30 June 2016

Protection: The Age Old UV Filter Debate

It was cool to have KristiC visiting Las Vegas again for a spell earlier this June. So we got to shoot a few times before she left. ©2016 Terrell Neasley
Most photographic accessories are designed to aid you in your photographic endeavors in terms of improving or increasing your ability to take a photo. Protection measures are implemented in order that you may continue your photographic endeavors or at least compensate you when you suddenly can not do so.

So lets start with an ongoing argument on the polarizing viewpoints of the UV filter. Should you put a piece of glass that was not originally factored into the lens' design over the manufacturer's precision-ground and chemically-coated lens elements? Good question.

Art Model, KristiC ©2016 Terrell Neasley

Exactly what is a UV filter anyway? UV stands for Ultraviolet. This is the radiation from the sun that makes you need sunscreen when you're outside for extended periods of time. Its the same stuff from the sun that you soak up to get a tan. However for cameras, its a little different. The ultraviolet rays from the sun could indeed affect the chemical composition in film from the film camera days. In some cases, UV radiation could cause slight color shifts, as well as affect the overall quality of the image as it hit the exposed areas of film while you're taking a picture. You can see why this might be a problem for pro photogs who shoot film.

Well, most of us don't use film in our cameras. So why is there still some who insist on UV filters for digital cameras? Okay, let me admit. There are several reasons why. First let me say I am a proponent of UV filters. All my glass has them. But this question as to "why" has been severely distorted over the years by two main factors.

Art Model, KristiC ©2016 Terrell Neasley

During the early age of digital photography, this was still a means of making money for camera store owners. These owners don't make a lot of margin on cameras and lenses. Some of that margin could be made up in photography accessories and UV filters were part of it. So you had camera store owners pushing these filters onto consumers.

The next part of the mix-up has to do with manufacturers. Profits are still the name of the game. And when you can stamp out cheap circles of glass at varying diameters and sell them to new and unsuspecting consumers who need cameras, well it can set a bad precedence for the industry. They called it PROTECTION. You need to protect that brand new lens you just bought (or that comes with your camera).

Art Model, KristiC ©2016 Terrell Neasley

To be honest, there is actually some elements of truth to what store owners and manufacturers think in this regard. However the answer to this protection question was NOT to make cheap glass stamp-outs and put them on the front of your lens. The real fact is that even the cheapest lens out there currently is still likely a good lens. They still channel light down to a specific point on the sensor with accurate precision. Cheap and inferior UV filters affect how light passes through them and hit the actual lens. A defect in the in poor quality UV filters can result in poor light refraction that can cause light rays to hit the front element of the lens at bad angles, striking the sensor in a way not designed or intended. Next thing you know, you're searching Google for a photoshop technique to quickly remove chromatic aberrations and lens flare.

So here's the deal via my experience as a pro shooter AND from working in a camera shop with an owner who's more interested in making profits the RIGHT way moreso than BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY.

B&C Camera in Las Vegas, Nevada has a plethora of UV filters. Some of them are inexpensive but NONE of them are poor quality. But even with that said, here's the deal. You don't go all in on high end lens gear and then use the least expensive UV protective filter. And nobody there is going to talk you into ceramic UV filters when you buy an entry level camera that comes with a $200 lens. Neither of those cases make much sense and an educated consumer paired with a knowledgeable salesperson, at a camera store run by a fair-minded owner will equal out to more satisfied customers who come back for more gear later.

Art Model, KristiC ©2016 Terrell Neasley

I see a lot of broken UV filters come through the store. I also see many lenses coming in for repair from drops. Every last one of the customers coming in with a busted UV filter is MORE than happy to let the guys behind the counter use special tools and expertise to remove a UV filter that's busted, bent, and won't come off by traditional means after a serious drop. You should see the look on these guys' faces when the lens is revealed to be okay. They buy another UV filter and leave the store much happier than when they came in.

My advice? Get a high quality UV filter. Spend $70 to $120 on a good one comparable to the lens you are placing it on. Again, you don't buy a high end sports car and go to Wal-Mart looking for the cheapest tires you can find. I absolutely love the HGX UV filters by Promaster. These come in a red case and are guaranteed against scratches. That's how hard these things are. Special coatings on on these filters, front and back, made from hardened glass, with a flat black coating on the barrel ring to absorb stray light so it isn't reflected into your lens at bad angles. I have high end Sony glass and all my lenses have the Promaster HGX UV filters on them with zero color shift.

They also make other UV filters of varying quality. If you have an entry level lens, feel free to get the green-case multi-coated UV filter. A mid-range lens would benefit from the orange-case Digital UV filter. If you're paying a $1000 or more then get the red-case HGX UV filter with the guarantee. Scratch it...bring it in and get a new one. Simple as that.

Art Model, KristiC ©2016 Terrell Neasley

Indeed you will hear about those who have had their lenses for YEARS and have never dropped, banged up, or had an accident that resulted in sending in a lens for repair. That's good for them. I personally, don't like taking the chance when a simple, but QUALITY UV filter can extend the life of the lens. They may not break the lens, but I can assure you that over time, that glass will get pitted from sand, grit, and acidic elements in the air that will degrade the coatings on that lens. So to me, its worth it to protect my good glass, especially when there is ZERO quality loss in the process.

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