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To use a filter or not to use a filter on a lens?

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I'm using filters on my lenses for the following reasons:

 - If you buy good quality filters, the impact on the optical quality of the lens in my opinion is negligible (like 0.3% light loss and almost zero additional ghosting/flare).

 - I clean my lenses quite often. Even when first blowing/brushing off dust before a wet wipe, you'll inadvertedly cause abrasion on the front element. In time, the degradation of the coating on this element will have adverse effects on image quality as well. Replacing a front filter is cheap, replacing a front lens element not so much.

 - Don't expect the filter glass to protect your front element from a direct impact with a solid object, but having some metal ring protruding beyond the front element certainly helps in keeping it from harm. A lot of impact energy can be dissipated by the deformation of the filter ring before wrecking the front of your lens. Always keeping the lens hood on also helps here.

- Resale value: a minor scratch on the front element (e.g. by accidentally rubbing a grain of sand over the lens while cleaning it) won't affect image quality much, but it severely affects resale value.

Have a read here, you might find it interesting:


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  • 2 weeks later...

Have a read at that link I posted, some good ones there. Filters always affect image quality, but good quality filters have such incredibly small influence that - in my opinion - the influence is negligible.

Some people however just don't accept anything that might affect image quality. Filters are not for them.

Edited by Pieter
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I only use a filter when it produces an effect I want or to experiment on what results a new filter type gives.

There is no evidence that significant protection is gained from normal UV type filters so I rarely use them on digital (film is highly UV sensitive so I do  use them for film). Many experiments show that impact damage can be increased by such a filter, but with salt spray etc their protection is meaningful.

I regularly use infra red filters, polarisers, & (at least fairly often) one of a host of more exotic filters. I typically get huge differences from using filters :)

With most lenses I find the IQ effect from using cheap old filters to be perfectly acceptable, but on my 150-500 and other very long focal length lenses regular filters can give visual problems.

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