Readers: Lens Filters: To Use or Not To Use? Your 2 cents, if you please!

Readers: Lens Filters: To Use or Not To Use? Your 2 cents, if you please!


Image Source: John Salvador

Lens Filters: general information

For those of you who are newer to the wild, wild world of photography, there are many different kinds of lens filters, and thus they are used for varied reasons. The two most commonly used filters would be 1) Polarizing filters which are used to reduce glare and improve overall image saturation and 2) UV filters which essentially exist to provide extra protection (from scratches, cracks etc) to the front of your lens. These filters run anywhere from a few dollars (for a piece of shizizzle) all the way up to the $900 range (I’ve heard rumors that this variety is plated in gold. . . though I’ve never seen one with my own eyes, so I can’t definitively say).

My Thoughts: other photogs disagree

Earlier this afternoon, I was photographing another photographer’s maternity images (and to answer your question, yes, it’s always nerve wracking to photograph a peer— and it never, ever seems to become less so). I asked her to bring her 35mm lens (Canon L Series 1.4) for me to mess around with some at the shoot (I shoot primarily with the 24mm 1.4 and the 50mm 1.2, just FYI). When I pulled off the lens cap, I noticed the UV filter screwed to the front of the lens. Without thinking, I asked if I could take it off. She seemed really surprised by the request, and frankly, I was equally as surprised by her level of surprise!

“It protects the lens” she said.

“Yes, but you spent $1,200 on this pro grade glass, and you’re covering it up with a piece of garbage that cost you under $75. That makes exactly (less than) zero sense to me.”

She got it. But she also brought up the point that it was the very fact that she spent $1,200 on the lens that made her feel that it necessitated being protected by a filter.

This thinking makes me scratch my head.

My logic: if you’re investing that much money into image quality, which is in my mind the ONLY reason I can think of for you to spend so much on a pro grade lens in the first place, why in the name of Zeus and Achilles (respectively) would you turn right around and diminish that image quality by shooting through a $75 piece of crap (pardon my French). In my mind, it’s no different than saving all your pretty pennies to visit Florence, and then spending your entire visit in the hotel room on the off chance that you might fall down and break your leg. Sure, you’re still in Florence, but you may as well be in Salt Lake City. . .  with more pasta available through room service. If I’m going to carb load, it’s going to be at a vineyard. In  Tuscany. Thank you very much. Makes no sense to me.

Image Source: Bearden

Granted, this could happen to you. It’s a very real risk I’m taking going “filterless.” If this were in fact to happen to you, you’d be high fivin’ yourself until the day you died for ignoring my logic and sticking with the freaking filter (for crying out loud), and if this did in fact happen to you and you had taken my advice and opted out of the filter, I’m afraid you’ll be using my name in vein all the way to the lens mortuary.

So the question is, how BIG is the difference in quality when you shoot with a filter compared to without? In you’re opinion, is it worth the inherent risks of opting out of the filter and just taking your chances?

Your two cents in the comments below, if you please. Curious minds want to know! Mine most of all!

Happy shooting!


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Natalie Norton is a writer and a lifestyle wedding and portrait photographer who shoots across the globe. She is based off of the North Shore of Oahu and out of Gilbert, Arizona. Enjoy more of her photography and writing at You can also connect with Natalie via Twitter or on Facebook.

Some Older Comments

  • Jeanne May 15, 2013 04:53 am

    Has anyone even mentioned the fact that every time you clean your lens to remove smudges, fingerprints or lint you are removing some of that special coating your precious lens has on it? Why would anyone want to risk those coatings by not protecting them? Anyone can be super careful but even a hood will let in debris, and there will come a day where you'll touch that lens with your grubby little fingers, or maybe young grubby little fingers might get ahold of it when you're not looking.

    No matter what s said, it all boils down to personal preference, and we all learn from our own mistakes. Some of them are more expensive than others.

  • James R May 9, 2013 01:11 am

    Recent experience has changed my mind on this debate. On a recent hiking trip my strap came undone and the camera crashed onto a rock lens first. I had a UV filter on it which of course smashed. The glass shards chipped the lens itself (so much for protecting it) and even worse, it bent the filter ring which damaged the lens ring threads. Sadly I didn't have the hood on (lesson learned). Had it repaired and the ring repair was far far pricier then the lens itself. Going forward, I'll keep a filter in the bag for conditions that it may help in, but will rock naked with a hood at all times! And I purchased a much better stap.

  • Leif Nilsson April 25, 2013 08:02 pm

    U are missing a point. First, I dont use garbage filters, they are at least double price of 75 bucks. however the point is, I use a very good glass, there is no way u can see any degree of loss in image quality. So, that leaves us with equal image quality and a protection. Lens filters have saved two lenses for me, without loss of quality, so then what is the problem?

  • Eamon O'Brian March 23, 2013 12:58 pm

    I used to keep the filter on my camera when it wasn't in use, then take it off for capturing photos. Then one day while swapping lenses, I dropped one and the filter saved it. I understand why people wouldn't want to use them, but after an experience like that... Well.

  • Nick L October 4, 2012 04:10 pm

    Great article and some good input from everyone else. I was looking into getting some Lee Filters for Wedding Photography but I think I'll go without. If I get into Landscape Ill use them but I'll stick with my quality Nikon lenses for now.

  • Alex May 26, 2012 03:57 pm

    A little disturbing seeing such flawed logic accompanied by such foul language. Logic is completely flawed as James has already mentioned here - $100 filter is a single piece of glass, multicoated and created from the same sort of glass that lenses are being made of (I'm not talking about cheap $20 filters here). Lens has a lot more components and glass elements, so a good filter is way more expensive than a single glass element in the lens.

    So, get you facts and logic straight before posting. And refrain from using strong language when your logic is flawed and cannot even support your claim.

    In addition it would seem that by your logic you never use polarizers, ND, GND or other filters. If so then your claim has even less value. And if you do use these filters, then I'm sorry, but your original point is moot.

  • Terry Tayter April 11, 2012 05:06 am

    Hi from Kelowna, BC
    A filter for protection of my lenses may give me a false sense of security, but that security allows me to traipse around photo sites in the great outdoors with cameras ready to shoot once taken from my Cotton Carrier. Dust and grit found in such places as Tombstone AZ could easily scratch a lens and I purport scratching a filter is a lot easier to swallow financially than replacing the glass at the front end of the lens. Indoor photography may be different than outdoor photo shoots which are fraught with challenges from Mother Nature. I will keep my filters in place and move more easily around as I shoot the great outdoors.
    tayter in Kelowna

  • Vic April 7, 2012 10:09 pm

    My Nikon's lenses (good glass or not) all carry filters of some sort, not only to achieved the desired purpose, but for protection. Good gear is expensive, and on an amateur budget, cost looms large.

  • Storm Halvorsen March 31, 2012 10:04 pm

    Well, since this article made me insecure I tried it. Filter off and on on my Fujifilm X-Pro1, which isn't an FX camera but still one with outstanding mage quality.

    When I zoom and zoom into the shots I think I am maybe able to see the difference, in favor of the filterless lens. But it isn't strong enough a differnce so that I can be sure that it isn't just my imagination.

    It's a medium priced old filter btw. I will do some more test I think under varying condotions.

  • Tracy March 31, 2012 05:07 am

    I have UV filters on my lenses at virtually all times, and the reason is simple; I did a comparison test, with filter and without, and I when I mixed up the order of the resulting images so I didn't know which was which, I couldn't tell the slightest difference in quality.
    The only time I take them off is when shooting into the sun, which can create some nasty flares on any filter (or lens for that matter).
    Granted, I am using high-quality multi-coated filters, so maybe the cheaper ones would have a negative impact, but for me it's a win-win - protection without losing image quality, and who wouldn't like that?

  • Hal March 30, 2012 03:33 am

    After looking at some customer photo comparisons on amazon for some filters, I can see minimal degradation in IQ on most high quality filters. And I agree with some commenters saying that the $75 filter on $1200 lens logic is just faulty because the author implies that perhaps a $1200 filter is good enough to put on. If she's trying to make a case of not using a filter, then focus on the main point, which is the IQ degradation. Leave the dollar amounts off, and perhaps show us some comparison pictures. And none of that light straight into the lens shots, because honestly how many normal shots are like that, unless you are specifically trying to go for that effect.

  • Iwan van der Schoor March 29, 2012 03:54 am

    My take on filters: if there is a high chance of my glass getting banged up by something (gravel / dirt / etc) then I put a filter on, but for a family photo shoot, I don't see how my lens is going to get damaged, unless I drop the camera.. and I'll take that "risk"

    So.. no filters for me.. unless I know something is going to hit the lens (something hard.. a bit of water or whatever I don't mind)

  • Zack Jones March 29, 2012 12:10 am

    Only filter I ever use is the Singh-Ray Variable ND filter when shooting waterfalls. Other than that no filter goes in front of the lens. I do always use lenhoods though so that offers some protection.

  • Natalie Norton March 28, 2012 07:30 pm

    Great insight everyone! Thanks!

  • Chris March 28, 2012 06:38 pm

    I'm with you on the UV 'protection'. Having spent loads of cash to get the best possible available glass I'm not then going to add two more glass/air surfaces of questionable quality. As far as I'm concerned, I pay a lot of money for insurance and if the front element gets scratched (and it hasn't in over 40 years), then that's what insurance is for. I once dropped a lens which left the glass unscathed but stuffed the various barrels and alignments. No UV would have changed that!
    As for filter effects, a Polariser cannot be dealt with in PP. Neither can the effects of a ND Grad because if the sky blows, it blows and you won't get it back with software. The downside with both of these are, as stated before they add Glass/Air (or Acrylic Resin/Air) surfaces to the mix. But until they improve the Dynamic Range of digital sensors, we're pretty much stuck with ND Grads.

  • Andy March 28, 2012 11:52 am

    I have the cheap lens that came with my T3i, and will be using a UV filter with it. Then again, its purpose in life is to photograph skydiving. Tiny water drops and anything encountered in freefall have this great ability to remove lens coatings.

  • alex March 28, 2012 11:30 am

    absolutely i use a protection filter. ONLY for protection. yes, it reduces the image... but how reduced will it be when it's scratched and distorted and smashed? i'll take the softening effect (though menial) to a messed up lens.

  • Jean-Marc March 27, 2012 09:54 pm

    I shoot motor cycle enduro as well as portrait sessions. I put the filters ON for the enduro and OFF for the portraits. Trust me when I say that the filters have saved my lenses countless times out on the enduro track, and I have never needed them at a portrait session. Except for my CPL which has helped in the harsh african sun for clients that wanted a noonish type outdoor shoot.

  • Anotherphotographynoob March 27, 2012 08:08 am

    I don't notice much difference, but I also haven't bought any super expensive glass or body yet, just my good D3000 and prime 35mm ... and I protect it with a Hoya UV cause I often go to windy beaches and have already scratched filters with sand

  • rob March 27, 2012 07:02 am

    No question in my mind, I ALWAYS have a UV filter at the end of any lens I use. Several years ago I accidently let my camera swing & it hit a bedpost, CRACK !!! Thank goodness I had the filter on it. Filter cracked (loss of $30) lens ($300) perfect. Accidents do happen. Besides if you look at the cost of a lens filter it is comparable to the cost of a good lens. There is much more built into the lens thus the higher cost. I also keep a Polarizing filter on my lens too.

  • Ryan March 27, 2012 05:58 am

    With digital I only use UV filters on-lens for protection but I use professional grade Heliopan or B&W on my L lenses... only makes sense. Occasionally I will use a circular polarizer when shooting difficult subjects to reduce glare - but always top quality filters.

