Should I Use a UV Filter?

by | Mar 14, 2012 | Recommendations, Stories & Expeditions | 1 comment

As I was first getting into photography, I remember debating whether or not to purchase a UV filter for my lens. My online research revealed that there were two major opinions about them: never use them at all or always use them. What should I do?

The reason not to use them is because it adds an extra layer of glass to the lens which ultimately reduces the optical quality of the lens. If I’m buying a $1,000 lens, why reduce it’s quality with a cheap filter?

The reason to use them is twofold: first, it cuts haze in your shots by reducing ultraviolet light (hence the name of the filter), and second, it provides an extra layer of protection for the front of the lens. If I’m buying a $1,000 lens, why leave the front glass susceptible to accidental damage when you can use a filter to absorb the abuse?

To help answer these questions, let me share a recent experience. A few weeks ago, as I was moving my camera bag over a solid, wooden floor, my 70-200m f/4.0 L IS lens fell out “head first” due to the fact that I had forgotten to zip up the main compartment! Even though the lens was in a thin leather pouch, I knew when I heard it hit the floor that damage had been done. When I took it out of the pouch and removed the lens cap, I discovered that, sure enough, the front filter was smashed. This wasn’t the first time I had dropped a lens, but it was the first time anything had broken. And I am grateful that it was only a filter, and not the actual lens itself.

5929_Canon EOS 40D, 55 mm, 1-250 sec at f - 5.0, ISO 400

So, if you were to ask me whether or not to use a UV filter, than I would strongly suggest that you do. And to get the best of both worlds, buy the highest quality UV filter that you can afford and simply use it in situations that could are potentially hazardous to the lens . . . including storage.

1 Comment

  1. Benjamin Cahill

    Good points. I haven’t bought a filter for my Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8, but probably should.


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