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02-02-2020, 04:59 AM   #1
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Protector Filter vs UV Filter

I'm just doing some shopping for CPL filters and ND ones, when I came across 'Protector' Filters. Up until now I have been using UV Filters as a base protector for my lenses. What's important to understand is I shoot professionally, events and such, so I do a lot of quick lens swapping. In transport my lenses would have front and rear caps on, but during proper shooting time all caps are off for better speed and less 'things' to deal with (store away etc). As such I have always decided to put a UV filter on my lenses, during the more frantic times at an event its possible a small expensive prime might be tossed in a bag and accidentally making contact with something metallic and 'scratch potential'.

I don't think I ever knew about 'Protector Filters' till just now. I actually do need to also pick up a couple more UV filters or some kind of base protection for a few new lenses I have acquired, and so I wondered what the deal was? Which ones are better value, any pros and cons of Protector vs UV etc?

It's important to note as well that I typically use CPL on top of the UV filter, and then sometimes a ND filter on top of that. I do a fair amount of landscape work and tbh I haven't noticed a massive difference when stacking on top of a UV filter. I'm curious if perhaps there are subtle colour shifts or something... perhaps Protectors are the better way to go?


TIA

Bruce

02-02-2020, 05:55 AM - 1 Like   #2
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I think, the difference between UV filter and protection filter is that the protection filter doesn't filter out UV. Adding protection filter, unless it is an expensive one, usually results in lower contrast due to reflections between the filter and the front element of the lens, worst case added flare in backlit exposures.
02-02-2020, 06:00 AM - 3 Likes   #3
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Pretty much the only obvious use for a UV filter on digital is as a lens protector. The only non-UV lens protectors I've seen have been uncoated glass (which I'd steer clear of due to potential reflections), though it may be you can get coated ones too. I see no advantage / disadvantage to using either, so long as they're good quality from a reputable brand, and multi-coated.

I went through a fairly lengthy phase of putting UV filters on every bit of good, modern and classic glass that I own (I dread to think what I spent on filters over a two or three year period ). Although most of my photos turned out just fine, a not insignificant number were affected to a greater or lesser extent by either reflective flare with bright light sources, or weird "stripe" artefacts (the latter only seemed to appear at longer focal lengths). In some cases, these issues were only noticeable at larger reproductions; in others, they were more obvious. Some were repairable (though it was a pain and time-consuming to do so), but numerous otherwise-good shots were fit only for the Recycle Bin

At that point, I changed my approach. I left the UV filters on my lenses while not in use. Then, when I'd start shooting, if conditions allowed I'd simply remove the filter. The thing is, conditions were fine 90% of the time. So, now, I've removed all the UV filters from my lenses, and simply carry what I need with me. If conditions are rough, I might fit them before I leave home or get out of the car. I will say, my own preference is to shoot with a UV filter fitted in very wet / windy / sandy / gritty conditions, as I'm happier cleaning the front of a filter rather than the front lens element... and I abuse my UV filters, occasionally cleaning them in the field with tissue papers, rags, my shirt tail etc.

On the subject of stacking... I just wouldn't do it. Even with multi-coated filters, the chances of reflective flare are increased way too much for my liking; and, whilst you may not have noticed any significant differences in your images when stacking filters, when you eventually do - and I'm confident it's going to be when, rather than if - you may find yourself throwing otherwise-good photos away. From experience, I can say that's awfully frustrating

Last edited by BigMackCam; 02-02-2020 at 07:39 AM.
02-02-2020, 07:51 AM - 1 Like   #4
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I don't bother with the "protector" or "clear" because I figure if I'm going to take the hit of putting another piece of glass in front of my lens, I might as well do UV and possibly get some benefit in certain situations.