  • Alistair Barclay March 26, 2012 11:58 pm

    another trick for stuck filter removal if you don't want to buy a filter "spanner" is to take a cable tie ,sometimes called zip lock strap and cut out the little tab that the teeth lock on, you can then put the strap around the filter and cinch it tight and use the strap tail to get that bit of leverage required to get a stuck filter loosened.
    this works very well and has the advantage of one size fits all and unlike the plastic filter grippers does not get broken in you bag.

  • Kevin E. Hildebrand March 26, 2012 12:24 pm


    You may try a simple fix for your stubborn filter that is both cheap and easy. Use a rubber band. Simply place the rubber band around the filter ring and this will give you some extra grip. Be sure to hold the lens and not the camera body while twisting off the filter. If this does not do the trick you may call a local camera shop and ask if they have a filter wrench. I have used the rubber band method in the past successfully. To ensure that this does not happen in the future you may screw the filter on snugly then loosen it very slightly. I hope that this helps. As to the issue of filters; yes, I use UV filters on my lenses. I may replace them with high quality clear filters in the future. I have found no issues of quality using UV filters. I use circular polarizers as needed and will soon purchase some ND filters for long exposure work. I use Canon L series lenses exclusively and my filter brand of choice is B+W.

  • fhayes March 26, 2012 07:18 am

    I use a UV filter like a raincoat on standby lenses, in case the cap should pop off. I always have a circular polarizer on the lens I am working with. $75.00 isn't 'cheap glass'! One thing that all glass does is it scratches easily, I'd rather have a lens filter take the scratch than a $1200.00 lens, of course I can have the lens replaced, but I don't want it sitting somewhere else when I can be using it.

  • Steve March 26, 2012 07:13 am

    As someome else mentioned, you should go and take a long hard look at

    Can all those people who just blindly repeat the "filter degrades IQ" mantra actually point us to images, taken under controlled conditions, that show the difference. In the real world.

    I've got an HMC on one of my lenses and an HMC Pro on the other. And I can't see any evidence of any fall-off. Either on the test report or in the real world.

    My kit gets worked hard. Often in less than ideal environments. Both lenses are fitted with hoods which are always used. Hoods might help to protect from some impact damage, but they are no use against spray or mud or anything else airborne.

    Both lenses have been dropped, And one had a head-on impact with a very large rock. The hood fell off (so much for impact protection) and the UV filter shattered. I was 2,000 miles from home, up a mountain and several hundred miles from anywhere that I might get a replacement lens. I carefully cleared all the fragments away and kept on shooting. Which, if the front element had taken the same damage I wouldn't have been able to do.

    In the theoretcial world of pixel peeping no filter might be better. In the real world of actually taking photos I'll always choose the maximum protection I can get.

  • Markus Waltl March 25, 2012 10:27 pm

    I use ND-filters and UV-FIlters.

    Here is a Picture i made last weekend:

    Thats what FIlters are good for:)

  • Mike March 25, 2012 06:31 pm

    I usually find that the people who are so concerned with IQ that they claim they see "image degradation" from a filter end up viewing/editing photos on a crappy monitor with horrible color reproduction. Yes, you mac users are included. How many from the no-filter club have put the same amount of money into their monitors as they do in their lenses?
    Very few people could look at any photo and declare what camera it came from, what lens was used and most certainly not if there was a UV filter on the lens.

  • JPL March 25, 2012 03:54 pm

    Undeniably, Cheap filters can affect IQ performance! An expensive glass deserves a premium grade filter. If you can afford to buy an expensive lens, then you should also have the means to buy a premium grade filter.

  • Russ March 25, 2012 03:53 pm

    I agree why cover up good glass with filters when not need for special effects. I shoot hundreds of pictures of race cars both Indycar and Nascar and some dirt tracks. My lenses are not in the 1200 hundred dollar range but from 2500 to 6000 dollar range. The only filter I use is the polar c if needing to kill reflections other then that anything else slows down the camera. When shooting a 200 MPH car you need all the crispness and speed you can get while framing and shooting at 5 or six frames a second. Which brings up another point why would anyone need a 2 to 6 thousand dollar camera body and a 1 to 6 thousand dollar lens to take pictures of family and friends I use one of 2 ultra zooms at around 5 meg and unless you are printing bigger then 12 x16 they do a great job and at a total cost of less then 500 dollars they are expendable and take the day to day abuse well.

  • Danni March 25, 2012 03:39 pm

    I keep a UV filter on every one of my lenses - I make sure it's the highest quality filter I can find and I've noticed little-to-no difference in IQ. I would much rather replace a filter than the whole lens should something unfortunate happen. Sometimes I also use ND or graduated filters when shooting landscapes on bright days.

  • Nik Tyler March 25, 2012 03:22 pm

    If you're going to buy a UV filter to protect your lens, you might as well take that money and get a PPA membership to insure yourself for 15,000 dollars. That covers ALL your camera gear, no questions asked. Just saying.

  • paul mitchell March 25, 2012 02:43 pm

    Well i dont know the cost of a factory paint job on your sports car but im sure it's high! So with his frame of thinking i guess you shouldn't wash then wax your car w/ .85 cent worth of polish. it's better to enjoy the scratches and watch the paint dull away, right! hahah. filters polish a photo and protect your lens at the same time. enjoy it or don't but don't complain when you accidentally damage and need to replace your expensive lens.

  • SomewhatBent aka Robbie March 25, 2012 02:37 pm

    Depends on where I'm shooting. If I'm in a high risk position - at the motorcycle racetrack or out in the desert - then absolutely. If I'm in a nice clean studio or Salon setting, no need or want. When I do use a filter (of any kind) I try to get the very best filter I can.

  • Laura Zastrow March 25, 2012 02:13 pm

    I used to insist on always having a UV filter on for protection, but I started noticing mad ghosting when I'd shoot into the light (which I often do). Off they came! Except on one of my lenses where the UV filter rim is dented and stuck. :(

  • Dayv March 25, 2012 01:49 pm

    I had a $100 uv filter on a Canon 24-105 L series lens when my tripod got knocked over. I was happy to replace the broken $100 filter that took the hit that my $1000 lens would have.

  • viv March 25, 2012 01:48 pm

    One year after I bought my first camera, I took it in to get cleaned. Thankfully I did have the uv filter on it. When I got it back, the filter was shattered and glass was spilling out with the lens cap on. The lens was saved, but the store replaced it anyway.

  • daniel March 25, 2012 01:45 pm

    i bought a 3 dollar UV filter and it was crap. it felt like i was shooting with a really dirty lens so i went to a friend of mine who owns an optical shop and asked him to give the glass the full treatment (for glasses/multicoated) UV, Anti reflection and anti diffraction or something. it ALMOST removed all the flare, especially during noontime shots. though it cost another 15 dollars.

  • Matt Leitholt March 25, 2012 01:26 pm

    I agree with you. I don't use filters anymore. Degrades IQ and another expense. I have dropped a lens with a filter (which broke) but I don't think it would have broke without the filter. It hit the cap and the cap pressed in shattering the filter. This poses more risk to the lens IMO. Also on some lenses, it costs less to buy a front element and put it in than it does for a decent UV filter. (70-200 canon f:4)

  • Joseph March 25, 2012 01:24 pm

    I always run filters for the same reason as your friend and also for the reasons of the pictures

  • Ashley March 25, 2012 01:17 pm

    I use a UV filter to protect my glass when I'm doing horse show photography, because all that dirt and grit can really mess up your glass. Other than that my lenses are naked, except for a polarizer when it's needed.

  • Frank March 25, 2012 10:20 am

    Surely the purpose of a UV lens is to counter UV haze.
    I use a UV filter for outdoor shots because UV haze is a real problem in New Zealand. But I take it off for indoor or low-light outdoor shots.

  • Owen March 25, 2012 07:36 am

    I used to, thar was untill I got L's. I fully understand bith arguments but in reality ive never had a lense issue and should I on the L's the lense hood should help. Should the worst come to the worst id start saving again. I guess the whole point of getting better lense' is for the image quality and I personly want to get my full moneys worth. I would rather have a sports car and crash it on a track then have it sit in a garage only used on sunny weekends. Again simmerly when spending so much on a peice of kit you natrally are more protective of it. Suppose insurence and hoods are the way forwards if possible

  • Erik Giberti March 25, 2012 03:48 am

    I use a high quality UV haze filter and a circular polarizer. It's worth every penny to avoid the scratches. As one reader pointed out, it's not the big drop it's helping with, but the occasional brushing against the world at large.

    Then there is the world that opens with graduated ND and variable ND filters that you just can't replicate in post. I get my filters from and their staff is super helpful if you have questions about your application.

  • Alistair Barclay March 25, 2012 02:35 am

    A filter is a piece of equipment designed to filter or modify a given light property. If you use them all the time you risk the occasional odd effect as many posters have mentioned.

    The whole idea of filter is to fit it for a given circumstance then remove it.

    On the other hand a lens hood of the solid variety [rather than an after market screw in rubber one] is designed to [a] cut reflection and increase contrast and [b] protect the outer lens element.

    To leave a filter on does not cause any harm normally but when it does you will often find out to late to retake that shot.

  • Storm March 25, 2012 01:42 am

    I've used UV filters for protection for 30 years. I don't believe that you need an expensive filter just to protect the lens. It's just glass if you're not looking for any special coating. Maybe it's different for digital cameras, but for film at least, the pros I have talked with have all said to use any glass filter regardless of cost.

    I think it sounds implausible that a little glass sheet would degrade image quality as much as a cleaning cloth applied straight onto the lens for years would. It sounds a bit like the old discussion about thickness of speaker cables.

    Still, I think I will do some test shots with my new digital camera with and without the filter. I doubt that one would be able to see any real difference, but I am willing to be proven wrong.

  • Erik March 24, 2012 10:40 pm

    I use filters when needed, but never UV filters on digital cameras. They only add misery to the final picture (for colour film they have a purpose though).

  • Mark March 24, 2012 09:05 pm

    I do not usually use filters. The force needed to break a lens would likely damage the lens beyond use even if a filter was in front.

    You do have me thinking about moving from rubber to plastic or metal hoods for the old lenses I have that require screw-in hoods. My bayonet hood capable lens has a plastic hood always on it.

    To summarize, hoods yes, filters no. For a special effect I would consider a filter - for instance one of those filters designed for IR photography should I decide to do that someday.

  • Reverenc Russ March 24, 2012 07:20 pm

    I think it is great to have them o the lens but perhaps take them off when you are out to shoot during a session. I know my T3i does not like a couple filters when focusing (yes I am using the auto focus....I'm a dad not a pro) But I know I have bumped them a couple times where I could have broken the lens. My T3i has a tougher time focusing when shooting video through some of the filters. And i ma using decent filters!

  • Jennie Jensen March 24, 2012 11:57 am

    I can see the sense in both sides of the story. I'm new at this wonderful game and it's hard to really know what is the right and wrong thing to do just yet, but at least with everybodys thoughts I can weigh it up and decide myself. Thank you all for the information you are all prepared to share.

  • Lisa March 24, 2012 10:15 am

    I use my UV filter. I have never been without one. I am going to have to take some pics without the filter to see if there a difference.

  • James March 24, 2012 09:53 am

    ... oh, and by the way ...

    When I remove my filter (e.g. theatre shots mentioned above) I see improvement in the image. That is because I am taking away the contamination on the surface. I can't do that if I don't have a filter on.

    When the filter is new (or freshly cleaned - a process that takes some time and care), I can't tell the difference.

  • James March 24, 2012 09:46 am

    "You spent $1,200 on this pro grade glass, and you’re covering it up with a piece of garbage that cost you under $75."

