Generic Lens Caps

Concept: 2 out of 5
Execution: 3 out of 5
Yeah, but: Name-brand pharmaceuticals are next.

The Long Version: After my Zeiss C-Sonnar review I promised Bill that I'd try to avoid inspirational photography products for a while. Reviewing lens caps seems to fit the requirement, since they're one of those little usability design things that can either go unnoticed or be an ongoing irritation. Universal generic caps manage to land somewhere in between at a reasonable price.

I prefer centre-pinch lens caps with any lens that wears a hood, and given how cold the Canadian winter can get, that's just about all of them. Nikon caps are great, as are the contemporary Olympus ones, but Zeiss has been kind enough to prove that even the centre-pinch can be done really badly. The only lens caps demonstrably worse than them were recalled by the manufacturer. A generic edge-pinch ens cap snapped onto the front of a metal Zeiss ZM's lens hood is a huge improvement over the original design.

Older Olympus E-System and current Canon lens caps are good examples of bad edge-pinch designs, with the hard-to-find press points set to match the cap's circumference. This makes them slow to remove when the lens doesn't have a hood on it, and almost impossible to remove when the lens is properly dressed. These generic caps aren't any better when there's a hood involved, but otherwise they're easier to release and typically hold on tighter as well.

The usual reason for buying a generic lens cap is because the original was lost and the branded ones are just too expensive. But for any lens that I have that doesn't habitually wear a hood I find the cheaper generic options really can be a better choice, and will use them even when the originals are still accounted for.

Finally, a note on lens cap prices. The production and handling costs for a lens cap is about a dollar for generic caps, with a small additional licensing fee for branded ones. But only another dollar of the price actually goes to the camera stores. Think about it: if it wasn't for this low margin the stores would be trying to bundle in extra caps just like they do with UV filters. The shocking truth is that rest of the price is actually a hidden tax that's used to fund community college photo courses and hipster-outreach programmes. The Photography Competence Accessibility Program revenue funds the heroic effort to reduce the number of cameras wrapped in plastic bags at the bottoms of backpacks, and for that I applaud it.

Buying a dozen generic caps from A Popular Online Auction Site for $10 is only possible because of unethical sellers skirting this tax, which only serves their self-serving perpetuation of lens-cap-losing photographers. I urge all three of my readers to fight back against these cynical cut-rate opportunists by patronizing merchants who collect the PhotoCAP fees. We need to think of the children now more than ever.

last updated 2 dec 2011


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