To UV filter or not to UV filter, that is the question...

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by DigitalD, Feb 2, 2015.

  1. DigitalD

    DigitalD Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 10, 2014
    Our fellow forum member Harvey Melvin Richards recently posted some woeful images of his wonderful 40-150mm 2.8 Pro lens with 2 large scary scratches in the front element. So sorry man, I cannot stand my lenses having scratches on them. Especially expensive ones. But instead of hijacking his thread, as I think he has plenty of responses to ascertain his situation (124 to be exact) I thought I would try one last time to end the debate and talk about what is fact and and what is fiction when it comes to this filter debate. In the end its always a personal choice, but at least for newbies and veterans alike, the decision should be based on actual real information rather then opinion and hyperbole.

    I used to never use just plain UV filters as I rarely owned cheap lenses and bought into the story of nothing gained and much to lose argument. This was until I scratched my Canon 24-70 f2.8 L. That evening the only thing I could narrow it down to was when I took it out of my bag the lens cap had fallen off and during a long hike back to the car It marked the lens with a 1/8" scratch on the front element. My thought was how can plastic (seemingly softer then glass) scratch the front element, but regardless the deed was done.

    My scratch and Harvey's scratch have something in common. Both could have been avoided with a filter.

    Now the debate begins. Well I went on a hunt for info back then and the same stories were about. "UV filters are a waste of money". "They reduce sharpness and resolution" "they add unwanted flare to your photos" "They are a marketing stunt aimed at making easy money" Every time I read a diatribe on someone being against UV filters they never seemed to post ANY SAMPLES! Took awhile to find anyone with a real test but in the end I did find some real world tests that changed my mind. That was awhile ago so I did another search today. Same thing as a few years back. Plenty of blogs going on and on about how bad it is to use UV filters. All without a single image to prove it.

    Well then I found one that actually did do a real test. He wrote it very subjectively without making anyone feel stupid. Do Filters Affect the Resolution of Lenses? He shows there is no adverse effect AT ALL when using high quality filters. Image sharpness is NOT effected. Flaring is NOT effected and does not add any additional flare attributes the lens didn't already have to begin with. He DOES note however that sure, in certain situations you can get ghosting or some adverse effects from light sources, but then makes a good point. Take the filter OFF in those situations.

    So which situations does a UV filter ruin photos? Here is a nice post on DP Review about it: should-you-use-a-uv-filter-on-your-lens It seems ghosting can appear in photos that involve small concentrated light sources. Things like city or street lights, candles in dark rooms, etc. For me these types of photos make up less then 1% of my photos. Maybe others are more like 10%. Regardless, once you know what not to do with a filter on, isn't it easy enough to remove it? Then you know that 90% of the time your lens has got that extra bit of protection? Ok no, it will not help if a baseball hits your lens. But then again nothing would guard against that. A lens hood might.

    And even one of our forum members (thanks eteless) stacked 7 filters together in Harvey's post and showed it did almost nothing to image quality. At least nothing I could see as a deal breaker.

    Also notice a common theme among the tests. No one is using cheap filters. Here is another example from photography life showing cheap filter results compared to high quality filter results:

    So, so far we have the following facts to chew on

    1. High Quality Filters do not effect resolution or sharpness of the lens.
    2. Flare is also not effected nor do UV filters create additional flare where the original lens had none.
    3. Stacking multiple filters do not degrade the image noticeable to the naked eye.
    4. Low quality or cheap filters DO IN FACT degrade image quality
    5. UV filters can induce ghosting of small, bright, concentrated sources of lights. Worsened by smaller apertures. Its recommended to remove the filter in these situations.

    Ok now for some counter arguments. However, these arguments are not against using filters. Im going to argue how much abuse a front element can take before actual reduction in quality begins to happen. Thanks to Vinepocetine he posted some very good examples of people absolutely bashing their front elements and seeing what happens. The results will probably shock you. Hope you are sitting down. Here is his post

    Ok don't want to read all the links? Ill summarize. It does very little. Even a completely smashed element does little, especially at F4 or below. However once pointed into bright lights or stopped down past f7.1 or so, you will start to see some issues. On a very old lens once I used a black marker as suggested in some forum once. I could see the black marks at f11.

