From here: https://photo.stackexchange.com/a/569/5205

UV Filters:
Many photographers feel that it is worthwhile to put a UV filter on the front of every lens, on the basis that this will protect the front lens element - from dust, scratches and catastrophic damage if the lens is dropped. In other words, it is a kind of insurance policy against lens damage. I understand that Scott Kelby takes this position.

Since prime lenses are not supposed to zoom can dust, water, etc still get inside it if I don't use a filter?

  • A much better kind of insurance policy for your lens is to get an insurance policy for your lens! Filters wont protect your lenses from theft...
    – Matt Grum
    Mar 5 '12 at 13:53

The filter doesn't protect against dust getting "into" the lens, it just protects the front element. So the arguments for a filter are equally valid for zooms and primes.

Personally I don't use them, as they have a negative impact on image quality. Always keeping you lens hood on is another way to protect the front element.

Also, I recently damaged my lens (a prime), as I dropped it while changing lenses. Two elements fell out the back, and the focusing system got ruined, but the front element is intact. So the filter is no magical protection for your lens.

  • 1
    @AnishaKaul, actually, it might. Some Canon weather sealed lenses recommend a filter on the front to complete the seal. There is some ambiguity on this, see e.g. forums.dpreview.com/forums/…
    – Joe
    Mar 5 '12 at 8:30
  • Nothing prevents dust from getting into a lens. Some things inhibit it, but all lenses have some dust in them. Roger says so.
    – Michael C
    Jul 8 '17 at 1:57

It's a personal thing

That answer from the other question stands for both primes and zooms.

You don't need to put a filter on any lens.
It may well help to weather-proof it.
It may well help to save the lens if you drop it.

But it may also cause images to loose quality.

There are arguments for and against. It's certainly perfectly reasonable to go either way.

At the end of the day, it's your call.

  • 1
    I completely agree. I used to use filters on all of my professional grade lenses but after a little while I decided to stop using them altogether. If you use a lens hood I think that should offer sufficient protection in the majority of environments. If you know that you will be using your lens in a particularly dusty, sandy or rainy environment then a filter may be worth considering as a temporary measure, but be aware that they can have an effect on the final image.
    – Mark J P
    Mar 1 '12 at 14:14
  • Yep. Personal choice. I had an EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS USM that fell forward onto sand and I was VERY GLAD I had a filter on as the filter was scratched to hell but the lens was fine! Cheaper to replace a filter. HOWEVER, I appreciate that there is a very minor loss of image quality too. You can help mitigate this by using GOOD QUALITY, MULTI-COATED filters, ie - not the cheapest ones!! But like, Hoya Pro-1, Hoya HD, or B+W, etc.
    – Mike
    May 8 '14 at 9:47
  • @Mike Just because the filter was severely scratched doesn't mean the front element would have been had the filter not been there. Thicker, denser materials used in the front element of most lenses are harder to scratch than the material used in most filters.
    – Michael C
    Feb 17 '15 at 0:18

A filter won't prevent dust/water/whatever from getting in the lens. Think about it: a filter will cover (possibly protect) the front element. However, there are still other areas for debris to get inside the lens. Around the focus ring and when the lens extends while focusing there are gaps, and those gaps will certainly let things in. Better lenses are weather sealed and will have a gasket to prevent dust or water from working into the lens at those areas. However, there's another spot dust especially can get in: the back of the lens. Any time you take the lens off the body the back of the lens is exposed and that's open to catching debris.

Dust on and in a lens is typically not a big deal. Dust on the two outer-most elements is easily cleaned, but it's entirely possible you'll see dust inside the elements, too. This is most typically going to be found on older lenses that have seen a lot of use, but you can often find some dust inside a lens in anybody's collection. I'm not going to say dust will never affect image quality, but I've never seen it affect image quality.


Some great answers here already, but I thought I'd add my thoughts, since I went through the same decision making process recently.

I do NOT use a filter for protection any more, though I did for years. The reason was image quality - I used to think that the quality was fine, because I was using mid-grade filters ($40-60 range). Not the best, but not the ones from the bargain bin at the photo store.

I shoot in a lot of dramatic light situations, dark places, the moon, rays of bright sun, etc. I had gotten a new lens (Canon 60mm macro) and hadn't bought a filter for it yet. I was out shooting and when I got back I was shocked at the great image quality, particularly in the distinction of light, and lack of stray reflections. I thought I had just got a great lens, but then I thought to try my other lenses without the filter, and their quality noticeably improved as well. I'm not a pixel-peeper - the quality difference was noticeable at normal size.