    The implied assertions being made here is that a filter is cheaply made, and will therefor degrade the image performance of your lens. Lets think about that for a moment, with an example:
    Nikon 70-200 f2.8: local price ~$2400.
    Hoya 77mm HMC UV filter: local price ~$95.

    The 70-200 has 21 glass elements. It also has electronics, gears, motors, housing, machined bayonet mount, etc. The glass elements are all different and will vary in price, but lets call them $100 each, plus $400 for all the other stuff.

    $100 for a glass element that is precision ground on both faces to a curved shape. Some, not all, are multi coated and some are special expensive glass. The glass can get quite thick at the edges or the middle due to the curvature. Sounds expensive.

    The filter is a flat piece of thin glass, multi coated, with a metal ring around it. And yet it costs about the same as the lens does, per element. Doesn't sound cheap to me. Sounds like they've used quality glass, precision flat, and great multi coating to produce a top quality filter.

    The lens has 21 elements, the filter adds one. That's less than 5% more. Choose a good quality filter and you are fine.

    I use filters most of the time. As an amateur I shoot a wide variety of images. I don't let weather deter me - in fact some of my best shots have been in foul weather. It's easier to clean rain from your filter than your front element. When I shoot snow sport I find it easier to clean the snow spray from the filter than the lens. Every so often the surf is huge near home and the best surfers come out, so I get out my camera. With big surf comes salt spray - so I will need to clean my filter several times in a shoot.

    I use a filter to keep the front element of my lens clean. If there is dust, salt, water, or (god forbid!) fingerprints on the glass surface closest to the subject then that will reduce image quality, regardless of whether that glass surface is a filter or the front element. Of course, this is true of all the glass surfaces in the lens - however the front element or filter is the one most likely to become dirty. Its easy to clean a filter - and if I mess it up through regular cleaning or through carelessness then I can easily replace it.

    When I shoot theatre I typically take the filter off. I'm often shooting under very difficult lighting conditions with extreme dynamic range from strong backlighting. I don't want the salt spray from earlier in the day messing up the contrast of my images. If I am shooting a band from the audience then I will leave the filter on to protect against flying arms and so on.

    I almost always use a lens hood. This has nothing to do with physical protection and everything to do with keeping stray light from outside of the photographic subject from hitting my filter / front element and robbing contrast from my image. Any tiny amount of contamination on the lens (such as two minutes worth of salt spray) will diffuse light. If the sun hits your lens, you'll notice the flare. Use a lens hood to cast shadow across your front element / filter.

    I don't use them for protection against drops - I'm not convinced that they would help in most drops. Filters break when lenses are dropped on them because the shock of the impact is transferred directly into the glass of the filter through a very thin strip of metal. A lens has more material between impact point and lens glass, which can absorb and spread the shock.

    I do use a filter whenever the lens is off my camera. Lens caps often pop off in my camera bag.

  • mike March 24, 2012 09:27 am

    I only use filters when the desired effect cannot but adequately duplicated in PS: CPL, ND Grad, and an ND40.

  • Keith March 24, 2012 08:43 am

    I have UV filters on my lenses and have never been able to see any difference in the image with or without them! I don't stack filters however although my Cokin filter holder allows you to do that. I use a CPL and ND filters as necessary

    I recently broke my macro lens when the QR plate on my tripod head failed (I have since dumped the head) Insurance replaced the lens thank goodness, the new lens should arrive today. The lens itself didn;t break, the aperture blades inside all broke off! The lens was nearly 20 years old so I don't suppose it owed me anything! I had an argument with the insurance people who didn't appreciate that a macro lens is 'different', they were intending to supply me with a Sigma standard zoom lens instead! I suppose in their minds, a lens is a lens , is a lens . . . !

  • Ben March 24, 2012 07:01 am

    I see this argument time and time again, but very few examples of the degradation in IQ everyone talks about..... if it is so obviously bad why did the author not include side by side examples proving his/her point with quantitative proof?

  • GradyPhilpott March 24, 2012 06:25 am

    Show me some evidence that a good, high quality filter degrades the image quality and I might listen to this babble.

    Keeping a high quality UV filter your lens is just good sense and just because you put it on there for general protection, there is no law stating that you can't take it off to shoot in those settings where the protection is not needed.

    I live in an abrasive environment where sand is almost always blowing and that's where I do most of my shooting. I'm not about to take off the filter under those conditions. If you want proof, come out here to the great Southwest and take a look at a car windshield that's just a few years old.

    The relatively low cost of a high quality isn't even a factor. The filter cost what it costs mainly because it's so simple, not because it's crap. And I'm pretty sure that the filters I keep on my cameras cost a good deal more than $75, except for some cheap ones I keep in my bag, just in case a good one gets broken, so that I can keep shooting if I need to.

  • C. Remley March 24, 2012 06:22 am

    From Bryan Carnathan via,

    "There is an ongoing debate over the use of UV filters for lens protection. Neither side is wrong - they simply have differing opinions - and the freedom of choice."

    Some people feel their hoods and an insurance policy is enough protection for their lenses. Some prefer the extra protection of a UV filter. It comes down to what the user is comfortable with. There is nothing wrong with preferring one over the other provided that the UV filter is of good quality. A high quality filter from B&W or Heliopan (usually costing around $80 depending on the thread size) will not have any effect on image quality in most cases. The exception to this is when one is shooting into a bright light source, which can causing flaring/reflections, in which case the filter should be removed.

    Aside from general protection, there are other reasons to employ a UV filter. On Canon's weather-sealed lenses, the sealing protection is not complete until a filter is attached. If you are shooting in harsh conditions such as sandy locations and places where you will pick up salt water spray, you should absolutely be using a protective filter. Also, if you wish to preserve the coatings on your lens's front element, you should use a filter. Cleaning the front of the lens will rub off the coatings over time, if you rub the coatings off your filter, simply get another filter. If you are interested in the resale value of your lens, a filter will probably aid you in the future. Buyers do not want to hear that "The front element has been replaced" or, "The front element has visible scratches / wear and tear that do not affect image quality", buyers want to hear, "The front lens element is pristine."

    Finally, consider that some of the Canon super-telephoto lenses such as the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS USM Lens and the Canon EF 500mm f/4 L IS USM Lens cannot accept screw-in filters. Instead, they have installed a simple glass element that is put in place exclusively for protective purposes. This seems to be tacit approval from at least one manufacturer for the use of protective filters.

  • jeff sutain March 24, 2012 05:04 am

    Filters or no filters, thats a hard one, the thing here is this, thats what I think anyway, If you are not shooting for a living and making money from it, then I would use a filter on my lens, I have a few lenses,, but sence it's only a hobby the photo's that I take are not going to make me Rich, I do belong to a photo club and our photo's are judged but it's not like after that, they will become photo art in some gallery, so I guess what im trying to say is this, protect your lens, could you tell the difference anyway

  • Stephen Siteman March 24, 2012 04:54 am

    Why not try keeping a cheap filter on when you are walking around , etc and a hood when you are taking shots. I used to use a filter for my 70-300 zoom, but I found that it degraded the quality too much. I bought a decent filter for my kit lens because, well, it's a kit lens... I use specific filters when I need them, but rely on the UV filter less and less (unless I am trying to cut down on UV "hazing"). Just my thoughts.

  • Jeprox March 24, 2012 04:34 am

    I go both directions when it comes to using filters. When i first started I used it for protection. Over time I started taking them off. enjoy having the out of camera lens as much as possible so i try not to use them but depending on the setting can depend on its affect. When i do use it for protection it's because I'm out and about shooting at clubs to protect from people bumping into you or splashing alcohol on your lens. after a while i stopped using it because I had a lens hood. Unfortunately my lens hood broke so i may hark back to using filters for protection when i shoot clubs.

  • Alan Hendry March 24, 2012 02:01 am

    I agree 100% only filter I ever use is Polarizing as and when required but I would never consider having a "Protection" filter it will degrade images, and if I damage a lens the insurance will pay, that's why we have insurance.

  • CJ March 24, 2012 01:38 am

    I shoot a lot in dusty outdoor environments and I always use a UV filter. It is much easier to wipe dust and crud off of the flat surface of the filter rather than the slightly curved surface of the lens. I have scratched a few filters but I am happy to report that every lens I have ever had (starting in 1978) is still in great shape. The only time I take the filter off is for low-light indoor shots or if I am using another type of filter at the time. I could use a clear glass filter, but for the type of outdoor shots I take the very subtle effect of the UV filter works for me.

    I asked an ophthalmologist who used to work for me part-time to test a $24 UV filter and a $120 UV filter and he said that optically there was zero difference. They both exhibited virtually no distortion of any kind. The extra $96 was for the fancy name stamped on the ring. My motto has always been to use the cheapest equipment that will do the job well. The shots are just as good and the extra money allows me to go to really cool places!

  • Anthony Elliott March 24, 2012 01:37 am

    This isn't the article I expected. I thought that the prompt for discussion would offer a wider scope than simply whether to use a UV filter to protect the lens.

    Addressing the question of using any filters, I'd say filters are just another tool and sometimes you want to use them for a particular shot. There's no hard and fast rules, surely?

    And apologies for being extra picky, but it's spelt "in your opinion.." near the end.

  • Jim Payne March 24, 2012 01:04 am

    I definitely use a polarizer whenever it might help get the shot I want. As far as a UV filter, I only use Heliopan filters and even then, mostly not.

    You could say I go commando often.

  • Hunt March 24, 2012 12:14 am

    I don't use a filter just the lens hood. With that being said the lens hoods are designed for protection against lens flare. Protection against damage comes at a added benefit. Think about it, if they are only meant to protect against damage then why do they all have different shapes? Non the least you can still use it to protect against damage.

  • Chris alley March 23, 2012 11:52 pm

    I totally agree with your article. I used an uv filter for year until I had picture rejected from a stock photo site for noise. I did a comparison. Yes! It had been introducing noice into my photos even at low iso. No more protective filters for me. I'll take my chances. It's not worth the loss in quality.

  • KammerA March 23, 2012 11:47 pm

    And my two cents (old Indian Head pennies to be precise) . . .

    Studio - bare lens unless using a special effects filter
    Outdoors (no wind) - bare lens unless using a special effects filter
    Outdoors (windy!) - clear glass filter (!NOT! UV filter) because in New Mexico the dust is all silica based (just like sand paper)
    Outdoors (other comments) - if I'm going to be moving over rough terrain and don't have a lens hood, will slap a clear glass filter on the lens; if I'm close to splashing water will pull the clear glass filter from my bag. . . etc.


  • Peter Johnston March 23, 2012 11:28 pm

    When I bought my Dslr I was 'sold' or told to buy uv filters for the two lenses I got with the camera (nothing fancy, just standard kit). I was told the primary reason was to protect the glass from scratches etc! So I thought well of course, I'm spending near a ton on a camera etc I need to protect it!

    I shot for about a year with the uv filter on, not thinking anymore of it, until I started to get into photography more, to be honest it was when I started stacking ND filters and cpl I noticed vigenetting and so I asked myself do I really need the uv?

    The answer I found was 'NO'! I did not! I took it off about six months ago and haven't used it since. Usually when I'm out I have an ND or cpl or both on it anyway, as these are needed for my favourite type of shots. But also when I'm taking portraits of the family etc now I have all filters removed. Just the lens! I notice better quality pics, and I reckon I'm careful when I'm taking the fotos, and have the cap on the rest of the time so why bother?

    This I'd just what I as a novice have learnt! I liked the point an earlier reader said instead of paying out on uv filters, put the money into insurance? That's a sensible thought if ur contents don't already cover!!

    It's interesting to see what others think here!


