The Lens Shade That Saved My Camera (and My Face)

There are two schools of thought on protecting the front lens surface on your camera:

One is that you buy an optically clear UV or Skylight filter, which screws into the front of your lens. The theory is that this extra piece of glass will absorb any “direct hits” from a foreign object, and should the force be strong enough, any chip, scratch or break will damage the filter rather than the front element of the lens. This clear filter may also be used to protect the front of the lens against moisture and/or blowing sand on the beach. The argument against using these filters is that many photographers have a problem putting a $10 – $50 piece of glass in front of their $2,000 lens.

The second approach, which I have used during my entire career, is to buy a quality metal lens shade in lieu of a clear filter. Finding a good metal lens shade might require you to buy a third party option for your brand of camera. Others manufacturers, like Leica, sell their own metal lens shades. The majority of these metal shades will be more expensive than the typical UV or Skylight filter. Some photographers use both a filter and a protective lens shade.

A few weeks ago I was conducting one of my KEH sponsored Silo City photography workshops in Buffalo, NY. Silo City, located along the Buffalo River, is a six-acre complex of over six-million square feet of abandoned grain elevators and flour mills.

© 2017 Mark Maio

I was leading a group of attendees to the top of a 250-foot grain elevator that we had never previously accessed. While most of the buildings within the complex have had most of the equipment removed, this particular elevator has only been out of use for about two months, so all the machinery is still in place.

©  2017 Mark Maio

Walking ahead of the group along the dim top floor, I didn’t notice a two-foot long piece of metal protruding from one of the conveyor belt assemblies and projecting a few inches off the floor. Later I would learn that there were nineteen of these pieces of metal equally spaced along the conveyor belt, all are painted yellow except for the last one, which I tripped over.

The attendee directly behind me described my trip and fall as the longest he had ever witnessed. Once I began falling forward, my first reaction was to try to stay upright. I tried moving forward to catch my balance, almost in slow motion as if watching myself fall. When I instantaneously concluded that gravity and forward motion were going to win, my next thought was to protect my Leica M9-P grasped in my right hand.

I did a great job of falling on my right side, however, as my hand hit the concrete floor the camera lens shade hit first and bent, luckily absorbing the impact before popping off my camera. Then the Leica left my grasp and slowly slid along its base before stopping a few feet away. While there were a few scratches on the camera body, afterward the camera worked perfectly. I, on the other hand, wasn’t quite as lucky.

My entire body slammed onto the concrete floor and while I was probably yelling something we can’t print here and my front teeth hit the floor. I felt the lower portion of my right front tooth break off. My right elbow took the entire force of the fall, resulting in a gash that required five stitches to close. I felt extremely fortunate that my injuries weren’t more severe – other than my bruised pride.

This was the first time I had fallen like this with a camera. As I walked away, slowly, I thought thankfully to myself that all those years of using the Leica metal lens shades had paid off.

Here at KEH we have a wide variety of quality used lens shades to choose from.

Consider buying one.





  1. Ouch. Glad your injuries (and your camera’s) weren’t more serious.

  2. Very helpful. Keeps me engaged with KEH, thank you.

  3. Funny how I recently had a comment posted on the Leica Forum about this very issue! I was simply responding to a gentleman asking for the “1000th time” if he should put an “expensive’ UV filter on his brand-new Leica Q to protect the lens. All answered yes! I said, just like you, that I have never used a UV filter but always a metal lens shade. Like you, it served me well!

  4. Ouch. It’s good you weren’t hurt worse than that! And a good thing you had the hood on the lens. Maybe you should deem that a lucky lens hood, bend it back into a serviceable shape, and keep using it.

    Once I slipped on a flat rock slick with spray from a waterfall. Somehow I twisted myself to land on my side, extending my other arm and hand into the air, keeping my Fujica ST801 and 28mm Fujinon EBC safe from harm. I was 44 years younger then, and I’m not very confident I could repeat that reaction today.

    Filters. . . . A. Doren, my photography teacher in college, once told a story of how he or a friend was working with a Hasselblad photographing a welder atop a crane or skyscraper. He was working close enough to the welder that when something hot came flying toward him, the lens caught it–physically, as on the front element. That expensive glass saved his face, but the lens was toast. After that day, he made sure he had a high quality clear filter on each of his lenses.

  5. You might want to have both on your main “walking around” lens, with a rubber lens hood a good idea. (you’ll injure others and yourself less…) I keep a lens protection /UV “Haze-1” filter on ALL my lenses, except a Nikkor 55mm ƒ 3.5, whose front element is way back in the lens housing… I tend to use Tiffens, although the occasional Hoya has been needed when Tiffen didn’t make the filter size…

  6. Hope everything is ok now. I feel a little sore just from your description. I have had some close calls similar to yours but fortunately only bruised myself and managed to use my body to protect my camera. Except the time a piece of bank gave way and I slid into a roaring river in south eastern Idaho. I don’t think a lens shade or a UV filter would have helped.

  7. Glad You and the camera survived the fall as well as you did. How right You are about how hoods and filters take the brunt of it for our lenses! As working professional photographers, we accept the fact that someday we’re going to drop something. Those little add ons have saved the day (and my shoot) more than once.

  8. Clint Eastwood once said in a movie, “Life’s just full of little surprises.” I guess I’d better buy one or two of these lens shades!

  9. I’m sorry, I almost had to stop reading when I read “front teeth hit the floor”.

  10. Hey all,

    I was in Africa and carrying a D800E w 200-400mm Nikkor and D800 with a 28-300mm Nikkor. Never changed lenses for 15 days of Safari (good idea in volcanic dust area that froze rotation of a 77mm polarizer). We only left vehicles occasionally (I would not do photography that way again – I am a Certified Wildlife Biologist PhD); however, at one off vehicle stop I was doing a group picture in delayed shutter and my haste I slammed the 28-300mm into a large rock. The plastic Nikon shade shattered, but my filter and camera were fine. Small price to pay for what could have been the end of a very expensive lens.


    J. Michael Meyers Photography

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