Why you shouldn't use UV filters as protection on your lenses

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by fuccisphotos, Dec 25, 2012.

  1. Hi all,
    just wanted to share this cautionary tale with you.
    So I have always placed a UV filter on the front of all my expensive lenses as a means of protection. Now some have told me this is not a good idea, you are putting a piece of cheap glass in front of your expensive glass, decreasing the image quality, yada yada yada. Well I was always debating it, but thought to myself, my god I'd rather spend the money to replace one of those filters than the whole front lens element, and better to have slightly lower image quality than a scratched lens!
    So in my 3 years as a professional photographer, and 17 years as an amateur, none of my filters ever got scratched, leading me to believe that using my lens hoods, the chances of my actual lenses getting scratched would be low. But what has happened is when lenses have fallen on the lens element the metal of the UV filter gets bent out of shape. This makes it next to impossible to get the filter off. Also if the filter is no longer perfectly straight or has a chip as a result you may really introduce some bad image issues!
    So recently my 24-70 was on a tripod when a guest knocked over the camera. I had the strap on but when reaching for the camera going down, it hit the floor lens first because by leaning down for it, it gave it slack. There's the first lesson learned. But then to get the UV filter off it took just about everything under the sun. I couldn't use the lens at all the rest of the wedding because the UV filter had a bit of a chip. Luckily I have other lenses to back myself up (newbs reading this, this is why you need multiple lenses and multiple bodies!!!!)
    Upon getting home I tried everything you can imagine to screw the thing off, no luck. Finally I resorted to wire cutters which did get the filter off, but you have to do this with the most insane level of care to not risk hitting the lens element.
    So now I see that what I was trying to prevent all along, of scratches to the lens really don't happen, but lenses hitting the floor at less than great angles, etc, can really dent the UV filters and make it really likely to get stuck, making it likely that your front lens element would get messed up in the process of having it removed/cut off. So my suggestion is, don't risk the decrease in your image quality, ditch the UV filter, and use your lens hood even when you are indoors and not trying to prevent flare. When you are the dance floor I think that lens hood is the best protection you could have.
    The other thing to learn from my mistakes is as I was going through and trying to remove the filter myself, it hit me, I was likely voiding my insurance on that lens. But if I'd just taken it to a repair shop straight away it likely would have been covered. So don't make my same mistake. If it's a lens that costs more than the cost of your deductible, do yourself a favor and bring it in to the repair shop first, don't try it yourself!!!!
    On a secondary note, after a lens ever hits the ground, other than you just looking at the images coming out that appear fine, how can you tell if it is still ok? Can you send it to canon or something to have things checked out? If so, how much does that type of thing run???? With my previous ones I just said, ok I can't trust it again since it took a tumble from about 15 feet up, and got a new one. But this time it only fell about a 2 feet. Oh yeah, it was also on my BRAND NEW 5dmkIII when this happened. So is there anything I should do to have the 5dmkIII checked out? Thanks for any suggestions you might have!
  2. Yep, well, if it's not a smashed lens it's something else. The best thing to do IMO, having smashed and damaged more
    than my fair share of expensive equipment, is to just take it immediately out of service and go to a spare and figure it out
    later when cooler brain cells prevail.

    As for filters, I think it's still going to come down to whatever you're comfortable with, and the risks involved in your
    specific type of shooting vs. whatever loss of image quality you have percieved or convinced yourself of.

