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!

Mirrorless vs DSLR - What's Right for You?
Summary: In this video by Matt Granger, he gives you an objective overview of the trade-offs you're facing when you decide between a DSLR and a mirrorless system.. [Read more...]

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!

10 HDR Top Tips for FREE!
Join our newsletter to get this eBook and step up your HDR skills today!
You will receive: The free eBook + our regular email newsletter with tips, tutorials, news and product information… all for free!
100% Spam-Free - Easy Unsubscribe
8 replies
    • farbspiel
      farbspiel says:

      Hi, it’s good to see that you’re realistic about this. However, I do think that many other people are too optimistic about the protective nature of their UV filter. For them, this video may be really helpful.

  1. Tim Farr
    Tim Farr says:

    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. Tony
    Tony says:

    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.

  3. Photo Bugg
    Photo Bugg says:

    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.

  4. bwana
    bwana says:

    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.

  5. Colin
    Colin says:

    I have been a serious (SLR/DSLR) photographer for 45 or so years.
    During that time, I have had only one shattered UV/Skylight filter. HOWEVER, and this is the key, I have had three of them acquire large scratches, ones that wold have ruined the lens. And the scratches were not just in the coating, but into the glass itself.

    In addition, I once dropped a lens on an asphalt sidewalk. It hit on the edge of the filter. The filter shattered. But once the filter was removed, the lens was in perfect shape, and I just screwed on a new filter.

    That is why, except for my macro lens, a 200mm Micro-Nikkor, whose front element deeply recessed, I always leave a filter on my lenses all the time.

    • farbspiel
      farbspiel says:

      Hi Colin! I guess since people use and handle their lenses differently, added protection through a UV filter also works more or less for them. I am glad to hear that your filters helped you protect your lens.

      Do you think they impacted your image quality any?


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *