Whether or not you should use a protective UV filter on your lenses is always a hot topic, so I get this question on my inbox from time to time. I personally believe you should not use a UV filter on your lenses for general protective purposes, and by this I mean leaving a filter on the lens all the time. Good lenses are precisely calibrated, and even if you invest in the absolute best UV filters on the market (most people don’t), they can still have a negative effect on image quality. Why would you want to spend all that money on a great lens and then deliberately lower its quality?
A cheap UV filter will soften your images, but even an expensive one can, under the wrong circumstances, cause lens flare more easily then without the filter and decrease overall contrast in an image when the sun is at some angles.
I’m not particularly kind to my lenses, and in 10+ years of professional shooting I’ve never managed to damage the front element of a lens. If it happens one day, that’s a price I’ll have to pay, but it takes a pretty good amount of damage to show up in a photo anyway. A simple hairline scratch on a lens won’t be visible in the final output so a lens would need to take quite a hammering for me to be worried. A lens’ minimum focus distance is always well in front of the first lens element, so any damage to the front of the lens will be significantly out of focus which is why it barely ever shows. You’ll probably just have to trust me on this one… don’t go experimenting.
But Sometimes Yes…
Here’s the exception though. When I know there will be debris flying at my lens, of course I’m going to take steps to protect what would otherwise be certain damage. For example, if I’m low on the ground photographing a passing mountain biker who could easily throw gravel at my lens. Or perhaps I’m deliberately placing my camera into the path of that flying dust and gravel to capture a really dynamic shot.
In this situation, I use the Formatt-Hitech Firecrest UV filters. These are excellent quality filters, but they also won’t break the bank, which is perfect for an accessory that I use infrequently. (Note: the one in the photo is an old model that is no longer being made, so the ones on their website might look a little different, but the Firecrest glass is the same.)
In conclusion… no you shouldn’t use them, but yes you should have one in your bag! Got it?! 😉
Save 10% on Firecrest Filters
If you want to save 10% on Formatt-Hitech filters such as this UV one, you can use the Formatt-Hitech coupon code DanCarr10 when you check out on either the international store or their US store. The filters are also available from B&H and Amazon, but you won’t get the 10% discount there. I may make a small commission if you use these links, but I purchased this UV filter myself, and Formatt-Hitech have not asked me to create this content.