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Does It Make Any Sense To Use UV Filters On Your DSLR?

Published: 19/11/2016

Bruce in MN asked about UV filters. He says:

I just bought a Nikkor PC-E 24mm lens and I was wondering which filter is best, a B+W 77mm XS-Pro Clear MRC-Nano or a B+W 77mm XS-Pro UVHaze MRC-Nano 010M Filter?

Obviously, the UV Haze would be better for exterior photography, but when it comes to interiors which is better?

I used to use UV filters on all my lenses for protection but an image of the Seattle skyline that I've talked about for several years during Christmas changed my mind on UV filters. Aaron Leitz and I both shot the same image and both had the same strange lights in it. It took us several years of discussion on this blog to realize that our UV filters were what were causing the strange lights. My opinion is that UV filters cause more problems than they solve! And they will cause problems when you least expect it.

This short video by Karl Taylor makes the case for giving up UV filters. They are a relic myth left over from film days!

Larry Lohrman

12 comments on “Does It Make Any Sense To Use UV Filters On Your DSLR?”

  1. I agree. I have stopped using a UV filter for more than a year now. They are not necessary but that requires me to be extra vigilant with keeping the lens cap on when the camera is not in use. That should become automatic.

  2. While growing up in the film era, a UV or 1A filter was almost the first accessory you bought, typically based on the myth of the statistically improbable accident. Fast forward to today, virtually every lens comes with a lens hood specifically designed for that lens. It is almost automatic - pull lens out of bag, remove both lens caps, invert hood, mount on camera. There really is no reason to have a filter on 100% of time for non-photographic issues such as 'protection/insurance'. Other than when mounting the camera on a stabilizer for video (balance/path issues), I can't recall the last time I had a 'naked' lens on the camera that required protection..

  3. I thought that a circular polarizer filter was recommended to help with glare. I've been using one for a while now, but occasionally I do worry about some color distortion being caused by it. Especially indoors.

    Thoughts on circular polarizers?

  4. I haven't use a UV filter for over a year now. It took a while for the fear of scratching a lens to go but I find that I'm more careful with my lenses and even put the lens cap on between each shot. I occasionally use a polarising filter.

  5. I use a UV filter simply for protection of the glass. I think it was worth the extra few bucks put into Tiffen's pockets. This may be a holdover sentiment from my 35mm days. However, Mr. Lohrman here, has convinced me to give it up. Although, I will still use a circular polarizer on those occasions where there is lots of reflection on the exterior sides of windows, and I want some more saturated blue sky.

  6. Interesting posts. I'm taking all my UV filters off today! However, I am curious (as Matt is) about the polarizing filter. I started using one recently, hoping to reduce lens flare problems for my interiors. I haven't seen any flare since I started using it, but I didn't always see flare without it either. I'm never really sure what exact conditions are causing it. Obviously sunlight from windows is normally the reason (although overhead lights can also produce it), but I'm never sure how to overcome it with camera angles/lens aperture. Anyone...?

  7. I used UV filters on all my many lenses when shooting film over a number of decades. (I never had or used a zoom.) I also used polarizing filters, ND filters, and when shooting outside especially travel photography, I would use Tiffen half coverage filters both ND and Blue to deepen the sky or turn over cast day skies blue. Usually coupled with an orange filter to make the film color warmer. Who wants to go to the south of France with it looking like the UK in the middle of winter as it often does in the spring!

    With larger format cameras I used the Kodak CC gel filters lodged behind the lens to prevent any accidental flairs especially when using several filters together like those to correct for fluorescent lighting.

    BUT once I got my hands on a digital camera that would give me high enough resolution to take the place of film (about 2006) I have not used a filter since of any kind. With film (transparency that you used for any kind of 4 color print reproduction) you had to correct color at the time of shooting. With digital you don't have to although I prefer to by using the color setting in the camera. Anything that brings it closer to normal before entering LightRoom or Photoshop is a good thing when possible.

    But from the stand point of protecting my lenses, I have never had any problem with front element damage. Unlike "Blow Up" I don't chuck my cameras into the back seat of my Bently in an old brown bag. I use soft shoulder bags where my camera lives as I switch between different bodies and lenses during a shoot. I don't even bother putting on a lens cap until I finish the shoot. Dust is the main problem but then I always wipe off my lenses before a shoot and often during.

    But I think this is probably more of a personal choice rather than any kind of fast rule.

  8. There's an interesting video made by Tony Northup on YouTube, where he purposefully scratches up the glass of a lens horribly. He then tries to detect the scratches in post relative to the same lens yet unscratched, and he can't see any negative effects on the photos from the scratched glass.

  9. I've never seen any negative side effects to using UV filters. I have one on all my lenses. I use promaster filters. I don't use filters for fear that a scratch or nick would ruin the lens, but rather to preserve resale value. A perfect front element goes a long way in the used market.

  10. I started off using a UV filter on all of my lenses, but took them off after noticing haloing of light sources in low light. I take good care of all of my equipment and have never damaged a lens (or one of the UV filters). I only use UV filters now when I am in dusty/windy conditions to add a barrier for dust getting into the lens or abrasions from blowing dirt.

    A cheap filter can lower the quality of images through an otherwise good lens and good filters are expensive. I suggest leaving off UV filters. About the only screw-on filter worth having these days is a top quality circular polarizer. I also have a set of ND filters for landscape work and a 10 stop ND for special projects. Most of the work I do with ND's, I use a Cokin setup of slide in ND grads.

  11. I haven't used UV filters in years. I never understood using a cheap glass filter on an expensive L-series lens... it just degrades the image quality or causes artifacts like Larry pointed out. The two best things that you can use to protect your expensive glass is use a lens hood and buy equipment insurance.

    The only filters that I continue to use (rarely) are ND filters and a circular polarizer.

  12. I have been shooting real estate for 3 years now and have never used a UV filter . Don't think it's nescessary .

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