    Personally, most of my bigger expensive lenses have no filters, but the four smaller ones I tend to knock around have
    Hoya HMC filters on them and I'm not going to worry about a smashed stuck filter, I have done far worse.
  3. I had lenses spared from falls, splashes of liquid and a dog that pissed in my bag on the ground (I use holsters now) due to the filter so your ancedotal experience isn't be all and end all advice. If I have warranty that actually covers repairs for falls, I won't take off the filter anyway. Lens hoods get in my way when I am in a hurry changing up lenses so I do not use them all the time. I will stick with my way.
  4. I wonder how often people use tripods for weddings in crowded places ?
    ... If you did not have the filter, perhaps your lens would be damaged instead of the filter.
  5. One anecdote among many. This won't settle the endless debate on filters yes or filters no. All examples for either side are always like this. It only continues to prove that there are upsides and downsides to both.
  6. Wow...
  7. !. The are differences in the quality of filters in both the glass and the filter ring. Quality filters will have brass rings which are much harder then the aluminum rings on cheaper filters. Brass filter rings are much less susceptible to bending or striping.
    2. Filter wrenches are $10 and well worth having in your kit if you're a filter user.
  8. Josh, thanks for letting me know. I didn't know there were such things as the ones with brass rings and a filter wrench!!! That's super helpful. I will consider that for future use.
    Anyone have any suggestions on how to find out if there was any damage to the lens or camera from the fall? If I'm not seeing any difference in my images that's one thing, but I'm wondering if there's a more precise way to get things checked out.
  9. Feel free to correct me, but I think that only B+W, Heliopan and Hasselblad make solid brass filter rings. (Maybe Leica too)

    As for the camera, just run it through some tests of the focus and metering systems with and without flash, but mainly the
    focusing to see if the sensors in any way went out of alignment.

    Or just send the whole rig to Canon and let them go over it $$
  10. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I was going through and trying to remove the filter myself, it hit me, I was likely voiding my insurance on that lens.​

    Where does it say in your policy that this is not allowed? When I had to use insurance, they only asked where it happened and to have the estimate sent directly to them. Nothing in the policy about attempting to fix the problem myself.
  11. I just did some poking around out of curiosity. Only B+W and Heliopan seem to claim definitively that they are currently in
    fact using solid brass rings. And a note to anyone who has never used these. The "Protection" filter as Heliopan calls it or
    the UV as B+W calls it are not tinted to any marked degree, if at all, but the 1.5 Sky filter which is tinted what they call
    "salmon" has a warming effect similar to an 81A, it's not really a pink Sky-A like Hoya or Tiffen. In the film days this was
    great on film for the skin tones and zipping the contrast on flat lenses like the old Bronica S series, but on the digital will
    probably need some correction. I still use one on my one old Tamron lens and it always comes up a tad warm which I
    correct, but if you're shooting gowns of pure white you might find this annoying even with color correction in post as an
    added inconsistency to deal with.
  12. The filter got killed but the lens is okay. the filter did what it was supposed to do.
  13. Do you think if it hit the ground without the filter the lens would have been more damaged? I feel like the lens would have been less worse for wear than the possibility of damage caused by getting the damaged filter off. But I have never had a lens without a filter on hit the ground so now I don't know. Dave, are you saying one like this is good? It seems quite cheap??? http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/11974-REG/B_W_65_070156_77mm_Ultraviolet_UV_Filter.html
  14. I think that's the single coated one, you want the multi coated, possibly the nano coated for the L lenses, and you might
    need the thin for a wide, but for your 24mm and above regular should be fine. I just buy the regular multi coat ones and
    they seem to work fine. On my smaller lenses I use the cheaper Hoya MC and never had a problem because the lens
    fronts are plastic. Here's a link to the multi coat one, the Heliopan is probably around $150, why I don't know because
    they are almost the same filter. So I think overpriced maybe. The link doesnt work, but it's 010 M and I think $69 for the multi coat in 77mm.
  15. And YES, definitely more damage, I just think you were "antsy" about trying to tear it off yourself without the right tools.