02-02-2020, 07:56 AM - 1 Like   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by BigMackCam Quote

I went through a fairly lengthy phase of putting UV filters on every bit of good, modern and classic glass that I own (I dread to think what I spent on filters over a two or three year period ). Although most of my photos turned out just fine, a not insignificant number were affected to a greater or lesser extent by either reflective flare with bright light sources, or weird "stripe" artefacts (the latter only seemed to appear at longer focal lengths). In some cases, these issues were only noticeable at larger reproductions; in others, they were more obvious. Some were repairable (though it was a pain and time-consuming to do so), but numerous otherwise-good shots were only good for the Recycle Bin

At that point, I changed my approach. I left the UV filters on my lenses while not in use. Then, when I'd start shooting, if conditions allowed I'd simply remove the filter. The thing is, conditions were fine 90% of the time. So, now, I've removed all the UV filters from my lenses, and simply carry what I need with me. If conditions are rough, I might fit them before I leave home or get out of the car. I will say, my own preference is to shoot with a UV filter fitted in very wet / windy / sandy / gritty conditions, as I'm happier cleaning the front of a filter rather than the front lens element... and I abuse my UV filters, occasionally cleaning them in the field with tissue papers, rags, my shirt tail etc.

On the subject of stacking... I just wouldn't do it. Even with multi-coated filters, the chances of reflective flare are increased way too much for my liking; and, whilst you may not have noticed any significant differences in your images when stacking filters, when you eventually do - and I'm confident it's going to be when, rather than if - you may find yourself throwing otherwise-good photos away. From experience, I can say that's awfully frustrating
My evolution in filter usage parallels yours. Actually it started towards the end of the film era and just continued into the digital times. In fact, it even influenced lens selection to a degree, using filter diameter as one factor in lens selection. However, at some point I started to believe that I saw a difference in images taken with and without (horrors!) the requisite UV filter.

Thinking about it logically, I reasoned that anything additional placed between the lens and the scene or item I was trying to capture, no matter how good (as nothing is perfect), would change the image, even if imperceptibly. And I always use high quality MC filters from major glass manufacturers, often costing around $100US each.

Where I am today is that I always carry both a UV and CPL in the filter sizes needed for the lenses I am using, but unless it is wet, or with blowing dust or sand, or an ideal use for the CPL arises, they stay in the bag, even during my recent African safari. I am religious about using my lenses' hoods, but otherwise the lenses are left as the manufacturer built them. I have never stacked filters, as I feel doing so would compound any image issues.
02-02-2020, 08:07 AM - 3 Likes   #6
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It's a tricky trade-off!

First, there's the issue of the filter quality. A "good" filter doesn't impact the image much at all (maybe a small loss of technical sharpness and a small amount of added flare). However a bad filter can be really awful in reducing sharpness, fogging the image, and making ugly bokeh. Before using a new filter for "important" photos, I'd do some side-by-side testing of sharpness, contrast, flare, and bokeh smoothness with and without the filter.

Second, I find that although filters obviously decrease the chance of getting dirt and finger prints on the lens front element, they increase the chance of finger prints and dirt affecting image quality. The problem is that glass surface of the filter is much more exposed than the front element. It's much easier to touch the filter surface than the recessed front element so the filter gets dirtier than the front element would. Worse, the exposed nature of the filter surface means that light is more likely to hit the dirt and fog the image.

Third, stacking can cause vignetting with wide angle lenses or zooms at their wide end. The problem is more likely with FF lenses on an FF body or crop-lenses on crop-bodies. The problem may be subtle if the lens is used wide-open -- just a bit of light loss in the corners -- but become severe if the lens is stopped-down -- black corners.

Thus, I tend to be like BigMackCam in only using a "protective" filter in the most adverse conditions.

Last edited by photoptimist; 02-02-2020 at 08:52 AM.
02-02-2020, 08:27 AM - 1 Like   #7
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Isn't it that the UV filter stuck around from film era as a protector on digital? If i'm not mistaken UV filter on film had a specific role in situations where there would be high UV exposure in the scene, as in high mountain tops and what not, which would turn the picture very blue (again depends on type of film you use). And digital cameras are not so sensitive to UV as opposed to IR and that's why you have IR cutoff filter on the sensor itself.

