To use a protective filter or not?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by greg_lisi, Oct 21, 2010.

  1. Hi Everyone,
    In short, just wonder how many out there use a good (high-end) multicoated UV/NC filter on ALL their lens' for protection? My it really worth it? Thom Hogan claims using UV/NC filters for protection as a gimmick. Are front elements expensive to replace? Myself, I've dropped a good amount of money on NC and UV filters for protection over the years. I believe filters have an application. I'm starting to second guess myself. I've heard scuttle about IQ degradation using filters UV protection, others claim it doesn't degrade anything or if it does it's too insignificant. I've read others claim that keeping the lens hood attached and using caution is all that's needed. My two cherished workers are the nikon 24-70 2.8, and after months of saving, and selling my VR I, I finally got the 70-200 VRII. For the most part, I do people shoots in and outdoors, really nothing in harsh conditions, however, for me these lens' were big investments as I don't make my living with photog. I did some closely controlled comparisons using UV/NC filters on my 24-70 2.8, and the 70-200 VRII both on and off. To be honest, the results were slight (close raw crops in NX2 and LR3). Oh well, decisions, attach and leave on or not to attach.....jeeeeezzzz!!
  2. I have UV filters, either Nikon of B+W, on all my lenses and have for the past forty years; they stay there. I have never had a scratched front element. On the other hand, I have never had a scratched filter either.

    But I am certain that Murphy is alive and well, and the moment I take the filters off a violent sand storm will pit all my lenses. <grin>
  3. I use filters when I put down or carry my cameras. When I shoot, I take them off:)
  4. No rules.
    If you are visiting a place where there is substances that may affect your glasses, use a filter.
    If ther eis a situation that the filter could affect the images and the images are improtant to you, why would you use a filter at all/
    Use your common sense!
  5. Greg I'm sure you know there are pages of this debate around. Personally I think it's whatever works for you. I have some older Nikon lenses that have never seen a filter and often my daily lenses didn't even have caps, and they are still all perfect after countless cleanings with chamois and a huff of breath. So, there is a lot of hype about all this to consider. Currently out of my regularly used line up I have filters on three out of 10 lenses. My Nikkor 85 1.8 AF which I use a real lot and tend to bang around has a Tiffen Haze and big metal hood all the time. My 20+ year old Tamron 28-80 SP which also gets heavy use and is well worn in has a B+W K1.5 on it and my Hasselblad 50mm CF-fle has a Hasselblad UV on it, I just don't want a bunch of dirt and junk around the moving front element. Other than that I don't own any other Sky or UV filters.
  6. Greg, i have both of those lenses as well and i will agree its a hefty investment.
    My experience has been that if your shooting in dusty,salty, windy or wet environments, then yes, put on
    a filter that will protect the element from possible damage or debris.
    The IQ is still the same so why not.
    I use the B+W brand of filters and love the quality of the products they make.
  7. I shoot with Nikon F3HP and F2A film bodies. Film has less problems with filters than digital. All my lenses have protective filters on them. Image degradation with filters is infinitesimal, and I never look at my photos through a microscope.
  8. Personal choice. I don't use them. I used to use them, but unless I know I am going someplace with wind blown sand, I don't. Just anther air/glass surface to cause issues. I do, however, always have lens hoods on my lenses. Otherwise, I go commando including no protective cover for the lcd screen.
  9. Buy an expensive lens. Don't put a filter on it and take some photos. Put a filter on it and take some photos. Check out the difference and see what you think. I personally don't think a filter, cheap or expensive makes any difference at all except it protects you from stupid mistakes which I make a lot of because I like shooting in bad weather.
  10. I use protective filters all the time, with very few exceptions, wind blown sand or not. Imagine a world where you never had to clean your windows or car windshield. The fact is there is plenty of dirt suspended in the air and that dirt is abrasive. Clearly, windy days increase the amount of particulates in the air and high humidity levels increase that dirt's ability to adhere to the soft coated surface of your lens. Speaking of humidity, I can recall countless times walking from a cold to warm environment and having my glasses and the front filter on my camera fog up. With a filter on it's a quick wipe (often with my t shirt), something I wouldn't consider doing to the front element of a lens unless I was just about to miss the shot proving aliens had decended from the heavens and were mutilating cattle while meeting with heads of State.
  11. I keep filters on all my lens: I'd rather clean my fingerprints off a filter. That just me.
    The only instance I've seen of it effecting a picture is night shots with strong light sources: a uv filter tends to increase the chance of stray light reflections.
  12. This question pops up about once a month. Here's my experience. I once had a polarizer on my Nikon 80-400mm lens while setting it on a tripod. Wind blew it over and it landed "face" down on the lens. The filter shattered and gouged the lens element badly. My lens was damaged by a filter! Filters are very flimsy and when they break they can easily scratch up your lens. I now use a lens cap whenever not taking a shot. It is tough, almost bullet proof. I also use the lens hood to help keep stuff from hitting the lens. I am an outdoor "adventure" photographer and shoot almost daily in all the weather the Dakotas can throw at me. Lately I've been shooting in heavy dust and grit photo'ing corn harvesting and tractors disking fields. No problems at all without using fitlers. I never use UV filters. They have ruined a number of shots by introducing flare. Yes, even the very best Hoya SMC and B+W mrc coated filters still cause problems. I have very expensive Nikon f2.8 zooms like you do, don't ever use so-called "protection" filters, and all of my lenses are absolutely perfect. The way I look at it, a filter introduces more risk to my lenses than what it solves. Also, to buy a quality filter for EACH of my lenses would end up costing MORE than a repair! What's the sense in that? None. The purpose of filters is to pump up the profits of camera stores and nothing more. Modern lens coatings are now tougher than glass. The only thing that can easily scratch it are pieces from broken glass--such as a shattered filter.
