To filter or not to filter

Discussion in '35mm Cameras' started by Justin F. Knotzke, Aug 28, 2004.

  1. Hi,

    I just plunked down a lot of change on a rather expensive piece of glass,
    and I am wondering if people generally put protective filters on their
    expensive lenses or not.

    The lens in question is a wide angled zoom.


    Justin F. Knotzke, Aug 28, 2004
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  2. Justin F. Knotzke

    Slingblade Guest

    Considering most people use a Skylight or UV as much as a protector
    for their front element as they do to actually filter the incoming
    light...I have to question you...

    Would you put a protective filter on a cheaper piece of glass?

    Would you want to protect a cheaper lens and not a more expensive one?

    Think about it this way...if you liked the results you got with lesser
    lenses with filters attached...then you should be satisfied with the
    new one with a filter on it. Whatever little the filter might degrade
    image quality (and it will be very little) should be more than made up
    for by the superior optics of the lens.

    I say protect it.
    Slingblade, Aug 28, 2004
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  3. Justin F. Knotzke

    ColynG© Guest

    The best protection for your lens is a lens hood.

    If you drop the lens, the hood takes the beating instead of a filter
    that can shatter and damage the front element..

    Colyn Goodson
    ColynG©, Aug 28, 2004
  4. Justin F. Knotzke

    Tony Spadaro Guest

    I've never been able to see any difference between good glass without a
    filter and with a filter if it is a good filter. The wear and tear on the
    front element is going to degrade the image a lot more than a filter,
    Tony Spadaro, Aug 28, 2004
  5. It depends. Does that help?

    I actually *don't* have filters on my three most exotic pieces of
    glass, but I usually run lens shades (which have some of the same
    ability to deflect impact damage, but are fairly useless against blown
    sand). But I'd put filters on them in a second if going somewhere
    dusty, for example.

    And I take the filters *off* some of the lenses that normally have
    them for some kinds of things, especially flare-inducing ones
    (removing two air-glass interfaces and probably an inferior coating
    job can only help!).
    David Dyer-Bennet, Aug 28, 2004
  6. I know not what others may do, but as for me.....No. I keep my lenses in the
    best protective case I can find when not in use, and then when I use it, I
    remove it from the case, remove the end caps, and attach it to my camera and
    use it. Afterward, I return it to its case. I only use a filter if its
    called for in the shot. A possible exception to this rule is if I am taking
    pictures on a boat, or in the wind at the beach, or somewhere else in a
    hostile environment where I feel that a protective filter (UV filter) is
    called for.
    William Graham, Aug 28, 2004
  7. May I ask why you don't feel the need? You mention that you don't feel you
    need the protection in most cases, but what is the downside of having one on
    all the time?

    Thanks for the reply,

    Justin F. Knotzke, Aug 28, 2004
  8. Thanks for the reply.

    Yes, I will have a lens hood and I put one on most of my lenses simply
    because I bang my camera against a lotta stuff.

    I was just curious what people felt the tradeoff was in regards to a filter
    or not.

    Thanks again,

    Justin F. Knotzke, Aug 28, 2004
  9. Yes, and I would use a cheaper filter.
    The difference is that on a cheaper lens, I'm not expecting that much from
    the lens and am looking to do something different with the lens. My concern
    was given that I spent a lot of money on some glass because it's expected to
    perform well, would it be intelligent to put a lens filter on it thus possibly
    degrading the image.

    Or, given that I just spent lots of money on a lens, would it be
    intelligent to NOT protect the lens.
    To be totally honest with you, I don't think I have been shooting photos
    long enough to determine if its the lens or me. There have been shots that I
    have taken with some of my cheaper lenses where the sharpness dissapointed me.
    But again, was it me, or was it the lens? So it's hard to say.

    But I think I might buy a thin B+W as a protective filter.

    Thanks for the reply,

    Justin F. Knotzke, Aug 28, 2004

  10. I have run into too many situations where a filter degrades the
    image, and not once have I seen one do any kind of "protection".

    Others will disagree, and every camera store has a damaged filter to
    show you to convince you to buy one. Which is easy enough to produce, if
    you felt the need to...

    But let's face it - in order for a "protective" filter to be of any
    use, it would have to be in conditions where something is driven straight
    into the lens with enough force to damage the glass, and in a way that
    wouldn't damage the lens in other ways (such as dropping it). How often do
    you think it happens? I've done enough shots at the beach, where windblown
    sand is an "issue", and haven't had the slightest problem. This is largely
    due to the fact that, when the sand is kicked up, the camera gets faced
    away. And if the sand is blowing, it's getting other places I don't want it
    to - under the focusing or zoom rings, in the crevices of the camera back,
    and so on. So the camera gets put away.

