UV filters – do you need them or not?

“UV filters – do you need them or not?” is a new article by Steve Perry (website | YouTube | Facebook). You can check also his previous [NR] posts here:

UV filters – they certainly have the power to fire up heated debates among photographers. Who would have thought such a small piece of glass would be responsible for so many energetic exchanges on internet forums and inside the walls of camera clubs?

I’ve certainly found myself taking sides in this battle over the years – until it occurred to me that most of the facts put forth by each side (mine included) were based more on assumptions and suppositions than actual tested facts. Even the anecdotal evidence where someone breaks a filter and proclaims it saved their lens is largely untested. (Would the lens really have cracked without the filter attached? The video has the answers.)

So, I decided that instead of trusting to my own assumptions, I would put all the major arguments under a microscope – and share the results in a video.

I wanted to discover for myself if UV filters really protected a lens from breakage. I wanted to demonstrate what happens with digital cameras and UV haze. I wanted to know if UV filters really did degrade image quality. I wanted to uncover the truth about UV filters and flare. And hey, I even wanted to know if they were truly “cheap insurance” for a lens.

I started out comparing UV and non-UV filtered images to discover if we need them for UV haze and what kind of impact it might have on image quality. The results were a bit of a surprise.

From there, I went on to test flare resistance to see if they really cause an issue when pointed at a light source. To be thorough, I tested this in both daytime and night time conditions with very interesting results.

Next I wanted to see if they really were cheap insurance. So, I called a few repair shops to find out how much it costs to replace a front element on a typical lens. This let me compare the cost of putting an expensive filter on every lens vs just getting a lens element fixed if the need would ever arise. I think the results may surprise you.

Finally, I went all out on the breakage tests. I purchased a variety of lenses and filters for testing and put them on the business end of the “Lens Smasher” device I created. In the video you’ll watch the glass fly as we discover just how tough a typical filter is and how resilient a typical lens is by comparison.

I also test the lens with the filter attached to see if the filter can save it from the same impact that destroyed an unprotected lens (UV filter supporters might cringe at the one).

Finally, I execute some drop tests to see if the filter protects from damage in a “dropped lens” scenario – and if it can save your filter threads.

So, are you making a mistake with UV filters, one way or the other? Watch the video and decide for yourself.

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