    Kent in SD
  13. You can always e-mail Nikon for a quote on the replacement cost of a front element for any Nikkor lens. If that cost exceeds the price of a filter, that would be a lesson learned in how not to save money...
  14. I use a lens hood to protect my lens when the camera is out. I put on the lens cap when I am not shooting, and take it off when I am. I feel this is the best protection and compromise.
    I only use a filter when there is a creative effect that can't be done in post processing, such as a polarizer to eliminate reflections and/or darken a blue sky. Otherwise considering the conditions that I often shoot in, a "protection" filter is just an unnecessary expense, both in terms of to the wallet and to the image.
  15. Googling on {+filters +protection +lens} turned up over 2800 hits on this exact topic, just on I'm not sure anything more can be added to that discussion.
    Tom M
  16. I use filters when I put down or carry my cameras. When I shoot, I take them off:)

    Lens caps would be cheaper (or free).
  17. Yep....This question comes up often; too often.
    Basic physics at work here.
    1)Light entering a lens with a filter on must pass thru several mediums; all of which effect image quality. How much depends on filter quality.
    AIR-GLASS-AIR-GLASS= refraction
    AIR-GLASS only= Less Refraction
    2) Snapping or screwing on a lens filter assumes the lens mount is parallel to the primary external objective. I doubt many are.
    Perhaps I've been lucky; I have never used a UV filter for it's imaginary protective attributes.
  18. When I was a teenager, I worked at a 'mart' type store in their camera department. As a demo to show how durable the coating was on their lenses, a Pentax salesman that was visiting the store put his cigarette out on the lens, then cleaned it - the lens was unaffected.
    Putting an inexpensive piece of glass (filter) on an expensive piece of glass (lens) just doesn't make sense to me. After 40+ years of doing photography, I have yet to damage a camera or lens. I never use filters for lens protection.
  19. I would say I always have a filter. Except:

    I don't have one for my 8mm Peleng fish-eye, because it (obviously) won't take one. I have accidentally put it in the palm of my hand without having a cap on it (brain dead moment), which required some scrubbing with a lens cloth.

    I don't have one on my 14-24, because it won't take one. I got splashes from Niagara on it, which required professional cleaning, so I'd have been happier if there was a filter in the way.

    I don't have one on my 200 f/2, because it won't take one. Although it does have an integrated protective element. I've not done anything to it yet, fortunately.

    I don't have one on my 90mm Tamron, because the front element is - for a reason I can't really understand - literally centimetres behind the filter thread, so a UV is much more likely to flare than the lens itself. The protection seemed unnecessary.

    I *do* have one on my 28-200, but I keep forgetting to remove it when using a polariser - this is the only lens I have for which stacked filters vignette.

    Otherwise, I'd always use a filter to protect the lens. I wouldn't put a $100 filter on a $150 lens, but there are budget options. If there's a detectable image issue, I can always remove it. HTH.
  20. @Tom Mann -- true, but then what would we do? :)
  21. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    I once had a polarizer on my Nikon 80-400mm lens while setting it on a tripod. Wind blew it over and it landed "face" down on the lens. The filter shattered and gouged the lens element badly. My lens was damaged by a filter! Filters are very flimsy and when they break they can easily scratch up your lens.​
    Kent, I always find your logic on this topic convoluted. Filters are made from optical glass and so are lens elements. They are all fragile.
    If the filter wasn't there, the impact would have shattered your front element instead. Who is to say that your broken front element wouldn't have scratched the element below it? Instead of appreciating the filter lessening the damage on your lens, you blame it. And where was your lens hood?
    Last year I did the same stupid thing as Kent did: I left my 70-200mm/f2.8 AF-S VR attached to my D700 on my Gitzo under windy conditions. In no time the wind blew the whole thing over. The hood on the 70-200 saved the lens; there was not even a scratch on the filter in front. I only have my own carelessness to blame.
    Protection filters are there to protect lenses from dust, mist, liquid spray, etc. etc. When they get dirty, I clean them with my shirt in the field so that my optical path is always clean and I get better images. Filters are made from glass; nobody should ever expect them to protect the lens from impacts.
    By the way, Nikon clearly recommends using protective filters. They automatically include them on big lenses in these days. When I first bought my 200-400mm/f4 AF-S VR, I didn't even know that Nikon had shipped it with a clear filter attached; I only found out a few weeks later.
  22. I rented a 180mm f2.8 one time which had a nick in the front element. Didn't cause a problem. Nothing visible in any of the images taken with that lens. BTW, I shoot with the Nikkor 24-70 and 70-200 VRII. Not inexpensive. My suggestion is still to do what you think best.
  23. I second to; . . . "Thom Hogan claims using UV/NC filters for protection as a gimmick."
    . . . "I have UV filters, either Nikon of B+W, on all my lenses and have for the past forty years; they stay there. I have never had a scratched front element. On the other hand, I have never had a scratched filter either."