    And recognize that good habits help a lot too. Lens caps when not in
    use - always and immediately. Keep the bag clean. I NEVER hang a camera
    around my neck - besides being incredibly annoying, it means your attention
    is off of it as well as your control. A camera around my neck would get the
    shit banged out of it, since I don't usually stroll around casually when
    I'm shooting. Instead, the camera stays in a holster beltpack or a fanny
    pack. Lenshoods are in use 90% of the time. And for 20 years of shooting,
    not one lens has a mark on it.

    As opposed to a nice collection of filter failures - image softening,
    color casts, flare, and reflections. Do a few wide-angle shots at night
    with bright lights and a filter, and see what happens. Very useful, if you
    want to sell "UFO" shots, but rather annoying if you were after something

    - Al.
    Al Denelsbeck, Aug 28, 2004
  11. Justin F. Knotzke

    Rich Pos Guest

    If I feel the lens may get damaged because of the environment I'm
    shooting, yes.
    All other times, no.
    I've found rain will stain lens elements if not wiped before getting a
    chance to dry. The rain must be very acidic where I live.
    Luckily it was a filter that was stained. Hard as I tried to remove
    the stain, it's still there.

    Use lens hoods and keep the equipment clean.

    Rich Pos, Aug 28, 2004
  12. Justin F. Knotzke

    greg Guest

    I think a lot of it depends on who you are and how you use your equipment.
    If you are primarily shooting landscapes or static interior shots, then
    being careful with your equipment is probably good enough.

    But I shoot primarily outdoor sports (auto racing). During these times, I'm
    moving all over the track, and there is dust and small rocks and other
    photographers. I *NEED* protective filters for my lenses, especially my
    more-expensive 200mm and 400mm lenses.

    I keep half-decent UV filters on all my lenses all the time (except my
    fisheye which doesn't accept front filters). I will obviously take them off
    if I switch to skylight or polarizing filters. On a rare occasion, I will
    shoot filterless (using the fisheye, shooting a big landscape, certain night
    greg, Aug 28, 2004
  13. Yes. I am not careful with my gear, as my Sekonic would testify.
    Martin Francis, Aug 28, 2004
  14. Justin F. Knotzke

    Alan Browne Guest

    I recently surveyed the group on this matter, and you can google
    with "survey" "filter".

    I leave the filters _off_ now, except:

    -when dusty, smoley, moist, snowy, splashy, etc. I put a UV
    filter on. I have no "cheap" glass other than my 50mm. My main
    glass is all 72mm, so moving filters around is no big deal.

    -The 20mm always has the filter on as it is a very wide (72mm)
    lens with little depth to the shade. I remove the filter after I
    mount it to the camera and have an idea what I'm going to do.
    The filter always gets put on as if it were a lens cap.

    -my 300 f/2.8 (114mm) has a clear optical glass front piece (no
    UV/skylight). I don't take it off at all.

    -I've never filtered the 100 f/2.8 as the front element is
    usually very deep in the barrel (except for macro) and the hood
    is deep too.

    With a "rather expensive piece of glass" one should perhaps
    invest in a multicoated filter rather than the bargains, unless
    you believe it will rarely have a filter on it...

    Alan Browne, Aug 28, 2004
  15. A fair enough question. It's because I feel that the optical quality of the
    lens might be compromised by the lesser/inferior quality of the filter. IOW,
    why spend a lot of money on a high quality lens, only to shoot all your
    pictures through a windowpane? Now, in all fairness, a good quality filter
    should be a lot better than a windowpane, but still and all, unless you
    really need the protection, why not just use the lens, and nothing but the
    William Graham, Aug 29, 2004
  16. Justin F. Knotzke

    Jeremy Guest

    Erwin Puts, on his Leica website, states that a good filter might result in
    a maximum image degradation of 2%. A bad filter might raise that figure as
    high as 10%. So you are correct in saying that the image is compromised,
    but the amount is so low as to be insignificant, especially if an excellent
    filter is used.

    The OP may have simply posed the question incorrectly. If "maximum image
    quality" is what the OP is really seeking, there are other factors that will
    have a much greater effect on his lens' performance than will the use of a

    For example, if he handholds, rather than use a tripod, his image resolution
    drops by many times that of using a filter. If he religiously uses a lens
    shade, he will minimize flare from off-axis light, which would degrade his
    lens performance significantly more than would a filter. If he selects his
    aperture to minimize diffraction and maximize resolution, he will have a
    much more satisfactory result.

