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07-17-2013, 06:26 PM   #1
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Are the use of UV filters really that bad?

I've read some posts on here indicating that the use of ANY sort of UV filter on a lens degrades the quality of the pic. I have read it can affect anything from sharpness to contrast, and affect the cameras ability to autofocus. How many out there believe this is true? Personally I absolutely hate coming into contact with the lens optics and try to avoid it at all costs including the use of a UV filter for protection. I would like to get some feedback from the veterans or professionals out there on this subject please. I guess I just don't see how a clear and clean piece of thin glass could cause so many problems.

07-17-2013, 06:47 PM   #2
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If you use bad filters, you can noticeably degrade the IQ. If you use good filters, you usually won't notice, and you get the added bonus of lens protection

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07-17-2013, 06:56 PM   #3
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Technically, yes, any filter will degrade IQ - its just a question of how much and if it will be noticeable under any circumstances.

If you are dealing with a lens with very high IQ to start with then there is a greater chance of noticing the effect of having a filter on.

That said, with a high quality filter, the impact on IQ will be very small and may well be out weighed by the benefits of using a filter (i.e. protecting the glass). As long as it is a high quality filter that is.
If the lens is not particularly high IQ anyway, you may not see any difference using even a low quality filter.
07-17-2013, 06:59 PM   #4
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Why ask others for their opinions/experience? You have a dslr--try taking w/ and w/o the filter--except otherwise identical. I suggest the toughest tests include taking picture with wide angle lens closed down and sun in the corner of the frame, and a very long focal length lens and a scenery (e.g., small tree branches or a brick/other detailed wall. The first requires you have the camera on tripod=--or somehow keep the exact same position. The second requires a very long FL lens which you may not have. The idea is the 1st will show difference in flare. The second degraded resolution.

07-17-2013, 07:02 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by harleynitelite Quote
I guess I just don't see how a clear and clean piece of thin glass could cause so many problems.
That's the secret, in my opinion. Not the price or the brand of the filter. I use cheap filters and have never had a problem, but I hold them up and look at a lamp, and other stuff through it. If I can see any trace of even the slightest amount of haze at all, I don't use it. (I've also A-B tested the heck out of them with vs. without filters under numerous conditions.) I think a big factor is the plastic in the packaging that can emit gasses that coat or even chemically etch the glass. I've had expensive filters that were hazy and cheap ones that weren't. (& vice versa.) It's that simple.
07-17-2013, 08:48 PM   #6
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Digital camera sensors are not affected by UV, so a UV filter is not needed.

If you just want to protect the lens, always use a hood, and a lens cap when not actively shooting.
07-17-2013, 10:27 PM   #7
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+1 on the un-necessity (not really a word) of using a UV filter on a DSLR. The sensor is not affected by UV so it is unnecessary to filter it out. On the other hand, having some protection for the front lens element can make you feel a little more secure. For that, an "ultra-clear" protection filter is a better choice than a UV filter, which has a slight color cast. The higher quality the better. Multi-coating costs more but will limit extraneous reflections.

FWIW, I have clear filters for my "walk-around" lenses. I usually leave them off for serious shooting but definitely put them on when shooting around grandkids who like to grab and play or other shooting situations where dust, ocean spray or other hazards exist.
07-17-2013, 10:51 PM - 1 Like   #8
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I always post this when this issue comes up, to highlight why UV filters are often an un-wanted (and un-needed) accessory for your lens:



full UV filter tests from:
UV filters test - Introduction - Lenstip.com
UV filters test - supplement - Introduction - Lenstip.com

07-18-2013, 03:25 AM   #9
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The big issue to me with bad filters is that they very much increase risk of flare and they decrease light transmission. Better filters have less impact, but every piece of glass that light has to travel through to get to your sensor has to have some impact on your image, although it may not be big. In most situations (low iso, no strong light sources) you probably won't see a difference one way or the other.
07-18-2013, 03:50 AM   #10
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I always had a UV filter attached to my lens when I took photos in busy streets and especially festivals.
The filter was there for that bit of added security.
But now, after reading several articles, I hardly ever use them.
I never use them for landscapes, but if I know a festival will be particularly rowdy, like a few I've done in Tokyo, I will stick one on just in case.
Often I'll be carrying two cameras and just won't be time to put on and remove caps all the time, and hoods have been known to get knocked off in jostling crowds.
I haven't done any formal tests myself, but trust what others say, such as rawr above.
07-18-2013, 04:03 AM   #11
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Lens manufacturers spend a good deal of research and development on getting the coatings on the front elements of their lenses right, so sticking a bit of flat glass out the front makes little sense to me.

