UV Lens Filter Know-How: When to Use One and Why?

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Everything you’ve ever needed to know about using aUV lens filter from best use cases to hidden benefits.

Words and Photography by Urth HQ

An ultra violet (UV) lens filter is a must-have for many photographers, and it tends to be the first type of filter that newcomers to photography buy. But when should you use a UV filter to reap its many benefits?

Why should photographers use UV filters?

Whether ametuer or professional, most photographers use a UV filter to protect their camera equipment, especially if they have an expensive lens. UV lens filters prevent dust and dirt from coming into contact with the lens essentially acting as a protective cover that shields your lens at all times. 

A UV lens filter acts as a protective filter that weatherproofs camera lenses by shielding the front element of your lens from dust and other nasties. So, if you shoot outdoors, this filter will prove invaluable. 

The filter can block sand, grit or other particles in the air from getting near your lens. If rain or water droplets get on your lens filter, it’s easier to wipe these off your filter than your lens and you run less risk of dust scratches. This is especially so if your lens filter has a multi-resistant coating. 

A UV lens filter also offers protection in windy conditions. It acts as a buffer, keeping wind-borne substances such as sea spray, grit or sand from going near your lens. Certainly, if you need to take photos in any kind of weather condition, you’ll find a UV lens filter indispensable.

A lens filter with UV properties can also protect your camera from any accidental bumps or, and can often be the difference between having to replace a smashed lens for thousands of dollars and a smashed filter for under $100.. This is especially relevant if you’re out and about with your camera, climbing up mountains, scrambling over rocks or shooting by the sea.

Lens protected from sand by a UV filter.

Do UV filters reduce image quality?

Some people believe that using lens filters negatively affects image quality, but it really depends on the quality of the lens filter. So long as the optical glass on your UV filter is as good as or better than that of your lens, it won’t noticeably affect image quality. A premium quality UV filter won’t affect image quality, exposure settings, colouration or contrast, and will help clarity and sharpness while protecting your lens. For this reason, you can keep a UV filter on your lens permanently

You may see a reduction in image quality if you decide to stack multiple lens filters onto your lens, because light is passing through extra layers of glass. If you’re shooting in challenging conditions however, and need the combined effects of two filters, the benefits of the filters may outweigh the loss of image quality. We’ve written up a guide to stacking lens filters to help you with this.

Shot without a UV filter.
Shot with an Urth UV Filter Plus+

Are UV filters necessary for digital cameras?

If you use an old-school film camera, a UV lens filter will block out UV light from the film, especially useful when using film stock that might be particularly sensitive to UV light. 

Modern digital cameras (typically post 2007) have an inbuilt sensor that automatically keeps UV light at bay. However, even photographers using modern cameras note that a UV filter can still reduce haze and sharpen an image. It can also help to boost contrast on overcast days or shooting when shadows are present. But most importantly, a UV filter will protect your lens, making them invaluable even for use on digital equipment. 

If you’d prefer lens protection with the added benefits of polarisation, perhaps a CPL could be more beneficial for your photography. Have a look at our UV filter vs CPL filter comparison guide to find out more about the best use cases for these two filters.

Are UV filters expensive?

UV filters can cost anywhere between $20 and $100, a small price to pay to protect a lens in the hundreds or thousands of dollars. 

Urth’s UV filters range from $22 for our standard range up to $89 for our professional Plus+ range. The difference in these two ranges and price points lies in the quality of the glass used and the layers of nano-coating. For example, our more expensive UV Filter Plus+ uses world-leading German SCHOTT glass and 30 layers of nano-coating to produce an extremely high quality image. 

When you’re deciding how much money to spend on a UV filter, we recommend matching the quality of the lens filter to the quality of your lens. We’ve written an ultimate buyer’s guide to UV filters that can shed even more light on the more practical, financial considerations to take into account when shopping for a UV protection lens filter.

An Urth UV Filter.

When should you not use a UV filter?

Some photographers argue that adding a UV lens filter can increase the prevalence of reflections, ghosting and lens flares in your images. However, this is very unlikely to happen if you use a good quality lens filter from a reputable supplier.

Should I get a UV filter for my lens?

If you want to reap the most benefits from using a UV lens filter, choose one that is of a high quality and preferably comes with a protective multi-resistant coating, especially if you use your camera outdoors a lot. You can find different grades of UV lens filter protection, ranging from those that block out minimal UV radiation to those that absorb the majority of UV light. Our ultimate buyer’s guide to UV filters should be really helpful if you’re looking for more information on the available options!

Did you know Urth makes lens filters that reforest the world? Five trees are planted in deforested areas for every filter purchased. Shop our range of lens filters here.

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