UV filters are the most common filters sold with every lens purchase. You have probably heard that a UV lens filter protects your lens from getting scratched. It is certainly true, but do you know how to choose the best protection lens filter to protect your camera lens?
The best protection lens filter to protect your camera lens is UV Protection Filter (Ultraviolet Filter). The quality UV filters protect your expensive lens from physical damage (scratches, bumps) and have minimal or no effect on image quality.
Originally UV filters (Ultraviolet Filter) were developed in film photography days. A UV filter was necessary since the filters blocked unwanted ultraviolet light from hitting the film. The image suffered haziness and fogginess without a UV filter, especially in blue hues.
Since modern digital cameras have built-in UV filters on the sensor level, the need for UV filters is minimal today.
It is a common belief that UV filters reduce chromatic aberration or color fringing, but I have never seen any proof of that with my eyes. Based on my experience, if a lens is poorly built, no filter can correct the color fringing it produces. And if UV filters do reduce chromatic aberration, the reduction is too insignificant to make a difference in image quality.
Today, the only function that UV filters offer is protection. There is very little difference between clear or UV protection filters.
This is often a topic of debate in the photography community because there is no clear consensus about using UV filters for protection purposes in digital photography.
Different photographers approach UV protective filters differently.
We can separate most photographers into three groups depending on how they use UV filters.
For a long time, I belonged to the first group of “perfectionists” and refused to use the protective filter. I thought using the lens hood was better to protect my lens from any potential physical damage.
What changed my mind was my frequent travels to the West Coast of the United States. Due to the strong winds along the coast, saltwater mist is always present in the air, even when it is not raining. Constantly wiping the front element of any lens can easily cause damage to its coating, especially when salt residue is present.
At this point, I have UV protection filters for all my lenses, but they mostly stay in my bag. I only use them when necessary. Before hiking along the coast, I always attach the filters to my lenses the night before. And before driving through Death Valley, I also ensure all my lenses are protected with filters.
To answer the question about the negative side effects of using protective UV filters, we need to understand the properties of glass in optics. They are light transmission and light reflection. They indicate the ratio of light that comes through glass versus the light reflected by the glass.
As a general rule, the optical flat glass transmits 95% of light, and 5% is reflected.
It means that if you shoot through the optical glass, you lose 5% of light and are at a higher risk of unwanted lighting effects such as lens flare and ghosting.
In practical terms, you should use UV protective filters with the highest transmission and the lowest level of reflection.
You probably noticed that you could buy a UV filter for as low as $2-3. The reason for that is they are made of plastic. The reflection rate of plastic is much higher than even regular glass and can be higher than 15%. Stay away from plastic filters.
Even if you find a low-cost ($10-15) UV filter made of glass, it is almost guaranteed it is not made of optical glass. It is highly likely made out of low-coast construction glass.
It would be best to look for UV protection filters made of optical glass. And to maximize the protection level of your lens, the filter has to be equipped with tempered glass.
As I mentioned above, even high-quality optical glass will have a reflection rate of around 5% or higher. To reduce the reflection, filter manufacturers use various types of coating.
Right now, you can find three main types of filter coating.
This type of coating is straightforward; it simply does not exist. If the filter is equipped with high-quality optical glass, you will get a reflection rate of about 5%. With a non-coated filter, it will be more affected by lens flares and ghosting.
Most of the medium and high-quality filters today use multicoating. The combination of quality optical glass and multicoating can reduce the reflection rate by up to 1%.
Nanocoating is the late technology used to reduce or even eliminate the reflection rate for good. You will find new nanocoating technology in some expensive high-end filters.
Be careful where you buy protective filters. If you find a high-end filter at a fraction of the retail cost, it is guaranteed to be a counterfeit from China. Make sure you buy your optics from reputable retailers. Stay away from eBay and AliExpress, where most counterfeit optics are sold.
The simple answer is as much as possible to purchase a UV Protection Filter with high-quality tempered glass with multicoating or multicoating.
At the same time, buying a $100 UV Filter to protect a $150 kit lens would not be practical. Because inexpensive lenses are not built using the highest quality glass and coating, the lens’s light transmission is already low. The expensive protective UV filter won’t be able to correct lens flaws and imperfections.
Luckily for us, there is a simple rule of thumb in photography. It states that, on average, you need to spend on a UV protection filter 10% of the cost of the lens.
