Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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I know that I should always use a filter on my lens to protect the camera lens, however, exactly what impact to the picture does using a UV filter have since that is the one most often used? Do I recall that this only affects black-and-white photography? Does the need for UV filter go away when you are not using film in your camera but a CCD sensor? Does the quality of the UV filter have a visible impact on your photos?

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check this: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/57/… –  asalamon74 Dec 5 '10 at 7:58
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I'm retagging this with "sensor" rather than CCD, because many or most DSLRs these days use CMOS sensors instead of CCD. –  mattdm Dec 5 '10 at 13:52

1 Answer 1

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A UV filter cuts out the ultra-violet part of the spectrum (which is almost all filtered out by regular glass any way). Digital camera sensors as well as film are sensitive to near visible UV light which shows up as purple in photographs. This isn't usually a problem as the amount of UV light in most cases is minimal. It can however be a big problem under certain conditions if you're very far north, resulting in a strong purple cast to images that is hard to remedy in post.

Digital sensors actually have their own UV filter which is usually sufficient, however there have been cases where filter wasn't strong enough, the most famous being the Leica M8, which resulted in Leica having to ship free UV filters to customers.

Leica M8 without UV filter

Leica M8 with UV filter

images copyright DPreview, see http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/leicam8/page15.asp

So it affects both colour and black and white photography, in fact it's more noticeable in colour. A UV filter will also slightly darken skies by filtering out some of the UV from the upper atmosphere, which is generally desirable in landscape photography.

The quality of a UV filter affects images not in the ability to filter UV light but in the ability to resist flare. Cheap non multi-coated UV filters can introduce a lot of lens flare and reduce the contrast in images.

Finally I dispute the fact that you should always use a UV filter to protect a lens. A good quality UV filter can cost about the same as having the front element of a lens replaced should it ever get badly damaged! And putting a cheap filter on an expensive lens makes no sense at all. Small scratches on a lens are inconsequential to image quality as this example shows:

http://www.lensrentals.com/news/2008.10.30/front-element-scratches

IMO the best way to protect your lenses is with a proper photographers insurance policy.

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Just a note on insurance: I was told that by my insurance agent that this is unlikely to be an option unless you are a pro or have over $10,000 of gear to protect. –  mattdm Dec 5 '10 at 13:50
    
+1 for mentioning the "protective" myth that camera stores are feeding everyone. I'm guessing that they're doing this because nobody wants to buy the store warranty any more... –  John Cavan Dec 5 '10 at 15:18
    
@mattdm it probably depends what country you are in, where I live in the UK there are companies that will insure anything from a single camera/lens up to a full assortment of gear. You can also sometimes add it to your house contents insurance which will cover it for use outside the house. –  Matt Grum Dec 5 '10 at 15:26
    
True. I'm in the US. Here, at least, with the way homeowners'/renters' insurance works, putting high-risk items in with that can be a problem because each claim you make can make your future rates go up. –  mattdm Dec 5 '10 at 15:43

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