Clear or UV Filters – Essential or a Waste of Money?


In this video from Phil Steele he discusses the debate over whether or not you should use clear or UV filters on your lenses. It’s a highly heated topic, and Phil makes some very good points. See what he has to say, and then tell us your opinion.

What are your thoughts?

Please fill in this quick poll and tell us if you use UV filters on your lenses or not. Add your comments in the discussion area below – we want to hear from you.

Do you use a clear or UV filter on all your lenses?

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If you want to learn more from Phil check out some of his video courses covering topics like event photography, Lightroom, headshots, and more on Steele

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Darlene Hildebrandt is the Managing Editor of dPS. She is also an educator who teaches aspiring amateurs and hobbyists how to improve their skills through articles, online photography classes, and travel tours. Get her free ebook 10 Photography Challenges to help you take better pictures or join a photo tour to some exotic places.

  • I have filters on all my lenses except bulbous ones. Mostly for peace of mind since I never have to worry. My images remain very sharp.

  • Pete Mueller

    An off-topic but serious question for Phil, if he’s following this… was the camera pictured (used at Burning Man) ever the same afterwards? Did it have to be serviced by Canon? This actually a serious question… I find myself sometimes overly cautious with my investment and wonder if I’m holding myself back from getting “the” shot… but I really don’t have the money to take excessive risks either, as is probably true for many or most of us readers.

  • Ron Newberry

    A UV filter saved my 18-135 when my camera detached from my shoulder strap. Worth every penny and have not noticed any impact on picture quality.

  • Hi Pete, I can’t answer for Phil but I can tell you I’ve taken my camera to the Sahara desert in Morocco under similar conditions. I’ve also dragged it to the beach in Nicaragua several times, it’s also seen the high humidity there as well (95%). I have a Fuji X-T1 which is “weather resistant” as is the lens. I’ve had it for almost 3 years and just now sent it in for an overall cleaning.

    My advice – if you feel you can’t take your gear where you want to go, either get more rugged gear or a protective housing for it – but don’t limit yourself to not going. The ONLY thing I’m hesitant to take my camera into without external protection is the Holi festival in India where they throw dried paint pigment at you and it’s such a fine powder it can ruin electronics. For that one I’m considering an Olympus Tough camera or underwater housing for my Fuji. But I still wanna go – and to Burning Man too!

  • Steve

    I was on a beach taking photos two weeks ago when I slipped and fell. My best lens hit a rock. The clear filter I had on the the lens was bent and stuck to the lens. I had to have a camera repair shop remove the filter, which was destroyed. The lens survived without a scratch. The filters are worth it.

  • Bill Pittman

    Now that cameras shoot panoramas, do you need a extremely wide lens

  • VELS14

    Darlene is dead-on Pete. My gear has been to the Sahara, Negev and the Mohave, to name a few. I’ve been to Antarctica, and Svalbard. I’ve been to rain-forests of South and Central America. I’ve been up on the Alps, Andes and Rockies. I’ve been to the Dead Sea and Death Valley. I named them to point out that I’ve hit all kinds of wet and dry conditions, high humidity and no humidity. I’ve hit temperature extremes too. I’ve found with reasonable care and some forethought there really aren’t places that we can’t take our gear and make great images.

    What’s reasonable care? If I’m in the desert or wear blowing winds can shoot debris at my camera and lenses I’m going to cover my lens with a clear filter and I’ll use a great rain cover to cover my camera/lens. I’ll use it in rain too, of course. In extreme cold weather I use an insulated camera case. In extreme heat I keep my camera from direct sunlight, if possible, or put over it a very lightweight white cover. During white water rafting I use an underwater housing.

    You just need to use reasonable care and plan ahead.

  • Albin

    This “debate” has been going on since the advent of digital, and I simply can’t understand why it seems to remain at the level of “opinions” and “arguments” about IQ in these high tech and high resolution pixel-peeping days – a battery of objective tests ought to prove one way or another if and exactly how and how much output is impacted. Photographers harumphing about it instead of proving it seems ridiculous.

    Personally, I usually have a CPL on and remove it in low light or when shooting indoors, i.e. the default is its combination of lens protection and ability to manage sky and water surfaces.

  • Vicki

    As an amateur photographer who knew absolutely zilch when I took up photography 7 years ago as a hobby, I had read about filters protecting your lenses online. Thank goodness I bought a (UV) one for my first lens. A few months into my hobby I was trying my macro lens out on my new tripod in my kitchen and didn’t put the DSLR on the tripod properly.

    The DSLR fell onto the floor and the $29.95 UV filter shattered and the metal ring burst.

    My new(ish) Canon EOS 500D Aus$817 camera and the 100mm f2.8 macro lens $768 didn’t have a mark on them. A miracle. All that broke was the $29.95 UV filter.

    Was I so glad I’d spent that extra $29.95!

    (and I have bought filters for each new lens bought since that first purchase 7 years ago).

  • pete guaron

    I’m fine with the quality of the glass I shoot with – I do use filters (if nothing else, clear glass protectives) – I accept the minor loss of image quality that causes, because the lenses are so good I defy anyone to see the difference the filters cause. Bottom line is that I might care more about that alleged “loss of image quality” if I was shooting with a medium format camera – my FF has 36MP, which is reaching for the clouds on that score, but it’s the limitation of the pixels that cuts off image quality first – NOT the glass. I’ve pushed that one to the limit with a Sigma ART 50mm prime and an Otus 55mm prime, and seriously, you’d need to fix your eyeballs up first, if you thought the filter was the weakest link.

  • Matthew Skinner

    On 2 occasions on the one trip using a UV filter for protection saved me from serious damage to the front glass of 2 lenses. Using a filter for lens protection is a no-brainer for me.

  • miker33

    Would have liked to see the issue of the relative protection of lens hoods vs filters addressed. I notice there are no lens hoods visible in the video.

  • KC

    Yes, because you can’t shoot through a lens cap. A filter and a lens cap is a bit much. All kidding aside, there are high quality, multicoated, and shatter resistant, “clears” out there.

    I never thought of a lens hood as protection, except from flare, maybe. Newer lenses and cameras handle flare well.

  • KC

    I’ll admit I’m overprotective with my digital gear. I wasn’t as much with my “mechanical” film cameras. I could send them in for a CLA. The only circuit boards were, at most, for the on/off switch, meter, and maybe the shutter button.

    I’ve had “rugged” digitals over the years. There were way too many compromises in IQ.

  • Carl Chick

    Unless shooting outside in the elements I prefer to keep as little as possible between my lens and my subject.

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  • Dave Z

    I put protective UV filters on all lenses because I’m basically an idiot playing with expensive equipment.

  • Jon Frost

    You’re not alone! Me too.

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