    Yes, he is right! . . . I have ben in a photo trip with my friend, ex camera store owner and become photographer. This subject come up, talking to a third person about this subject. I said; To day, the UV filter absolutely not necessary, and as a protection filter is a camera salesman's invention to sell you more gadget and make profit. You do not need a filter in the lens anymore if you using a DSLR camera, because it is on the sensor all ready! (more explanation exist, other places) Then; You so called protection filter do more harm then protecting you lens front elements. I personally witnessed, when a person getting up to the bus and the camera swigged, hit the doorframe a "little", and the front protector filter shuttered, scratching the front element of the lens. In an other case, the damaged filter do not wanted to come of the lend, and the person was not able to use this lens in the trip. Then as I see all the time, People, specially amateurs, keep cleaning the filter all the time, with the microfiber cleaning cloth, they using year after year, collecting all the microscopic dust particles and polishing, scratching they so called "protection filters". The real protection for you front element, always, . . . THE HOOD! . . . The hood protecting you lens not only for the sun or unwanted light to hit the front of you lens, it protecting you lens more then uniting else! Unfortunately most of the amateurs, and some of the advanced amateurs too, do not know this, because the gather they knowledge from a camera salesman, or and other unskilled photographer. And the camera salesperson don't going to tell you all this, and as my friend listen this story, he laughed laud, agreeing with me, and even repeated all this, calling all those people suckers. The misconception of amateurs, you has to clean you lens all the time is wrong! A blower of air just enough if you see visible dust, or any other stuff on you lens. A couple of fine dust particle never going to ruin technically your image, you bad handling of you camera, lens, etc, etc will do! The only time you has to clean you front element, if you left a fingerprint on you lens, because you clumsy handling of it. But then, use a disposable lens cleaning, or a fresh microfiber material, "after you blown of the fine dust of the lens with a good air blower"! . . . Yes, the so called protection filter is a GIMIC as Tom Hogan put it in the right way. With the protection filter, you protecting the camera store profit, not your lens. Period. Please excuse my poor English.
  24. I always use a UV filter on my lenses. They are a lifesaver if you get sloppy and do not put lenses away properly. Last year, I was shooting pictures and I decided to change lenses and put m Nikon 105mm/F2.8 on the back seat of the car and got my 35 out of the camera case and continued shooting. I forgot about the 105 and when I got home I pulled the camera bag out of the back seat and pulled the 105 with it. The lens hit the concrete from about 2 feet + off the ground and rolled. When I picked it up, I saw that the filter rim was bent and the filter cracked, but the lens was not damaged. The filter was good insurance. Now I make sure all the lenses are secure in the bag before I move it.
  25. Shun--
    My point was more that if I had NO filter on but had been using the lens cap as I should, there would have been no damage to the front element. The damage was caused by a filter being there instead of a lens cap. As it was I had to pay for both a repair AND a new expensive filter. In my own experience, filters just don't really protect anything. I shoot in truly nasty conditions with all kinds of stuff blowing around, and yet the glass on my lenses is perfect. I am very careful to always use lens hoods and lens caps. If a lens cap is on, nothing will get past it. I've seen many amateur photographers stick lenses in their pockets where their filters get all scratched up from other junk in the pocket (e.g. keys, pocket knife, etc.) and say, "I'm glad I had a filter on--it took all the scratches!" To me this is ridiculous. They ended up replacing expensive filters. If they were using lenscaps there would have been no damage at all. I am careful to not put lenses into pockets that have metal objects in them in the first place. I think that filters provide a sense of false security and may even encourage such careless handling.
    Kent in SD
  26. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    My point was more that if I had NO filter on but had been using the lens cap as I should, there would have been no damage to the front element. The damage was caused by a filter being there instead of a lens cap.​
    Kent, the damage was caused by your carelessness; as I said, I did the same stupid thing last year and I have no problem putting the blame on where it belongs: me myself. And I'll ask again, where was your lens hood?
    And a lens cap is not necessarily sufficient for protecting your lens from impact damage. I have told this story a number of times. When I was a teenager, I was once changing lenses on a concrete sidewalk; a friend bumped into my elbow, and I dropped the lens on concrete. It was a Minolta lens with a UV filter on and a Minolta metal lens cap on the filter. The impact totally mangled the lens cap as well as the metal rim of the filter, and the filter glass shattered. I had to take the lens to a repair shop to get the filter removed, but there wasn't even one scratch on the lens, barrel or glass. If the filter weren't there, the rim of the lens would likely have been damaged instead. (That lens has a telescope type built in hood that did not provide any protection in that occasion.)
    Do use your lens caps as much as you can. The problem is that you have to take lens caps off to take pictures, and when they are off, they cannot protect your lens. Filters are there pretty much all the time unless you shoot into a light source; in that case remove them to reduce flare.
    Incidentally, I debated none other than Thom Hogan on this very topic in this forum:
    Thom is an excellent author and highly knowledgeable about Nikon cameras, but he can be wrong as well. In fact, as far as I am concerned, he is wrong quite often, but Thom provides a lot of opinions. The only people who are never wrong are those who don't state their opinions.
  27. With a filter on it's a quick wipe (often with my t shirt)​
    Why do you do that to your filter but not to your lens? If you scratch the filter then it might affect your shots just as scratching the lens itself might.
    After you do that to your filter, do you then check it is OK, or do you get a new filter?
    Have you ever changed a filter because it is damaged? My guess is probably not.
    In my opinion, for most people, a UV filter is a complete waste of money. The only reason I can think of is if you wish to make your lens waterproof (some weather-sealed lenses require a filter to complete weatherproofing) or if you are in a sandstorm - most of us are never really in this situation and if we are I doubt many of us non-professionals will be out taking pictures.
  28. I'd rather clean my fingerprints off a filter. That just me.​
    I think that Mendel says it very well. I think that is the only reason to use a filter - if you are "scared" of cleaning a "real' lens and would rather clean a filter. It's almost a matter of personal hygiene. I think it is bunk, but I can appreciate it.
  29. How easily can you replace your 24-70mm lens? If you are a pro and/or have insurance for your equipment, don't bother. I am an amateur and every lens I own has been paid for with money I saved for months and it is very difficult for me to replace. So a filter is a cheap insurance for me, so is the lens hood, that's why I always have them attached to my lenses.