Anyway, damage to the front element has remarkably little effect on image quality. Don't believe me? look HERE

For what it's worth, I haven't used a protective filter on any lens for over a year, including all-day outdoor music festivals and any other type of lens abuse you can imagine.
07-18-2013, 04:10 AM   #12
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Rawr, thank you for that post, those charts and examples were very interesting. I took the advice of dms and took some with and without it, The sun had already started to set and the hotel had turned on the neon lights so I took a few of the scenery around here, To my suprise, when the neon lights were in the picture there was a faint reflection of the neon sign visible in another area of the picture. I travel for my job and happen to be just a few miles from lake Michigan this time so when I get a chance I think I will go at dusk and see if I can shoot chicago from across the lake with and without the filter to see what happens again. I have heard it is visible from where we are.
07-18-2013, 09:45 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by harleynitelite Quote
Rawr, thank you for that post, those charts and examples were very interesting. I took the advice of dms and took some with and without it, The sun had already started to set and the hotel had turned on the neon lights so I took a few of the scenery around here, To my suprise, when the neon lights were in the picture there was a faint reflection of the neon sign visible in another area of the picture. I travel for my job and happen to be just a few miles from lake Michigan this time so when I get a chance I think I will go at dusk and see if I can shoot chicago from across the lake with and without the filter to see what happens again. I have heard it is visible from where we are.
Sounds like your in Michigan City, Indiana. Here's one from the Dunes a couple of summers ago. Don't be surprised with the current humidity if you can't see Chicago. You can just make it out in this shot. No filters were used. I pretty much quit using them 4 years ago.

07-18-2013, 09:58 AM   #14
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There is one issue with UV filters that I have experienced but never seems to be mentioned by anyone. Back in the days when I shot with a Fuji S-9500 (great camera for its time by the way) I would sometimes get pictures with a weird bluish tint. It wasn't a white balance issue as even raw showed a significant surplus of blue throughout the photo.
It was quite a mystery until one very fortunate coincidence. The camera was lying around at home without a lens cap. I turned off the light to leave the room and a strange blue glow caught my eye - it was coming from the camera! It turned out to be no mystery at all - it was fluorescing in the UV light of a bug killer sitting a couple of feet away from the camera. Seems that although the UV filter blocks the UV it is turning some of it into blue light.

I was intrigued by this and tried putting other things in front of the bug killer in a darkened room. I had several filters from the days of film and nearly all of them glowed under the UV light, including an ND8 filter, which glowed just as brighlty on the side facing away from the UV lamp as the one directly illuminated by the lamp.
I tried also some lenses I had (remnants from the film days) including that of the Fuji itself and none of them glowed at all. I don;t know why this should be so - it seems lens manufacturers know about this issue and choose types of glass that do not fluoresce. But then why don't filter manufacturers know about it? Or perhaps they do know and don't care because it is expensive to avoid a problem that no one will notice?

What I don't know is how natural UV compares to that of the bug killer in wavelength and intensity but after finding this out I never used a UV filter again and, whether because of that or not, I never got that nasty blue cast again.
07-18-2013, 10:35 AM   #15
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Maybe an UV filter is unnecessary, maybe sensors aren't affected, but what I do know:

Every day after a photo shoot, whether in Arizona, Oregon, California, Wyoming etc , I am cleaning SOMETHING off my front filter. Whether it's dust, water droplets, bird poop (true story), or what have you. Some days are worse than others, like a freak rain shower after a cloud of pollen, or the bird poop....lol

The LAST thing I want to be doing is cleaning my actual lens element 100-150 times a year. I also have had several instances where I'm bushwacking and my lens cap gets knocked off an instant before a branch stabs my filter. In 9 years of serious "semi-pro" work, I have lost 3 filters to something. I'll suffer with an $70-100 filter loss, but some of my lenses would require upwards of $5-600 to replace a front element.

To be honest, most of the time I have a CPL on my lenses, but if I take the CPL for whatever reason, a UV goes on in its place.

I use higher end Hoya and Kenko MC filters, so I'm not too worried about image degradation.
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