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Do You Use Filters for Protection on Lenses?

StrayCat 17 19.1k 3 Canada
3 Feb 2018 10:24PM
I started using UV filters a couple months ago, to protect the front element. Before that I never used a filter unless it was for a specific photography purpose. I have a Canon 100mm f2.8L macro coming, and I'm wondering; do I need a filter on this lens? It has a huge hood, but if I want to use the flash on-camera, it's definitely going to partially block the flash. What do you folks do? Thanks.
gbores 5 8 United Kingdom
3 Feb 2018 10:41PM
I've been taking photographs since the late 60's and I've never had a situation where a filter would have protected my lens. That said. However, I do have a protector filter on the front of my Tokina 12-28mm lens. That large bulbous front element does look vulnerable.
dlm71 6 224 2 United Kingdom
3 Feb 2018 11:13PM
I don't on my other lenses as I think the hood offers enough protection for my needs but I do have a Nikon NC filter on my Nikon 105mm Micro lens as I sometimes find the hood restricts light in some shooting styles so in that case the NC filter offers that extra level of protection for me.
thewilliam2 4 1.6k United Kingdom
3 Feb 2018 11:34PM
A perennial question.

I've used a UV/Sky filter for protection ever since I bought my first "good" camera something over 50 years ago and I have to replace a couple every year. The front element of the one lens that wouldn't take a filter was somewhat scratched after a couple of years professional use in spite of my care.

It's nice to keep the front element in pristine condition!

BobbieBoy 15 47 United Kingdom
3 Feb 2018 11:34PM
i always use a UV filter on all my lenses but at the best quality i can afford with multi-coating. Better to replace these and finger prints and water/rain is easier to remove in the field. i can say that they have never degraded the image quality if kept clean.
StrayCat 17 19.1k 3 Canada
3 Feb 2018 11:47PM
I agree with each of you, and I imagine even a tiny scratch would cost a lot in resale value.
Euan65 4 316 United Kingdom
4 Feb 2018 12:08AM
I don't.

It actually takes quite a lot of damage to the front element of a lens to make a noticeable difference to a photograph. A few minor scratches here and there will dent the resale value because people expect perfection and don't know how little effect such things have. There's a video somewhere on YouTube where someone takes an old lens and progressively damages the front to see just how much you've got to do before it noticeably affects the image - he's basically stabbing the thing with the sharp end of a screwdriver before you can see an effect.

Opinions vary on this and the debate can take on the character of a religious schism. Some say protective filters are made for suckers with more money than sense, others say they are indispensable. There's no definitive answer one way or the other.

What you can say is that ANYTHING you put in front of a lens will degrade the image, and that includes protective filters. Whether this degradation is noticeable other than through detailed mathematical analysis is another question, but logic suggests that if sticking a sheet of glass between your lens and the subject doesn't make any difference then a little scratch here or there isn't going to make much difference either. You pays your money and you takes your choice.
StrayCat 17 19.1k 3 Canada
4 Feb 2018 6:35AM

Quote:What you can say is that ANYTHING you put in front of a lens will degrade the image, and that includes protective filters.

That is how I have always felt about it, and I always keep a hood on my lenses. However, as I explained above, with a close working distance with a macro lens, the hood can get in the way, and working close is when damage can more easily occur. Also, one lens has no damage, the other has a small scratch on the outer element; I think I know which one most would but, including myself.Smile

Also, should I get clear glass, or UV? UV can make a big difference at high altitude, where I do much of my photography; our house is at 4000 feet asl, and we go to 8000 feet, so it might help there.

Thanks for your input.

gbores 5 8 United Kingdom
4 Feb 2018 8:01AM
I always understood that digital sensors were not sensitive to UV light.
Philh04 Plus
16 2.3k United Kingdom
4 Feb 2018 8:26AM
UV filters are next to pointless on digital....