  30. Boy, hasn't THIS topic already been beaten to death.
    I use UV filters on all my lenses except a couple that are pretty deeply recessed (55mm f3.5 and 50mm f1.8). I also use the hood ALL the time for protection from stray light AND bumps. When I shoot something real critical, or even semi-critical, I take the filter off if I can and don't feel too bad if I forget to unless I'm shooting into the sun, in which case I ALWAYS take the filter off, as I've had stuff ruined by that scenario with the filter on.
  31. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Boy, hasn't THIS topic already been beaten to death.​
    Certainly has. Whether you want to use protection filters or not is totally up to you; I don't care. However, what bothers me are the misleading information that gets posted over and over, e.g.:
    • Kent Staubus keeps on blaming the filter damaging his lens.
    • The notion that somehow a high-quality UV or clear filter will degrade image quality. I once stacked 3 Nikon L37C fitlers for an A/B comparison and posted the results here. Nobody could tell which was which. I have since lost track of which image was captured with 3 UV filters in front also, since I cannot tell the difference:
    Some of you know that I shoot surfing once in a while. When there is big waves near the coast, there is a lot of salty mist in the air and I need to clean my front element . Wtih a filter in front, I just clean the filter at will with my shirt, towel, whatever is available.
    If you still have any doubts, please take a look at the image I attached earlier. A clear protective filter is something Nikon recommends (and automatically includes) on big lenses. Do you think Nikon does not know what they are doing with their own lenses?
  32. Only two rules are needed, to be applied when front elements are on risk:
    Rule #1:
    Always use the hood. If the hood cannot be used, use a protective filter.
    Rule #2:
    Use a protective filter or cap in conditions where anything could be sprayed to the front element (with or w/o hood).
    • Obviously if there is no risk, there is no need of protection. The user should know about his/her own risky circumstances.
    • If the user consider himself to be under continuos risk, the rule should be permanently applied.
    • If there is no apparent risk but suddenly a meteorite hit your $2000+ lens front element, you still have the final resource; to call Nikon repair facility. Consider yourself lucky.
    • If the user is irresponsible... that`s another topic.
  33. I no longer use UV filters. I used to use B+W UV anti haze filters because of their reputation and quality. I no longer use filters because there are instances where the image degradation is very obvious, and most times subtle, but noticible. I always had a suspicion that the filters were having a slight negative effect on my images, but like many others on the forum here I wanted to protect the thousands of dollars spent on lenses and lived with it. The day I stopped using them, was during a wedding, when I was shooting the formals. I was using the nikon 24mm 1.4 in semi poor lighting. I placed the group in a shaded area that was back lit a little bit from an over cast day. I really had no choice as to where to place the group, otherwise I would have picked a different area for better lighting. The lighting was decent enough where I elected not to use flash. I noticed the images looked a little soft. Also noticed a very slight haze. To confirm my suspicions I used my trusty $200 35mm 1.8 lens (used on a FX camera, even though its a DX lens, DX crop disabled). The images looked sharper, more contrasty, and punchy. $200 lens out performing a $2000 lens lol. Hmm maybe the focal length of the 35mm introduced less flare, so I quickly shot a couple frames with the 14-24mm set at 24mm. Looked much better than the 24mm 1.4G with the filter on it. Once I took the filter off, the lense performed like a $2000 lens should perform. I think the filter makes lenses more suceptible to flare, haze, especially when a subject is back lit. I see this also when using off camera flash for rim lighting / back lighting, etc. Happened before during creative portraits using window light as a back light, shooting into the sun, shooting into any light source for the matter.
    Also all the lenses I never protected have been fine. I think that as long as you are careful and use a lens hood, you should be fine. Perhaps putting the filter on when you are in dusty environments, sandy areas, areas where things may fly up on your lens, but for the most part I don't think you need them. They just don't fit my style of shooting, as a photojournalistic wedding photographer I don't always get to dictate the lighting or my positioning. I don't want my shots ruined because of the filter. Sometimes you don't get a second chance at capturing that split second moment. Often times the filter on the lens doesn't do anything to the image quality, but I've ran into issues enough times on many different lenses that I rarely use a filter now. Good photos could have been excellent photos. Also less time in post process (putting back some contrast, sharpness).
  34. I keep the b+w polarizer on my 24-85mm whether I need to polarise or not. The naked front element of a new Nikkor lens is somewhat too fragile and too exposed for my liking.
  35. Well, I just couldn't stay out of another discussion of this topic, so here goes ...
    The obvious and only real answer to the question about using a protective filter is NOT by emphatic pronouncements, anecdotes, references to a other discussions about lenses, or by quoting some "expert".
    Rather, it is by *you* performing a simple, well-controlled, no-time-pressure experiment *for yourself* that will take you at most a few minutes per lens/body combination. Don't try to extrapolate from non-controlled, higher pressure, typical shooting experiences, especially sports and weddings. Don't try to generalize from seeing a loss of contrast on a strongly backlit scene with one lens to what you might experience with another lens.
    Put the lens and camera on a tripod, set it to manual focus and manual exposure, and then take some shots of a typical subject that you shoot: first with a filter, and then again, without the filter under study. Try a range of f-stops; try a few different lighting situations.