    So we add a fact.

    6. Front lens elements can take quite a bit of abuse before showing adverse effects in image quality. Especially at F4 or below.

    Ok Ive written a whole lot here :horse: but without spending too much MORE time on this, another lesson to take away is dust and dirt are probably the most common contributors to image degradation of your images and is discussed a bit in some of the links above. Everyone knows that you should keep your front (and rear) elements as clean as possible. Microfiber and lens cleaners are easy enough to find. Lens pens are really nice as well. Always use a bulb blower to clean of any physical dirt on top of the lens before wiping. Ive also heard that finger/skin oils can harm your coating if left unchecked for long periods of time. Now I have kids. My friends have kids. I photograph kids all the time. Its next to impossible to keep my lens clean as the younger ones find it hilarious to scrunch their nose up to my camera. "Yea, thanks son. We'll talk about this 10 years from now" hehe. Anyway the more you clean the front element of your lens the more chances you have to getting a scratch. A microscopic piece of sand being the worst offender. Im happy to clean the front element of my lens once every 6 months or so. The filter gets a wipe down every few days or after a particular 'dirty' day of shooting.

    So for those you who do not 'believe' in using filters have a point and some justification to your choice. If you simply are more comfortable with a naked lens AND you could care less about scratches, dirt, cleaning the element, or shipping your lens off for a repair, then you can be happy about your decision. Just remember its a choice/opinion and that there is no evidence that filters cause more image problems then they solve.

    The biggest points I can agree with not using a filter would be

    1. A hard blow directly to the front element can possibly smash a filter before a front element might shatter causing scratches from the broken filter to the front element (though I can't find any actual factual evidence to support this). I think this would have to be a fairly strong direct hit and most likely can be solved using a lens hood. Though Lens Hoods also provide great protection regardless of using a filter or not.

    2. An indirect blow that would bend the metal frame around the filter threads could potentially cause you a lot of problems in trying to remove the filter from the lens. This would bum me out too but again, a lens hood could protect against this, and I bet after some sweat (and tears) you could manage a way to get it off.

    3. If you own a large collection of lenses, filters can end up costing more then the rare time you would have to repair a lens. Its a valid point. However to me, I would rather spend the money upfront then worry about shipping a lens off with the possibility of losing the lens in the mail or having to come up with a few hundred dollars at once.

    So for those of you who absolutely HATE the idea of having a scratch on your front elements (me), or trade and sell your equipment often (me again) or shoot in environments that subject your lenses to danger (me and me again), or really do not like the idea of having to repair a lens for something that could have been avoided then rest assured, using a high quality, multi-coated filter is perfectly fine and may even help you sleep better at night. Just remember those situations where a UV filter can cause adverse effects and be sure to remove it (and then replace it again) at the end of those sessions.

    So, everyone satisfied? Probably not. Feel free to agree or bash away. Im cool with it. :cool: :friends:
    • Like Like x 7
  2. Promit

    Promit Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 6, 2011
    Baltimore, MD
    Promit Roy
    I skimmed all of that, and I have no idea if there was any overarching thesis or points to which I should reply. I have some lenses with UV filters; these are typically my standard zooms. On most lenses I simply rely on the lens hood for physical protection; hoods almost never come off my lenses. But my standard zooms share some common themes:
    - They're weather sealed and I am frequently using them in harsh environments, notably saltwater
    - The hoods are very shallow, out of necessity
    - The ranges involved mean the lens is often taking splash or dust directly
    - Continuing my work often means wiping off the lenses quickly haphazardly with a pocketed cloth
    - I often resell used equipment, so regardless of IQ impact I need these lenses to be in nice clean shape

    Cleaning saltwater - or worse, dried salt water - off a lens front element is a really tricky business. Very susceptible to scratches. I'm okay with damaging a $50 UV filter over a lens front element.
    • Like Like x 3
  3. eteless

    eteless Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 20, 2014
    I just thought I would add, most the filters I used were high quality once apon a time however they're also about 20 years old now - they're not the latest and greatest at all.

