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Do I Need a UV Lens Filter?

An ongoing debate as to whether the risks of image quality reduction are worth the benefits of protection gained from a UV lens filter continues to rage on. UV lens filters are often left on a camera permanently. But those that are against the permanent use of a UV filter say that it ruins footage and isn’t worth the potential protection benefits. But do I need a UV lens filter or not? Let’s see what the pros and cons are of using a UV lens filter and whether it’s the right choice for your production.

Why Use a UV Lens Filter?

First, let’s talk about why you would use a UV lens filter. These filters are often used to protect the camera lens and prevent dust or dirt from actually making contact with the expensive lens. As a protective shield, the UV lens filter weatherproofs the lens and prevents UV radiation from making contact with the lens. If you are shooting in an area where large amounts of UV, sand, grit, or other air particles are likely to be around, the UV filter can be invaluable and extremely worthwhile.

Do I Need a UV Lens Filter?

While UV lens filters can be used to protect your lens and may be invaluable in some circumstances, some cinematographers aren’t convinced that UV lens filters are worth the potential damage to their footage. Many believe that UV lens filters are an absolute waste of money that should not even be considered. So do I need a UV lens filter or not?

Theoretically, the UV lens filter is supposed to protect your camera filter from damage. The idea is, if you drop your camera lens, the UV filter will break instead of the camera lens itself. In theory, this is a great idea and certainly makes the UV lens filter worth buying. However, in reality, if you drop your camera, the odds of just your UV filter breaking and the rest of your camera lens remaining full intact are slim to none.

Based on some actual attempts at testing whether a UV lens filter truly does protect the camera lens more so than just the camera lens itself, it was determined that the UV lens filter doesn’t add much protection at all. If you were to drop your camera and only the lens filter breaks, the chances are that it would not have been enough of a fall for your camera lens to break anyway.

Also, UV lens filters were used long ago to protect UV rays from making their way through the camera lens to negatively impact the film. However, cameras aren’t using actual film these days–everything is digital. Therefore, UV lens filters have little use beyond acting as a lens protector, and, based on recent tests, it seems they have little use there too!

So, do you need a UV lens filter? The answer is, probably not! Chances are, if you’re using a UV lens filter as protection to your lens and you’re shooting with the filter in place, you’re losing image sharpness and contrast. In short, you’re diminishing the quality of your images by having the UV filter on your camera.

Should You Use a UV Filter?

As you decide whether to a UV lens filter to protect your camera lens or to take it off, consider the following:

● UV filters offer very little protection to your camera lens, aside from preventing dust or scratches from occurring on the lens. If you’re shooting in an area where there is sand, dust, or other particles floating in the air, you may consider a UV filter but only during that shoot, such as at the beach or in a similar location. The UV filter isn’t going to prevent your lens from breaking if you drop the camera hard enough for that to occur.
● UV filters can impact your image quality, and while the impact is small, it helps to know how images change with the filter in place versus without it. This way, you can recognize any changes and, if you’re unhappy with how the image appears, you can remove the UV filter and opt not to have it on when filming.
● UV filters can be used in place of the lens cap and, if you’re one that tends to start shooting with the lens cap in place and you miss great footage, or if you like the fluidity and ease, you may find a UV filter beneficial to you. Otherwise, it’s a personal decision on whether to use the UV filter or not.