    Unless you intentionally have sun or other bright light shining directly on the front element of the lens, my guess is that with any reasonable quality filter and any lens from 20 to 100 mm FL, you will be hard pressed to see any difference between the two shots. If a difference occurs, it will likely be a slight reduction in contrast with the filter, not a loss of sharpness. I know this because I have done this test many times over decades of experience in optics and specifically, photography. Of course, if you are shooting directly into the sun with normal lenses, or are using an $8000 500mm/f4 VR, yes, filters can cause a loss of IQ, but for most people, most of the time, the negative effects of filters are vastly exaggerated.
    Do the filter on-off experiment for yourself, and I'll bet the "no-filter-ever" advocates will change their low opinion of (reasonable quality) filters in normal shooting situations. Unless you like spending money replacing lenses, a reasoned, pragmatic approach (ie, "take it off when the situation suggests there will be problems) is vastly better than the all-encompassing generalizations that are always offered in threads on this topic. By being adaptable, you can protect your lens most of the time, but remove the filter when you know (from tests or experience) that it is likely to cause problems.
    If you want to do a more complete and telling set of experiments, read my comments here:, and my comments in the thread reference therein, Jan 08, 2010; 02:32 p.m.
    If performing any of these simple experiments is just too taxing, then feel please free to adhere to an all-or-nothing policy on the use of filters.
    Tom M
    PS - Shun is the voice of reason on this topic. I strongly suggest taking seriously his comments and description of the experiments that he has performed.
    PPS - @Andrew F - Were you being sarcastic, or do you mean to tell us that you intentionally accept a 2 stop loss of light all the time? If so, you must be shooting very different things than most other folks. Wow!
  36. if i'm taking pictures of people who are throwing rocks at me, I do, otherwise no. I do use a lens cap though when not shooting, which is far tougher, cheaper and safer than a UV filter.
  37. I keep Hoya S-HMC UV filters on all my lenses. These filters have one of the highest light transmission rates of anything on the market along with B+W and Hoya HD. I tend to shoot in rough conditions and weather and the filters have already protected my lenses from scratches and damage. A hood is simply not enough in rough conditions.
    I have tested Hoya S-HMC filters a dozen times for image degradation, and I can detect none. I can't even get them to increase the flare in the image.
    People who claim image degradation generally have experience with lower quality filters. People who claim they're a gimmick or don't offer any more protection than hoods generally don't shoot in rough weather and conditions. If you never shoot in those conditions than a hood is enough, but that doesn't counter the experience of those of us who do.
    FYI, some lenses require a front filter to complete their weather sealing, or gain significant resistance from having a front filter. The Canon 17-40L needs a filter to be weather sealed. The Sigma 50 f/1.4 is not a weather sealed lens, but if you look at how the lens is constructed you realize a filter pretty much seals the part of the lens most vulnerable to water entry from a splash. I don't recommend taking a non-weather sealed lens into rough conditions, but I will take whatever protection I can get because I can't always avoid water related hazards.
  38. I have tested Hoya S-HMC filters a dozen times for image degradation, and I can detect none. I can't even get them to increase the flare in the image.
    I should qualify this by pointing out that my tests have involved various Canon L and prime lenses, and the Tokina 11-16, from 11mm to 300mm, on bodies up to and including the 18 MP 7D. If there was any image degradation I think the 7D would expose it.
  39. Every camera salesman's dream is the person who walks into the store, maybe bargains for a better price on a very high end camera., such as one of the D3 Nikons, then asks 'what lenses do I need' and maybe even bargains down the price of the lenses, then finally says to the salesman
    'What else do I need?"
    Immediately that is the invitation to sell filters for all lenses to the client, and almost NO client knows the actual cost or quality of the filters.
    It's a salesman's wet dream!
    Not all filters are alike either; some are made of less than the best glass, even if optical, some have wide metal holders that will interfere with wide angle lenses, others are extremely expensive -- well over a hundred dollars apiece and are true optical marvels.
    There's almost NO bargaining over the price of filters, so if the camera price went to 'rock bottom' the filter often is sold at 'full list', even though they are (I think) a pretty heavily marked up item. When I shop, I am given discount on EVERYTHING I buy, but then I never buy filters, and camera salesmen know it - they offer, but they know I never will buy.
    If I were going to shoot in the desert, in times of forecast high winds, I'd certainly want a filter for my lens, just to prevent it from being scoured by blown sand. I'd want to be prepared to throw the filter away if it got scratched or scoured, even a little bit.
    A good desert wind in Southern California can scour the paint right off a car in the High Desert, if the wind is funneled between two hills, two peaks, or other natural or man made features -- some windstorms end up with hundreds or thousands of cars getting stuck in sandstorms, then having to be repainted.
    I can't then say there is no place I wouldn't use a filter.
    Similarly if I were on the ocean or anyplace where there was 'salt spray', I'd surely want a filter, as even when you are anywhere near the ocean, even on dry land, there is salt in the air. I lived near the Pacific Ocean for over 20 years, and my house windows had salt/mineral crust on them almost immediately after cleaning; salt fog covered my car windows every foggy night (and days too, as many summer days had fog all day long).
    So, I cannot say there is no place for a filter.
    I've seen cases where a filter shattered and damaged the front element in circumstances where a recessed front lens element would not have been shattered. My favorite camera repairman (and others too) have verified this is a very common occurrence.
    On the other hand a huge impact will not only damage the filter, the front element but also, as I found when a Sigma f 2.8 lens dropped off my car's fender, I found the diaphragm had been shattered; but the lens next to it picked up front the asphalt; a Nikkor, did not shatter at all, not the (filterless) glass, nor any part of the lens, and it was even tested to shoot perfectly. That lens had a scratch or two on it, barely visible and that was all.
    One might look at the lens and how far the front element is recessed to help figure out what is the best solution, and then compare it to anticipated use.