    A high quality filter will have no impact as surely as a low quality one will.
    • Like Like x 1
  4. DigitalD

    DigitalD Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 10, 2014
    Well a good piece of glass, filter or lens, should last a very long time with moderate care.

    So glad you found the thread too. I wasn't sure how to alert members I was using their posts. Your 7-layer test really sealed the deal for me. Thanks for taking the time to do that!
    • Like Like x 1
  5. budeny

    budeny Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 4, 2014
    Boulder, CO
    But, but, but... oh no.. not that "use protection or not" thread again!
  6. eteless

    eteless Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 20, 2014
    I may as well post the raw files, the filters I was using were film colour correction filters (80 and 85 series) and various UV filters (wratten 2A, B+W 010), in theory they should cancel each other out or be neutral as they're meant to be a balanced however in practice there is a small white balance shift. To negate this I didn't correct white balance at all in camera and set it to daylight, I knew it would be warm as I was using a tungsten source however I wanted the pictures themselves to be as close to the same settings as I could in camera so decided that normalizing white balance in post was the easiest option.

    For the pictures I posted in the thread the following settings were used in Adobe Bridge/Camera Raw (There was light standard sharpening and various other settings which I have set by default).
    Temperature: 2900
    Tint: +16
    Exposure: -1

    Temperature: 3100
    Tint: +41

    The exposure shift on the first image is needed as by shifting the white balance one channel is pushed high, if I had adjusted the white balance to be neutral between both pictures (or used automatic) it would not have been required. The second file (P1290074) is the one with all of the filters as can be seen by the long exposure time, remembering that most of the filters I used have a heavy filter factor and when combine act as a strong ND filter this is to be expected - I do not recommend stacking this many filters in real world use. Due to the extreme number of filters there was also slight shift in the framing, there's around 1cm of extra glass in front of the lens, with just a single filter the difference is not perceptible.

    If anyone has any questions or feedback (or any ideas on how to better test it!) feel free to ask or suggest something and I'll try to answer, I'm open to most suggestions really.
    • Like Like x 1
  7. tosvus

    tosvus Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 4, 2014
    I'll probably end up picking up filters for my 3 most expensive lenses. Of course they are all different diameter size... So is B+W generally regarded the best (within some reason in terms of pricing)?
  8. eteless

    eteless Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 20, 2014
    I use B+W for basic protection filters as they have very high quality coatings, generally the XS-PRO MRC 010 filters as the water/oil repellant means they stay clean as nothing really sticks to them which means you rarely have to clean them. I don't pretend that they're the best, I just know that their standards are high enough that I'm unlikely to run into problems.

    The only downside to them is they're a well known brand that that's now being counterfeited, I wouldn't buy them off ebay and would only purchase them from a larger store like B+H or Adorama.
    • Like Like x 1
  9. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    B&W are generally recognised as the best, not only for their coatings, but the fact that they are cut from billets of Shott glass, rather than sheets of float glass. So they are manufactured in the same way as lens elements.
  10. I don't think the debate will ever end, TBH.

    My only problem has been with ghosting - fast primes with street lights etc at night, where I shoot a lot. During the day I have cheap slow zooms, so protection doesn't bother me.

    I do think the point about abuse and weather sealing is a good one - if you're in those kinds of conditions any degradation caused by a filter is going to be nothing compared to the environmental effects. If I was using high grade f/2.8 zooms in dodgy conditions a protection filter makes sense.

    Let's be clear here though - get a good protection filter, not a UV filter. It should shed water and dust well, have good coatings, but shouldn't have anything to do with UV!
    • Like Like x 1
  11. eteless

    eteless Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 20, 2014
    The B+W 010 UV filters have a cutoff which is below the hot mirror on Olympus/Panasonic cameras, that is to say it doesn't do anything.

    A Wratten 2A UV filter on the other hand will work on Olympus bodies because their hot mirror is weaker, it will cut off some light which would otherwise reach the sensor. It can sometimes improve colour in high UV situations(Mid day sun in Australia).
  12. edmsnap

    edmsnap Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 20, 2011
    Edmonton, Alberta
    Yup, one more time should do it! :tongue:

    As someone with a pathological purchase pattern for vintage lenses, it's not hard to tell which ones had filters on them their whole lives and which ones didn't. After decades of use, the unfiltered lenses always get grungy and cleaning just leaves marks. 50 years old with a filter usually equals a flawless-as-new front element. That makes it a no-brainer for me, but I'm also one of those people who cries if any gear incurs even the tiniest of scratches. Other people care less and figure that if you own it, use it hard and buy it again if it breaks. Nobody's right which is why you can't actually settle the debate.