    If the poster wants to maximize his lens' performance, his concern about
    whether to use a filter should be near the bottom of the list.

    In my particular situation, my lenses are no longer in production and cannot
    be easily replaced. I use top quality UV and Skylight filters on all of
    them, simply because I cannot afford to risk any unnecessary damage to the
    elements. Also, I tend to put greasy fingerprints on my front elements, and
    I'd prefer to sacrifice an occasional filter as opposed to risking leaving
    cleaning marks on my front elements. And I do find that the filters do have
    a positive effect on the images, especially with respect to reducing the
    bluish casts in deep shadows. This effect is most often seen with the
    skylight filter.

    While there is still a very slight image degradation factor, I have decided
    to accept it, as the benefits of using filters outweigh their slight
    disadvantages, in my opinion. My approach has been to use only top shelf
    filters, to keep the quality loss to an absolute minimum.

    See link below for a concise and well thought out list of suggestions to
    maximize image quality:
    Jeremy, Aug 29, 2004
  17. A very good article, and I agree with everything he says. However, I think
    that even Mr. Traudt would admit that having all those situations maximized
    for any given shot is virtually impossible. There are many instances where
    one just has to make do with what is available. If you are not doing studio
    work, you may not have the control over the lighting, or have a tripod
    available, for example. And, in that situation, it is very unlikely that
    your lenses will be in danger, so protective filters might not be a good
    idea anyway. Also, photography is an expensive hobby, and it is typical of
    Mr. Traudt's piece that he assumes that your financial situation allows you
    to buy any kind and quality of equipment that you desire. The article is
    great in that it gives the photographer a list of exactly what to shoot, or
    hope for, and also gives one an understanding of why ones pictures might not
    be top quality, but for me, "top quality" has to differ depending on the
    situation. I am happy to get the best shot I can under the circumstances,
    but the circumstances are usually never what I could hope for if I had
    complete control of every situation. Sometimes you just have to grab your
    camera and shoot, and the devil take the best choice of film and tripods and
    lighting and filters and etc.......Along these lines, I generally carry my
    camera on some kind of automatic mode, and with color slide film installed,
    and a decent 50 mm lens without any filter. Then, if time and the situation
    permits, I will augment this with tripods, lens hoods, other lenses, and the
    other things that are suggested in the article.........
    William Graham, Aug 29, 2004
  18. Justin F. Knotzke

    Colin D Guest

    In some countries, notably Australia and New Zealand, the preponderance
    of UV radiation is much greater than others - ozone hole etc. - and film
    shot without a filter can look decidedly blue, despite claims made that
    modern lenses are more or less opaque to UV.

    Colin D.
    Colin D, Aug 29, 2004
  19. I was aware of some of the tradeoffs of using a filter vs not before
    posting the question. I had googled for existing posts on the subject. I was
    more concerned with what people's personal choices were and why.

    I was looking to see if quality loss was significant or not and if the
    amount of protection offered by a filter was significant or not and how the
    two related.


    Justin F. Knotzke, Aug 29, 2004
  20. I'd be lying Mr Denelsbeck if I wasn't hoping you'd reply to this question
    because I had a sense that you would argue that the use of a filter was not
    worth the degradation of the image.

    I don't think we shoot the same kinds of subjects, but I may be wrong.

    My camera goes everywhere with me. I take it to buy milk. Local shop
    keepers know me as the guy with the camera. I also drag it with me to cycling
    events etc.

    Given that I only own one AF body, I have to switch lenses as opposed to
    bodies when I shoot sports. I often rent a 80-200AFS and this year, I got a
    few questioning looks from the salespeople of my local rental shop when I
    brought back the lens with a scatched B+W filter. It happens when I drop the
    lens in the bag, yank out the next lens and one of the lenses gets scratched
    in the process.

    Luckily, they didn't charge me for the filter because they know me (ie make
    money off me).

    I am going to purchase a Lowepro Steath Reporter bag because I need a way
    to swap lenses without scratching filters. However, the point I am attempting
    to make is that I'm not as careful as you in how I treat my stuff.

    Let me throw this out, what would be the best way to test lens with filter
    and lens without filter? Would setting the camera up with a tripod, pointing
    it at a brick wall and shooting a frame with filter and without be a good
    test? Or should I shoot into the sun? I'd like to maybe see for myself how
    much of a different it makes.

    Thanks Al,

    Justin F. Knotzke, Aug 29, 2004
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