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To UV or Not UV, That’s A Great Question

UV Filters © Dave Cracknell 2011

Placing a UV filter on the front of a lens has always been something I’ve recommended to new SLR owners. The main reason is always to protect the front element from minor scratches. New owners, generally, will treat their new investment with kid gloves. However their awkwardness with new gear can lead to accidents and this is the main reason why I suggest UV lenses to newbies.

More experienced handlers may or may not place UV filters onto the lens. This is due to two different trains of thought. One camp says don’t and the other will swear by them. The one’s that say don’t just say that the UV will have an adverse affect on the image quality. The other side believes that the protection aspect is more valuable than the minimal loss in optical quality. I personally only place a UV or Protective filter onto my lenses if and only if I’m taking photos in adverse conditions, such as sea spray or sand when on the beach.

My personal preference is to use the dedicated lens hood for the lens rather than a UV filter. My logic, possibly flawed, is that the damage my lens is most likely to sustain is from being bumped into objects. If a UV filter is attached to my lens its likely to get a dent on the outer edge and not break. These filters are extremely hard to remove to replace, whereas a lens hood will absorb this force and not bend or break. If the force is so great as to break the hood then I would possibly have shattered the filter if it were in the hoods place. An exploding filter would send shards of glass onto the now unprotected front element and do possibly more damage. A hood is always cheaper to replace than a front element.

I’ve read many different reports on whether a UV Filter will lead to a drop in image quality or not. There has only been one I’ve found that suggests that this is the case. In this case it was a cheap no brand name filter on an expensive lens and they enlarged the image up to pixel level to see it.
If you are that worried about using a UV filter then don’t. In my personal experience the only time a UV filter will have an effect on the image quality is if the filter is dirty, scratched or fogged up.

Both Canon and Nikon have lenses that are weather-proof and are only truly weather proofed if a UV filter is attached. If these manufacturers of some of the world’s best lenses prefer you use a UV filter then they can’t be all that bad. So the question to UV or Not UV should be a little clearer. If you’re new to the game put them on EVERY lens for protection. Once more experienced decide whether they stay on all the time or not. If you use your camera in conditions that can be harmful then leave the UV filter on the lens. Take it off at your peril. If however you’re a purist and nothing gets between your lens and your next great image then by all means remove the filter. Be warned, no protection, is asking for trouble. If no UV put on a hood.

Happy Shooting.

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