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How to use a UV protection lens filter

A UV protection lens filter is an accessory that attaches to the front of your camera lens and blocks ultraviolet light rays. Many photographers argue that UV filters are essential, while others maintain that they are a waste of resources.

UV protection lens filters are not only used to block UV light and reduce haze. They also protect the front element of your camera lens from scratches, dust, liquids, and other hazards.

Read: our article on The best camera microphone.

What does UV light do to photographs?

UV light is invisible to the human eye but can affect image quality in terms of sharpness and vibrance. A blue cast may also appear in your pictures.

Using a UV filter was especially useful in old film photography because of how sensitive film was to UV light.

Most modern film cameras aren’t affected by UV rays. Older film stock cameras and cheaper camera lenses may have problems with ultraviolet light.

Modern digital cameras come equipped with digital sensors that are quite insensitive to UV light. Modern lenses also have special coatings on them that filter out UV rays.

Certain places like beaches, mountains, and snowy scenes are more likely to have higher levels of UV light. Typically, this won’t matter when shooting with digital cameras.

Why should you use a UV protection lens filter?

Lens protection

UV filters can protect the camera lens from getting damaged if they get dropped or bumped against hard surfaces. However, the protection is minimal at best.

Most UV filters are made from weaker glass than those used for most camera lenses. Hence, they can get broken more easily than the lens itself.

Note that a UV filter will not protect your camera lens from internal damage. Camera lenses contain other glass elements asides from the frontal element. Dropping your lens with a filter on will probably cause as much internal damage as dropping it without one.

UV filters can come in handy in protecting the front element of a camera lens. They offer protection against dust, dirt, scratches, and smears. This can be pretty useful in keeping salt particles, grit, or sand from going near your lens when shooting.

UV filters are flat and hence, much easier to clean than lenses. They are also cheaper to replace if they get scratched or too dirty to clean thoroughly. In some cases, they can offer better protection than the lens hood.

Blocking of ultraviolet light

UV light scattered in the atmosphere can make pictures look blurry or hazy. A UV filter blocks out this ultraviolet light, consequently reducing haze in your pictures. This could, in turn, make your picture a bit sharper. Not enough to make a difference, but subtle enough to the keen eyes. Modern cameras have no glaring reactions to the presence of UV light.

Cons of using a UV protection lens filter

Loss in image quality

A UV filter adds an extra layer of glass between the camera lens and digital sensor. This can reduce the amount of light that passes into a camera by 0.5% to 5%, consequently leading to a slight drop in image quality.

The drop in quality is largely dependent on the optical glass on your UV protection filter. Cheaper filters are more likely to cause a reduction in image quality than premium quality lens filters.

They can be quite expensive.

UV filters can be costly, especially those suitable for expensive lenses. Specialty UV lens filters can cost hundreds of dollars.

Lens ghosting

Ghost images are secondary images of very bright light sources. Using a UV protection filter on your camera lens when shooting in certain conditions can cause extra ghosting in images. The bright lights bounce off the digital sensor, reflect onto the rear surface of the filter and bounce back onto the camera sensor.

The wider your camera lens’s aperture, the more pronounced ghosting is. You can remove your UV filter if you want to eliminate ghost images. Sufficiently reducing the aperture can also help in removing ghost images.

Lens flares

UV lens filters are said to make your lens more prone to flares. A flare is an overall veiling of an image or parts of it due to stray light. Currently, there is no overly convincing evidence that a UV protection filter noticeably increases flare in camera lenses.

Flare images are caused by unwanted reflections or scattering of light from the various exposed surfaces within the lens and camera body. Modern digital camera lenses typically contain up to 15 or more glass elements. Hence, adding an extra layer of glass in the form of a UV lens filter won’t make that much difference.

Color casts

UV filters block out all types of ultraviolet light, including the kind that aids in producing vibrant colors. Shooting in certain lighting conditions while using a UV filter can make photo colors look washed out or muted.

When should you use a UV protection lens filter?

Deciding on whether to use a UV filter all the time depends on what or where you are shooting. Certain situations call for the use of a protective filter on your camera lens.

You should use a UV filter:

  • If you’re using an expensive lens. You may want to protect it from scratches with a UV filter.
  • When doing shoots in places like beaches, deserts, or snowy mountains.
  • If you photograph children. Fingerprint smudges are easier to wipe off a UV filter than a lens.

When not to use a UV protection lens filter

While a UV protection lens filter helps protect your eyes from harmful ultraviolet light, you do not need it at all times.

For instance, it is best to shoot without a UV filter when taking pictures in bright sunlight. The filter can make your photographs appear darker than they normally would. The extra glass element can also cause a lens flare.

UV lens filters are also not necessary when shooting studio photos. Mostly because your lens isn’t exposed to any environmental hazards.

If you are using a telephoto lens, you may not need a UV protection lens filter. The lens itself will offer some protection from UV rays.

You should probably steer clear of UV lens filters when using a flash. The light from the flash can reflect into your eyes.

How to use a UV protection filter

The most common way of using a UV protection lens filter is to screw it onto the front of your camera lens. Make sure to screw it on tightly, so the UV filter does not fall off when using your camera.