  • jeyv March 23, 2012 09:40 pm

    well, each of us has different reasons i guess, " to use or not to use" anyway, i use a UV filter + lens hood... the reason i do this is:
    1) yes, to give protection, i dont wanna loose a lens cuz it broke - i would rather loose a filter than a lens that would cost 1,200 dollars
    2) usually i could "correct" the filter's lets say "effect" on the image during post. when im doin that i get time to admire the photo, critique it myself or even think if id need to work on it more.

    and well yeah, you can be reaaaaally extra careful to your glass--- but we can't tell what accident can happen.. it would be better if prepared than feelin' sorry =)

    but i guess it all comes down to the photographer, if he wants to or not then its their decision

  • Mervyn Edwards March 23, 2012 09:07 pm

    I always used to use a filter - 'to protect my lens'. On the first outing of a new camera and lens, it rolled off the back of my estate car and smashed onto the road. Looked just like the picture shown. The broken pieces of glass had also been impinged into the front of the lens scratching the surface. If I had not had the filter it might have damaged the lens holder but not the lens. Think about it - which is stronger, the thin piece of glass in front of the lens, or the lens itself the thickness of a jam jar bottom?

    I have recently done tests with various UV filters and they all deteriorate the quality of the image, particularly when shooting towards the light.

    Take 'em off!

  • clare March 23, 2012 08:16 pm

    I use filters purely to protect my lens - and thank god I do!! Twice now there's been an accident out of my control that has resulted in my lens being hit/dropped. Both times my filter has taken the brunt of the damage and saved my thousands in repairs. Admittedly both times, the filter has smashed and become jammed onto the lens meaning I have to get it removed, but I'd rather that then my lens being damaged!

  • Dokmateo March 23, 2012 07:54 pm

    I´m not a professional photog, I´m just a regular hobbyist photographer but I guess the answer are simple, Filters are made for specific reasons and if these reasons are not in need for a particular shot, why put on your filters. It´s a common sense ( sorry for my word). Though, I prefer mounting it on while roaming around or carrying my cam for protective reasons. Anyhow, I can easily remove it anytime I want. Hope I make sense. Thanks!

  • Miran March 23, 2012 07:49 pm

    If you spent $1200 on a lens then don't be cheap and put on a shizzle filter worth $20, buy a proper one and IT WILL NOT diminish your picture quality in any way. It's silly you're even trying to have an arguement here. Use a UV filter if you care about your lens, use a QUALITY UV filter if you care about picture quality. Period.

  • Matt E. March 23, 2012 05:45 pm

    I'm firmly in the use a filter when necessary camp. In essence, if my gear is being sandblasted or sea-spray is a concern, I'm all for filters as they are usually much easier to clean. What I haven't yet figured out is how does a lens filter matters when you drop a lens? It's not as if either the filter or the front lens element breaks. In fact, I'd wager 90% of the time someone drops a lens the filter has no protective effect (i.e., the only reason anything broke is because the filter was there). I suppose these are the same people that throw their gear in a bag at the first sign of a sprinkle of rain, too. I buy my gear to use and I use it. Yeah, I might have to save a little to replace something, but if I get the shot(s), I don't care.

  • Mark March 23, 2012 04:38 pm

    Show me comparison shots in different conditions (hazy sunlight, normal day, night shot, portrait etc) comparing a quality prime lens (Canon L-series etc) with and without a quality filter that show the image degradation and I'll happily stop using them. But, given I'm getting fantastic images out of all my lenses (Ls and primes) whilst using UV filters, I think until that point I'll carry on having a disposable protective cover on the front element. Anyone who buys a cheap-arse filter should expect issues but I'm not sure the IQ difference is that great for a quality filter.

  • MeiTeng March 23, 2012 04:18 pm

    I always keep UV filter on my lens.

  • Robert Townsend March 23, 2012 03:59 pm

    I leave my UV filter on all the time for those many shots however if I am doing a wedding or a creative shot off it comes, and it goes straight back on after. BTW I do not use a lens cover and the hood is on always.

  • Laura March 23, 2012 02:56 pm

    I am strictly an amateur and my whole camera and lens cost $1200. I love photography and waited a long time to get my Cannon. I had been given a polarizing filter by my brother and was using it. Just before the birth of my first grandchild, I dropped my camera in its protective case on the sidewalk in NYC! I was petrified to look and sure enough the filter was cracked. The polarizing filter rim was bent and I was unable to get it off to see if the lens itself was cracked as well. I had to take it to a camera repair shop where they were able to remove the filter. It was a great relief to find the lens it self in perfect condition! The next day my granddaughter was born. So for me, the filter is priceless!

  • Rick March 23, 2012 02:38 pm

    most of the time I don't use filters, I put a hood on and go. Good glass is bomber as the photo demonstrates. My exception is polarizers and ND grads. I use the Lee System for my ND grads and love it.

  • Iowill March 23, 2012 02:21 pm

    I use higher quality clear UV filters on my high priced glass, as well as lens hoods when situations call for this sort of protection. If I'm shooting in situations that allow, I will remove the UV lens.

    But also use graduated ND filters and quality circular polarizing lenses in the field all of the time.

    Insurance riders can help defray some of the risk of damage to expensive glass, but clear this with your provider up front and get it all in writing as well as keep it current with serial numbers, replacement costs, etc.

    When I'm traveling, all my lenses get a clear UV filter on them. Lenscaps fall off easily and you can't travel with many lenshood attached in anything other than reversed position.

    Fortunately some street lenses (50 mm 1.8 etc) are not excessively expensive and going "commando" might be worth the educated risk.

  • michael hope March 23, 2012 02:05 pm

    The reason your lens is 1200 dollars and a filter is 80 is simple. It is a flat piece of glass compared to coated, curved, assembled, engineered clusters. DUH. An 80 dollars filter by Nikon or Tiffen or B+W or another reputable manufacturer is not going to degrade our images. This reminds me of people with stereos boasting a frequency response only a dog can hear. Get over yourselves would you?!?

    Simple. A UV or skylight will allow you to (as someone else pointed out) be ready to shoot...wipe your lens (filter) with your shirt if you need to and behave in a way you might not with a naked lens. This (I think) allows you to get more; better; faster; shots than otherwise (and not risk your front element). You photophiles that think you could do a side by side comparison on anything except the most exceptional circumstances (less than .25 of 1 percent of ALL the shots you EVER take) and see the difference are SO full of yourselves, you need to get out more. I CHALLENGE THIS with 35 years of shooting.

    Taste the difference in a $150 vs a $15 bottle of wine...OK. Feel the difference in the paint job on a $100,000 Mercedes over a Toyota Corolla, sure. Hear the difference in live vs recorded music..a no brainer. See the difference between 2 shots one with and one without a good quality UV're SO full of it, your eyes are brown.

    Shoot well my friends.

  • JohnP March 23, 2012 01:44 pm

    I use a UV filter, always have. I dont use a lens cap so need the protection. I was once told, by a newspaper head photographer to chuck the lens cap away and get a uv filter so that you are always ready to take a photo. I'm not a pro and dont have top lenses. I may very occasionally take the filter off if I think the image warrants it, e.g. If I'm putting on a polarising filter.

  • Phill Swanson March 23, 2012 01:17 pm

    I like to shoot "L" lenses on my dx body. It gives me impeccable image quality by only using the center portion of the image and so when I add a filter (which I do on all my lenses) any vignetting and ca in the corners won't be in the frame anyway. I also pony up for very thin filters ie 150 bucks or so if not a bit more. Its a thin peice of glass but it has already saved my 70-200 2.8 and since i'm losing no iq i'd much rather spend another 150 than 2000.

  • Howard Owens March 23, 2012 12:52 pm

    I stopped using UV filters months ago. If you manage your camera properly it greatly diminishes the risk to the lens. And the lens is pretty tough. A UV filter serves no real purpose.

    Recently, I've started using, again, a polarizing filter in some situations and am looking at investing in additional filters to improve capture of a specific intent (better to get the capture you want, if possible, than try to "fix" it in post processing).

    Also bought a set of filters this week for my film cameras, especially then one I use for B&W film.

  • Gallopingphotog March 23, 2012 12:41 pm

    Polarizers, Neutral Density, etc. filters aren't for lens protection. You use them in specific situations for desired results.
    Lens hoods will protect against a good many things but not blowing sand and dust. In those conditions I screw on the clear or UV filter.

  • Ruth Yates March 23, 2012 12:18 pm

    I use filters if I am shooting in bright sunlight, and if I want to get special effects on water and when taking waterfalls, during the daytime.

  • Craig March 23, 2012 12:04 pm

    I'm guessing a UV filter wouldn't stop a crack like that one.

    I did use filters but I agree with you and will not use filters any more... Another point to make is they will create extra reflections and spots from things like candles you wouldn't otherwise get in low light situation because of the light reflecting off the lens and back on the filter and back at the sensor

  • Jan March 23, 2012 12:04 pm

    I put a UV filter on my camera to protect the lens and keep it clean. I now want to remove it, but it is stuck tight! Anyone have a good idea about how to remove it without damaging the camera???

  • Scott Lewis March 23, 2012 11:34 am

    I don't use them because most things that will hit the filter hard enough to break it will keep on going and ding the lens anyway and because I want all the IQ I paid for when I bought that expensive lens.

  • David March 23, 2012 11:25 am

    I stopped using UV filters on my lens after my camera was knocked over, the UV filter smashed but the ring was damaged and was lodged on the lens. It turns out it was removing the filter that caused the damage.

  • KristineMN March 23, 2012 11:14 am

    I have a filter on mine, and I use a hood. But, I don't know anyone who stores their camera with the hood on. Mine broke while in my bag. Kids knocked it off the table and it must have hit just right because the lens cap jammed into the front of the lens, shattering the filter.

  • spencerberus March 23, 2012 11:10 am

    $75 will buy you a top-of-the-line UV filter, with a good chunk of change left over. It my still degrade image quality a bit - putting anything between the lens and the subject probably will - but it's not a piece of crap.

    There's a good resource on UV filter quality with tests of dozens of popular ones here:

    To protect the lens with a filter or not is a personal choice, but if you're going to, you might as well know which ones will have the least impact on your photos.

  • Isoterica March 23, 2012 10:51 am

    I've seen the lensrentals filter stack article before. It does make a point. I think if you insure your gear which really isn't all that expensive to do, you can 'comfortably' go filter-less and take advantage of that glass you paid for. For some people buying expensive glass is difficult, nor is replacing it. I was taught early on to protect the lens and I did, but now I am more apt to have a circular polarizer on because I use it. If shooting conditions are threatening as jdkruger said, blowing sand, water spray, heavy winds and particles.. it makes sense not to dermabrade your lens.

  • CharleySDG March 23, 2012 10:38 am

    The Lens Rental article was GREAT! I suggest everyone read it and it really cleared up my decision - NO FILTER!

    I am going to go and test it out today.

  • shauna March 23, 2012 10:21 am

    I've only been photographing for 2 years so I don't know much, but I never have put a filter on any of my lenses and I don't plan to. I just "felt" like it would hinder my image quality...meaning I never looked up to see if this was true. I don't use hoods either. I know people who won't use a lens without a filter or a hood and I know some who don't use either, like me. I guess it's just personal preference?

  • John March 23, 2012 10:19 am

    For me, I am still experimenting. I am on a non-existent budget. I shoot mostly with vintage lenses using adapters for my Nikon D3000. I use a few different screw-on filters: UV, ND8, CPL. I do NOT have a $4000 lens. I use a standard kit lens 18-55mm AF. For me, there is no quality issues that I notice. Now if I had a D800 and a high dollar FX lens then yes I would not use a filter, OR I would use a quality filter. I don't see the point in using a cheap filter with an expensive lens. Its like buying a $400k car but getting a base model with no extras. With that being said, I am just an amateur and still have a lot to learn.

