I was used to put a Skylight filter to protect my lens, but last time the shop assistant recommended me to use a UV filter instead for Digital SLR.

I though they were the same, only different in "strength" but he told me no, Skylight would introduce false colors in digital sensors.

Is it true?

What's the exact difference between them?

4 Answers 4


The difference is that a skylight filter is a basic colour correction filter with a slight magenta tint which has a similar effect on skies as a UV filter (which cuts out part of the spectrum), which is neutral coloured. The effect of a skylight filter is slightly warming, overcoming the blue tinge that you get in shadows from the light from a clear blue sky.

The person is the shop is right that a skylight will affect colours but the effect is subtle, can be beneficial and can be largely reversed on the computer. However skylight filters are less common with digital given the ease with which you can apply colour correction in post production.

A more important question is why you are buying a filter. The common advice for protecting a lens doesn't make sense to me, given that filters can exacerbate lens flare and reduce contrast in certain circumstances. The price if a good UV filter can be about the same as a lens repair anyway...

  • 1
    well, for sure once a nikon macro 60 fall by a table. The (40 euro) UV filter was completely broken, but the lens had only a dent in the barrel, it was still usable and they completely fixed for another 50 euro. I doubt that the frontal len could have survived the fall at all.
    – uberto
    Dec 7, 2010 at 13:37
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    "given that filters can exacerbate lens flare and reduce contrast in certain circumstances." -> if I have to take quality photo I remove also the filter (or use other filters). But for normal photo tourism I don't see any disadvantage.
    – uberto
    Dec 7, 2010 at 13:38
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    There are some falls that a filter will protect you from but many that it won't - filter glass is much thinner that the front element and breaks easier. The point is I've spent a lot less on lens repairs over the years than it would have cost to buy high quality UV filters for every single lens. The image quality isn't a major issue unless you're shooting toward a light source, but you will end up spending a lot on the off chance of preventing damage from a specific size impact.
    – Matt Grum
    Dec 7, 2010 at 14:18
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    I still prefer to have a broken filter than a chipped front lens element, and since I use wide angle lenses I have a quite big front lens element
    – t3mujin
    Dec 7, 2010 at 14:57
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    The old "XYZ broke, so this proves that it protected ABC" argument. As false for filters as for cycle helmets. different stability and elasticity just can't be this simply compared, but believing is always stronger (and simpler) then calculating. Btw: I do follow the "protection"-argumenht in case of flying sand (during a race) or other abrasive flying things ... but please spare us your anecdotal "filters protect lenses during a fall" evidence.
    – Leonidas
    Dec 7, 2010 at 17:37

The skylight filter has a subtle color tone, but this will not really produce false colors in a digital camera, instead the white balancing will compensate for the color change and produce pretty much the same image as without the filter.

So, the reason for choosing an UV filter rather than a skylight filter is that the UV filter reduces specific wavelengths, which the camera can't compensate away.

  • UV filters are useless on ALL modern cameras (modern meaning designed in the last 20-30 years) and films (same timeframe).
    – jwenting
    Feb 28, 2011 at 9:10

Using a Skylight filter is a pretty silly thing to do these days. On some cameras you will be worst off, as some have an external white-balance sensor (the Olympus E-5 for example) which won't see your filter and won't be able to correct for it. Others will compensate but only in AWB mode.

You're seriously damaging your colors with a Skylight filter. Glad the shop owner told you something sensible. The only skylight filter I ever had was bought accidentally, I asked for a UV he gave me a box saying 'skylight' and I asked if it was the same and he said yes. The store has since gone bankrupt. With service like that, I understand!

PS: I agree with Matt. I'm not saying not to buy the UV filter but only put it if the lens is in eminent danger (near salt water or flying sand counts), otherwise you can seriously destroy the quality of your images. In one of the photography classes I teach, one student had a UV filter which I had not noticed at first. Halfway through the shoot she asked me what was the strange things she saw on the screen and I made them go away be removing the UV filter. Problem solved.

  • UV filters are worse than useless. They reduce image quality without doing anything.
    – jwenting
    Feb 28, 2011 at 9:07

In the distant past UV filters were needed for some meters and films. This hasn't been the case for something like 20 years, so now manufacturers (and stores) are pushing them as "lens protectors". A lenshood and some care for your equipment does a lot more.

You're shooting through window glass when using a UV filter, usually cheap window glass (especially when using cheap UV filters).

Skylight at least does something, even if it's minimal. You may not like the effect, but you're at least paying for something that actually does anything at all :)

You need neither, buy a lenshood instead and use it.

  • 2
    well that's simply not true. Try to take the same picture with a UV filter and without on a normal film camera and you'll have very different results for water, snows, glasses etc.
    – uberto
    Feb 28, 2011 at 9:56
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    I use good quality UV filters to protect my lenses and keep them clean. This it does very well. The loss of image quality is imperceptible in almost all cases. In the few cases where I think it might matter I simply remove the filter, quick, easy and no big deal. Of course, if others choose not to use them, I shrug and move on. I am not sure why the issue arouses so much emotion.
    – labnut
    Feb 28, 2011 at 13:22

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