We’ve done the research to make it easy for you to decide whether a lens hood or UV filter is best for your camera lens.
Words and Photography by Urth HQ
Should you use a lens hood or a UV filter? This is one of the most frequently debated topics in photography.
It’s entirely up to you whether you use a lens hood or a UV filter. It mostly depends on what you’re looking to get from either of these, as well as the kind of images you shoot, the light sources, general shooting conditions and any particular situations with specific photographic requirements.
Is a UV filter necessary for your lens?
UV filters are mainly used for lens protection. This is because modern digital cameras are not as vulnerable or sensitive to UV light as analogue cameras and are generally able to keep UV light from hitting the camera sensor.
Therefore, you’ll generally use a UV filter to protect your lens from any accidental knocks or bumps and keep dirt, dust, sand, moisture, smears or scratches off your lens by making sure it’s protected by the front elements.
Some people claim any glass filter (of which UV lens filters are classed as) can increase lens flare in certain extreme scenarios. However, in most cases, image quality isn’t negatively harmed from using a UV filter. It may even help to reduce a blue cast often created when shooting at high altitude or by very strong light.
Nano coating has come a long way, making for impeccable clarity in premium lens filters while providing a whole host of optical improvements. A decent glass filter will often command a higher price but the multitude of benefits they offer is definitely something worth investing in. A multi coated filter is more effective in reducing reflection than a mono-coated filter, which in turn is certainly better than a non-coated filter.
Can you use a UV filter together with a lens hood?
Camera lens hoods are a bit like hats for lenses. A lens hood is easily attached to a camera and sticks out some distance from the lens. This means that if you drop your camera, the hood can afford the lens some level of protection. The hood can also keep finger marks off the lens, as the lens face is more difficult to reach.
However, unlike a UV lens filter, plastic or rubber lens hoods might not stop sand, dust, salt-water spray or dirt from reaching the lens. If you use a wide-angle lens, which often have a very short lens hood, this may offer reduced lens protection. A protective filter does more than just shielding a lens from dust, it prevents settled dust from creating permanent marks in the form of dust scratches.
UV filters have another advantage over lens hoods in the sense that they can protect the front element of your lens in the same way a lens cap traditionally does. Most manufacturers recommend lens caps to be put on whenever the camera isn’t actively shooting, which you might not need to do when using a protective lens filter. Dust remains an issue, even with larger lens hoods like you might find on telephoto lenses (many types of Canon EF USM Lens have very large hoods).
What are lens hoods really for?
Although some people use a lens hood for protecting their lens, this isn’t the primary purpose of lens hoods. Essentially lens hoods act like a visor and are used to prevent light from the sides of a camera from entering into the lens thus reducing lens flare. Some photographers also note that lens hoods can provide increased contrast, richer colours and deeper saturation, and they can be an asset when photographing sunsets or night scenes with streetlights.
One thing to note, however, is that a lens hood only shields light entering from an angle, and not directly in front of the lens.
Should I use a lens hood or UV filter?
If you’re still unsure whether to use a lens hood or UV filter it’s useful to know that you can use both at the same time, if you wish to do so. We recommend experimenting with both to see what your preference is.
Check out Urth’s range of premium UV filters to discover the variety of options from which you can choose from, and if you want to know more about protecting your lens check out our guide to keeping your UV filter attached.