UV Filters – Do They Really Protect Your Lens?

Does-a-UV-Filter-Really-Protect-Your-Lens-post-imageWanna see lots of glass being shattered… expensive glass? Yeah, me too! But for all you gear preservation activists on the other hand, this is not for you. You are going to feel extensive pain throughout the video and maybe irreparable brain damage. Wanna continue? OK, here we go!

The Background

You probably know the old debate as to whether or not to use a UV filter to protect your lens. This is one of those topics that have a lot of myths revolving around them and, coming from scientific background, I like it when people actually put such concepts to a real-world (kinda-scientific) test. That’s exactly what Steve Perry does in the video below.

Although Steve is very careful in explaining that his tests are not scientific, I can assure you that they’re pretty close to it actually making different situations comparable and repeatable rather than using anecdotal evidence.

The Video

Caution! Contains strong violence against camera gear!

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What are Steve’s Findings… in Short?

  • Contrary to common belief, UV filters have very little effect on the image quality. BUT…
  • Most UV filters break very easily. It actually takes less force than you need to break through a piece of paper.
  • Expensive filters break just as easily as cheap ones. Hey, they’re just not built for being protective, you know?
  • When something hits the front element of your lens, it is more likely that your entire lens will die (due to internal parts falling apart) before your front element is damaged.

If your lens is hit hard enough to break it, a screwed-on UV filter won’t save it. If you drop your lens, the UV filter won’t do much to protect it either. The only thing it may be good for is saving your filter thread from being damaged, but getting that bent UV filter off your camera after a drop may require the lens to be sent in for repair too.

Should you ditch your UV filters entirely? I agree with Steve in that they can add some protection in abrasive environments with sand or salt water in the air. So, you may want to keep them in your bag, maybe just not on your lens all the time.

What else can you do to protect your lenses? Attach the lens hood. You already have one, and it offers much more impact protection than a UV filter.

To get all the data about this test, head over to Steve Perry’s website. He’s also got some great video tutorials for you on his YouTube channel. Thank you for this very insightful video, Steve! Well done!

Are you using a UV filter for protective purposes? Share your experience with us in the comments below!

Leave a reply

8 Comments on "UV Filters – Do They Really Protect Your Lens?"

2 years 7 months ago

Lens filters prevent scratches to the front element. Impact protection is not the point.

Tim Farr
2 years 7 months ago

I would rather get scratches, finger prints, water spray etc. on the UV filter than the lens. I would prefer to clean the filter many times than the lens.

2 years 7 months ago

I dropped my camera and it landed on the front edge of the lens. Luckily the UV filter took the force and collapsed. It would have been the lens if not for the filter.

Photo Bugg
2 years 7 months ago

Very interesting, particularly (as opposed to the smashing fun) in the look at optical influences of the filters, film vs. digital. The only thing I’d I’d comment on as a scientist (while appreciating the method detail and the disclaimers) is that even if this were super-controlled for impact/g measurement, etc., it doesn’t change the fact that this may be generalizable only to a metal rod hitting dead-center on a lens or filter. That may not be the most realistic or likely cause of damage – I’d think more likely a drop or a paintball or banging into a larger object (like a pipe or door knob) is going to be the cause of a front/center break, and the pressure would be distributed differently. Just saying… Might not change the results, or might. But it’s fascinating and instructive, and the suggestions for use or non-use in different situations is truly valuable, while the smashing bits are, um, eye-opening.

2 years 7 months ago

I much prefer a good solid lens hood! It also gives some protection against lens flare if the source of the light is off to the side.