    Everyone should just use whatever makes them feel best. I feel best when my stuff remains in like-new condition forever. :smile:
  13. KBeezie

    KBeezie Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 15, 2012
    Grand Rapids, Mi
    Karl Blessing
    I noticed my professor has a UV on all of his lens, but not a single lens cap in any of his bags. Claims he just throws them away since with the UV he's ready to shoot whenever (and mainly does architectural it seems).

    I suppose that could work, I prefer not having to deal with it, but I generally use a lens hood when the lens has a hard one available to it.
  14. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    I look at it this way. If I had to send in any of my lenses because the front element got damaged in some way, the freight cost to Olympus and back would set me back at least $100 (with insurance). Then I'd have to pay for the repair costs, which could be in the hundreds and who knows how long a wait time if an element is not easy to source for a 14-35mm f2 of 35-100mm f2 lens, let alone a 90-250mm f2.8 lens. A 77mm B&W filter from a reputable Australian dealer now costs $150, which has cost me around $25/year (combined) for the time I've had those two lenses (they were a fair bit cheaper when I got them). How many people spend more than that a month on their mobile phone bills or coffee?
    • Like Like x 3
  15. DigitalD

    DigitalD Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 10, 2014
    I've recently tried the Hoya HMC filters and I like them a lot. I even did an on / off test and found no discernable difference. They run about a quarter the cost of b+w filters here in the US.

    Out of curiosity I did some searching ( I guess I'm obsessed tonight) and found this site. A very comprehensible list of tests of all brands of filters. These happen to rank 1st in their tests! Check it out!

    That link is the summary but if you scroll down you can see each individual test. Not a bad reference at all.
  16. DigitalD

    DigitalD Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 10, 2014
    That's a really good point. I too buy a lot of vintage glass, especially since diving into the Sony A7 last year. It is very clear which lenses were protected and which were not. Bad Cleaning, I feel, is probably the worst offender to front element wear in the long run. More then anything else IMHO.
  17. bassman

    bassman Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Apr 22, 2013
    New Jersey
    The Bassman
    I used to use filters on all my lenses. I stopped because it didn't make financial sense given the number of filters I was buying, the low (non-existent) repair costs, and the inconvenience when swapping other filters.

    The one time I did drop a big zoom, it was the zoom and AF function that got killed and not the glass.
  18. KBeezie

    KBeezie Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 15, 2012
    Grand Rapids, Mi
    Karl Blessing

    Pretty much why I stopped with filters *in general* about the only filter I will have in the bag are circular polarizers or a ND Graduated filter. And usually I just have 2 sizes and use step-up/down rings for anything in between.
  19. hazwing

    hazwing Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 25, 2012
    To the OP, nice summary that covers most points in the uv filter vs no filter debate. I'd throw in somewhere that the no-filter advocates still advocate using a UV protection filter in dusty, sandy, beach environments.

    Personally, I tend to use filters more on my more expensive lenses. Cheaper lenses go bare-back.

    I'm a bad boy.... I actually prefer to go without lens hoods on some of my lenses. In these cases I try the make sure I at least have a UV filter. I like the smaller footprint of circumcised ("no hood") lenses.
    • Like Like x 1
  20. fortwodriver

    fortwodriver Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Nov 15, 2013
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    I use hoods and filters on all of my lenses for one simple reason:

    No matter how hard I try, and no matter how careful I am, I always seem to end up with a finger print or a smudge of something on the front element. Either my fingerprint (usually) or one of my nieces/nephews.

    So, the B+W MRC 010 filter is worth it to me and I haven't found them to affect image quality UNLESS they're not mounted properly. So I mount them properly.

    If I want to use a CPOL, I take the 010 off first, sometimes, when I'm not feeling lazy, er... yeah.
    • Like Like x 1
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