Protective and uv/haze filters

Basic protective filters, also known as neutral filters, offer no additional protection or filtration for your lens. They are made of pure optical glass and are widely available from various filter manufacturers such as Tiffen and B&W. Note that technically these are not actually filters because they aren’t filtering anything, but they usually are grouped with filters.

While a basic protective filter does protect your lens, you may find that using a UV/haze filter is more useful because it also slightly improves a hazy image by removing some of the nonvisible (ultraviolet) effects of sunlight that, when exposed to a camera, records as a bluish hue in your image. Additionally, you can buy a haze filter and a UV filter separately, but really the two are essentially the same. You can use UV/haze filter on your camera virtually all the time without any detectable effect to your images. The other good thing about UV is that if your lens has any chromatic aberration, this filter will help colors be truer.

Both clear protective and UV/haze filters can act more as a protective device for your lens than anything else, keeping dust and moisture out, preventing scratches, and breaking on impact instead of your lens being damaged. For example, a few years ago I suffered a lens incident with a wide-angle lens while stopping my car on the side of the road to shoot a particularly stunning landscape in northern California. The lens I thought I had safely set onto the hood of the car suddenly slid off and onto the asphalt with a sickening crunch.

I thought the lens was totaled. However, on closer examination, it turned out that the protective UV/haze filter I had mounted to the front had taken the hit, and had shattered. I carefully removed the filter ring and broken glass, gently cleaned the glass shards off the lens so as not to mar the protective coating, and used a bulb-blower to get rid of anything I couldn’t see. I then used a liquid lens cleaner to wash anything off that I still hadn’t gotten before using a lens cloth. The lens suffered no damage at all. The filter served as a crash helmet for my lens, taking the hit instead of the lens itself — and saving me a lot of money.

Some studio and fine art photographers choose not to use any filters, including protective ones, so as to eliminate any variables that could potentially get in-between the subject and the image sensor. However, unless you are one of these specialists (or you have a limitless lens budget), I don’t believe the difference is noticeable enough for most photographic applications to warrant going without the protection.

Category: Filters

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