What do you think of composite bodied lenses?

niemeyjtniemeyjt Posts: 64Member
edited June 2015 in General Discussions
Some websites have been making disparaging remarks about the quality of newer Nikon lenses - so I would be interested to hear the views of those who may use them.

Is composite more brittle or likely to succumb to UV - or are modern composites every bit as strong as metal and as long-lasting - and with a 5 year guarantee and 10 year lifespan does it matter?

Is metal a better material or does it suffer permanent deformation when hit whilst composite springs back to shape?

Does the lighter weight of composite lend itself to steadier photos?

Does it not matter so long as the glass (and composite) is good?

And to reiterate the point - this is a photographic question, not an off-shoring question.

J
«1

Comments

  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    Thank you. You have brought out several good points. I dropped a lens about ten years ago, onto its metal hood, but the lens was of a composite construction. The hood bent, but not even the front filter was broken, then lens suffered no damage, worked perfectly.

    I suspect if this had been one of my lenses from the 1960's, this may not have been the result. Any microscopic deformation in metal will tend to remain, while a small deformation in the composites will simply return to the original position.

    The weight of lenses is not a concern for me as I was raised on the heavyweights and simply make the necessary adjustments to utilize the heavy stuff.
    Msmoto, mod
  • IronheartIronheart Posts: 3,017Moderator
    Do I have to repeat myself? :-)
    Metal has a greater coefficient of thermal expansion than glass, so it is actually a poor choice for lens construction. Modern composite materials can be engineered to be compatible with the types of modern glass, fluorite, borosilicate, etc... as well as minimizing linear thermal expansion to keep everything in focus. It's also significantly lighter. BMW i3 chassis:
    image
  • IronheartIronheart Posts: 3,017Moderator
    edited June 2015
    - and with a...10 year lifespan does it matter?
    I expect my lenses will last closer to 50 years. Who said they have a 10 year lifespan?
    Post edited by Ironheart on
  • WestEndFotoWestEndFoto Posts: 3,318Member
    I would evaluate a lens based on principles such as image quality, ergonomics, focus quality and durability.

    Nikon's new professional quality lens made with composites are durable and I would not worry about that.

    My non-professional 50 1.4G feels pretty flimsy and I often wonder how long it will last compared to my 85 1.4G. I suppose you get what you pay for.

    I do admit, I love manually focusing with my AIS metal lenses. They feel like they are built like a tank. I also love my 135 and 200 for their build. Not sure that matters for anything though.

    Don't mind the weight. Anything I can do to burn calories is a positive for me.
  • sevencrossingsevencrossing Posts: 2,800Member
    edited June 2015
    Some websites have been making disparaging remarks about the quality of newer Nikon lenses
    let be honest it is not "some websites"
    it is the man we love to hate Ren Krockwell

    he said
    Nikon Medium quality. Most gear is made wherever it's cheapest, like China or elsewhere. Almost everything is made of plastic.

    The statement is simply flaming

    but he is right Almost everything, not just Nikon gear, is made of plastic.

    any Who fans out there

    I can see right through your plastic mac



    Post edited by sevencrossing on
  • niemeyjtniemeyjt Posts: 64Member
    @sevencrossing - yes, being honest, it was he - although I was trying to be diplomatic. And it was the paragraph you quoted that triggered my question on the use of composites (or plastic as he called it) in lens construction.

    @Ironheart - the 10 year I mentioned was related to the "10" stamped on the lens with a couple of arrows around it.

    Someone (yes, him again) did say it means: "Lead-free RoHS solder used. For worry-warts, beware tin "whiskers". The "10" means a 10-year expected life before being thrown away."

    Wikipedia says this is actually the Environment Friendly Use Period (EFUP) - the time in years before any RoHS substances are likely to leak - I am not sure whether starting to leak would make a lens unusable - so maybe a 10 year lifespan is unduly pessimistic.

    J
  • haroldpharoldp Posts: 984Member
    Modern Match Rifle stocks are composite plastics because of dimensional and thermal stability.
    Any tiny change in dimension would shift the point of impact, which in technical terms would be bad.

