Nikon patent adds low-pass filter in the lens

Nikon's patent 2012128155 filed in Japan is for implementing an optical low-pass filter (OLPF) in the lens for optimum performance and improved resolving power. The low-pass filter is used to prevent/reduce moiré patterns in images. The patent describes a 300mm f/2.8 lens with OLPF.

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  • Okay, so we take it out of the camera so we can charge you more for the camera, then put it in the lenses so we can charge you more for the lenses. -_-


    • Phil

      Yes Mark. That’s how it works.

      Next question?

      • Iris Chrome


        You don’t have it!

      • malez

        no that’s not how it works

        don’t forget the competition,
        Nikon won’t be able too charge too much for something that behaves the same as other competitors. If the lens performs very well, with the higher price, they may still be able to find a niche like the Leica does. If the lens does not performs however, they’ll eventually lower the price anyway.

        • You don’t get an itemised bill when you buy a body, do you?

          • Global

            This should be a screw-on lens or a drop-in lens at best.

            Why would it need to be built in, unless Nikon takes the filter out of all bodies. It doesn’t make sense.

        • Calibrator

          Canon is the competition, not Leica, where you pay $5000 for a 50 mil or Fuji with their compacts.
          Canon doesn’t have stuff like this – yet – which will results in Nikon demanding a higher price – and let’s be honest: They *will* charge for stuff like this (it’s an entirely different question how successful such a system would be).

          I also see such a lens as an expensive “medicine” for the problems some people have with the D800/E.

          => Mark got it exactly right.

      • j

        +1 to Mark and Phil, made me laugh…

    • rhlpetrus

      Still cheaper than Canon counterpart … 😉

  • KT

    It’s called marketing, convincing people to pay for what they absolutely have no need for.

    • Mike

      Yeah, you’re absolutely right. God forbid we’d ever need optimum performance and improved resolving power on our expensive lenses! Lets have less Mp instead….

      • Cristian

        It’s my theory since a long time: less megapixel and higher signal/noise ratio. Who really needs 36Mp? I think only two kind of photographers:
        who wants to replace medium format sensors with something cheaper without losing in resolution and who is not able to take a good picture at first shot and needs to heavily crop the image to get something acceptable.

        • Calibrator

          So, in your opinion, the D800/E is a product designed for tightwads and idiots?

          • peterw

            Stock agency’s ask for extremely high resolution images…
            nobody understands why.

        • Gregory

          If you r pissed by the D800 go shop in the Coolpix-Department.
          Landscapers need the resolution and wildlifers need to crop once in a while ever when some folks seem to never understand

  • I think it’s a great idea. Leave the low pass filter out of the camera altogether…and those who want it can buy lenses with the ‘feature’.

    • D400

      No way! What happens to all my lovely AI lenses then?

      • Anon

        Ditch ’em. Nikon wants you to buy new lenses.

      • Calibrator

        Simple: Use them with your old bodies.

  • Michael

    It’s an interesting idea. The light is not focused until it hits the sensor so have the low pass filter in the lens should be better (theoretically) than in the camera. Also like Clint says, you will now have the option to filter or not.

    • davidpeter

      This is a quite useless idea. The theoretic cutoff frequency of the AA filter depends on the pixel pitch, thus it should be unique in every camera to achieve optimal result.
      Having a fixed AA filter in your lens is going to bring the same result for a few camera as the original method, and worse for every other.

      • fjfjjj

        Yeah, totally useless. That’s probably why Nikon researched and patented it.

        • Anon

          Patented == useful? Wonder if that lens would come out soon… they patented it just as a provision of Apple future lawsuit. Practicality comes later.

  • RumpelHund

    Then sell the lens as an E-version with 500€ premium without this antialiasing thing. Guess each lens is filtered upon quality control into two categories:

    Sharp => E type, premium pricing
    Unsharp => antia-alias-low-pass-filtered type, standard expensive

    Marketing generates so much good in everyday average, just great!

