Is “Eco-glass” reducing the quality of Nikon lenses?

Somebody at dpreview thinks that way:

"This probably is what is causing the varied results people are getting from the new 50/1.4 G."

Is there a problem with the new Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G Lens? I was not aware of that.

Here is a pamphlet from Nikon on their Environmentally Sound Optical Glass.

Can eco-glass be as good as regular glass (Nikon claims so)? Is eco-glass = recycled glass?

fyi - I do believe in recycling and I am happy that Nikon does too.

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  • MiloT

    Hippies ruin everything.

    • Alex

      Hippies? I HOPE that was a joke. Since when is recycling a hippie thing? Regardless of whether or not you believe that global warming is happening, it never hurts to save the environment.

      Anyway, political views aside… This is probably just nerdy non-photographer stuff again. I’m starting to think that Ken Rockwell is right when he says that people care more than they should about lens sharpness…. Maybe there’s some variance if you look at your photos at 100%, but I doubt that Nikon would be selling something for $400+ if there was huge variance in each model. If the variance is a result of the “eco-glass,” I say KEEP the eco-glass, and tell the non-photographer nerds who are complaining about it to get over it.

      • @admin: Why isn’t this guy blocked already?

        • torax


        • Alex

          blocked? why should I be blocked?

          • sorry – I also don’t see a reason to be blocked

        • Yeah, I don’t see a reason either. This was to a comment that’s long gone.

  • Roger Moore

    That same PDF says that they use eco glass as a replacement for old types in 100% of their consumer items, including lenses. So their recent astounding lenses, like the 14-24, 24-70, and the long VR lenses use the stuff. If it isn’t ruining those lenses, it’s unlikely to be the source of any problems with the 50/1.4.

  • It actually does not say that the glass in “Eco-Glass” is from recycled glass. It is just a new formulation for glass that does not use cadmium, and avoids the use of lead and arsenic. It is “new” glass, just a more environmental formulation. Good for Nikon!

    • PHB

      Exactly, they say it is eco-glass and someone imagines this must mean recycled. Glass is not in short supply, nor are the raw materials for making it. There is plenty of demand for recycled glass without using it for lenses.

      Recycled glass is invariably used to make coloured glass. A single green or brown bottle in the wrong bin would taint the whole batch. Nobody uses recycled glass to make lenses or windows.

      Replacing the use of lead and arsenic with other metals is simply a matter of avoiding pollution in the manufacturing process. Lead is not the only metal that can be used to create high clarity glass. Titanium is superior for glassware, take a look at Schott Triton, you can drop those on a granite counter top and they don’t break, they are stronger and thinner than the Ridel equivalents and cost a third as much.

  • jovan

    I don’t understand what recycling has to do with Nikon’s Eco-glass. The PDF only indicates that eco-glass is lead and arsenic free. I don’t see anything about recycling old glass to create optical glass. Did you guys actually read this thing? Or did I miss something?

  • Of course I read the article… It is not clear what kind of recycling they mean in the pdf file – do you recycle your old/broken lenses? Who is recycling them? Can you send your old lens to Nikon for recycling? What do they mean by recycling in the diagram? I thought that recycled glass = eco glass. I could be wrong – that’s why I am posting this, to discuss it further.

    • My reading of the Nikon PDF document (specifically the paragraph at the top of page 2) is that “Eco-glass” refers specifically to optical glass that’s free of lead and arsenic. Later it notes that they already had phased out the use of another toxic metal, cadmium, in the 1970s.

      A later paragraph indicates that the benefit of eliminating these hazardous materials applies not only to the glass itself, but (as it says in the report) “throughout the entire product life cycle (raw material production, manufacturing, use and disposal).” So if Nikon’s glass doesn’t use lead, then that’s that much less lead that needs to be mined, refined, shipped, and disposed of.

      The report also notes that “From the second half of fiscal 2005, we managed to use eco-glass in all Imaging Company products, such as cameras.” So blaming eco-glass for allegedly “variable performance” of one particular brand-new lens, as the dpreview troll did with the 50/1.4G, seems particularly dumb — if eco-glass were going to cause problems, don’t you think they would have shown up before now?

  • In the dpreview thread, I go along with the guy who said: “Troll?”

    I think that’s exactly what the original comment was.