Now - how "big" that difference is to you may be a matter of opinion, and the subject matter you are shooting and the light conditions you shoot in will certainly have an effect, but for me, and the locations I shoot, the loss of quality is not worth the very slight additional protection.

  • and I dont use filter, specially at night, because the street lamps or the lights coming from the headlight of a car creates lens flare. Mar 6 '12 at 0:26

I take a hybrid approach, and use a filter to protect when in a particularly "dangerous" environment such as the beach, with all the sand and ocean mist, and don't use a filter in less harsh shooting conditions.

One other point to consider, if only the front element is damaged (e.g. if you drop the lens) then it's fairly inexpensive compared to the price of the lens to get it repaired. Also, a lens hood offers some protection against this kind of accident, while improving instead of degrading image quality.


Even if you use a lens filter or not, the outermost element is always exposed. It means you have two elements to clean. If there is dust between the lens element and the filter, it can mess out your picture.

Either you should be able to invest some good amount to get a pro UV filter that will not degrade the quality of your photographs, or go full on ahead without any UV filter.

I personally do not use UV filter, have tried it for some time though.

I would suggest you to use the Lens hood all the time, it is of good help some times.


I would offer up a moment where a filter did in fact save my lens... I was on a beach by a lake, and setting up for a shot across the water on a tripod. Before I had everything balanced correctly, a hornet (or some other abnormally large, scary, THING) landed on my arm. I felt it bite me and screamed, and unwittingly let go of my camera. The whole thing fell forward into the sand. Only a second or so later, once I'd swooshed said scary creature off my arm, I retrieved my camera to find the filter had been scratched to buggery by the impact with the sand. The lens was an EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM, so NOT the cheapest of things to replace!! But luckily it wasn't damaged, but the filter most certainly was. In this case, it was a circular polariser, so not the cheapest, but I for one, was glad that I had only to replace the filter, and not the front element or entire lens! Would have been a different story without the filter.

Anyway -- in support of what others have said -- it is a personal choice, and will most certainly help protect the front of your lens as in my story above. But it doesn't have to be that exciting -- it could simply be that you are walking around with it slung over your shoulder, and you inadvertantly bash it against something!

I used to keep UV's on all my lenses for that very reason, but as others have also pointed out, it can have a detrimental effect on image quality. But I would argue this is only relevant to pixel-peepers and viewing at 100%. When viewed at a 'normal' size, you won't notice the difference.

The other thing to consider is light reflections at night. Lenses aren't of course designed to have a filter on the front, so bear in mind that the elements can reflect a strong light source back out and away from the camera. Normally this is fine, but if you have a cheap filter without the necessary anti-reflective, anti-glare coatings, the filter can then bounce this light back into your lens, causing unwanted patterns and light to be captured.

Just something to be aware of...

Right now, I am not using filters on any of my lenses, but always feel a bit bad about it, and am very aware of where the front element is whilst I'm out shooting ... I'm also a stickler for replacing lens caps even if they will only be on for a short while.. ;-)

  • +1 for vivid (if rare) example ... Perhaps we should carry insect repellant as well as UV filters?
    – AJ Finch
    Mar 1 '12 at 14:35
  • 2
    If the filter introduces ghosting and flare (and it can), it is most certainly not "only relevant to pixel-peepers" but can be visible at all magnifications. And a lens-hood would probably have protected the front element - and the polarizer as well, though hoods do make polarizers fiddly to use - by keeping it physically away from the sandy surface.
    – Staale S
    Mar 1 '12 at 14:38
  • 2
    Sand is particularly hostile environment, so that's worth taking into account as a special case.
    – mattdm
    Mar 1 '12 at 16:05
  • @StaaleS The pixel peeper comment was in regards to the detrimental effect it can have on an image, or softening, etc. The ghosting of course, would be visible at any magnification, sorry if it wasn't clear in my post I was talking about the two things separately... :)
    – Mike
    Mar 3 '12 at 13:28

No. You do not. Here is why:

Any filter degrades the image, how much depends on a lot of things, but adding two air-to-glass interfaces never helps.

The front element is just not that important. And if it gets damaged, it is the cheapest thing to fix.

See amazing article by the folks at lensrentals.com:



A filter would protect the front of the lens but there are other ways for dust to get in. I learned that the hard way. Honest there is not full proof way to keep if protected. You just have to regularly clean it.

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