It means that if you shoot with a $1000 quality lens, you will need to spend around $100 to match lens quality.
I find that the rule works pretty well for me. For example, when I was looking to match my best lens Fujinon 10-24mm, with the protective UV filter, I found a few models with high light transmission rates at around $90-100.
And if you shoot with a $300-400 lens, the $40 Tiffen UV protection filter will be sufficient.
A Tiffen UV Protection Filter is an essential filter you can own for your digital camera lens. It offers an affordable solution for protecting your camera lens against scratches, dirt, and dust. This filter is essential for outdoor photography and is perfect for keeping your camera lens in good condition.
The X4 UV Filter is the world’s sharpest and most advanced UV filter. This filter ensures superior image quality and clarity by featuring a SCHOTT Superwhite B270 optical glass made in Germany.
Additionally, the X4 UV Filter features nanocoatings and weather-sealing to provide additional protection for your lens. Ultra-slim and lightweight, this filter is perfect for any photographer looking for the best in UV protection.
The B+W UV-Haze Protection Filter reduces the adhesion tendency of dirt particles and water droplets. The hydrophobic coating is an extremely thin, transparent layer that covers the entire filter surface. This layer causes water droplets to bead up and roll off, making it more difficult for dirt particles to adhere to the glass.
With its MRC nanocoating, the filter has an extremely low reflection, ensuring that your photos will be unaffected by glare and reflections. This filter is ideal for nature, landscape, and travel photography.
Gobe UV Filter’s high-quality magnalium-alloy ring ensures durability while remaining lightweight. The metal filter case is perfect for storage and transportation, making it the ideal addition to your photography kit.
Gobe UV filters are made from optical glass, feature 16-layer multi-coating, and prevent internal ghosting and reflections while promoting clarity.
Hoya HD3 UV Filter is the latest and one of the most advanced filters on the market today. It reduces dust, moisture, and scratches from reaching your lens elements. Plus, it doesn’t add any additional coloration or contrast to your images so that you can achieve natural-looking photos every time.
This lightweight and aircraft-grade aluminum filter frame is perfect for any photographer to feature front filter threads that accept lens caps and other filters for stacking.
This K&F Concept UV Lens Filter is the perfect way to keep your camera lens protected from scratches and other damage. The ultra-slim aluminum filter ring is designed to fit most lenses, and the tempered optical glass provides superior protection. The scratch-resistant multicoated nano resistance coating also helps keep your lens looking new.
This Marumi EXUS UV Filter has a unique oil and water repellent coating that makes it resistant to fingerprints and grease.
The anti-static and stain-resistant coating helps to protect the filter surface from dust, dirt, water, and oils while also aiding in keeping your photos clean and clear.
The Marumi EXUS UV Filter has a thin-profile filter ring that reduces the likelihood of vignetting when used with wide-angle lenses.
The Hoya NXT HMC UV Filter is a high-quality general protective filter with a 3-layer HMC multi-coating to guard against scratches, dirt, and flares. The low-profile aluminum frame makes it ideal for use with wide-angle lenses, and the high-transparency optical glass ensures excellent image quality.
The high-quality glass features a ZEISS T anti-reflective coating that helps to prevent reflections. By reducing surface reflections, you’ll get more light transmission for sharper, clearer photos. It’s perfect for landscape and outdoor photography. The high fit accuracy ensures a fast filter change, so you can spend more time shooting and less time fiddling with your gear.
The AmazonBasics UV Protection Filter is an entry-level budget model for general use. It is made of plastic and has no coating, but it will protect your lens from dust, dirt, and scratches. You may consider it as an option for everyday use when shooting with an inexpensive kit lens.
Should you use UV filters?
There is no right or wrong answer here. Each photographer must decide for themselves whether or not to use a filter. Ask yourself this question: Is sacrificing image quality worth the risk of potentially damaging the front element of your lens? If your answer is yes, then apply the filter.
In the long run, it does not matter whether or not you choose to use UV filters or not; what matters is the quality of the filter you choose. If you have a high-quality lens that costs you around $1,000, it makes no sense to stick a $10 filter on the front of it. You can always apply the 10% filter rule, which states that your protective filter should cost approximately 10% of what you paid for your lens.
I’m curious… Do you use UV filters? Share your answers in the comments below.
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