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Lens filters protect your pricey camera glass: Here are your options

Derrick Story | April 9, 2013
Using protective lenses on your interchangeable lens camera is a no-brainer, so we offer some hints on how to shop for them.

You can energize a conversation with photographers in innumerable ways. You could, for example, try to build a case for Nikon over Canon, or perhaps argue that sensor size doesn't really matter. Or you could advocate using protective filters on all of your lenses.

I find the third topic intriguing, for both advanced shooters and newcomers alike. What filters, if any, do you need for your lens? Several appealing options in a range of prices are available.

Let's start with the different types of filters. I recommend three to consider: protection, polarizer, and neutral density. In the world of protection filters, those commonly used are clear, UV, Skylight, and Haze. Here's a quick overview.

UV--Typically, this filter is very pale yellow to virtually clear. In the past, UV filters helped protect your image from the negative effects of atmospheric ultraviolet radiation. But thanks to the improved high-tech coating on today's lenses, these filters don't have much impact on image quality at lower altitudes. Some effect may be noticeable at high altitudes, however. Their primary use today is to protect the lens itself.

Skylight--Light pinkish in color, this filter can help correct the slight blue cast from shooting outside under a blue sky. Some photographers see benefits for their landscape photography. I don't recommend this filter for portraits because it can affect skin tones.

Haze--This is essentially another name for a UV filter.

The above filters were very popular in film camera lenses. But with digital cameras, we can now counteract the mild effects of UV light with the white balance settings in our cameras. So, even though UV and skylight filters do have some mild filtering effect, they are primarily used as protection filters.

I recommend that you use a high-quality, multi-coating glass filter if you want protection for your lens. You don't really need UV or skylight under most outdoor lighting conditions.

Specific protection filters

I typed the term  protection filter into the search box at B&H Photo. Among the hundreds of results listed, here are a few good examples:

Tiffen 52mm UV Protection Filter ($5.20) This filter helps absorb ultraviolet light, reduces the bluish cast of daylight, and serves as a general protective filter.

Hoya 58mm EVO Clear Protector Filter ($57) This offers a clear filter for protection, a low profile, and a rigid, aluminum filter ring. The coating prevents surface reflections.

Heliopan 72mm Protection Filter ($780) A clear filter for protection, the SH-PMC provides a 16-layer multi-coating, brass ring construction, and high-quality Schott glass.

That's quite a price spread among three filters of different sizes and different qualities. Generally, you don't have to use a UV or skylight filter if all you're after is protecting the lens. A clear filter is all you really need. Here are three things to consider when choosing this type of filter:


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