    If you're using a lens in a studio, and have controlled conditions, where the image quality is everything and must not be degraded one whit, the addition of another two surfaces (front and back of the filter) will probably add some diminution in contrast and/or image quality, and such conditions call for using the best quality filter available if one is going to use a filter at all.
    But if you own 20 lenses with varying lens opening sizes and want 'protection' from filters, you're going to spend a relative fortune for filters.
    In my 'street' shooting and most indoor and outdoor shooting I do NOT use filters. I am just not willing to spring for the extra bucks, and large ones too, to get optical quality glass that will be as good as necessary to match the optical quality of my top-notch Nikon glass.
    I had a (pair of) 200~400 mm V.R. Nikkor lenses, since bought earlier than Shun's and neither came with a protective filter.
    In fact, that plastic thing over your artificial sapphire viewing screen at the rear of your camera, was never meant to do anything more than protect the screen during shipping.
    It was not meant to protect the camera during actual use, though it could be.
    People assumed they were supposed to keep that plastic thing on, and since they could view the image, why not?
    But those screens are incredibly hard, and since I often visit Nikon's repair center in Southern California, I understand from them that damaged rear screens are quite a rarity - they happen but infrequently, and not just because people put those plastic 'screen protectors' over them.
    A long-time, famous camera store owner told me about those screens being used for 'shipping protection' and how 'surprised' manufacturers of the early digital cameras were to find that people wanted and expected to shoot with those screens on.
    Now they have become de rigueur (almost obligatory) for shooters. Not me, and I've had tens of digital cameras and never a scratch or nick on a digital rear screen despite some incredibly rough use -- including European train and subway doors smashing shut on my cameras and lenses as I was boarding or getting off.
    Those doors close suddenly and HARD, and you'd think they could and would damage those rear screens, but no.
    For my many high quality lenses (when I have them), I do not put filters on them, but most often, unless I'm trying to be surreptitious, I put on a lens hood.
    I often have shot with two or three large lenses, including almost ALWAYS a 70-200 mm Nikkor f 2.8 and never had any damage to a front element.
    I once lent a camera lens out to a friend/co-worker and the lens was brought back with a damaged front element (it had been used without a filter, and my 'friend' expressed amazement that it had been 'damaged' professing complete lack of knowledge. (I think it just fell off a table or window sill, personally and in Russia and Ukraine if your employer suffers a loss, they take it out of your paycheck, so denial is a reflex with Russian/Ukrainian employees. For instance, if you work for an airline and calculate a fare wrongly, the difference will be expected to come out of your pay! Not so in the USA so people can be more honest about the cause of damage.
    The lenses I carry can expect some really substantial physical use, and when I sell a 70~200 mm Nikkor after six months to a year when I've been traveling or shooting street on streetcars, trains with auto doors, etc., those lenses are going to have scratches and gouges on their barrels, but internally they'll be 'brand new'.
    I've never had a damaged front element on such a lens under the toughest shooting conditions, but then I don't drop them, but see below.
    Two different times on re-entering the USA, customs wanted to 'inspect' my cameras and lenses. TWO DIFFERENT AND SEPARATE TIMES AT THE SAME 'STATION' (UNNAMED) THEY EXAMINED TWO DIFFERENT 70~200 MM NIKKOR LENSES, LEFT THEM ONLY PARTIALLY ON THE CAMERA -- the lens release had been released and not relocked.
    Two times (my shame!) after clearing inspection, two different lenses dropped onto the ground with one and the other to an elevator floor, right from the front of my camera, hanging down.
    The lens hoods were damaged beyond repair and I just threw them away. They're about $40 to $50 apiece where I buy them.
    Neither lens was needed repaired at all.
    Lens hoods in both instances saved my $2000 lenses. There was NO indication of any damage at all to either lens in either case -- not even a scratch on either.
    You have virtually no chance of getting your money from US Customs if they don't re-insert your lens properly, and in those instances I had been unaware they even took the lens off, so I didn't think to check the lens release mechanism! Now I do!
    Lens hoods saved the day.
    Filters would have been shattered, I am sure, and probably the front elements too.
    In the one 'front element' I had to replace, I recall Nikon repair charged me about $150 for a lens that sold new for over $1,000, which I considered a small price to pay for me, for not buying all those $100+ plus filters for all those lenses.
    I'd buy filters and use them if I shot landscape in deserts regularly or went out on fishing or crab boats in the Bering Sea. I'd buy anything and everything to protect my cameras and lenses in those circumstances.
    However, even under the toughest street conditions with my lens barrels taking some real bad knocks, I've never personally lost or had harmed a front element; all my glass is pristine when I'm done, if it's sold or just put away.
    I seldom clean either; the posters are correct about constant scouring of front elements.
    The real issue isn't just scouring of the lens, it's the lens coatings . . . which will damage soon enough if dry cleaned when there's even the slightest grit on them, even if you hit them with a dry lens wipe, even a clean microfiber one.
    I used to buy 'lens cleaner' but now I just buy (In Ukraine when I'm there) a $1.50 bottle of cheap vodka and use that. It's high enough alcohol content that it dries rapidly and doesn't get into the lens mechanism (to pose risk of rust or corrosion) the way I clean with it.
    Lens hoods for 'street' also protect front elements not only from dirt but in almost all cases from rain, rain spray, and snow, melting or not.
    Those four weather elements are a far worse threat for the 'street' shooter who shoots outdoors in very inclement weather, and for me they mandate using a lens hood.
    A good lens from Nikon often has a HUGE lens hood, at least the telephotos, and they're very high quality, and apparently designed to release with blows before the lens breaks; I recommend them.
