This question is about lenses to "big" DSLRs, not system or compact cameras with interchangeable lens.

Are all lenses made of glass in DSLR? And if not, is there a notable difference between:

  • kit lens and non-kit lens?
  • lens from camera manufacturer, like Nikkor or Canon, vs. lens from other manufacturers, like Tamron, Tokina or Sigma?

I was searching on Internet for some sources, but mostly I find forum topics, with speculations or information without source.

Can you please point me to some reliable source, that would say if lens "glass" is really a glass, and which is made of plastic?


3 Answers 3


No, they're not. That doesn't mean that cheap plastics are used; in fact, the non-glass elements are usually considerably more expensive (and more difficult to produce) than the optical glass elements.

Optical glasses are made in a number of different formulations (such as crown glass and flint glass) that have different optical properties, including different indices of refraction (which has the effect of bending light more or less with the same shape of lens) and different dispersion characteristics (the amount that the light spectrum is spread out). No single lens is perfect, so multiple elements of different shapes and optical characteristics are used to correct one another.

The corrective elements are often made of exotic non-glass crystals, like fluorite. Less often, aspherical molded elements are cast from an optical resin (plastic, if you prefer) bonded onto a more conventional glass element. (These days, the cast aspherical elements are more likely to be glass, not so much because resin is a bad thing, but because of the consumer acceptance factor. The main problem with resin lenses is that they are easily scratched or pitted, which is not really a problem when the element is buried deep within the lens body.) These non-glass elements are usually found in better, more expensive (and longer) lenses, usually to reduce chromatic aberration and approach true apochromaticity.


Addendum: There are also specialty lenses, eg lenses for full-spectrum or UV-B/UV-C photography, that will fit a DSLR - eg the UV-Nikkor series. Nothing you can do to run of the mill crown and flint glass will make it perform satisfactorily at UV-C, so various materials like quartz, flourite, or maybe very special glasses that have nothing to do with normal optical glasses are used.

PS, slightly OT but interesting in that context: Far-Infrared (thermal imager, missile seeker...) lenses are made from materials that are different enough from optical glass that they are black to visible light. These don't go on DSLRs, though.


Stan already reply about the fluorite elements.

However you may also find some brand devloping specialities including some plastic elements. See for example lensbaby


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