    ... H
    D810, D3x, 14-24/2.8, 50/1.4D, 24-70/2.8, 24-120/4 VR, 70-200/2.8 VR1, 80-400 G, 200-400/4 VR1, 400/2.8 ED VR G, 105/2 DC, 17-55/2.8.
    Nikon N90s, F100, F, lots of Leica M digital and film stuff.

  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,351Member
    Clearly plastic, i.e. polycarbonates or thermoplastic polymers or composites, can be superior to metal in many applications. The key is the construction, design, material selection, etc. KR likes to exaggerate. He thinks it adds some humor to his website. Read his site with that in mind. Some people will pay over $10,000 for a "mechanical automatic watch" (that old kind with gears, springs and jewels) which keeps worse time than a $50 "plastic" bodied quartz watch which also is more durable in many situations. Why? Because they value the mechanical nature of things over the electronic gizmos without a "soul." Also sometimes because they have bought into the perceived exclusiveness of a brand like Rolex or Leica. Not to mention the fact that kids raised with cellphones in their hands 24 hours a day see no need for a watch at all since the time is in their phone. I have some old mechanical camera bodies and lenses. I value them for their construction and workmanship but I don't shoot with them because modern bodes and lenses are so much more convenient.
  • NSXTypeRNSXTypeR Posts: 2,135Member
    edited June 2015
    Again, nothing wrong with composite bodies. My D40 still would work fine if the internals didn't crap out on me. It's been through some light rain and snow, probably more abuse than my D7000 has been through. No cracks on the screen either.

    If you really want to see bad composite camera bodies, try looking at a Canon XSi. My cousin has one, the feelign of the plastic is incredibly light and just feels bad in the hands.
    Post edited by NSXTypeR on
    Nikon D7000/ Nikon D40/ Nikon FM2/ 18-135 AF-S/ 35mm 1.8 AF-S/ 105mm Macro AF-S/ 50mm 1.2 AI-S
  • spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 6,290Moderator
    Yeah, They should make these cheap and nasty F1 cars out of metal instead of cheaping out on plastics...

    :-* ;)
    Always learning.
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
  • tcole1983tcole1983 Posts: 981Member
    edited June 2015
    The one negative I have really encountered with the cheaper kit lenses that are composite is the plastic mounts. I think this is a fair weakness of them. However I don't think many lenses use the plastic mounts. Even the 35 F1.8G has metal mounts. I don't think it is a super huge issue though seeing as if you drop or abuse even the most expensive lenses that are heavily built they will still break.
    Post edited by tcole1983 on
    D5200, D5000, S31, 18-55 VR, 17-55 F2.8, 35 F1.8G, 105 F2.8 VR, 300 F4 AF-S (Previously owned 18-200 VRI, Tokina 12-24 F4 II)
  • haroldpharoldp Posts: 984Member
    Plastic mounts for a 'kit' lens that never leaves the camera are probably ok. If often mounted and dismounted, they will wear because the plastic is much softer than the metal mount in the body, and tolerances will suffer.

    ... H

    D810, D3x, 14-24/2.8, 50/1.4D, 24-70/2.8, 24-120/4 VR, 70-200/2.8 VR1, 80-400 G, 200-400/4 VR1, 400/2.8 ED VR G, 105/2 DC, 17-55/2.8.
    Nikon N90s, F100, F, lots of Leica M digital and film stuff.

  • sevencrossingsevencrossing Posts: 2,800Member
    edited June 2015
    Plastic mounts for a 'kit' lens that never leaves the camera are probably ok. If often mounted and dismounted, they will wear because the plastic is much softer than the metal mount in the body, and tolerances will suffer.

    ... H

    I quick search indicates, given sufficient impact, they will break ( most things break if you hit them hard enough)
    but i can't find anything suggesting wear

    They are intended for consumer use I would not think many consumers change lenses often enough to cause any noticeable wear
    Post edited by sevencrossing on
  • haroldpharoldp Posts: 984Member


    They are intended for consumer use I would not think many consumers change lenses often enough to cause any noticeable wear
    That is why wear has not been reported as an issue, and isn't one for most consumer use.

    Any time you move something soft (even hard plastic), against something much harder (stainless steel) it will wear.