  • Sue March 23, 2012 10:17 am

    I have never used a UV filter on any of my glass.
    The only filters I use are polarising or neutral density filters as they are for a specific purpose in creating the shots I require.

  • Jillian March 23, 2012 10:15 am

    I choose to shoot filter-less, except when I want the effect (CP mostly). I figure, why risk degrading my images. Instead of buying filters, I spend $30 or so dollars per year on insurance. So if something accidentally happens to my lens (or camera etc) I can get it replaced or repaired for free. I can see using a UV filter for protection when shooting in obvious bad weather though.

  • Eddie March 23, 2012 10:04 am

    My case was this: I bought a UV filter (a very cheap one) and one day the filter appears broken... I was so happy that I had saved my lens!! I replace it with another one, and eventually it broke in no more than a month or two, and then I understood: it isn't that the filter had saved the lens twice, it is such a cheap glass that it didn't resist an insignificant impact.
    So I'm not using UV lens for protecting my gear, specially when it isn't a pro one.

  • Randomjack March 23, 2012 10:02 am

    The argument I always see against UV filters is the "$1200 lens with 75$ filter" thing.

    Maybe my perspective would change if I bought a really expensive lens, but for now I like my UV filter on there. Whenever I remove it, my front element is spotless and that eases my "this camera is too fancy to use" feeling.

    That being said, I don't stack. Whenever I'm using my polarizer I'm good with just it on. Even if i had a hood I'd likely stick with a UV - there are plenty of things that can get past a hood - table corners for instance.

    The only time I could see myself (without a $2000 lens) going filter-less is if I *wanted* to preserve haze, such as in fog.

  • Chris March 23, 2012 10:00 am

    I had better buy a cheap filter to protect my expensive one ! On the other hand I have been taking pictures all over the world since 1964 with Leica optics on M models and Nikon F's F2's etc and never bothered with a piece of glass in front to protect the lens. I have never damaged any of my optics at all. Now I am using digital and have 'protection'. I think I will remove them.

  • Brad Lancour March 23, 2012 09:53 am

    I will continue to protect my lens thank you! I am going to try some samples both ways and I don't suspect I will find much of a reason to go without. When I buy a filter I always look for value and reviews that confirm optical quality. I learned early that the really cheap filters are as you stated "Crap".

  • Michael March 23, 2012 09:49 am

    Never have used a uv filter, prob never will. I agree with the author, and I use the lens hood and lens cap for 'protection'. If you think it doesn't make a difference to your image, try shooting with the sun in your frame or just off frame with a uv filter on. It negates the coating they put on the lens to help you in these scenarios and looks horrible. I prefer to spend the money on something else more useful.
    Just be careful and insure your gear if your worried.

  • tinyhands March 23, 2012 09:43 am

    Show me the difference and I'll take my UV filter off.

  • Edgar March 23, 2012 09:38 am

    Pro glass does not deserve crap filters. It deserves a pro filter. The problem is most people don't want to spend hundreds on a little piece of glass so the $75 it is and therefore disappoints. I use a clear (not UV) B+W filter for my Nikon 17-55 2.8 and perhaps that's why i don't see a degrade in image quality what so ever.

  • Richard Renes March 23, 2012 09:30 am

    I do use UV or polarising philters occasionally, when the situation calls for them. Since one of my big hobbies is photographing motorsports, it has to be right as the object you are photographing may not pass you again anymore if you know what I mean ;). And usually, they are high gloss objects, and wet tarmac is known to reflect quite a deal too, so polarising is the one I use most to help me get the image I want. Other than that: UV only when the situation warrants it, like in hazy conditions.

  • Amanda March 23, 2012 09:24 am

    I use them when lenses are in storage or transit and I don't bother taking them off if I'm just happy snapping, but I do own polarising filters for each of lenses, which I use often.

  • Karen Rader March 23, 2012 09:20 am

    I definitely noticed an improvement in image quality when I took the UV filter of years ago. No UV filter anymore, I'll take the risk. I will only use a warming filter (although not as much anymore since it can be fixed in post) and a circular polarizer to have better control over reflections off of surfaces.

  • JD Kruger March 23, 2012 09:18 am

    Filter goes on when shooting conditions are:

    near water (especially salt water) or it's raining

    in heavy-ish winds near sand or small hard particles

    Otherwise filters stay off and stored off lenses. Broken filter glass can scratch front elements.

    That's my two and a half cents.

  • Sue McBratney March 23, 2012 08:50 am

    I use them, and so glad I did. I recently had my camera and 70-200mm lens fall of the tripod onto concrete. My fault I guess as I was in a hurry to catch a shot of a particular bird in my backyard and did not check it was firmly attached as I usually do. The camera was scratched, the lens filter rim dented, but the lens is ok except for a small piece of raised plastic ring which sheared off. A lesson learned - ALWAYS check, and use a clear UV filter on all lenses. I do not think it makes a difference to my images.

  • Joe H March 23, 2012 08:28 am

    In all my years of film photography, I always used either a skylight or uv filter on my lenses. I have broken a few of them and was glad they were on. Now that I have moved into a digital slr, I am continuing that policy.

  • Doug Sundseth March 23, 2012 08:25 am

    First, take a close look at the photo in the article showing the damagee filter. From the pattern of cracks, you can see that the lens struck the hard surface on the filter ring, not on the filter. The filter did nothing to protect the lens there. But it cost the photographer between $5 and $100 to replace the filter for that non-existent protection – to a $100 lens.

    The only situation I would consider using a filter purely for protection would be those where there was a great deal of flying dust or liquid. (Note that I shoot mostly in the desert American West, where there's wind and dust, but I haven't seen the need in the vast majority of cases.)

    Second, UV filtration is handled by the glass in front of your camera sensor. There is no benefit provided by a UV filter that is different from that provided by plain glass on a digital camera. (This is not true for film cameras, where UV filtration is actually useful.)

    I use effects filters regularly (ND, ND Grad, CP).

  • marcus March 23, 2012 07:54 am

    I don't use a UV filter, but I think it's flawed logic to say that putting a $75 filter on a $1200 lens is necessarily bad. Even the simplest lens is going to be an order of magnitude more complex than a simple UV filter, so it's going to cost less to design, engineer, and manufacture. You can produce a single element filter with superior optics to a good lens and it's still going to cost a fraction of what the lens does. Show me some side by side comparisons of image quality with and without a filter (it shouldn't be too difficult) where image quality is significantly reduced by using a UV filter, and I'll accept the argument that you shouldn't use a UV filter to protect your lens. All other arguments are irrelevant.

  • Yevgen Romanenko March 23, 2012 07:51 am

    I don’t use filters

  • mmx March 23, 2012 07:37 am

    99% I take photos I'm not interested in absolute image quality. Besides, it's quite easy to know in advance when the image is reasonably going to flare.

    So I keep the protection filter on almost always (when visiting a city, when hiking, etc) and eventually put it off IIF I'm both safe and wanting a really good photo (on which I can nitpick on, since the difference is usually negligible).

    But then, I can't see a reason for anyone non-pro to have a lens costing that much.

  • Marcus Davis March 23, 2012 06:44 am

    I haven't been using a DSLR for very long. I've always shot with a polarizing filter. It will be an interesting experiment to with and without the filter to see if there is a quality difference. However, my ND Grad and star filters, I think I will continue to use.

    Thank you for the thought provoking topic. I can't wait to see if there is a significant difference or not.

  • John Cornicello March 23, 2012 06:39 am

    I only use filters when there is salty sea spray or welding sparks.

  • Richard March 23, 2012 06:35 am

    No filters for me, at least not as "protection". The only lens that I ever broke, I absolutely destroyed. The filter would not have saved it.

  • timgray March 23, 2012 06:26 am

    If you can take two photos and prove to me that the $125.00 UV filter degrades the image then I'll take it off.

    I have yet to find ANY photographer with ANY camera prove to me that that "crap filter" is degrading the image in any way.

  • Colm March 23, 2012 06:23 am

    I switch between UV and polarizing filter, very rarely for macro shots I'll shoot with no filter.
    I find lower quality images are more often than not my fault, not the lens cover.

  • DAPHNE DU tOIT March 23, 2012 06:09 am

    The image of a chipped filter, happened to me, when in my ignorance and inability to remove my camera from the tripod, I inadvertently tipped the whole caboodle over, but the lens needed replacing anyway, due to the impact sustained, although it appeared unaffected by the impact. I have since learnt some useful tips when using a tripod...
    1. Keep the camera strap round your neck until the camera is securely attached to the tripod.
    2. Keep one of the 3 legs of the tripod directly away from you, so that if you are using a long lens, its weight is directly supported by the single leg of the tripod which is facing forward .
    Both these tips are probably second nature to all but absolute beginners, and consequently, are rarely, if ever mentioned?!
    Not using a filter to protect the lens will ensure one takes extra care of both camera and lens, which is desirable, anyway! D

  • CGSnipe March 23, 2012 06:02 am

    I'm in the "circumstances dictate" crowd. It's nice to shoot without it, because the image quality is better, but when I was on board a ship as a younger photographer shooting the crew doing helicopter operations on the flight deck (with an awesome sun perfectly positioned for halos a silhouettes), I was mighty thankful for that filter when the rotor blades kicked up a rock and threw it right into the lens. At the time, being in college, I didn't have a secondary lens... and we still had a lot of days left in that patrol. I shudder to think of all the images I would have missed if that lens had been cracked.

  • jtmcg March 23, 2012 05:43 am

    I always use a hood, never a "protective" filter. The only time I would consider using one is when there are conditions like blowing sand or salt spray. I used to use them but in 20 years I've never had anything happen that having a filter on the lens would have prevented. OTOH I have had flare due to a fliter. I have a CP that I use when I need it.

  • Topher Pettit March 23, 2012 05:38 am

    I have to make this argument... Shooting maternity, don't worry about not have a uv filter. Shooting at the beach in the surf, use a uv filter... Saltwater on the main glass when wiped off will make marks from the fine sand. Better to mess up the uv filter than the lens. Also... Spend money on good uv filters... I buy b+w high end ones, no comparison differences on and off compared to cheap ones.

  • Vignesh March 23, 2012 05:32 am

    well i hardly see any degradation in quality while using a UV filter. Its just that if you can afford to spend another 1000K on a broken lens then go ahead dont use a filter. The flare and ghosting is just an excuse.. these can be easily avoided by using a hood. Even more it can be removed during post processing . All my lenses have a permanent UV filter in front of them.I also use polarisers , grad ND's and ND's. I find that they help me in my photography !!!

  • david March 23, 2012 05:31 am

    one word. TEST IT.

    I bought a HOYA fitler and saw no loss in quality. however the Tiffen brand completely ruined the picture.
    I'm told the B+W are great for preserving image quality.

    If you mount a lens hood yes you should not need a hood ever but if like your lens gets wet on the front it's better to wipe off the filter.

    also if you're going to resell it, a filter is highly recommended.

    in the end there is no right answer as whatever drop in image quality is acceptable for protection.

  • Bill March 23, 2012 05:24 am

    A $75 piece of crap on a $1200 lens is a small investment in protection as is a lens hood. I happen to use both. I've been taking photos for a long time and haven't found a good UV filter to have detrimental effects on my SLRs or DSLRs. It's purely a matter of personal choice so stop berating those of us who make the choice to use filters. It is as pointless an argument as a choice in computers, software or cars.

  • Youri Lepp March 23, 2012 05:16 am

    For those of us who are amateurs (and cheap, too) it makes sense to simply protect the stock lens from scratches & fingerprint impressions. This is even more of an issue when multiple people use the same camera & other may care less for the instrument than the owner.