  16. Thanks dave! That is very helpful!
  17. Went ahead and splurged on the nano version of the B+W 77mm one. Thanks everyone for all your help!!!! Once again Pnet is sooooooo helpful!
  18. Ahh, the filter didn't do anything. It can't absorb any shock whatsoever because it's metal. A plastic hood on the other hand could.
    Using filters or not isn't rocket science. They are great to prevent splashes on the lens and fingerprints. If you don't use a hood they can provide some very minor mechanical protection but it degrades the image and causes ghosts. A hood is better for mechanical protection because it prevents objects for hitting your front lens (and prevents stray light). But a hood makes the lens bigger. There are no right or wrong because it depends on how you shoot as everything have drawbacks :)
    With some bad luck the force that hits the camera will slightly bend your lens mount on the camera causing images shot at large apertures and wide angles to be out of focus on one side. You can't see this damage but it's very common I've been told but not all photographers notice.
    I would send in both the camera and lens for a check up.
  19. Seems like it's hard to oppose 20 years without a scratch. I wonder about what damage may have occurred without the filter on . Maybe with that lens you might never be able to use a filter again. Me, I'll keep the filters.
  20. I took up photography in 1962 and interspersed with a career in fine art, I have gone till last year without dropping a lens.
    Now I have mostly AIs primes and an 80-200 F4. I broke the cardinal rule...never change a lens standing up. My old and lovely 105/2.5 hit the floor and bounced. Awesome. Well, the sliding metal hood copped a big dent on the edge stopping it from sliding back . No problem. I took to it with a pair of vice grips and a hammer. Finally it was sorth of back round again and sliding beautifully. No displacement of the internal elements.
    You can't do that with a plastic lens.
  21. Will a filter ring absorb some damage on a direct hit and lessen the blow to a lens? Sonetimes dranatically so as in my
    case. Much like a car bumper. An old fashiobed one anyway. What't best depends on the situation as others have
  22. Vail, I get what you are saying. But the countless debates between the filter and non filter camp let me believe that neither is absolutely right.
    I don't believe that the filter will have a noticeable degradation on the image quality on a A/B comparison. And I also think the front element of the lens is tougher than the filter so the protection aspect of the filter is over-rated.
    But I still use a filter if the light is good for cleaning the filter is easier than the cleaning the lens. But once I get indoor, I remove the filter.
  23. You probably heard this from me. I've posted this about UV filters many times, saying that I never use them for the reason you stated, why take a great lens and wreck the lens with a cheap plastic UV filter. A glass UV is even worse. As you experienced yes, the lens could be damaged, however you can have it fixed or replaced. It's also a right off on taxes, providing you file a section C and show your income. Well I also have insurance. I just broke a 10mm lens. Filed with the insurance company and they replaced it at it's full value. You can also get glare, light rays bouncing all over the place. Lenses have coated glass for that reason. I'll keep the 10mm for parts if I ever need a part.

    When replacing the damaged filter, you can scratch the heck out of the front element. I do some of my own camera repairs. The front element is so easy to replace and the cost to order a front element is very inexpensive. Now don't get me wrong here, if I'm playing in the woods, Yosemite, or some sort of wonderful place I use a UV as protection when I'm walking the trails. Then I take it off before taking a shot. When I'm shooting weddings The UV filter is at home. We closed the 2 studios, so my gear is at home now.

    I once dropped a 500mm Hasselblad lens. I was able to fix in Yosemite. To replace that lens would run around $6000.

    Get insurance...Get legal if you aren't.