    For many readers of this forum, it would be an issue.
    .. H
    ..
    D810, D3x, 14-24/2.8, 50/1.4D, 24-70/2.8, 24-120/4 VR, 70-200/2.8 VR1, 80-400 G, 200-400/4 VR1, 400/2.8 ED VR G, 105/2 DC, 17-55/2.8.
    Nikon N90s, F100, F, lots of Leica M digital and film stuff.

  • sevencrossingsevencrossing Posts: 2,800Member
    edited June 2015


    For many readers of this forum, it would be an issue.
    .. H
    ..
    Anyone had a first hand experience of this
    We know from the D600 that if there is an issue with Nikon gear the world spreads fast
    If there was a genuine issue with plastic mounts, rather than one imagined by KR. I think we have heard about it

    Post edited by sevencrossing on
  • IronheartIronheart Posts: 3,017Moderator

    @Ironheart - the 10 year I mentioned was related to the "10" stamped on the lens with a couple of arrows around it.

    Someone (yes, him again) did say it means: "Lead-free RoHS solder used. For worry-warts, beware tin "whiskers". The "10" means a 10-year expected life before being thrown away."

    Wikipedia says this is actually the Environment Friendly Use Period (EFUP) - the time in years before any RoHS substances are likely to leak - I am not sure whether starting to leak would make a lens unusable - so maybe a 10 year lifespan is unduly pessimistic.

    J
    The reality of this is that there are trace amounts of lead used in electronics manufacturing. It won't "leak". Ever. Not in 10, years, not in 100, not in 1000. This has nothing to do with the actual life of the product. It has to do with over regulation based upon the precautionary principle:
    “When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause-and-effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.”

    Read on if you want the truth:

    The RoHS or Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive is frighteningly complex, and Wikipedia only partially gets it right. To be sold in China, the item must be free of hazardous substances, or labeled otherwise. Cameras and small electronics (i.e. cell phones) are required to use the "10" mark.

    Digging into the details in one of the lens manuals (I chose the 50mm 1.8G):

    http://cdn-10.nikon-cdn.com/pdf/manuals/lenses/AF/AFS50_1.8G.pdf

    In the Chinese language section of the manual, the required table listing which parts exceed the requirements is on page 133. The following components are listed to contain more than 0.1% lead:

    The camera housing and barrel (metal) The camera housing and barrel (Plastic)
    Machined element
    Electronic surface mount components (including electronic components)

    It then goes on to say:

    It indicates that the toxic and hazardous substances or elements contained in at least one of the homogeneous materials for this part is above the Ro SJ / T11363-2006 limit requirements of the standard. However, with current technology to make the camera-related products does not contain hazardous substances above is extremely difficult, and these products are included in the exemption Ua "in particular on electrical and electronic equipment Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive 2002/95 / EC" the within the range.

    In the EU and US the exemption for the trace amounts in plastic and electronics is assumed.

    Nikon support says this:

    https://nikoneurope-en.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/21761
    This symbol indicates that the lens meets Chinese regulations regarding the use of environmentally friendly material used in the construction of the lens or camera. In China all items that meet these legations must display the above symbol. Any items that do not meet the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) regulations can no longer be imported into Europe so no similar logo is required for Europe .

    In California everything is labeled as toxic:
    image

    Slide 15 from http://nepp.nasa.gov/whisker/reference/tech_papers/2011-kostic-Pb-free.pdf

    Lead has a melting point of 621.5°F (327.5°C) and a vapor (boiling) point of ​1749 °C, ​(3180 °F)
    There is no evidence that Pb (lead) used in electronics manufacturing and products does any harm to humans or the environment
    – Electronics industry consumes approximately 0.5% of world’s Pb
    – No mechanism exists for transfer of Pb to blood through direct contact or
    proximity to Pb in electronics
    – No evidence of any elevated Pb levels in blood of soldering personnel
    • Lead-acid (car) batteries account for over 80% of Pb consumed – Batteries are exempt from all RoHS legislation
  • One_Oh_FourOne_Oh_Four Posts: 70Member
    Strictly speaking; camera bodies already are "composite", being made of metal and plastic parts.... ;)