You can also place the UV filter in front of your lens and then attach the lens to your camera. This method is often used when using a telephoto lens, as it can help keep the filter in place. 

Some photographers use their UV protection lens filter by holding it in front of their lens while taking a photo. This allows them to keep the filter in place and avoid having to screw it onto the lens.

What UV Filter Should You Buy?

If you’ve decided to start using a UV protection lens filter, the next step is choosing the right one to buy. While a UV filter doesn’t affect image quality noticeably most of the time, you shouldn’t just buy the cheapest that will fit your lens. The measurement needed for your lens is usually written on the inside of the lens cap.

The best UV filters will be a bit thicker and have additional coatings to prevent ghosting. Cheap filters without enough clearance can ruin lenses that have a slight curve by getting too close and scratching the lens.

Here are three UV filter recommendations for your next purchase:

Urth UV Filter Plus

Urth UV Filter Plus. Image source: Urth

The Urth UV Filter Plus is a high-quality lens filter that protects your lens and improves image quality. It cuts out 99.6% of UV light, helping sharpen your photos, especially in hazy conditions. The filter features a durable aluminum frame and a 30-layer nano-coating that protects against scratches, dirt, and oil damage.

These layers also provide a higher maximum light transmission and a more consistent transmission curve for sharper images, finer colors, and greater depth. The Urth UV Filter Plus has a 37mm to 95mm thread diameter range, making it compatible with a wide range of lenses.

The filter has a low-profile design that does not add significant weight or bulk to your camera. It is an excellent choice for photographers who want to protect their lenses and improve their photography.

Urth 37mm UV Lens Filter (Plus+) Price:$30.00 Buy Now Available from Amazon, BGR may receive a commission

Amazon Basics UV Protection Lens Filter

Amazon Basics UV Protection lens filter.
Amazon Basics UV Protection Lens Filter. Image source: Amazon

The Amazon Basics UV Protection Lens Filter is a high-quality, affordable filter that helps to reduce haze and protect your lenses from scratches, fingerprints, and dirt. The filter is made from optical glass that provides excellent clarity and color balance. It can also be multi-coated.

It also features an Avengers: Infinity War-designed active case with a soft-touch finish. The case has a built-in lens cloth for easy cleaning. This filter is compatible with most 58mm camera lenses. It’s ideal for serious photographers and videographers who want to protect their equipment.

Amazon Basics UV Protection Camera Lens Filter - 58mm Price:$8.14 Buy Now Available from Amazon, BGR may receive a commission

The K&F Concept UV Filter Ultra Slim

The K&F Concept UV protection lens Filter
The K&F Concept UV Filter Ultra Slim. Image source: Amazon

The K&F Concept UV Filter Ultra Slim is a high-quality filter that helps to protect your lens from scratches, fingerprints, and other damage. It is 3 millimeters thick with a 37mm to 82mm thread diameter range.

The filter is made of durable optical glass and features 28 multilayer coatings. Coatings that are hydrophobic and scratch-resistant for durability. The multilayer coating also ensures maximum light transmission for clear, sharp images. The ultra-slim design minimizes vignetting and allows for easy stacking with other filters.

K&F Concept 67mm MC UV Protection Filter with 28 Multi-Layer Coatings HD/Hydrophobic/Scratch Re… Price:$32.99 Buy Now Available from Amazon, BGR may receive a commission

FAQs

How do you use a UV lens filter?

You can use a UV protection lens filter by screwing it onto the front of your camera lens. You can also use it by holding it in front of your lens when taking pictures.

Should I keep my UV filter on all the time?

Deciding on whether to keep your UV protection filter on all the time is entirely a personal choice. In some situations, it is better to take off the filter when shooting pictures. But if the filter does not bother you or affect the image quality in any way, you can leave it on at all times.

When should you use a UV filter on a camera?

You should use a UV protection lens filter when shooting in environments that pose hazards to your camera’s lens. You should use a filter when shooting in places like beaches, deserts, and snowy mountains.

Should you put UV filter on lens?

A UV protection filter will help protect wind-borne substances such as salt particles, grit, or sand from coming into contact with your lens. So yes. It is advisable to use one but not compulsory.

Is it worth it using a UV filter?

A UV lens filter can serve as protection from dirt and scratches for the front element of your lens. They’re also cheaper to replace and easier to clean. So yes, using a UV protection filter is worth it.

What is the point of a UV lens filter?

A UV lens filter decreases the intensity of ultraviolet light entering the lens. UV rays have a more profound effect on old film stock than on digital cameras. A UV protection lens filter is not very important in digital photography, but it can be useful in protecting the lens.

Can I leave a UV filter on all the time?

Yes, you can. Most photographers who use lens filters leave them on all the time except when shooting in certain conditions.

Do UV filters affect image quality?

Some photographers say that an extra pane of glass may lead to miscalculations of how much light passes through the lens. But, the effect of UV lens filters on photo quality is quite negligible. Cheaper filters are more likely to affect image quality than premium quality lens filters.

Toby Grey contributes as a How To expert for BGR. Typing away like a keyboard super hero, he covers just about anything you can think of. If Toby isn't writing, he's probably reading a book or playing video games.