Should filters be used to protect lens?

Discussion in 'Beginner Questions' started by robert_segal|3, Oct 3, 2012.

  1. Hi,

    I just bought a few high quality lenses for Canon FD, namely the 50 and 85mm 1.2L's. I am considering purchasing a filter solely to
    protect the lens. Will image quality be diminished with a lens filter? Will flare become a problem? Am I better off just trying to be careful
    and not use any filter?

    If I apt for a filter solely for protection, which brands and models are recommended?


  2. Clearly adding another glass element will degrade the lens performance. The only question is "how much?".
    Personally, I use high-quality filters on most of my lenses, but I do take them off when I'm shooting in difficult circumstances (ex. directly into the setting sun). FWIW, the brand I use are Hoya Pro1 Digital MC. A lot of my work is in less-than-ideal conditions, so the added protection seems worthwhile. Your circumstances may be different.
  3. I agree with Geoff on this one. My expensive lenses all have a filter, and not a cheap one. However, I've got better at recognizing scenarios where flare might happen, and I remove the filter often. But I want all the protection I can get on the pointy end of my lens - I'm not necessarily a coordinated person and bumping into things happens too often.
  4. SCL


    Although I use filters, I prefer to use lens caps for protection of the lenses, and often lens shades when I'm anticipating shooting.
  5. A lens hood goes a long way to protecting the lens from bumps and dings.
    Use a filter when you're likely to get something /on/ the lens like spray from the ocean, sand, mud, etc.
  6. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I use HMC clear filters. I shoot in situations that often involves airborne liquids and can't see shooting without them.
  7. I shoot in normal non-dangerous situations and when is a dangerous, surf spray etc, I remain aware of what is going on around me so I rely on my lenshood as protection without a filter.
    A filter should be removed if the light source can fall on it.
  8. Geoff's "middle way" makes a good deal of sense to me too.
    When the kid stuck his iced milk on the front of my L lens, I was really quite happy that I had a protection filter on it. Since things like that are unpredictable by their nature, for me the default is to have the filter on, but remove it for critical situations.
    It does make sense to get something like the Hoya HMC grade. I have some B+W filters which are beautifully made, for sure; but I don't see any degradation of the image with the Hoyas.
  9. This has been discussed many time previously here on, ie,
    It can be a very polarizing topic. ;-)
    Tom M
  10. The contrast between the differing opinions is immense. This becomes almost a religious debate rather than a technical discussion
  11. As a former newspaper photographer who has seen everything from raindrops to blood splattering in front of my lenses, I always keep a filter on the front of every lens. A lenscap takes not protection once it's taken off to shoot, and a lenshood might protect against some pokes and bumps but not wet stuff, dust, etc. If you have a filter on, you always have the optiion to take if off for critical work in safe situations. But if it's not there and something happens unexpectedly -- as bad things tend to do -- it's too late.
  12. I always put a quality UV on lens, at purchase. They can cause extra reflections in extreme contrast situations; I have noticed this in some night shots. But for the most part, there's little/no impact.
    Mostly though, it depends on your headspace. If you're finicky, you need the filter. More relaxed: just clean off the lens with your shirt tail, LOL.
  13. More relaxed: just clean off the lens with your shirt tail, LOL.​
    That's me!
  14. But only if the shirt tail is a many-times-washed flannel or pure cotton shirt. ;)
  15. I would think that if I paid a good price for Canon's aspherical FD lenses, that filters would detract from image quality. I am not seeing that concern raised in your responses.

    So should I gather that image quality is not discernibly degraded using filters? I put in an order with Adorama today for a bunch of Hoya and B & W filters, all multi-coated clear glass. Some were used in excellent + condition, so the prices weren't too bad. Still a $100 investment for five filters!

    Should I try not to use them if I am taking important shots?