    By the way, a few minor scratches on the FRONT element won't really effect your images. The REAR lens will.
  24. By the way, if you are legal, you can write off the $25 charge to join photo.net. : } That's about 5 starbucks of coffee per year and it's deductable. If you are going to a wedding job, or any photo job the gas, food, and yes the Starbucks are write off's!
  25. EVERYONE!!! get legal! Yes Bob. I'm super legal. My husband is an attorney and my father in law is a CPA so I work hard to do EVERYTHING by the book. I have insurance as well, it just is a $250 deductible. I like to avoid that when I can =) We'll see how the new filter does.
  26. Forgive me if I missed this in the other responses, but it sounds like you have a bag full of pretty expensive equipment. I have had an expensive lens saved from a drop by a filter, but a fall is only one of the countless possible accidents that can destroy your equipment. Why not get your equipment insured? PPA offers free insurance with a membership that you can upgrade pretty affordable to cove the replacement cost of everything in your bag. It also covers theft. Now that I have insurance, I leave my equipment in my unlocked car with the windows open, let my 4 year old play catch with my 80L, and sometimes even use my 5D mark 3 as a hammer if I don't want to bother going to the garage. The peace of mind you have with insurance leaves a lot of stress of your back and cost less then fitting all lenses with B+W filters
  27. Cool Vail! Glad you are all set up. Happy new year to you and your husband. Hope the lens situation works out in your favor.
  28. I had the exact same thing happen to me. Though mine was more embarrassment hilarity - as I had just saw the president of epic games with todd howard (director of skyrim) in the booth where I was standing. Camera = drop. Had it been the tilt shift I wasn't worried, but it was the 85mm 1.2. I freaked out, luckily going to uni with a bunch of engineers one of them was able to take the bent filter off. Last time I dropped the camera with a 50 1.8, it broke the auto focus thing on the lens (and made the middle bit fall out). So lucky that the filter saved me $2000
  29. Sorry to hear about that Vail. I don't use filters unless its a ND or CPL. Even then, I take them off when that part is done. I do however us the hood for my lenses and it has saved me on more than on occasion.
    Filters are a good thing in general, but there are a lot of times in a wedding where you have candles, fairy lights etc., and they will create odd reflections against the front element of your lens. If you know about it, you can plan accordingly, but otherwise, it will spoil a shot. Just FYI.
    Hope your new cam works ok.
  30. Well, sorry to burst anyone's bubble, but I have always used a UV filter. Still use it on my Nikon P6000. Why? It has a small zoom lens, and not easy to clean. Every time you clean, you wear the coating or scratch the lens. Also the moving zoom can allow dust or pollution to enter the camera, degrading the photo sensor chip (I bought an adapter barrel to cover the lens and allow any standard lens filter to be used including polarizers). A UV filter helps to reduce wear on the lens and camera. But the most important reason for the UV filter, is that is does filter out UV (ultra violet radiation light waves that our eyes do not see much if any). Digital cameras CAN see this energy, and they can see Infrared wavelengths. Test your camera for this- shine an infrared remote control at your camera, repeat fire the remote while you shoot the camera or take a video. All my digital cameras see a bright blue light shining from the remote controller, yet my eyes can not see it. DUH.
    Another note- I attended advanced photography classed at a University... One of the FIRST things the professors ordered us to do, was to get a good UV filter for our lenses. Not just for protection, but for better overall color and contrast especially in sunlight. Removing the UV from the camera lens makes the photograph look more like the "Human" perception of the scene. And thus, much better pictures. More beautiful. But If you do not understand light theory, and the difference between human sight and the process of photography, digital or film, then do as you wish. Not using a UV filter will just make my pictures look a little bit more professional.
    I do agree that if you use a UV filter, get a good one. Do not get the cheapest thing from China. Even expensive UV filters are no comparison to the cost of a new or repaired lens. Happy shooting.
  31. Hi Peter. I think you may be confusing IR (Infared) with UV (Ultraviolet) light spectrums. These invisible spectrums are at opposite ends of the total light spectrum, one at the red end (IR) and the other at the blue (UV).
    IR is used in remote camera control devices and as invisible triggers for some remote flash devices. Digital photographic sensors have IR filters to cut the effect that near IR spectrum can have on digital images: (for example, the Leica M8 digital camera's IR sensor filter was too thin/weak, and the result was that some artificial black materials like some tuxes and camera bags would exhibit a strong magenta cast ... so IR cut filters had to be used on the Leica M lenses).
    UV is more case specific, as it it is not necessary in many photographic scenarios. In fact, today's modern multi-coated lenses are so effective most actually do not need UV filtration unless you are shooting at high elevations. If it was universally needed the camera companies would have included a UV element in every lens.
    If you want a filter for protection on a modern lens, then consider a clear filter which obviously is a universal solution as it has no effect at all other than protection ... but only IF it something like the B+W XS-Pro Clear MRC-Nano 007 filter. Some high-end lenses already have such an element built in ... my Leica S optics all have a clear front MRC element which is account for in the element array.
    Be aware that a filter added to a lens can cause a false reflection in certain circumstances. In dark situations with strong points of light the spectral light can reflect back like a mirror ... If you have ever had a chandelier in a image which showed some strange points of light at the bottom of the image it was the filter causing this.
    - Marc

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