  • Jake Townsen March 23, 2012 05:14 am

    I shoot on average 3 weddings a week. I have 7 L lenses in my bag, all of which are used at some point during the shoot. All have B+W UV filters. The only time i take those filters off is when shooting into extreme backlight and the ghosting problem is a factor, which actually is not as often as you think. I see little difference in the image quality at normal resolutions on a FF body. Pixel Peepers would have you believe otherwise. Clients would never see a difference.

    Having 7 lens hoods in use would dramatically increase the bulk of my gear. I'd have to carry two bags to make everything fit. Not practical. Plus - lens hoods while great for protection and blocking sun flare, also make your lens larger and more intimidating for clients. 70-200 lens hood adds on about 3.5 inches to your rig.

    Over the years I have dropped or banged certain lenses (70--200 most common) about 7 times. Each time resulting in a broken and bent filter. Cost of replacing bent filter $100. Cost of replacing bent front element of your lens....way higher. Plus your lens has to be sent in to repair, usually 10 working days. Meaning you now need to rent replacement gear in the meantime.

    In a perfect world, yeah I would prefer no filter. Unfortunately its all those imperfect moments that make the need for a filter a must, for me.

    That being said - ND filters are a MUST! Especially for flash work.

  • D. Travis North March 23, 2012 05:12 am

    I'm a proponent of a clear filter on the front of my lenses, especially "out in the wild". But I have been known to take it off when I'm in a controlled environment.

    That said, you need a quality filter. I read an article years back that described the troubles that such a filter could provide. Ghosting, glare and color desaturation are all possibilities. But not with a good multi-coated filter. A good Clear filter or a good UV filter still needs all the coatings and so on. It's going to cost a lot.

    As for getting out in the wild...I like having a filter up there simply because it's easier to clean than the lens glass. As Mr. Andy Mills pointed out above, there's always something trying to smear the lens. So you'll be cleaning. The filter is at least very flat and very easy to access, while the glass on some of my lens is a pain in the ass to clean with it's slight curvature and ultra smooth finish.

    In the end...if there's no noticable difference, I don't see the purpose for the concern. A cheap filter will cause problems...but a good one should barely be noticable.

  • Dave A March 23, 2012 05:11 am

    My answer, yes and no...

    I have UV/Skylight filters for each of my lenses and keep them on most of the time. However, when shooting into the sun or getting flair problems (you can see this in the image) I take it off. It is sort of like wearing a sweater on a cool day. If the weather stays cool (if I am in a situation where the lens can get damaged) I can keep it on and everything is good. If the weather warms up (if I get in a situation where the filter is causing an issue) I can always take it off! Flair is more of an issue with wide angle to normal lenses than telephoto lenses, but shooting into the light can always be problematic.

    I am always reminded of this issue from an experience a friend had years ago. They liked going into burning buildings with the firemen to take pictures (neat images, crazy if you ask me). After one such shoot, he looked at the front of his lens and saw what looked like water marks flowing down the front of the filter. It was the multi-coating on the filter! The fire was SO hot it caused the coating to melt and ooze! If he did not have the UV filter on then that would have been the coating on his lens, therefore a completely ruined lens.
    Moral- use them when necessary, have one and leave it on (cause you will forget to put it on until it is too late), but take it off when necessary. Just make certain they are multicoated now!

  • Jayzer March 23, 2012 05:11 am

    On the lead pic to this article, you have a filter of whatever cost protecting a lens that's worth $150.00.

    In those circumstances, I wouldn't bother; otherwise, I almost always have a CPL on, so I go with that.

  • Jeremy March 23, 2012 05:09 am

    One day, my son accidentally bumped into my backpack when it was sitting on a short bench no more than 1.5 feet tall. The bag fell and landed with a thud on the tile floor. The camera bag had decent padding and the drop was very short so I didn't think twice about it.

    At the trailhead of my afternoon hike, I opened my bag to pull out my 70-200 VR and to my horror I saw broken glass around the front element. My heart sunk. It took me a second to process but then I realized it could be just the filter. I pulled out the lens and saw that the front element was indeed fine and that the glass in the bag was just from the filter. Yeah!!!

  • Matt March 23, 2012 05:09 am

    I look at it this way...

    Am I in a place where I can control who and what goes near my camera? If so then off comes the filter.

    Am I in a place where neither of the above is true? Filter stays on.

    Is there a difference in an image with/without filet when viewed at 100% and taken at, say, f16? Under certain conditions I'm sure there is. I don't spend a lot of time at f16 but I do spend a lot of time near people and things that could damage my kit. Is the image quality difference enough to worry about in the majority of places where my images get used? No.

    Each to his own.

    (Discolsure about my kit: Nikon D3/D7000. Nikon 24-70 2.8,70-200 2.8 VR II, 50 1.8 G & 85 1.4 G)

  • MarcosV March 23, 2012 05:07 am

    I am in the quality filter camp. As a default, my UV filter is on my lens. I remove the filter whenever I feel the image quality will suffer with it on and for me that hasn't been that often.

    Things to consider:
    1. If you use an ultra thin filter (e.g., for UWA lens) consider that there isn't as much thread for the lens cap to grip on to and that can cause the cap to more easily pop loose.
    2. Canon says that a filter is required to complete the weather resistant sealing
    3. This is a hobby for me. I am not a working pro. I scratch the front element of my lens, I'll probably eat it the repair cost since I don't want to invoke my personal article insurance to repair one lens.
    4. Most impacts that crack a filter don't cause the filter fragments to in turn gouge the front element.
    5. If you let a friend/someone use your lens, do you want a filter on it or not?

  • Andy Mills March 23, 2012 04:56 am

    I think this is a "it depends" topic.

    And I would say that if you are going to use a filter, then don't buy the cheap crap and expect it to not make a difference to image quality.

    Then TEST IT! Take test photos with and without the filter, and If it makes no noticeable difference to your eyes, then use it. If it does, try another filter brand. A certain lens and filter combination may not work together - I have one lens where there's no difference, and one lens where there is...

    There are times when having a filter is advantageous - like shooting children or dogs who always want to touch or lick the lens, shooting near the sea (salt water is never good), and so on.

  • Alexx March 23, 2012 04:36 am

    I have a uv, polariser, and a warming filter on at most times.

  • David Bailey March 23, 2012 04:30 am

    My Zeiss 21 mm and Canon 135mm F2 are both protected by quality B& W UV filters plus lens hoods on my 5D mk 2. These filters cost, particularly in UK, something around £100 each. I cannot detect any difference in image quality with or without these filters so will continue to use them. However I have little doubt that some of the cheaper filters may detract significantly from image quality.

    In my opinion, there is much more potential to experience degraded image quality by shooting with an unprotected lens in adverse conditions as mentioned by other photographers above, e.g. sandy, dusty, seaspray conditions. After shooting in these conditions, I am much happier gently cleaning my expensive filters than I would be cleaning my lens which cost 15 times and ten times as much respectively. Depending on use, I would expect to have to replace my filters every couple of years or so.

    Obviously image quality is dependent upon much more than whether you use filters or not but , of you do use filters then they need to be good quality and kept clean. I use puffer and Lenspen so far.

    Happy shooting!

  • Paul DiBartolo March 23, 2012 04:28 am

    As a professional who could take a tax credit when purchasing or repairing equipment and needs the utmost in image quality it would be wise to not use a filter as a safeguard against lens damage. For the rest of us who are serious photographers but do not sell our photographs a protecting filter should be of consideration

  • Kev March 23, 2012 04:22 am

    Yes, I do use a UV filter on all my lenses, the obvious exception being those that won't accept a filter. I have always used pro lenses and alway used pro grade filters from B&W, i have never seen any degradation in image quality at all and all my lenses are in perfect condition apart from one that has a little mark on the front element caused by water, it is a Nikon16mm fisheye and there is no filter to fit.
    I think it depends on the quality of the filter you stick on a lens, after all. if you are a landscape photographer, you will most certainly stick a filter or two on a lens, so whats the problem??
    If you see a marked difference in image quality, you are using crap filters!

  • Robert March 23, 2012 04:13 am

    Of course, if I were doing a shoot that I knew would have anything flying toward my lens (e.g. sparks, water, sports equipment, etc) I'd protect it with the best quality clear glass (and spacing) I could afford. Again, special circumstance NOT general practise. Since any filter will degrade your image it's an exercise in compromise - is the small decrease in IQ worth the effect I need? This is also why there are some filters that cost as much as lenses. When IQ really matters you pay for it!

  • gstock March 23, 2012 04:12 am

    I only use the UV filter when shooting under conditions in which the camera could get dirty (eg windy beach). I prefer no to use these kind of filters because they cause poor image quality (obviously depends on the quality of the filter). On the other hand I have 2 great ND filters, and shotting with the filters screwed is almost the same as shooting without them for the image quality.

  • SalukiJim March 23, 2012 04:08 am

    You should try shooting in Arizona - or any other dry, windy, dusty place. During a recent vacation, I had to use everything short of a brillo pad and garden hose to get the dust off of my camera. Going without a lens filter is simply not an option there!

  • aaanouel March 23, 2012 04:04 am

    I have some of them for using only when required: a good CPL, a variable ND, a graduated ND and some powerful close-up lenses, but do not use any protection filter.

    Just take care of my camera and if a baby, that's all.

  • Marco March 23, 2012 04:01 am

    By the way, I only use LensPens on my good glass. That is a recommendation from and I trust them. Liquids and microfiber cloths might be used on my eye glasses, but never on my L series lenses!!!

  • Robert March 23, 2012 03:59 am

    I only use filters for special reasons e.g polarizer for reflections or blue sky, and neutral density for bright light work. UV filters have good use for film but really are a waste of money for digital.

    As for protection, I use a step up ring and metal hoods. Standardizing to 77mm (or increasingly 86mm) means you only have to have one set of filters (and threaded metal hoods) for all your lenses.

  • Marco March 23, 2012 03:58 am

    When I had $200 lenses, I used cheap UV filters and to be honest the picture quality was not much different. However now that I have all Canon L series lenses I never use a UV filter, just the very good hoods that came with them! I do use a CPL filter when needed for cutting glare and deepening the sky in scenic shots, but I had to upgrade from my first one because it was too low of a quality. I would act differently if I was in a desert or at the beach most of the time. Here the sand plus wind would make a top quality UV filter worth its weight in gold as that is like sand blasting the front element, but I am rarely in such an environment. For impact breakage you need insurance not a UV filter!!!!

  • Graham Serretta March 23, 2012 03:50 am

    Whie I appreciate Natalie's comments, I must point out some facts concerning optical filters, that seem to elude many photographers.

    Just because there are some cheaply made filters on the market, does not mean that all filters are cheaply made and therefore of inferior quality. Just as the optical elements of a good lens are made with precision and care, so are some optical filters made with precision and care, from high grade materials, to design specifications that have been arrived at after extensive R & D. They are made to the same precision as an "optical flat." Such filters do not degrade the image quality produced by a good lens in normal operating circumstances. They are expensive!

    "Normal operating circumstances" does not include taking photographs directly into sun, such as sunsets or sunrise, where the sun may be in the frame, nor does it include studio photography where there may be bright spectral reflections, such as from gems or jewellery. Any seasoned pro will remove any filters in these circumstances as a matter of course. At all other times, at least a UV filter, or maybe a plain "protector" will remain on the lens. Certainly there is always one on all of my lenses, for all of my portraiture, landscape and especially street work. They have saved my insurance company quite a sum in lens replacements over the past thirty years.