I stopped using both UV and protector filters because I didn't see the point. I use a lens hood for that added banging around protection. And if I get a stone flying in my lens from shooting something like dirt rally, well, that's just bad luck.

02-02-2020, 09:49 AM - 1 Like   #8
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The B+W and Heliopan NC filters have exactly the same coating as the regular filters. Just look up the specs from the manufacturer of your specific filter.

You can safely reuse your UV filters as protection filters on digital because they remove nothing from the visible spectrum. You can even use the skylight filters for that, they theoretically only remove a little bit of blue, which makes the sky a bit darker (like the yellow filter), but actually the NC, UV and skylight filters all have a filter factor 1x.

The main point is that you should use a hood in front of the filter to prevent flare, which is nothing different from a plain lens. You can find tests on the internet to determine degradation of the image when using filters at various types of lighting, but the difference is immeasurable when you are using a hood.
02-02-2020, 09:53 AM   #9
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Apart from CPL and ND filters, I generally don't put a filter on my lenses. Regarding 'protection' filters (i.e., UV or clear), I haven't had any damaging incident in the ten years and 50,000 images since I got my first DSLR. So, I think the probability of a mishap is very low. In my case, I'm not taking pictures amongst crowds or in risky environments. However, I think that I would fit a good-quality protector if I were shooting in a hazardous location such as a wind-swept sandy beach.

For useful insight into various tests that have been performed on filters, here are several references:
I think the conclusions are similar: Good quality filters do not induce significant degradation to image quality. Also, the quality of filters is not necessarily proportional to the price.

- Craig

Last edited by c.a.m; 02-02-2020 at 11:30 AM.
02-02-2020, 10:54 AM - 3 Likes   #10
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I use B+W protective filters. Do they degrade the image? I haven't been able to conclusively say. When I started fitting them I tested in some very tricky lighting conditions and I could not perceive any differences. In fact in some flare conditions the end results might even have been aesthetically, slightly better. So I fitted them to all my quality lenses from new, reasoning that the benefits of protection, and probably resell, was worth it. I tried a Hoya filter and a Kenko and concluded I would not use these.

In some cases they imrove the weather resistance of a lens. I always use the added protection of a lens hood. Yes they are expensive, but I factor this in when I buy a new lens.

So I'm comfortable with fitting them and probably more relaxed about a lens' use, for instance when I forget to fit a lens cap and pop it back into my bag also with lenses that have short hoods, straps, branches, fingers etc would otherwise risk making the front elements.

The B+W filters are easy to clean I find.
02-02-2020, 11:37 AM - 1 Like   #11
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I also prefer the B+W filters (F-Pro) because they have a brass ring and sufficient height to mount a screw-in hood.

On film I use the original Nikon and Pentax filters (they are also brass and 5mm high), you can still get them in mint condition for half the price of a B+W or Heliopan. Notably the Pentax filters are beautifully made with nice engravings and a silver nose (take one in your hand and feel how heavy they are). IDK perhaps they are degraded a bit but I don't care about a little flare and I'm also not a sharpness freak.

So, I have a practical approach. When I go out shooting I dump the camera (film or digital) in my backpack because I know the lens is protected by a filter and a hood, and when it collects dust and dirt I can clean the filter instead of the lens.
02-02-2020, 11:40 AM   #12
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Both are plain glass.


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02-02-2020, 01:02 PM   #13
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I'm "with" Barry and Kobayshi as I'm "not very careful" with my cameras and lenses when out and about - and so I generally use Hoya Pro protectors, and I haven't noticed any flaring or real image degradation.
02-02-2020, 01:09 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Kobayashi.K Quote
The B+W and Heliopan NC filters have exactly the same coating as the regular filters. Just look up the specs from the manufacturer of your specific filter.

You can safely reuse your UV filters as protection filters on digital because they remove nothing from the visible spectrum. You can even use the skylight filters for that, they theoretically only remove a little bit of blue, which makes the sky a bit darker (like the yellow filter), but actually the NC, UV and skylight filters all have a filter factor 1x.