  • Non avete ancora capito che la d800E cosa 500$ in più perche ha un filtro LOwPAss più elaborato del normale! non è assolutamente vero che NON HA IL FILTRO, ma ne ha uno più elaborato che ” filtra” di meno e permette cosi una risoluzione maggiore! lA LENTE con il filtro integrato credo che sia un ottima idea!

    • Rdpi

      o Maria’… te tocca a imparare l’inglese..

      • Roberto

        Ma è bello vedere che ci siamo! Mariano ha ragione!

        Of course! But Mariano is right!

    • MarkDphoto

      What Mariano said.

    • Jason

      Mariano said . . .
      You’ve still not understood that the D800E costs $500 more because it has a more elaborate lowpass filter than normal. It’s absolutely not true that it has no filter, but it has a more elaborate one that “filters” less and thus permits a greater resolution. The lens with the integrated filter I believe is a very good idea

      • Calibrator

        > It’s absolutely not true that it has no filter


        > but it has a more elaborate one that “filters” less and thus permits a greater resolution.

        It’s not “more elaborate” – it’s a two-stage filter where the second stage cancels out the “result” from the first stage.
        In other words it’s superfluous and there is only one reason Nikon did it this way: They didn’t want to change the optical construction of the body to save production costs.

        Yes, the E-filter is a small-scale production unit (compared to the normal D800) so this one piece of equipment is slightly more expensive to produce but Nikon was able to keep the rest of the body exactly the same!
        The only alternative was to produce a different body, a D850, perhaps but this would’ve resulted in many different parts.
        So Nikon saved money in the end…

        And of course they demand a higher price now simply because they *can* do it. In fact they would be extremely stupid if they wouldn’t!

  • Nikkorlens

    You guys are very interesting.
    Any new idea is a marketing gadget that robs your money…
    You all belong to the stone age.

  • Donji Hogfan

    would it make switching the aa filtration on & off with a press of a button possible by rotation of one element?

  • Shasta_D

    Since this patent is for a 300mm f/2.8 why don’t they just engineer a drop-in low pass filter?

    • Pablo Ricasso

      I think people will ridicule this idea until and if it is introduced and they can see the results. And yeah, I like the idea of making it removable, be it drop in, built in, or other.

  • T.I.M

    a low-pass filter in the lens will not improve the lens resolution.

    • Pablo Ricasso

      Thanks Tim, I knew you would.

      • T.I.M

        @Pablo Ricasso
        do your painting and let the professionals take pictures.

        • fjfjjj

          Do you photography and let the engineers design the cameras.

          • Rdpi

            Do your engineering and let the marketers do the marketing

  • Jeff

    I’m sorry but won’t this make the lens softer not sharper? I thought people were paying the premium for the D800e because they didn’t want the intentional blurring caused by the AA filter in the first place.

    • Dormant

      Isn’t it obvious?

      1) You take a photo with your D800E and no low-pass filter.

      2) You notice Moire.

      3) You take another photo with the low-pass filter in place.

    • Pablo Ricasso

      Um, I think I can explain this. I’ve already outed myself as not being a “serious photographer” or “professional”, so it won’t hurt at this point to say that I’m also not an optical engineer. However, I still think I can explain this…
      Generally, you can’t see the dust on your front element. I have some lenses with chips and scratches in the front element that work better than other copies of the same that don’t. The light tends to be scattered everywhere between the point of focus and the sensor. The easiest way to screw up the picture is therefore to put an obstacle just in front of the object you are photographing or just in front of the sensor, the place where the AA filter resides.
      Since most people don’t want to gamble with their shots, the companies usually don’t even offer the cameras without the filter. In recent history, when offered a choice, most people opted to keep the filter despite the fact that they knowingly sacrifice image quality in order to guarantee that they wouldn’t have to throw out a shot because of some repeating patterns. So What Nikon is doing here is taking the filter and placing it where it will have the least possible effect on image quality, much the same as they do when fitting a lens with a filter drawer or thread. It’s really a simple concept, something even a mere hobbyist like myself can understand.


      • Calibrator

        > Since most people don’t want to gamble with their shots, the companies usually don’t even offer the cameras without the filter.


        > In recent history, when offered a choice, most people opted to keep the filter despite the fact that they knowingly sacrifice image quality in order to guarantee that they wouldn’t have to throw out a shot because of some repeating patterns.

