite large and cumbersome to use. The LucrOid filter system has some kind of lens hood system, but it isn’t that effective for flares. It offers a bit of protection against rain and snow, but only a limited amount.
Do you use a polarization filter for your photography? Some lens hoods have an opening that allows you to rotate the filter with the hood installed. This way, you are able to change the polarization effect without removing the lens hood. Again, the opening can only be found for the deep lens hoods, alas, not for every lens hood.
Although the lens hood provides protection against rain and snow, it can become a nuisance if there is a lot of wind. The deep lens hoods like the ones for larger telephoto zoom lenses can catch a lot of wind. If that happens, it becomes nearly impossible to get a steady shot. Removing the lens hood may prove the only way to get sharp images under those circumstances.
Make Sure You Use the Correct Lens Hood
There are basically two kinds of lens hoods: round and petal. It’s important to place the latter in the correct way to prevent vignetting. The petal form is chosen to maximize the protection against light falling in. The long side of the frame has a deeper petal compared to the sides. If you misalign the petal shape lens hood, it will show up in the photo.
If you receive a lens hood with the lens you bought, you know you have the right lens hood for that lens. The form is optimized for the focal length to provide the maximum protection. But if you need to buy one yourself, make sure you have the correct lens hood. The wrong lens hood may not provide enough protection against unwanted light or it will show up as vignetting in your photo. You should be extra careful with cheap third party lens hoods. Make sure they're optimized for your lens.
Is a Lens Hood Essential or Not?
Should you always use a lens hood or is it not that important? I used to use a lens hood at all times, no matter what. I only removed it when I wanted to use a filter system. But nowadays, I almost never use a lens hood anymore. Not for all lenses, that is.
The petal shape lens hoods are a nuisance for me. These petals make it difficult to place a lens inside a shoulder bag. The petals always hook on the dividers. That’s why I stopped using it.
I also removed the lens hood from my wide angle lenses. It’s never that efficient in blocking light from outside the frame. On top of that, I almost always have a filter system in use with these lenses. The only time I have a lens hood installed is for my telephoto zoom lenses when there is a chance of rain or snow.
If flares occur, I always have a hand available to shield the light source. Then again, sometimes, a flare can be a nice addition to the photo. Do you use a lens hood for your photography? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.