    Glass has been made for thousands of years, and from the beginning it always has been common to recycle it. Did the poster propose any basis at all for believing that glass (presumably) made from virgin free-range sand was better? Nope. It’s just mindless yapping.

  • Greg Tommers

    “This probably is what is causing the varied results people are getting from the new 50/1.4 G.”

    lol. Yeah that’s it. It couldn’t possibly be due to differing expectations and photographic abilities.

    • Bingo. I’ve seen people complain about sharpness–this lens is sharp on a d300 or a D3. Maybe there’s sample variation, but when I look at other peoples files I rarely see sharp with known sharp lenses.

      Most people think the 1.8 is sharper than the AFD 1.4–sample variation aside, that’s just not been my experience.

      • My point was that the new 50 1.4 looks sharper than all previous ones. And I’m now on a waiting list for this kickass lens.

      • rthomas

        The idea that the slower 50mm lenses are sharper goes all the way back to the 1960’s – the magazine articles from that time suggest – suggest, mind you – that the f/2.0 lens was, at that time, slightly better wide open than the 1.4 model at the same aperture. I’ve never used the 50mm f/1.4, but I have used the 55mm f/1.2 and two old 50mm f/2.0 Nikkors, and the all variants of the manual focus 1.8s. I can see how this idea might have taken hold, because the fast 1.2 was emphatically *not sharp* at wide apertures. In the same way, the awful 43-86mm tarnished zoom lenses, all by itself, even when other zooms of the day were pretty good. I hesitate to refer to Ken Rockwell, but here it is: stop worrying and go shoot some pictures!

    • pete

      spot on. especially coming from that site. a pack of pixel peeping, whining morons.

      FWIW: i have had all 3 lens’ and the G lens smokes the older 2 in every way. the 1.8 was not sharper than the 1.4 at all. it was equal in sharpness once you got to around the f4 mark.

      • Exactly. However, I can’t hate on the measurbators too much…they might help bring the price down!

  • bigmouth

    show me the bad sample, how wide the variation was it?

  • Andrew

    In the article it says that Nikon utilized eco glass in 93% of all their glass shipped, so i’d say this can’t be the reason for this problem in the new AF-S 50mm 1.4

  • olas keps

    who says its not the old style glass that is bad and the eco glass that is better?

  • LSE

    what variations? if you mean the new lens has more distortion, then thats due to the new design and not to the glass used.

    If there are large variances within the model then a more likely source of problems is the chinese factory these things are made at. Either poor QA or poor process.

    Unless people document issues and present them to nikon, they will no be able to get their foot up the manufacturer’s rear to fix them.

  • Some of the people who post on dpreview have recycled brains, and that may account for the variances in the results obtained.

    • AUid

      Absolutely. I didn’t want to waste my time reading this post. I usually just glance at the headlines and go on with my day but for some reason I got stuck on this one and now I see it was all worth it for your comment. So ,thank you. Those Dpreview forum people are freaks. I mean I understand that some people are obsessive and picky but do those people even actually take pictures. Half of the things they talk about being I can’t even see at 100%

  • Pablov

    Would be nice to exchange experiences and thoughts with more calm and peace )
    We could avoid the aggressive comments, and make an “eco-post ” 🙂

  • Thanks for the Interesting link. I found the switch to lead free solding interesting in light of DBS which appeared around the time Nikon made the switch to ROHS soldering.

    >Plans to utilise lead-free solder are being implemented under the
    >Environmental Action Plan (page 10), and in fiscal 2006, 100%
    >lead-free solder was used for new consumer products including the
    >D200 digital SLR camera. Boards for existing products had also
    >been converted to use lead-free solder.

    ROHS solding is not as reliabile as lead based soldering and has problems, the military won’t use it because it’s not as reliable.

    >There are concerns to be addressed with component and board finish >compatibility with lead-free solders. There are concerns about the temperature >profile components and boards can sustain to not jeopardize their functionality.

    • bigmouth

      Hmmm, that’s kind of funny actually, the military refuse to use environmental friendly technology to manufacture killing machines. Their argument is probably as simple as “lead kills people, we kill people, we are good together…”

      • PHB

        Actually quite a few armies are now using lead free bullets.