If you want to add a clear protection filter that it your choice, but purchase the best you can (i.e. pay a lot). Bare in mind you are adding two more reflective surfaces to your lens which probably won't have the same quality coating. By not using the hood and using a filter you are increasing the chances of flare having an effect...

Only time I would consider such a filter is if there is a serious dust or splash risk such as down on the beach, and even then the greater risk is sea water splashing.

As you can guess I am in the no filter camp... Keep the hood on... Oh and use off camera flash for close up.
saltireblue Plus
11 12.2k 76 Norway
4 Feb 2018 9:18AM
Not UV, but I do have a clear protection filter on the front of a couple of my lenses
LenShepherd 13 4.4k United Kingdom
4 Feb 2018 9:41AM
You do not need protection filters.
They provide a lot less protection than a lens hood, being flat glass break much easier than curved lens elements, being flat at the back increase the chance of highlights from the sensor being reflected back to cause a double image and generally cost more than insurance for damage to the whole lens.
It is about 20 years since Canon started advising UV are best used only with "old style" very UV sensitive B&W films, and that if you want front of lens protection buy a clear filter.
Nikon tell you you can use a lens hood instead Grin
Most modern B&W films and all colour films have not been sensitive to UV this century.
Digital sensors are UV protected anyway.
UV often result in a slight colour cast and can prevent some purple/mauve shades being accurately recorded.
You have no doubt heard of internet scams. Selling UV more than 20 years after they served any useful photographic purpose is IMO a photo industry scam.
That said you you are going to photograph sticky pollen in early summer it is difficult to remove quickly meaning 2 or 3 clear filters for quick changing can have a genuine use.
Nikon has not made UV filters for over 15 years. Combined with Canon's advice not to generally use UV this should strongly indicate buying UV is nearly always a mistake.
Insurance for damage to your lens including theft and dropping and breaking it usually costs less than 15 for 1,000 cover.
A good filter usually costs much more, part because the dealer profit margin on a lens is often around 10% and the profit mark up on a filter is usually several hundred percent.
thewilliam2 4 1.6k United Kingdom
4 Feb 2018 9:56AM
I'd suggest that one more piece of glass in the optical path won't adversely affect image quality, provided that glass is of good quality.

A traditional high-end standard lens has 6 elements, whereas the current generation of ultra-performance primes have twice that number, or even more. Some zooms have 20 or more elements.

A cheap, nasty filter will knock the edge off the definition but the average punter probably wouldn't notice, but will cause flare when the camera is pointed anywhere near the sun. There are times when I remove a high-end filter to minimise flare.
Minty805 Plus
5 43 9 United Kingdom
4 Feb 2018 10:16AM
I went through this decision-making process when I bought a couple of decent lenses. What made my mind up was seeing a professional snapper with what looked like a smashed front element on a very expensive pro grade Nikon lens after knocking it against something in the heat of the moment.

Turned out she had a clear filter on the front, which saved the lens.

Although I'm careful with my gear, I decided to buy decent quality clear filters, just for peace of mind really, especially as I live near the sea, with salt in the air.
Dave_Canon 15 2.0k United Kingdom
4 Feb 2018 10:21AM
I almost never use any lens filters as there is no need. Lens filters can deteriorate image quality significantly. Some situations are worse than others. So a single plain glass multi-coated filter in a situation when there is no strong light course in front of the lens, it will probably make little difference. If there is a strong light source in front of the lens there will be noticeable quality reduction due to flare (loss of contrast and detail). Probably the worst case is more than one filter and no lens hood with a strong light in front of the camera. There is an easy way to test this. Raw file sizes vary according to the detail in the image. Try taking a shot of different situations with a combination of filters, lens hood and light direction and you will be surprised at the difference in Raw file size for the same scene. You can visibly see the difference when you compare the images.

I gave a talk at my club on this topic recently. Several did not use filters anyway but some now plan to be more selective. One member had never used a lens hood and will always now do so.


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