Nick Carver Photography Blog

Photography Tips, Tutorials, & Videos

CONTACT
 

UV Filter Use: Does It Degrade Image Quality?

UV Filter Use: Do You Need One?Ah, to UV or not to UV, that is the question. This can be a heated topic amongst photographers. Some argue that UV filter use will degrade image quality, others argue that it’s the best insurance you can get for your expensive lenses. There are merits to each argument and we’ll get to that debate in just a second, but first things first - let’s talk about the purpose of a UV filter.

The best UV filter on the market will do nothing for your photos. That’s the whole point. UV filters are used simply to protect the front of your lens. It’s nothing more than a clear piece of glass that you screw on to the front of your lens and then forget about. You leave it on all the time as insurance. Drop your lens or smack it against a wall when it’s hanging around your neck, the filter will break instead of your lens.

If you get a good quality UV filter, it will protect the front of your lens without affecting the image one bit. If you get a bad one, it might degrade image quality or create more lens flare. And why are they called UV filters? Well, it sounds better than “clear piece of glass to protect the front of your lens.” True, they are supposed to block UV light - and most of them probably do - but it doesn’t matter because UV light doesn’t have any noticeable effect on your photos anyway.

Now the argument in favor of UV filter use is clear (ha! puns...). Put a UV filter on the front of your lens and you got yourself a $40 insurance policy. Replacing a shattered UV filter is much more affordable than replacing a shattered front lens element. And believe it or not, they actually do protect the lens. When I first heard about the purpose of UV filters, I thought, “Come on...like a single piece of glass is really going to do anything to protect the lens.” But they do. Of course it ain’t going to protect against a 5-story drop from a hotel balcony, but it’ll protect against those really frustrating “it just barely slipped out of my hands” kind of mistakes.

B&W UV MRC Filter

My UV Filter of Choice is the B&W UV MRC
Click Here to Purchase Yours from B&H

The argument against UV filters is, shall we say, untenable. Anti-UVers say, “Why would you put a $40 piece of glass in front of your $1,000 lens? A lens is only as good as the glass in front of it. You want to turn your $1,000 lens into a $40 lens? Huh? Do ya, punk?” Alright, maybe they’re not that hostile.

This argument is based in theory, not practice. Sure, it makes sense in theory that another piece of glass is just another chance for image degradation. But I’m betting the people spewing this logic have never actually done a side-by-side shot with and without the UV. This also sounds like the logic of someone who has never damaged a lens before. It’s easy to say “don’t get car insurance” if you’re never had a fender bender.

And by the way, I did do a side-by-side comparison with and without a UV filter. Can you tell which one had the UV filter and which one didn’t? Neither can I...

UV Filter Use: Do You Need One?

Below is a 100% magnification of the above image.
One of the samples below was taken with a UV, the other without a UV.
Can you tell which is which?

UV Filter Use: Do You Need One?

The bottom line is this: If you get a really poor quality UV filter, like the $10 Sunpak ones, then yeah, it might degrade the image a tiny, tiny bit when examined at 100% magnification on your computer screen (but still, I’m betting you won’t see a difference). Buy a good quality UV filter, like those made by B&W, and there is basically no chance of it degrading your photos.

So I generally recommend the use of UV filters to my students. If you want the protection, use one. I do.

New: Photography Classes Orange County CA


Summer/Fall 2013
Photography Classes Orange County CA

Photography Classes Orange County CA


Macro DSLR Photography

July 27th through August 17th - Saturdays 10:00am-12:30pm in Tustin, CA
This class is 1 saturday per week for 4 weeks. Learn how to get better close-ups with your DSLR camera, what equipment you should invest in, what settings to use, how to frame a shot, how to find good light and more! Includes an in-class shoot. - 4 days (10 hrs total) - $125
Get More Info About This Class


Landscape Photography

August 22nd through September 12th - Thursdays from 6:30-9:00pm in Irvine, CA
This class is 1 evening per week for 4 weeks. It covers everything from how to shoot in manual, to using filters, to composition, to final output and much, much more. And this class is my one and only class to include a field shoot! - 4 days (10 hrs total) - $99
Get More Info About This Class


Popular Beginners Photography Class:
Understanding Exposure for Beginners

August 24th through August 31st - Saturdays 10:00am-12:30pm in Tustin, CA
Perfect for beginning photographers, this class is designed to make exposure easily understandable to even the greenest students. Learn what shooting modes to use, how to get correct exposures, and what the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO are. You'll leave this class knowing what the f-stop is, how to get blurry backgrounds, how to avoid totally blurry photos in low light, and much, much more! - 2 days (5 hrs total) - $75
Get More Info About This Class


Composition for Dramatic Landscapes

September 10th - Tuesday 6:30-9:00pm in Irvine, CA
Composition is what will make or break your landscape photographs. Don't get so caught up in the technical stuff that you forget to give due attention to the artistic side of landscape photography. - 1 day (2.5 hrs) - $39
Get More Info About This Class


How to Shoot in Manual Mode

July 2nd - Tuesday 6:30-9:00pm in Irvine, CA
Learn the correct way to shoot in manual mode in this very affordable single-evening seminar. Nick will demystify the process with his easy-to-understand and fun-to-use technique for manual metering. - 1 day (2.5 hrs) - $39
Get More Info About This Class


Filters for Outdoor Photography

September 28th - Satuday 10:00am-12:30pm in Tustin, CA
Don't be fooled by the marketing of software companies - filters are just as useful in digital photography as they've ever been! Find out what filters Photoshop can never replace and which filters are most important to keep in your bag. - 1 day (2.5 hrs) - $39
Get More Info About This Class

 

Don't wait, sign up before these photography classes fill up!
More information and enrollment details
can be found here.

New Work: Cress Street Beach

Sunset in Laguna Beach, CASunset at Cress Street Beach in Laguna Beach, CA
Fuji Provia 100F film - 30" at f/45
Click Image for Larger

I made the photo featured here back in January in Laguna Beach, CA. Laguna has some beautiful beaches, but in the summertime it's a circus down there. It makes shooting landscapes damn near impossible without getting a sea of umbrellas and beach towels in the shot. January makes this challenge a little easier.

But who am I kidding? Shooting at Orange County beaches is always aggravating. I guess my 6'2" frame, my giant tripod, and my enormous wooden camera aren't enough to let people know that "I'm taking a picture in this general direction so please don't walk through my frame." Maybe I should post a sign and police caution tape to finally get their attention.

Of course I'm not one of those self-entitled photographers that thinks the scenery belongs to me simply because I have a camera. I recognize that the beach belongs to all of us and no one should have more right to use it than anyone else...which is why I never say anything to anyone getting in my shot. But I mean come on, would it kill you, shirtless tourist, to take a 5-foot detour behind my camera as you stroll at a snail's pace along the sand? And don't get me started on paddle-boarders.

But enough ranting. Let me tell you about this shot.

I made this image on the beach just off of Cress Street near my gallery. I was pleased to see that the sand level was very low, revealing some beautiful boulders that I'd use in the foreground. And by judging the cloud cover, I figured the sunset would have some decent color to it, too. I made this image on Fuji Provia 100F film, but I wish I'd had Velvia 50 that night. Provia has a nice magenta tinge to it that worked well on this shot, but Velvia's color palette is much more vibrant. Oh well. I used a 3-stop split ND filter to hold detail in the sky and at an aperture of f/45, my shutter speed came out to 30 seconds. My Nikkor SW 90mm f/4.5 lens gave me the wide view I needed to include the rocks.

This puppy is also on display right now in my gallery. If you're in Laguna, stop in to Artist Eye Gallery and check it out. It looks nice printed up big.