    Some lenses require the fitment of a filter in order to achieve a complete dust seal and the lens manufacturers recommend the use of a filter because of this - the Canon EF-S 17-55 f2.8 IS USM is one case in point. In any case, a filter would have to be pretty mean and cheap before the average photographer would notice any image degradation in normal use - the old rule applies here: you get what you pay for!

    The latest optical coating technology has mad it possible for filter manufacturers to produce filters with virtually no flare and ghosting. A good filter is coated on both sides. The mount is machined from thermally stable material and will not corrode.

    Lastly, the purpose of a polarising filter is not primarily to increase colour saturation and reduce glare - it is to eliminate primary reflective light from the subject, such as the reflections from automobile trim, jewellery, ceramics, spectacles (yes, as in portraiture) and off of water. It will also decrease the brightness of the sky when used at 90 degrees to the sun, and thus increase the contrast between the blue sky and white clouds. It's ability to increase general colour saturation is no longer of any significance, as this was a feature valued by film users, but which has been superseded by digital manipulation.

    A U.V. filter does exactly what it says on the tin - it filters out ultra violet light, and any of you who have done any colour photography at fairly high altitudes, especially in mountainous landscapes, will appreciate the way UV light can reduce the detail in distant scenes, creating a "haze" effect. A good UV filter is indispensable in these circumstances.

    There are three good quality filter manufacturers that I have used - top of my tree are Hoya Pro 1, which I use on all of my good glass. I also admire Sigma DG filters - a lens maker isn't going to make a filter that degrades the quality of his lenses, now is he? And I have also used B&W, which are made by Schneider Optik. As for Tiffen, I have mixed feelings - they have a good reputation in the motion picture industry, but I have experienced a Tiffen circular polariser that produced poor contrast images - replaced by the retailer without quibble, but there you are.

    To close - many a wise pro carries a backup camera body, just in case. How many carry a spare lens?

  • sillyxone March 23, 2012 03:50 am

    I have to steal this article from One of the steel wool spark damaged a $2000 lens, but the photographer still doesn't intend to put a filter on:

    Personally, I had plenty of shots where my daughter throwing snowballs at me. I wouldn't go all out for that kind of shots without protection.

  • T-Fiz March 23, 2012 03:46 am

    My 60D fell out of my camera bag and nose-dove onto a bathroom tile floor after I accidentally forgot to zip it up (the bag, LOL). I turned around and saw the camera and two black pieces on the floor. After carefully picking it up, I noticed that the broken pieces were from the lens hood snapping in two and that at least the UV filter was bent and cracked beyond belief. So not knowing if my lens's glass was scratched or broken, I held the camera nose-down and sloooowly unscrewed the filter off. Much to my amazement and surprise, NOT ONE scratch was on the lens glass itself, although there was a scuff mark on the side of the side of the barrel. I was happy that I had that extra protection on there considering that replacing the hood and filter were a lot cheaper than replacing the entire lens. That seals the deal for me!

  • Bob Schlag March 23, 2012 03:40 am

    When I got my DSLR, I followed the advice of many and got a UV filter for it. Then I went to a gig to do some shooting (most of my photos are taken in dark nightclubs and bars) and was disappointed with the focus of the shots. After a few times of this, I took off the filter and got MUCH better results. I still keep a few effects filters for fun shots, like a star filter, but most of the time I use a naked lens.

  • Thorstein K. Berg March 23, 2012 03:32 am

    I would say it all depend on where you're shoot if the filter is needed. As I do much landscape, I would say that without the filter the pro lens would lost it's value quick as outside there's seaspray, sand, dust and other nasty bits that quickly gets on the glass. And since you'll quickly will be cleaning the glass with a micro-fiber cloth to get rid of droplets, you'll also rub the dust and sand around on the glass.
    But for studiowork, why use the filter. There's no need when you're inside. If you should ending up dropping your camera, there's nothing that would help any way. What happens then happens.

  • Ed Letts March 23, 2012 03:27 am

    First off I'm still a newbie so I have an excuse for not making sense ;-) Second I only spent $300 for my lens but it was as hard for me to save for it as some people who have the $1200 lens. That said yes I use a very cheap UV filter to protect it. I purchased a very inexpensive set of 3 filters, UV, Polarizer and neutral density to learn about them and may upgrade after I learn enough to know if and when I should use them. If I've learned anything so far it's every situation is different and I want to have as many tools available to me as I can to try and get that shot right. At this point if the shot is bad it's usually my fault not the inexpensive equipment.

  • Tango March 23, 2012 03:26 am

    I bought a $15 UV filter. I put it on when I am not shooting. I only use it when the camera is stored. My dog ate one of my lens caps and I have been way to lazy to make 5 clicks to order a new one from B&H Photo. When I am going to shoot off comes the UV filter.

    I do use a CPL from time to time if I am photoing my kids playing sports on a bright sunny day.

  • John Newton March 23, 2012 03:22 am

    This is one of those eternal/recurring discussions that boils down to personal choice. In the beginning I used a UV filter but I no longer use one. The only time I use any filter is if the situation calls for one. Any filter that you put on the front of your lens is going to degrade the image in some manner. A lens hood does more to improve you image quality than the most expensive UV filter and does considerably more to protect the front element than any filter that you can think of. As for protection, my home owners insurance covers my camera equipment better than a filter.

  • Jeff E Jensen March 23, 2012 03:18 am

    I don't use UV filters, but I do use polarizer and ND filters as needed.

  • Shaun March 23, 2012 03:18 am

    My camera bag fell off a short table about 2-3 feet high. When I returned home my heart sunk as I stared at the shattered front lens of my 24-70 and 70-200. Luckily I soon realized it was only my filters that shattered, but it could have been much worse. I love the way my pictures turn out. Could they be better without the filters? Maybe. But in MY case I can afford to replace the filters, NOT the lenses. So I'm going to stick with filters to protect my investment. In choosing whether or not to use filters you have to look at your options subjectively. Do what's right for YOU.

  • krishna kumar March 23, 2012 03:13 am

    All said ,discussed and debated, My vote is for a multi -coated HD UV filter attached in front of the lens
    (which also protects the precious front element of the lens) to cut the 'ugly' haze and a Circular Polariser
    to brighten the blue sky and remove harsh glare from the images.

    Photography is all about how an image is conceived in the mind of the photographer and the filters (UV & CPL)
    help create those images faithfully without any compromise.

    Well, these are my views and nothing will ever make me change them !

  • BrianP March 23, 2012 03:12 am

    Time for some side by sides. I own only one filter and it is a UV I bought when I picked up my first lens. Safety first, right? Well I haven't bought another for any of my other glass but I am looking at ND and Polarizers. I see those as creative tools and not so much as cheap lens insurance. And when I did bust up a Nikon lens, I slipped in a stream and the lens came down on a rock broadside. The filter survived but the lens needed to be rebuilt. UGH!

  • big Al March 23, 2012 03:10 am

    For me, the only filters I seem to use are polarizers or ND grads. Indoors or at night, a hood works as a protector for the lens. Outdoors, I usually have a polarizer on and a lens cap or "bag" (either an old lens sack or even a drink can insulator for quick removal).

  • Kerensky97 March 23, 2012 03:07 am

    I always laugh a little when people make such a big deal about lens cleaning or what impact a thin (high-quality) piece of glass will make on their shots. Perhaps in the studio it's different but most of my shooting is outdoor and I live in the desert so dust and sand are my prime concerns.

    If it's windy the desert can turn into the Mint 400 scene from "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" and I have to wipe dust from the lens the way coastal photographers wipe rain or ocean spray from their lenses. And after 5 days camping, biking, or backpacking I'm really hoping my microfiber cloth is clean enough that it wipes off more dust than it adds.

    The short of it is that when I constantly wipe my lens before a shot I'd rather be wiping across a filter that costs $75 to replace than a front lens element that requires the whole $1000 lens be replaced.

  • Chris March 23, 2012 03:04 am

    When I moved from my 28-135 to the 24-105L, I was really questioning whether the L lens was worth the big price difference, as I couldn't see much of a difference between the images. When I took the UV filter off, though, I saw a huge difference, especially in contrast. After talking with a friend about this, we decided to use up our UV filters in some tests on some old cheap manual focus lenses. A UV filter on one lens, and a lens hood & no filter on the other, in a drop test (before too many scream, these were Chinese knockoffs of Soviet lenses, so, the lens hood was worth more than all four lenses we used). Out of all the drops we did, the only ones that had damaged front elements were the ones with the UV filters on them. It seemed that the filter would shatter and then the shards of glass would cut into the front element (this stood out because, well, the lens coating was crap on these).

    Now when it comes to effects, I'm definitely all for filters. A polarizer or graduated ND gives results that are difficult to do in post production, and trying to replicate a star filter in post is an exercise in frustration if there's a lot of points of light. Filters definitely have a use, and should be a part of every photographer's kit, but protection isn't one of those uses.

  • Derek March 23, 2012 02:53 am

    With all this in mind (and I'm not a pro photographer by any means), I think I'll take a scientific approach with my gear: take various pictures with and without UV filters of the same subject in the same lighting, and find where (if anywhere) the UV filter degrades IQ. Granted, I don't own any L-glass for my Canon, and I could certainly afford to replace my Plastic Fantastic 50mm 1.8 II lens even if it grenaded...but as of this moment, I tend to run with UV filters in place. I haven't as yet noticed any IQ issues.

  • Neil Alexander March 23, 2012 02:45 am

    For your information: If you're looking for a really good lens hood, it's worth having a look at these rubber Mamiya ones. They're made from good thick rubber so give your front element that extra bit of protection. And they flatten down for easy back packing.
    Mamiya Lens Hood

  • Regan March 23, 2012 02:39 am

    This reminds me of the Fram commercial, "You can pay me now, or pay me later" when the mechanic is telling the customer to buy the more expensive oil filter. My idea is that my glass is forever, and it may be fixable, but that trouble should be avoided. Using a UV filter (yes a good one) has saved me from having to clean the lens glass, reducing the wear on the coatings. If I do wear down the coating, I can replace it for less than the cost of repair (I live off-shore). It comes off easily when I need to avoid ghosting. I always recommend that the UV be used when people ask for advice. It's come in handy when the crumb-crunchers grab the lens and if I need to shoot quickly, it's easier to take off the filter than to stop and clean the lens.

  • Brent J. March 23, 2012 02:31 am

    I most often use a polarizer.....Today, I'll go out and shoot without it and see the results for myself. I'll see if my photos of "Salt Lake City" have the look of Florence......If they do, the filter goes back on! God bless the U.S.A.!

  • Studio Wetty March 23, 2012 02:26 am

    I never use a filter unless it's required by the shot (ND 8 stop for ex). Just use the hoods and you should be fine. Oh and don't clean the glass with sandpaper.

  • Christopher Nelson March 23, 2012 02:20 am

    Never used UV filters and(knock on wood) have never had a problem, I agree a lens hood, lens cap and strap are all you need.

  • Margaret March 23, 2012 02:14 am

    Since I have a polarizer on my lens most of the time, I have no need for UV. I bought a couple years ago, but don't even know where they are. The polarizer is at least useful, whereas the UV filter isn't. Recently I purchased "hoodies" for my lenses that are one size smaller than the lens hood. That way they fit snugly onto my lens (without the hood) whether I have a lens cap on or just a polarizer. They are pretty good protection, and work with those thin filters that won't take a lens cap.

