UV or Skylight Filters
Do you use them? I never have, I always figured another layer of glass without a specific purpose would do more harm than good as far as image quality was concerned. For purposes of lens protection I am thinking of changing my mind and investing in a new Hoya HMC UV filter for each lens. I'm sure there are as many opinions on the matter as there are members here, but I would like to hear some of those opinions and the reasons behind them. So, fire away! :)
I have always used the UV filters, which where I currently live does have a purpose and offers protection in addition. Take note the UV is virtually clear and is designed for removing unwanted UV rays on color film/slides, Skylights have a slight warming nature to them and will show a magenta cast to them when help up to the light, but as far as I have ever noticed neither filter has much if any effect on B&W film.
I always keep UV filters on my 35mm lenses, but strictly for protecting the front element. Since I use MF and LF for landscape and table-top only, I don't worry nearly so much about the front elements on those lenses being damaged so I don't keep the filters on all of the time.
With the 35, I'm likely to be shooting in a crowd, from a moving vehicle, or countless other situations where the front element of the lens might be endangered. If I find myself somewhere where the front element of any lens might be damaged (for example, on a windy day with a lot of "stuff" blowing around) then I'll put a UV filter on the front of any lens I bring out.
I doubt that my eyes could detect the image degradation between shooting with a high quality UV filter and without one, but I figure why take the chance unless there's a good reason for it.
I'm thinking you'll get as many opinions on this as you get responses. Goodness knows I've questioned myself for keeping an extra layer of glass on the cameras with the least area of film (and therefore the highest chance of showing any degradation from the filter). The reality is that I use the filters this way because it's what I'm comfortable with, and I have no better reason to offer.
I have gone back and forth with this over the years. Currently, I'm going sans protection most of the time. I will say that I've completely abandoned skylight filters preferring UV filters for protection. That said, I don't like any filters up front without a good lens hood.
Never used one in 35 years of outdoor use. Never had a problem. When I get home from the beach, I clean the lenses and the camera bodies, too.
UV filters are handy at high altitudes, but I seldom get higher than a bar stool. ;)
I have one and use it when the lens might be hit by spay, rain, sand etc but it's not going to be of any help if I drop the camera, so most of the time it stays in the bag.
I don't believe in protective filters in general, unless there is an obvious hazard, like salt water, sand, or crowds.
UV, haze, and skylight filters are useful with color film at altitude or for landscapes, and I use them for that.
I do believe in lens shades, which offer protection as well as improving contrast in virtually all situations.
Funny thing this,
Over on PN there is an article from the Sunday Morning Photographer on this subject.
The author notes that decades ago, UV filters were used for two reasons. Firstly to cut down on UV and secondly to protect the front elements, which were very soft, from scratches.
He says that today UV filters shouldn't be used in most cases because the UV coatings on lenses are now excellent and that the front elements are a lot harder than they were years ago. Furthermore, he states that UV filters can create 'ghost' images; he even gives two example prints.
I always figured that UV filters were essential; I'm rethinking that now.
There is no doubt that UV/Skylight/Protective filters can degrade the image. I use them anyway. Always have. Always will. Here is why.
Nikkor 24/2.8, splashed with champagne spray in a locker-room following a baseball team victory. I had to turn the focus ring about 200 times to loosen it up but no fine wine made it inside the front lens element.
Nikkor 80-200/4, left on the bar of a local establishment and inadvertently knocked off on a tile floor. Bent the lenshood and smashed the UV filter. Not a scratch on the front element.
Nikkor 180/2.8, put on the roof of my vehicle during a lens change and falling to the pavement on the front element, then rolling under the car. Broken glass everywhere. It was the filter only. Front element unharmed.
Same lens on a Nikon F2 being hit at a football game. I fell onto the lens, the front of the camera was broken completely off, still attached to the lens and the lens was buried in the soft dirt. The UV filter was ruined, the camera was destroyed and the front lens element was not harmed.
Canon EF 70-200/2.8, dropped front first into gravel and sand during a lens change. Lenshood popped off and UV filter scratched beyond use. Front element untouched.
During the time I worked for a newspaper, there were numerous (and since forgotten) other times a UV protected the front element of a lens during times when there were no particular danger around. I threw away a boxful of scratched or broken UV filters. I had a few worn-out lenses during this time but never a scratched element.
These days, I'm a little less cautious. I don't shoot pictures every day and it's usually at a more leisurely pace, so I often remove the UV filter on a lens when I do. I know it will help to prevent flare and may actually make the final photo a little bit sharper. But I still have UV's on all my lenses as a clear lens cap.