The main point is that you should use a hood in front of the filter to prevent flare, which is nothing different from a plain lens. You can find tests on the internet to determine degradation of the image when using filters at various types of lighting, but the difference is immeasurable when you are using a hood.
QuoteOriginally posted by c.a.m Quote
Apart from CPL and ND filters, I generally don't put a filter on my lenses. Regarding 'protection' filters (i.e., UV or clear), I haven't had any damaging incident in the ten years and 50,000 images since I got my first DSLR. So, I think the probability of a mishap is very low. In my case, I'm not taking pictures amongst crowds or in risky environments. However, I think that I would fit a good-quality protector if I were shooting in a hazardous location such as a wind-swept sandy beach.

For useful insight into various tests that have been performed on filters, here are several references:
I think the conclusions are similar: Good quality filters do not induce significant degradation to image quality. Also, the quality of filters is not necessarily proportional to the price.

- Craig
QuoteOriginally posted by BarryE Quote
I use B+W protective filters. Do they degrade the image? I haven't been able to conclusively say. When I started fitting them I tested in some very tricky lighting conditions and I could not perceive any differences. In fact in some flare conditions the end results might even have been aesthetically, slightly better. So I fitted them to all my quality lenses from new, reasoning that the benefits of protection, and probably resell, was worth it. I tried a Hoya filter and a Kenko and concluded I would not use these.

In some cases they imrove the weather resistance of a lens. I always use the added protection of a lens hood. Yes they are expensive, but I factor this in when I buy a new lens.

So I'm comfortable with fitting them and probably more relaxed about a lens' use, for instance when I forget to fit a lens cap and pop it back into my bag also with lenses that have short hoods, straps, branches, fingers etc would otherwise risk making the front elements.

The B+W filters are easy to clean I find.
I read that lenstip one ages ago, and is why I went with Hoya because they seemed to degrade no worse or less than the expensive B+W ones :/

My main issue is actually vignetting as I try and get away with using lenses like the HD DA 20-40 on FF, so it is something I have to be mindful about, however I have now bought into the Manfrotto Xume Filter range and thus I quite enjoy a quick CPL>ND (on/off) experience when doing landscape work.

I am very much of the opinion that the IQ degradation if any is really a non issue. Every FA 43 and 77 shot I have ever taken has had a UV filter on it, I get compliments on the shot and not once has someone said "oof! That shot could be improved without the UV filter!" etc. I dunno... if there is degradation it must be so minuscule that the pros of having protection outweigh the loss of IQ.

As I said in my OP, it's really to do with tossing primes and lenses in a bag quickly or rushed and finding that I have also accidentally tossed something else in that bag before hand that now runs the risk of scratching the front element (unbeknown to me), for example a used battery. I've accepted that rear lens caps are part of my lens swapping procedure, but unfortunately front lens caps are not. Using rear lens caps is easier as they're a universal fit, unlike front lens caps where you must spend too long additionally hunting for the right cap, so I do away with that process.
Factor in that I live in Australia (pretty much a desert) and you might wipe the UV filter and drag a small micro grain of sand across the element, better a UV filter takes that damage than my lens. I have cpl and ND filters that both have microscratches on them, proof I think that they're doing their job.

But I can understand the argument completely of those that are not under pressure, lens swapping like crazy, a bag full of other photographic stuff, can take time to put things away properly etc, yep... the need for protection could be very low.

So what I'm gaining from this thread is that UV filters were something important to film shooters, they've stayed on the scene for digital as protector filters, why then do even protector filters exist period? How is there a market for them? Everyone here who is in support of the idea of using a filter for protection seems to be of the mind to using a UV one...
02-02-2020, 01:24 PM   #15
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Ref: why are UV filters still used as "protectors"? I really don't know why, but I wouldn't use "ancient" ones anyway because the coatings on "those" were not as "good" as modern ones when manufactured - and have almost certainly degraded further over the years (and years!) since then.
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