    Moreover, lens hoods say 'pro or pro quality photographer' to subjects no matter how much you argue with them you're a rich doctor who just buys high quality equipment but don't know how to use it. ;~))
    Filters have a place, especially as weather sealers, but they're expensive and they do add two more surfaces to scatter light.
    Anyone who's used a Nikon teleconverter, and compared the image after passing through the teleconverter with the camera's original image expects it to be sharp enough, but also expects it to be degraded. Every time that light travels through even optical glass, there are reflective surfaces on every element no matter how well treated with anti-reflective coatings (and other properties that mean images will be degraded, however slightly.
    NO image with a converter on a 70~200 f 2.8 Nikkor I ever inspected, compared with a equivalent focal length on a 200~400 mm f 4 Nikkor zoom, ever equaled the latter in Image Quality.
    Frankly, unless shooting in sandy/salty or extremely moist conditions, I do NOT use filters. I use lens hoods most of the time. In fact, I put away in storage the front lens covers too, because as a street shooter, the image is almost always gone by the time I'd take to remove a lens cover.
    If I sell a lens, then I get out the lens front and rear covers, because buyers want them.
    Advice: Read the material here on this topic, figure out what your needs are, then make a choice. It may be you will use filters some places or under some conditions and not under others. I'd use your head, unless you have an unlimited budget, when it comes to buying filters. They both can damage a front element or not depending on the story, and so far there are no controlled comparison tests.
    If you want to buy filters, the camera salesman will smile (even if inwardly) because you're a sitting duck for whatever they've got in stock; few buyers who are otherwise the sharpest know enough about filters and filter prices to get 'a deal' on their filters too.
    If you automatically are going to buy filters for all lens, then I know an auto dealer who will sell you a car at a pretty good price, until he adds the 'undercoating', the spray film for the surface, the special chrome for the wheels, the 'five-year maintenance agreement' and so on.
    Be wise, make an intelligent choice.
    I make mine. I figure for all the 'glass' I've bought I've probably saved $5,000 by not buying filters, and those filters would not have protect me in the circumstances I shoot whereas a lens hood does (and has).
    Oh: one last point. Ever know anybody who went on Craig's List looking for filters and was willing to pay nearly full price? The buyers there will pay a very good price for a good lens, but a filter has almost no value, no matter how good a brand and how 'unused'. It's hard to sell a filter unless it's a 'bonus' to sell with a lens, then it really adds nothing to the price, I feel.
    John (Crosley)
  40. Thank you John, you said more precisely what I meant in my comments. And to all others; you have to read Johns comments, at list twice.
  41. At first I thought I wouldn't read this thread but now am glad I did. I had never even considered the meteorite threat.
  42. Bela A. Molnar,
    I thank you so much. Precision somethings requires length, and sometimes length is necessary to thoroughly explore an issue. I say what I think is important, then try to stop.
    Sometimes brevity takes a toll in accuracy or ambiguity.
    I prefer to try to be complete, plus this is a 'sharing site', and I feel I have something to contribute - then stop (but be interesting too).
    I once read a recipe, 'The Simple Way to Make French Bread' -- it was 46 pages long with illustrations.
    I was aghast -- how could they write 46 pages on making a loaf of bread, and how 'simple' could it possibly at that length? I figured it required a page or two at most.
    But I tried the recipe.
    The author had thought of every problem and contingency, so when I baked my first loaf every problem I faced, they had 'solved' for me and illustrated it. I breezed through the process.
    My first loaf looked like a professional bakery had baked it, and it had the proper taste and consistency.
    It was indeed simple, despite its 46 pages. And I learned something about brevity vs. simplicity, accuracy, and ambiguity.
    John (Crosley)
  43. Use one. It can't hurt.
  44. @ Tom Mann, no I wasn't being sarcastic, I really meant it. For me its a matter of practicality. Take it off, open the bag , find the filters case, put it in, then decide you want it on, open the bag, find the filter etc etc, too time consuming, too much hassle. Rather leave it on, and have the protection also. Stops loss is only if the filter is rotated to the angle of polaization anyways, isn't it ? Besides, at the iso levels of the D700, it doesn't make any difference. Its not an ideal world and we have to make compromises. If I used a UV filter, then I would have to take that off also before all the hassle of fitting the polariser, because off the 24mm end of the lens. Of course I am talking off outdoor photography in bright daylight. For indoors or somthing else, I'll take it off.
  45. @Andrew F - Ahh... "outdoors in bright daylight" explains why leaving your polarizer on isn't as crazy as it first sounded. I thought you were saying that you left it on at all times, ie, including indoors, at night, for flash or hot light portraiture, etc.
    Tom M
    PS - BTW, even with a theoretically perfect polarizer, there is always at least a 1 stop loss of light with the randomly polarized light that emanates from most scenes. The minimum loss introduced by a real polarizer will always be somewhat more, say 1.3 to 1.5 stops (at the angle of maximum transmission). With a scene that has a large area of polarizing reflections (e.g., glass surfaces, wet coatings on leaves, a clear blue sky illuminated at 90 degrees by the sun, etc.) the maximum loss can exceed two stops.
  46. I've been in photography for 30 years now with about 2 dozen different lenses over the years and I have not used a filter in over 25 years. I use lens caps only and have never had a problem. Through several attempts at using filters for effects over the years, even recently, I have determined that using the best available glass is more effective and that filters degrade image quality enough, sometimes greatly, to make them undesirable.
    I'd rather put my money into another lens than into filters.
  47. I guess I use too cheep a filter (Kood 77mm UV) on my 70-200 and I find it struggles with bright spots and not with just the obvious pointing at headlights at night type shots. So I often end up taking it off.

