Need help deciding whether a UV or CPL filter is the right choice for your camera lens? This guide is for you.
Words and Photography by Urth HQ
Have you ever asked yourself whether you should choose a UV filter or a CPL filter? There’s lots of options out there for glass filters to suit different camera lenses, so much so that the choice can often be a bit daunting.
The choice between a UV or CPL filter largely depends on what you want to achieve from your photography, as each filter performs a different task. UV filters are often used to remove haze and sharpen details, but they can’t enhance colours or remove reflections as they don’t reduce polarised light from coming into the lens. Most photographers, especially those shooting outdoors, use both filters individually for various purposes, although they can also be used together simultaneously.
Both UV and CPL filters protect a camera lens in the absence of lens caps and lens hoods but UV filters are mainly used for protective purposes only, as the effects they create on images are minimal.
Using a UV Filter as Protection
Most modern digital cameras block out ultraviolet light from a lens. So unless you’ve got an old camera most of the time you’ll simply use this filter to protect your lens. When you’re out and about, dust, dirt, sand, grease, moisture and finger marks can all get on a lens. Therefore, keeping a UV filter on as a protective filter lets it bear the brunt of these unwanted contaminants, ensuring your lens remains unharmed and your photos remain clear. The beauty of using UV filters, is that if your lens suffers from scratches or knocks, you’ll only need a new lens filter and not a new lens. A UV protective filter is much much cheaper to replace than a camera lens. For these reasons you may choose to do as many photographers do and leave a filter on your lens at all times.
A UV filter doesn’t normally affect image quality and studies show that this filter doesn’t have any adverse impact on photos if left on the lens. However, a UV filter can often eliminate the blue cast that occurs when there’s too much sunlight or you’re shooting at high altitudes. .
Best Use Cases for CPL Filters
Most photographers wouldn’t leave a CPL filter on their camera all the time, especially for lens protection. But, if you need to alter a scene’s color balance, or remove reflections that can make a scene look washed out, this is where the filter really comes into its own.
A CPL filter cuts out polarised light entering a camera at different angles, allowing the photographer to enhance colour contrast and saturation in an image. You can darken a blue sky, to make it appear more dramatic, for example. This filter gets rid of reflections and glare from non-metallic surfaces, such as water, rocks or foliage. By taking away reflections and glare, water appears transparent, allowing you to see the details below the surface. A CPL filter also excels when shooting through glass, as it eliminates annoying light streaks that undermine an image’s quality.
These image-enhancing effects of a CPL filter can’t be recreated using post-production software, making a CPL filter an invaluable tool in a photographer’s kit.
A CPL filter works best when positioned at a 90-degree angle to the sun. Because of this, the filter doesn’t function as well on wide-angle lenses. These lenses allow for more than 90-degrees of light, thus resulting in uneven areas of colour on a scene.
Should I Get a CPL Filter or a UV Filter?
When choosing a UV or CPL filter, both are circular and easy to attach to a lens. They are suitable for any type of photography, although landscape photographers prize them equally.
If you’re looking for lens protection a UV filter is the best option, whilst altering color, mitigating lens flare, and reducing reflections and glare is better suited to the CPL filter. When deciding on a UV or CPL filter, remember that both are incredibly useful for different purposes, but always choose good quality filters.
If you were curious to learn more about ND filters as well, check out this helpful comparison guide.