        I can’t say for sure if this is true but the D800/D800E seems to be the first model where a deliberate choice on this particular feature can be made.
        Of course you can buy a Leica or whatnot with no filter but you very likely won’t buy a Leica just because of this one reason.

        The D800E seems to have freshened up the anti-aliasing discussion, just like the new Fuji which doesn’t use a Bayer-patterned color filter.
        Perhaps it’s indeed time to get rid of certain filter elements to have some specific advantages and compensate the disadvantages in software like we already do for other stuff (hotpixel removal)?

        > So What Nikon is doing here is taking the filter and placing it where it will have the least possible effect on image quality, much the same as they do when fitting a lens with a filter drawer or thread.

        Put a color filter in a filter drawer and you will get a noticeable effect on image quality. However, most people don’t use color filters anymore (except perhaps as color gels on flashes).

        What you say is that Nikon attepts to sell us “snakeoil” – and I think this is a bit too much speculation right now.

  • T.I.M

    Nikon’s idea is to “break” the moiré before it get to the sensor, by using a “weak” low-pass filter inside the lens + an other “weak” low pass filter on front of the sensor.

    The result will be an image sharped than a “regular” sensor low-pass filter but with less moiré than a D800e.

    But, in NO WAY, adding a low-pass filter (even a weak one) inside the lens will incrase the lens resolution.

    You’re welcome Pablo.

    • Pablo Ricasso

      Yes Tim, and in a lab it can probably be shown that any filter you screw on your lens will degrade the image quality to some measurable extent. But in the real world, where lighting conditions are often adverse, using a filter can be the difference between making a shot and making a mess.
      And I try to avoid using filters, despite coming from the film era…
      Did I say that I like the idea of having a filter where it least impacts image quality? Did I say that I really like the idea of having an AA filter that I can still remove?

  • Robk

    Back in the early days of digital, the DCS3 had no a/a filter.
    We then had tiffen low pass filter in front of the lens, a small extra expense of approx. US dollars 300.

  • Steve Starr

    How about just a screw in anti-moiré filter in a 77mm size? I thought someone was making one at some point?

    Here is one: but you need to sort through 8 different strengths too. What a headache in determining “How much is too much?” and “How much is not enough?”

    • Pablo Ricasso

      Hmm. Those look like they would make a bit of diffraction. Also, I am less than confident ordering something from a company that tells me something like this:
      “In many cases, although the filter diameter may be smaller than the outside diameter of the lens barrel, there is no problem with vignetting, since the opening of the lens is so much smaller than the diameter of the barrel.”
      I also wonder how much light is absorbed…

    • Pablo Ricasso

      But this statement from the same site may offer a bit of insight into the nature of the beast…
      “Apertures smaller than f:16 often result in less moiré”
      Possibly a bit of diffraction is what makes the things work.

  • T.I.M

    I think we should just wait few more years, with a 60 to 90MP sensor, the probability of having moiré will be very, very, very little.

    I have great results with my D800 and I don’t worry about having moiré when taking insect pictures.

    • ShaoLynx

      Wow, stop. Stop the press…
      Do you mean to say you got your D800E repaired and all?
      Gee, did I miss the memo? 🙂
      I bet you’re one happy bird now, eh?

      • T.I.M

        I gave up on B&H and bought a D800 directly from Nikon store.
        I was affraid to have moiré on bugs (I do alot macro)

        • If you’re shooting macro, you’re most likely diffraction limited… which is why you don’t see the moire.

          • T.I.M

            I don’t use extreme apertures, you get much more d.o.f by reducing the ration and work on post-production.
            Reason why MP are so important in macro world.

            • So what kind of f-numbers do you use at around 1:1 then?

          • T.I.M

            I rarely do 1:1
            The 105mm f/2.8 AF-s is the sharpest lens I’ve seen (with the 200mm f/2)
            It’s better to get less ration and then crop, reason why the D800 36MP is a gift from God.
            Also the high iso (800-1200) give better natural light by reducing the flash effect (SB-900)
            I also use the 200mm f/2 + TC20E-III for butterflies and medium size insects.