    It's my only exspensive lens so maybe I could stretch to 8% (£60+) of the price I paid for the lens to get a better filter if I thought it would perform much better. With the rest of my kit a top quality filter can be 15-30% of the price of the lens so I'll take the risk.

    Here are the spots I see that go with the removal of the filter. Would a Nikon or Hoya Pro perfom much better than the Kood for this?
  48. Here is another less obvious one (spot near rear wheel).
  49. We go to the trouble of carefully selecting good glass to put on our cameras so they deliver the best optical quality we can get. Then we put an utterly useless piece of glass on it which increases the likelihood of flare and low contrast and we think we're being clever.
    Give me a break.
    UV "protective" filters are not just useless, they're worse than useless.
    Want protection ? Use the hood and the lens cap. That's what they're for. And the hood even reduces the chance of flare and improves contrast.
    I give in. Just how hard is it to do this math.
  50. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    If there is a source of light inside your frame, such as the sun, street lamps, car headlights, I would definitely not use a protective filter for those occasions. I would avoid zoom lenses that tend to have many elements, especailly VR lenses that have extra VR elements. Any extra elements either from a filter or from a zoom is going to make flare and ghosting worse.
    Otherwise, if your clear protection filter degrades your images is any notiable fashion, you are using a low-quality filter. As I tested last year, I stacked 3 Nikon L37C filters together and ran some A/B tests; nobody in this forum could tell the difference at 100% pixel level. I would stick with high-quality, multi-coated filters from Nikon, B+W, Hoya, etc.
    Just because in some situations you shouldn't use filters does not mean you should never use them. Likewise, I use zoom lenses most of the time, but in some situations it is unwise to use them. Just about each lens I have is unsuitable under certain circumstances; that is why I have many lenses. :)
  51. Every single one of my lenses, except my 16mm fisheye of course, have Hoya super multi-coated UV(0) filters on them. It is very unusual for me to remove them. I do a lot of stuff at the beach and it keeps the front elements protected not only from blowing sand but from accumulation of salt embedded in the humidity.
    For me, keeping a $40 filter on my $700 85mm f/1.4 AIS Nikkor is about as much of a no-brainer as you will ever find.
  52. I don't know, so I asked Glenn Beck what I should think.
    Sarcasm aside, sure the subject has been beaten to death, just like whatever subject, does that mean we can't have an intelligent conversation? I'd love to see a college prof that says "Do a goog, test on Tuesday".
    Great answers though for the thinking guys. I really like I'd rather clean a filter then an element. 20 years into cleaning an element on a 2 thousand dollar lens and I'd rather do it to a filter with an occasional dust off on the element. If you're a pro and going to replace the lens in a few years anyway, who cares.
    Please never ask about flying and Rayos X. :)
  53. I'd rather be wiping and cleaning a $30 filter than the front element of a $1000 lens. Its not an image quality issue at all....just a care and maintenence one. To me its a no brainer.
    Do some research on filters. The results will tell you that even good old Hoya uv filters are fine optically. If you are getting to the sharp end of imaging and you are a fine arts pro selling your prints for $2000, then maybe you might have to be more discerning.
  54. UV "protective" filters are not just useless, they're worse than useless.
    Shoot with me on the beach some time with salt water spray, or in a desert sandstorm, then tell me how useless they are.
    I give in. Just how hard is it to do this math.
    How hard is it for people to get through their heads that top tier filters do not degrade image quality? If you don't shoot in harsh conditions, you don't need a filter so save your money. If you do then you need the protection. And if you need the protection there are options which will not compromise IQ. It's that simple.
  55. I use cheap UV/skylight/clear filters for physical protection; I don't notice any severe aberrations or lack of sharpness. Then again, I don't have any terribly expensive lenses either.
    I only take them off only when using an effect filter (ie.: ND or CPL) to avoid vignetting and whenever I shoot into bright light sources. Most of time, this means they can stay on.
  56. I tend to use them just because I'm lazy and don't want to bother having to clean the front element of my lenses so often. I leave them on when I shoot and frankly would never notice the difference except at times when I have a bright light source entering the lens, like the sun at a low angle. I do use good multicoated filters on all my lenses except one, and that filter is still a B+W UV filter despite not being multicoated. I don't use a filter on my 55mm Micro-Nikkor as it has a front element that is deeply recessed, nor do I use one on my 50mm f1.8 AF-D as it too has a front element that is recessed. But on all my other lenses I have UV filters just to protect the front element. I get a little nervous when I have to clean a front element, because I don't want to do damage, so a UV filter is easier to clean and not as stressful. As I like to walk around with the lens cap off, I know the front element is still protected from debris hurled at it by the wind while I'm walking around.
  57. Sometimes gefilte and other times, lox.
    I always use a lens shade if I have the right one, but mainly to avoid or reduce flare. I think most photos benefit from use of a polarizer. I usually use a UV or skylight filter to protect the lens. When I worked summers at duPont between my college years, safety glasses were mandatory in many applications. I have had incidents while hunting or working in a lab, where glasses save my eyes.
    Unless you are working in medical, scientific or intelligence activities, or producing billboards, a photo is intended to conjure up a memory, and/or to evoke emotional responses. Most of the photos we look at nowadays are on a computer screen and won't reach a wide audience.
    I have analyzed imagery from space in the visible as well as infrared, directed operations of then secret spacecraft while in Vietnam to direct air strikes, have supported the overhead recce efforts of the NRO to increase the yield of usable intelligence photos, and in these applications, higher resolution helped. For photos of my grandchildren, not so much.
    Have we become obsessive-compulsive regarding resolution and contrast.

Share This Page