  • Francesco Panico March 23, 2012 01:57 am

    I don't use UV filters, I prefer to use a lens hood to protect my lenses. I agree with your logic Natalie: I spent a lot on my lenses (I have 2 Canon L series lenses), and it would be a shame to cover them with a filter
    Sometimes instead I use other kinds of filters (polarizer, ND and GND), when I want to achieve particular effects

  • Howard Jackman March 23, 2012 01:50 am

    So I've owned my D7000 for a year now and I put a UV filter on it for the first week, after that I decided that the loss of clarity wasn't worth whatever supposed protection it offered. I have a Lens hood it's amazingly effective at protecting your lens, and I have the choice to be smart about how I carry and handle my camera to avoid these types of accidents. I check the strap before picking it up, I hold it close to me while walking around so it doesn't swing wildly and smack something, and I keep the lens faced down so nothing can poke it accidentally until I take the shot.
    Also as someone who has been to Florence (Firenze actually) and currently lives in Salt Lake City, I would say that great pictures are available everywhere, (yes even in SLC in fact we have a Google + photowalk here this weekend) use the UV if it's a hazy day but otherwise enjoy all that wonderful crisp detail that piece of expensive glass can give you and get out and shoot!

  • Steve Blanchard March 23, 2012 01:47 am

    A friend took a great landscape shot with the moon that had a ghost of the moon caused by a reflection off the UV filter. I fixed for him in Photoshop, but how many other less noticable reflections are in his shots?

    I personally don't use the filter because I don't want those reflections. But I have a big scratch in the middle of my lens that wouldn't be there if I had used a UV filter. Life isn't perfect.

  • steve slater March 23, 2012 01:38 am

    I used to use a filter - commonly a polorizing or UV.
    I agree it does protect the lens.
    Now I keep a UV filter on to protect the lens both in transit and also if I am ploughing through the undergrowth where the lens is in risk of damage.
    Otherwise the filte comes off when I take a shot.
    I have tried cheap and expensive filters but I was constantly getting banding (especially a problem with hdr)
    If you try and clean them with lens fluid they smudge and the smudge does not want to go away.
    The quality of the shot was definately less sharp.

    I took this shot without a filter and have never looked back since:

  • Zaman Khan March 23, 2012 01:33 am

    Every-time i see a picture of a broken uv filter and a lens together, i cringe, the small pieces of glass from the filter can i actually grind on the front element and scratch it. Use a hood, not only does it increase contrast and prevent ghosting, it is more protective than a uv filter. The only time i would use a uv filter is if i am deep in dirt or where i can get ocean spray, although i am more likely to have a nd filter at that time.
    Uv filters are useless, when i first started i purchased a tiffen uv filter for everyone of my lenses. Then i started seeings ghosts and flares even with lens hoods on, this is when i got rid of the uv filters. The front glass element can take ALOT of stress it will not scratch so easily. some of my cheaper glass i throw in hte bag without a front lens cap only a back one, none of it has ever been scratched the coatings they use today are phenomenal.

  • Miguel Rozsas March 23, 2012 01:31 am

    My two cents: I think the filter price doesn't matter.
    What really matters if the image with the filter is noticeable worst.

    I have a cheap UV filter.
    And I can't tell if two photos taken with/without the filter, are different or not. For me, its the same, even at original size (100% zoom).

    My lens are several times more expensive than the filter and I can't afford a damage on the lens. So, I will keep the filter on.

    For sure this is not a scientific approach, but it is enough for me.

  • Joe March 23, 2012 01:27 am

    I used to use (cheap) filters for protection, but not any more. I noticed that on my 70-300, sometimes when I used the filter, I'd get purple fringing. Once I removed the filter, it went away. Not I go without on all my lenses. I've decided that I can't be afraid of my gear. I bought it to use it, not to baby it.

  • Joe Sands March 23, 2012 01:25 am

    I used to, until I saw image degradation, ghosting, etc. While that issue is certainly not as bad with more expensive multicoated filters -I've tried- it's still a big problem in certain situations. I now usually go bare (and use my lens hoods for extra protection) if I'm doing anything serious. Exceptions would be situations where I feel I "really" need protection (dusty or sandy situations, vacations where I might have a superzoom & no bag or hood on, etc.)

    I've also heard that that front element is usually not a super expensive piece to replace if it does get damaged - less so than other lens repairs. Slight scratches also tend to not be as big an issue when they are on that front element either, say, vs the rear element which is a huge problem (that said, I'm certainly not letting my lenses get dirty or scratched). I guess I just feel like I'd rather have the best images I can from my "good" lenses and risk a possible fix on one of them later for a few hundred $$ than degrade image quality in certain situations & pay 1-200$ FOR EACH LENS for the pleasure.

  • Brendan March 23, 2012 01:21 am

    The nice things about filters is that they can easily be removed. I take mine on and off depending on my own evaluation of the situation. Normally, outside or with large crowds indoors I have it on, indoor shoots (studio) I will take it off. Although, I really have not seen any noticeable difference in image quality, and my filters are less than $100 a piece.

  • Erik Kerstenbeck March 23, 2012 01:15 am

    I always use filters for protection but also for effects - a Variable Neutral Density is cool for Motion Blur

    Here is a classic Grand Central Station shot:

  • Stuart Dootson March 23, 2012 01:14 am

    No UV filters for me - if the front element of a lens is accessible and might be damaged, just use a lens hood! If (like my Sigma 105mm macro lens) the front element is well recessed, then I might not even bother with that...

  • Jeff March 23, 2012 01:11 am

    Nobody mentioned the cleaning of the lens. It seems reasonable to expect that over time and after many shoots and no matter how much care is given to cleaning the front lens element, there are bound to be tiny surface scratches. Won't these surface scratches, as small as they are, detract from the quality.

    What is the BEST procedure for keeping the expensive lens clean without getting scratches on it?

    [ Jeff ]

  • Kasper March 23, 2012 01:07 am

    I can see a clear difference between images shot with a Canon 50mm f/1.8 and a Sigma 50mm f/1.4 (those are the two I own..). Definitely.

    But I can't see the difference in image quality on my Sigma with and without the Protection filter.. And I even bought a pretty cheap one (but I checked MTF tests, and it did better than the Hoya). So my logic is: I buy expensive lenses, because there's a visual difference. And I buy cheap filters, because there is no visual difference. Except the fact that you can stop worrying about protecting your gear, instead of actually seeing photographs!

  • Yacko March 23, 2012 01:04 am

    Th reason the filter is a less than $75 "piece of crap" is because it is one piece of glass, maybe multicoated. If you sliced your $1200 lens down to one of its elements, what would that portion be worth. I thought so. There are better quality filters available. Also sometime a UV filter does its job - as a UV filter because you need UV filtration. It's up to the individual.

  • Edsel Adap March 23, 2012 01:02 am

    That borken filter thing has happened to me back before the days of DSLR. I had a Nikon FM2 with a 50mm 1.8 and a UV filter attached to it. I lent my camera to my buddy while I went skiing. When I got down from the hill, he gave me back my camera with a broken filter -- he says it hit the corner of the table. The camera and lens survived, but the filter was shattered.

    Today I keep the filter on most of the time, unless I'm shooting into the light (prevent flares) or if I'm shooting for a client or special event (weddings, etc...). But for everyday stuff, family, kids, I keep the filter on.

    Having a big lens hood also helps protect the lens. On my Nikkor 85mm 1.4 and my Tamron 10-24mm I don't have a filter, so I keep the lens hood on.

  • Guitar Builder March 23, 2012 12:57 am

    Filters for me please! Although I am not a professional photographer, I still want quality photos. However, I am more than willing to sacrifice a bit of quality for safety in this instance. But then I have had tiny stones bounce off my UV filter, and scratch it too.

    Also for me, I'm not all that good when it comes to photoshop. So filters allow me to do such things as this pic. I used a star filter, then half of an orange filter.

  • Photog82 March 23, 2012 12:55 am

    The only time I use a filter on any lens is when I need to, such as a polarizing filter, ND Grad, etc, other than that I don't use one.

  • Mads March 23, 2012 12:49 am

    I'll let Lensrentals do the talking on this one:

    But personally, I use the most expensive UV filter I can buy to put in front, as protection from fingers and other protruding objects as well as the hood. Does it change the IQ? Perhaps, but I sleep better when it's on and that's important to me.

  • Hank Kuhfeldt March 23, 2012 12:48 am

    I boil it down to "Can I afford to replace my lens if something happens?" if I am in a uncontrolled situation (someplace other than an indoor location or a location I have a lot of control over.) If the answer is "yes" then I go without.

  • Jon Bradbury March 23, 2012 12:43 am

    I ran with the no filters for a while. My 70-200mm F4L now has a small mark in the front element... (actually caused I believe in the bag when the lens cap came off then rubbed on the element).

    I've since purchased a 17-40mm L & 24-70mm L, both RUN with filters 98% of the time. As does the 70-200 now. Canon actually sell them as completing the weather sealing. With a good quality filter the lens is STILL better than any cheaper alternative. I'm still benefiting from ring USM, and if applicable for you IS etc.

    If I do feel the filter is degrading the picture in any way (flare in adverse conditions) I can choose to remove it if the conditions are safe.

    In the mean time the filters have protected it from sand, rain, cow tongues...

    If you're a pro then yes maybe by the time any damage to the front element is an issue they're selling it and buying the next big thing. As an amateur buying an L to last a lifetime, then I'm protecting my investment.

  • Neil Alexander March 23, 2012 12:35 am

    Great post Natalie.
    I regularly use a polariser, a vari-ND and ND grads, but stopped using UV filters a long time back. Surely if you want to use one to protect your glass, then that's what a hood is for? And it'll cut down flare too.
    No brainer.
    UV filters are just another money spinner for those ever so impoverished retailers IMHO......
    A bit like camera straps with lens cap holders in them or ridiculously expensive extended warranty plans.

  • Alexander DiMauro March 23, 2012 12:34 am

    I've seen this issue come up on many blogs, and it's usually a polarizing (pun intended) topic! Anyway, when I got my first dSLR, I read the same thing. Buy a UV filter to protect your lens. At first I didn't, but then when taking pictures of my kids, the first thing they always seem to do is try to touch the lens! I guess it's fascinating!

    So, I bought a UV filter, not knowing the controversy surrounding it. Started reading posts like this one, but I didn't really notice a major difference in quality...until I bought my first high quality lens. Now I won't touch a UV filter. It's still sitting there in my bag, but I haven't used it in almost a year.

    As for the kids trying to touch the lens, found a solution for that one, too...a lens pen!

  • Jeff W March 23, 2012 12:33 am

    No UV filters for me. Lens hoods and insurance.

  • David Julian March 23, 2012 12:25 am

    A picture is worth a thousand words, and the perfect picture has posted.

    Under this point of view, we will never use ND filter, Kokin gradients o polarized filters. The good filters will decrease the quality, but not so much as the worst.

    My conclusion is Filter Yes. Good lens + good filters, not the plastic ones.


  • Mridula March 23, 2012 12:24 am

    No I don't have even a single filter but the broken lens image is scary. When I clicked this picture by the sea at Goa a lot of people asked me if I was using a filter. I wonder why.

  • Siva March 23, 2012 12:24 am

    Good article. Made me think. I think I'll still use my filter but remember to take it off when I'm shooting.

  • Hasin March 23, 2012 12:21 am

    No, because they degrade the image quality. Causes flares in street shots at night.

    Just use a hood and you are good to go!

  • blaqk_panda March 23, 2012 12:21 am

    I definitely run commando on my lenses. If you want to apply a filter effect, you can usually do it in post and if you change your mind about it, you can easily undo it. Also, I usually shoot at such a wide aperture anyway that scratches or anything that are on the lens aren't going to show up but a drop in clarity from a cheap filter will. Anyway, just my thoughts.

  • Luke March 23, 2012 12:18 am

    This is silly. A simple side-by-side comparison would have sufficed. It seems to me that everybody in the industry wants us to spend every dime we have on new and better stuff. And now we're not supposed to protect that new, expensive stuff we have, so that we'll need newer things even quicker. Awesome.