  • John

    One would think that the AA filter in front of the sensor would interact differently with lenses of different focal lengths and optical designs. Lenses that have more telecentric designs (like long teles) might have a very different interaction with the AA filter than a wide angle lens that is not so telecentric which has the angle of the light rays hitting the sensor at a much more oblique angle.

    Perhaps Nikon has figured out that you can have a different (or none at all) AA filter in front of the sensor is some or all of the anti-aliasing is done somewhere else in the optical path instead if immediately in front of the focal/sensor plane.

    Perhaps getting rid of (or reducing) the AA filter on the sensor will enable the anti-aliasing to be customized for each lens and provide a better overall image quality without (or reduced) moire effects.

    One would think that there was something to this if Nikon is going to bring this to market on such expensive glass.

  • Vin

    this lens could be built with removable filter that slides in and out.

  • MB

    Until now OLPF filters were optimized to match the pixel pitch of the sensors.
    This could not be done in the lens because this is specific to the sensor used unless Nikon invented new noninterchangeable lenses class DSLR cameras,
    So the lenses will be optimized for D800E 36Mpix sensor for example and when the next generation of 69Mpix come out you are expected to toss all your lenses and buy a new one.
    Well Nikon is charging 500$ premium for D800E just for replacing one OLPF element with another, why not forcing customers to buy new set of lenses with every new DSLR.

    • Pablo Ricasso

      That’s an interesting point that you and davidpeter bring up. Two speculations… First, I’m guessing that since the filter doesn’t sit on the sensor that it probably works much differently than the one that does and may not need to be matched to the pitch of a particular sensor. Second, if it needs matched and the filter is indeed removable, then you might just need a new filter. I wonder if the filter would be different for each lens…

      • MB

        Actually replaceable drop-in filters make a lot of sense.
        Though they must be optimized for sensor/lens combination …
        Money makes the world go …

      • Calibrator

        > Second, if it needs matched and the filter is indeed removable, then you might just need a new filter. I wonder if the filter would be different for each lens…

        Interesting thought!

        Of course the filter is there to “optimize” the performance, just like the D800E is there to get the last bit of sharpness (in a time where sharpness is the unchallenged king).

        I imagine that there are loads of people willing to pay for such products, just like the demand for the D800E is way higher than Nikon expected.

        In lots of markets such products exist – whether its PC components to overclock your CPU or the car tuning industry – so why not “Pimp Your Nikon”?

      • Michael

        The optical low pass filter are all optimised for the pixel pitch of the sensor to get the best performance. The higher the megapixels, the weaker the low pass filter.

    • “why not forcing customers to buy new set of lenses with every new DSLR.”

      Exaggerate much? No one’s forcing anyone… you’re the one who’s relying on this stuff that you seem to be against so much.

  • Pablo Ricasso

    And being as how the company went well out of it’s way to offer everyone the ability to send in their lenses to be converted to AI, then kept the same mount when auto focus became popular rather than trashing your entire arsenal like Canon and Minolta did, and even made it so the better digital cameras retained the ability to use the early auto and manual focus lenses when gelded AFS lenses became the mainstay, I’d say that a presumption that they would make a flagship lens obsolete is paranoia at best.
    Probably you could use some filter now and when the pixels inevitably increase in a couple years you could use a lesser one or just leave it out.

  • davidpeter

    AA filters’ cutoff frequencies are designed for pixel pitch, they have nothing to do with the lens. It is all sampling and Niquist’s (Shanon’s) theorem. No optics, pure mathematics.

    If you have an AA filter in the lens, designed for a given pixel pitch (cutoff frequency), it is going to be too soft for all cameras which have more dens pixels and produce aliasing with all cameras with wider pixel pitch. It may be still usable, but rather far from optimum. Plus, AA filters are quite expensive, adding it to a lens definitely increases price.

    It may be an interesting stuff for D800 E owners, who got screwed up with aliasing in a given situation, but not for anyone else. If it is interchangeable, it may mean that other “E” series of cameras are comeing, but still, it is going to be an expensive stuff, for they are going to be needed only by a few couple of professionals, and native manufacturing costs are also high.