    As you mean, plastics made out of composite materials are just good news: if they can make extremely long lasting aircraft that are made in a large part from composites that are even glued together, why not cameras or lenses? What's important is that the composites with the right material properties are used.
  • One_Oh_FourOne_Oh_Four Posts: 70Member
    edited June 2015
    @Ironheart: that is interesting!
    Post edited by One_Oh_Four on
  • heartyfisherheartyfisher Posts: 3,181Member
    edited June 2015
    @ironheart nice info. however that is not the issue with the electronics lasting 10 years. it is related but not exactly. The issue is that because there is no lead, the "tin whiskers" randomly form over time and can cause electronics to short out and fail.
    PS found this article. http://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1279227
    Post edited by heartyfisher on
    Moments of Light - D610 D7K S5pro 70-200f4 18-200 150f2.8 12-24 18-70 35-70f2.8 : C&C very welcome!
    Being a photographer is a lot like being a Christian: Some people look at you funny but do not see the amazing beauty all around them - heartyfisher.

  • IronheartIronheart Posts: 3,017Moderator
    edited June 2015
    No, the ten years was an arbitrary number picked by the Chinese government as the average useful life for a cell phone and other small electronics, like cameras, in conjunction with the various industries. The average useful life of a cell phone is about 5 years, but industry pushed back and everyone settled at 10. You don't want your product to look too useless.
    http://www.electronicsweekly.com/directive-decoder/china-rohs/china-rohs-new-efup-guidance-2007-03/

    Tin whiskers is really only a problem for military application and medical implants. Read the full article from NASA I posted above, there is nothing magical about 10 years and tin whiskers, in fact nobody knows how long or short the timeframe is. Cameras and other consumer electronics won't have a problem with with this issue. I've worked in the electronics industry for 30 years. I can give you more gory details than you want. We were investigating lead-free solder in the 80s and the effects on longevity of electronics.
    http://nepp.nasa.gov/whisker/reference/tech_papers/2011-kostic-Pb-free.pdf
    Post edited by Ironheart on
  • DaveyJDaveyJ Posts: 958Member
    edited June 2015
    I too worked in the electronics field for some years. As far as composites go I actually prefer them. Question to me is weight, performance, etc. Sometimes Ken Rockwell gets a little out there.....

    Years ago I picked up a composite chainsaw...a Husqvarna....can't be that tough compared to steel says I.......soon it was ALL we were using....Today we own a whole fleet of them. Composite manufacturing is here to stay. However there is such a thing as corner cutting to achieve a price point and the adage "let the buyer beware" still applies.....
    Post edited by DaveyJ on
  • heartyfisherheartyfisher Posts: 3,181Member
    edited June 2015
    Corner cutting can be done in any product in any industry, whether its made of metal, plastics or software. Quality stuff is quality stuff, crap stuff is crap stuff.
    Post edited by heartyfisher on
    Moments of Light - D610 D7K S5pro 70-200f4 18-200 150f2.8 12-24 18-70 35-70f2.8 : C&C very welcome!
    Being a photographer is a lot like being a Christian: Some people look at you funny but do not see the amazing beauty all around them - heartyfisher.

  • Spy_BlackSpy_Black Posts: 79Member
    My only real issue with composites are where it all lands when they're no longer in use. Typically a landfill.
  • PB_PMPB_PM Posts: 4,221Member
    My only real issue with composites are where it all lands when they're no longer in use. Typically a landfill.
    Most composites used today are recyclable, so the issue is not that. The question is more in how they are manufactured, and is the process for manufacturing composites more environmentally damaging than manufacturing a product with metal?

    A good example of this manufacturing issue is electric cars vs gas powered cars. The manufacturing process required for some components of electric cars are more harmful for the environment than making a gas powered car. So even when you take into account the long term use of the vehicle, the electric car could end up doing more damage to the environment. Lets not even count that some of those electric cars will be powered by electricity generated from coal.

    Anyway back to lenses and cameras made with composites. Personally I do not have any issue with the use of such materials, so long as they are made well and tightly assembled. You can tell there is a huge difference in build quality between the cheap lens like the 50mm F1.8D or the 18-5mm VR vs a camera like the D750 or D7200. Of course there is more to it than how the product feels, but how it performs. If the composites work and prove to be equally durable for normal (non-abusive) use, it is fine.
    If I take a good photo it's not my camera's fault.
Sign In or Register to comment.