  16. Well, one thing that will detract from image quality with filters is that they are additional glass surfaces to help cause flare, etc., so using or not using them, either way-- try to use a lens hood as well.
    The question of how much optical quality is lost is more debatable, and has been, often. (just one of very many threads: )
    Test it yourself with your own filters when you get them. Set up a tripod, clamp everything down and shoot the same things, far and near, with and without the filters. Then look at them at 100%, center and edge of image and report back to us on whether you see any differences. ;)
  17. $100 for 5 high quality filters is a bargain!
    The calculation you'll need to make is risk to the lens vs risk to the image. If you're shooting a backlit subject in a studio, or you're on a beach during a storm, the calculations are easy. As you approach more middle ground, you have to decide which risk you're going to favor. That's something only you can decide for whatever circumstances in which you're shooting.
  18. "So should I gather that image quality is not discernibly degraded using filters?"​
    On the Nikon forum, Shun Cheung posted some sample test photos without filters and with stacked protective filters - I think it was three stacked good quality UV filters. There was no discernible image degradation. He was probably careful to use a lens hood and avoid flare.
    "Should I try not to use them if I am taking important shots?"​
    That's debatable. If, like Jeff, you photographed boxing or MMA events professionally, those are the important shots. He's mentioned using protective filters when shooting those events where blood, sweat and spit is a-flyin' (I used to be an amateur boxer and it's a messy sport, including at ringside). He's also mentioned using protective filters when photographing club scenes and some music events where beer and other liquids are sloshed around. Again, if you do that type of photography professionally, those are the important shots.
    I use protective filters where there's something to protect the lens against:
    • Sticky tree sap - common in some seasons in my area, and hard to clean off lens elements once dried.
    • Photographing toddlers and pets up close - makes it easier to clean off the pupkus and kidkus nose and sticky finger residue.
    • Outdoors in bad weather.
    • Photographing fire or emergency situations (last time I did that was a few years ago, tho', but it was messy between the fire hoses and greasy soot flying around).
    When the situation doesn't call for protective filters, I remove 'em and keep 'em in the bag.
    Regarding quality, I've had good luck with Nikon brand, Hoya and Kenko filters. Kenko is the value line of the THK group (Tokina-Hoya-Kenko) but their filters are pretty good - I use the 72mm filter sizes on my PC-Nikkor and older 180/2.8 Nikkor. Nikon's L37C is excellent - my 105/2.5 AI Nikkor usually wears it when I'm outdoors. But I remove them if there's a risk of flare from the low angle sun or streetlights at night.
  19. OK, I've been a good boy up to now, but I personally have presented tests of how filters of different kinds affect image quality:
    It's a purely empirical test, and while it doesn't really provide conclusive evidence on the filter/no filter problem, it does conclusively refute one commonly made accusation from B+W and other expensive filter users. :)
  20. I'm still waiting for that JDM Beer Goggle FX filter - guaranteed to make gals purtier and fellers handsomer at closing time. I'll bet Cokin will sell it if they manage to recover from being bankrupted by that Moose Peterson Mononucleosis Lake FX filter.
  21. It's still undergoing testing, Lex.
    It's been running into some problems.
  22. I use Hoya HMC Sky-1 on the four lenses (18-55x2, 50 f1.4 & 85 f1.8) in my "go-to" bag. They get shuffled and banged
    around some in social environments so I put the filters on and don't think twice about it.

    My long lenses 180, 300, 400 and my Hasselblads I don't use filters except for I sometimes shoot bridal fashions at the
    beach and I use a UV on my 50mm with the front floating element, sand in that would be a disaster.
  23. My Canon EF 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye lens cannot take a protective front filter. Therefore, I use it's lens cap and always have it ready in my shirt pocket between shots. I also carry a microfibre lens cleaning cloth in a zippered compartment inside my wallet.
  24. I'm hardly an expert, in fact this is my first post here! When I made the switch from P&S to DSLR I could not make heads
    or tails about the filter/no filter debate. So what I did was buy a decent quality multi-coated filter and try it out on my most
    expensive lens. After taking a lot of pics with and without filter I determined that for MY purposes the filter was not
    negatively affecting my images. So I use them, along with lens caps and hoods. If one day my technique improves to the
    point that I can notice a difference with the filter on, then I will reevaluate.

  25. I don't add a filter to a lens unless it yields an optical effect that the image or the exposure requires or unless I'm shooting in an extremely dirty, sandy, or salty setting. If I'm not using a filter to create an optical effect, I'll "protect" the lens by attaching a lens hood and being mindful of where my camera is at all times.
    There's nothing wrong with using a UV filter as long as you understand and accept the problems/issues that it could cause.
    Potential drawbacks of UV filters:
    • Image degradation - always use a high-quality, multi-coated filter from a respected manufacturer.
    • Vignetting - avoid using UV filters with wide-angle lenses.
    • Inconvenience in attaching other filters - do you want to have to detach one filter in order to attach another one?
    • Loose-fitting lens caps - not a big deal, but the cap may be more likely to come off in the camera bag if you attach it to a filter instead of the front element. This depends somewhat on filter construction.
    • Dirt - If you think that it's okay to walk around without a lens cap because a filter is "protecting" your lens, the filter will gradually pick up dirt and/or moisture. After dirt builds up for a while, image quality can suffer in various ways.

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