  • NikoFanBoy

    HI admin… G8 job again in keeping us posted….

    Doing you thing the new 800mm f/5.6 VR will be released with OLPF for optimum performance…?

    • Rob

      Products are usually released awhile after the patents are released, I believe around 2-3 years most of the time. The 800mm will not have this in it if it’s being announced this year.

  • Pablo Ricasso

    David, I got to thinking about this a bunch and I believe the filter would have to be working in a completely different manner than the one mounted on the sensor because at the sensor the light is in perfect focus and halfway through the lens the light is anything but focused. A filter at the sensor would probably have to scatter the light at some fairly steep angles just to function while a filter several inches away would have to allow the photons to maintain almost the same angle. Unless the optical design brings the photons in focus at the filter and then scatters them again, only to be refocused at the sensor, there is no way that a filter halfway through the lens could be optimized for anything. I believe we are talking apples and oranges.

    I’m going to guess that the filter they are thinking about using resembles the lightest neutral density filter you can imagine with the smallest microfibers of some sort embedded in a piece of glass in order to impart an extremely small and very controlled bit of diffraction. But that really IS a guess…

  • NikoFanBoy

    Hi admin…

    Thanks for keeping us posted. G8 working again. Do you think the new 800mm f/5.6 VR will have OLPF to maximize sharpness?

  • R!

    It’ll be great as a remoovable and graduable option !!!!!!

  • Brandon

    The only thing I can think of that this would make sense for is shooting video. With video the effective sensor pixel pitch is pretty much fixed between cameras (1080 x 1920 assuming 1080p), and there are large problems with moire due to line skipping.

    • Pablo Ricasso

      That sort of dovetails with the screw on filter that someone gave a link to earlier. The company stated that the original filter was intended to be used when photographing a cathode ray tube, with all of those lines. I also remember reading somewhere that most of the 300 f2 lenses in existence belonged to the motion picture industry. Of course, I cannot verify either of those statements.

  • BdV

    Come on.. removable? What photographer would like to try to remember if he had just removed or inserted the LPfilter and check for moiré all the time? – Oh, hang on, I left the LPfilter on, would have been nice to get this shot with some more resolution, let me take one more picture over there… no wait, the filter is already removed, but what’s this? Looks like moiré, then I need to install the filter and take that picture again.. maybe I’ll just leave it on the lens forever. Wish my other lenses also had this filter.. or do I actually need a body with filter? Oh, why does my life have to be so complicated? …

    • Calibrator

      Buy Leica.

  • D800E -> D800X

    Here is my idea:
    Let’s take the D800E and remove ALL filters, so one can have the possibility to expose for UV, IR, with or without AA, soft, sharp, Moire or non-Moire.
    Provide these filters outside, between the camera and another generation of the new lenses (from ED to ER).

    If you have noticed, all the UV/IR cameras have disappeared from the market, maybe some are on eBay, wouldn’t this make Nikon unique?

    *** But before doing anythng else, dear NIKON, can you please fix all bugs of the current D800/E?

    I spoke to Nikon repairs today and they said not to be aware of any focusing issues with the D800, so what we heard here and on DPR are all stories to scare us 🙂

    I wish mine won’t come before March 2013 – hopefully by that time most fixes will be in place.

  • It is all new idea to make some additional profit from same product:

    1. Add something to product.
    2. Remove it for additional $300.

    So this business idea was now patented by Nikon sales team.

    (This was a joke!)

    • bob2

      Then add it back again, for another $300.

      Nikon D800E plus lens with AA filter = $600+ = evil marketing genius!

      Actual improvement to photographs = NADA!

  • Andrew Bell

    why blur the image twice?

    What we need is a sensor that doesn’t have a regular geometric pattern ( previously called film), maybe an electronic version will eventually appear.

    In real life I photograph landscape and nature (currently d300) and from my d70 on have not once had one problem with moire, so I’m saving for a 800e, it annoys me that there is a filter that decreases sharpness in my cameras – sounds like a patent just in case someone else patented it first or maybe a lens for video

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