Archive for July 7th, 2008

Having upgraded to a couple new Canon lenses recently, I found that my old filters wouldn’t fit the new glass (big surprise). Decision time. Should I buy some new UV filters for protection or take the bold path and go without? Going without scares the crap outta me but the price of a new 68mm UV filter will take a lot of money out of my photo kitty — putting a future acquisition of a new set of carbon fiber tripod legs in jeopardy. Time to make the big decision about whether to have a little extra protection between my expensive lenses and the elements or to go without and worry about scratches, etc. BUT enjoy better image quality.

Filters come in all shapes and sizes, of course. They also come in all price ranges. My favorite brand, Tiffen, has been around for years and offers a mid-priced filter with good optical quality. Sure, there are more expensive filters out there. Since I shot most of my assignments for a newspaper, the extra sharpness produced by the high-priced filters was wasted on images destined for newsprint.

For most of my career, I’ve used some sort of UV filter in front of the lens. Being a photojournalist put me and my camera gear out in the elements a lot and a UV filter took the beating more often than my lenses’ front elements — and a UV filter is a heck of a lot cheaper to replace! That said, if you don’t subject your gear to this kind of abuse, why put another piece of glass in front of your lens? Using a filter will increase the chances of flare or reflection and also lower the sharpness of your final image (not by much, but you will see a difference…test for yourself).

Now that I shoot more work for magazines and corporate clients, more of my assignments are inside out of the elements, allowing me to shoot sans UV filters. I’ve seen enough improvement in the quality of my images to convince me to shoot without a filter unless I’m going to put my gear in harm’s way.

If you can live with only a lens cap protecting your gear when not in use and are careful to protect your front element, you might just save yourself a couple hundred dollars in UV filters. Me? I only use ’em when water, sand or dirt are a flyin’. If I’m shooting in a lens-unfriendly environment, I screw in a mid-range filter and shoot away, confident that any front element damage will be minimized…and I’m a lot more comfortable cleaning a mud-splattered filter with a shirt tail!.

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