        I don’t know that lead free solder is inferior to traditional. Since the melting point is higher one could reasonably expect superior results with respect to lifespan. You just need the right equipment, thats all.

        Military procurement procedures are not necessarily optimal or even sensible. Equipment must have been made with approved techniques even if the result is inferior. The point is that they have to understand the impact on the entire system before approving a change.

        Suppliers will often make spurious claims to avoid making expensive changes to their process. Just because something is said does not make it true.

        Another aspect that comes in is good old protectionism. And in the US there is the issue of political corruption. Some politicians will do anything to make a buck. The first action of the Bush administration was to allow higher levels of lead in water. Nothing was done to stop importation of poisonous lead painted toys from China until it became a national outrage. So the fact that the US has not followed Europe in legislating safer electronics might well have more to do with who was paying off whom than actual risk.

        Take a look at all the US pols that have gone to jail recently for corruption. Cunningham and Ney made millions for themselves by providing troops with faulty equipment. You think that they wouldn’t have poisoned your kids as well to make a buck? Or the folk who make the stuff?

        • bigmouth

          ok, I can understand that to use lead free equipments is to protect your own troops and people who make them. On the other hand, if I work in a bullet, shell, missile factory, I can reasonably sure that I’m facing much more hazardous material and situation than just lead. Explosives compounds are probably very poisonous, anti-corrosion metal treatment probably is going to preserve bodies from decaying after it’s 3 feet under (good for the archeologists of the 30th century though). This is besides the fact that the person is facing a possibility of unexpected discharge of the shell/bullet or whatever during manufacturing process. All these add together, the little lead seems to be much less significant.

  • Ernst

    Making new lenses out of recycled glass isn’t the issue. The world will never, ever run out of sand. Nobody is concerned about that.

    This “eco-glass” business is an initiative to get the heavy metals OUT of optical glass so when you’re tired of your 400mm f/2.8 it can be recycled into whatever (or at least tossed in the trash with less worry), AND (more to the point) to make the whole manufacturing situation less toxic.

    • Pablov

      Send me your 400mm 2.8 when you are tired of it, I will recycle it Very well 🙂

    • PHB

      Close, glass is actually a pretty good way to sequester poisonous metals, thats why we use it for uranium disposal.

      The issue is preventing the contamination that comes in the production cycle. Not all the lead that went into the glass went into the glass. Plenty went into the atmosphere.

      As for the bremstrahlung radiation theory, yes that is a big issue in high energy physics. But I have a hard time thinking it is an issue in a CRT. The velocity of the particle is not high and the radius of curvature is pretty large. I would have to do some math but I doubt that the lead would help at all. What is the frequency of the gamma radiation coming off a CRT?

      The reason you need the lead in a CRT is that an electron beam itself is ionizing radiation, its what used to be called beta radiation.

      • Pablov

        The electrons get out of the CRT crossing the glass ?

        Some peolpe told me that the electrons can’t get out of the CRT, but I’m not so sure.

        If you put a Geiger counter next to the front of a CRT it detects radiation.

        Electrons beams are also known as Alpha.
        Protons as Beta radiation.

  • Erik Ehrling

    There is only one true type of Eco-glass and that is lenses of such high quality that they will be used for decades.

    Several of my AI/AI-S lenses are more than 20 years and are still going strong…

    Erik Ehrling (Sweden)

  • Pablov

    Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think the recycled ammount of camera lenses is big
    At least here, nobody ever throw to trash a single lens, unless it got completely broken or unusable.

    Please, send any unwanted lens you may have, I will keep it in use !

  • I am still amazed by the amount of knowledge shared in the comments section – thanks to all contributors. Sometimes I create a post exactly for that reason – to get reader’s opinion, knowledge and to trigger a discussion on the subject. Today we all know more about glass production and this is the purpose of this site – to share information.

  • Later Than Sooner

    HA, i got banned from that site for being smarter than a whipped mule…

  • no, you are not banned

  • WH Mitty

    Now when I visit the local dump, before eating any glass, I’ll verify that it’s high quality Nikon Eco-glass.

  • Politics_Nerd

    My 50 1.4 is giving me issues, but I did drop it recently, then tried adjusting the AF fine tune with just a tape measure on a table. That didn’t work out too well so I ordered a proper tool to really check it properly.

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