Some photographers refuse to place a UV or clear filter, or any other type of photographic filter, in front of their lens—worried about sacrificing image quality in the name of a layer of protection. It’s a fact that the more glass elements that light has to pass through, the greater the chance that the light is bent, altered, or degraded in some way. This fact is what keeps some photographers from using UV or clear filters on their lenses—the search for the ultimate image quality.
Note: This article was originally published 10 years ago. The text and images have been updated, but many comments below are from the original article.
However, you cannot deny the protective benefits of a UV filter from fingerprints, dust, smudges, etc. I have even dropped a few lenses and had the UV filter shatter, but the front element of the lens remained untouched. Did the filter, in paying the ultimate sacrifice, protect the lens? No one knows for sure. Regardless, I am glad that the potential loss was only felt by the relatively inexpensive filter and not the lens itself.
So, can you see a visual difference in two identical photos—one with a UV filter and one without? We’ve done the test for you!
Let’s take a look and see the results….
Can you see a difference between the two images? I cannot.
Even when we do some serious pixel peeping at 200%, the images look identical.
While I encourage all photographers to use a UV or clear filter on each and every lens that they own, there are times I have removed my UV filter when out shooting to avoid lens flare that was happening at the UV filter despite the filter’s multi-coating. Why wasn’t the lens itself flaring? Possibly because the UV filter, positioned at the far front of the lens, was getting hit by light waves directly at the “right” angle.
Other websites have concluded that most high-quality UV or clear filters will not have any effect on image quality, but some inexpensive filters may. Regardless, I feel that a quality UV filter is an almost mandatory addition to your lens.
What do you think of the filter debate? Let us know in the Comments section, below!