We decide whether UV filters are worth having on your lens for image quality …
First, let’s note that, to get here, these images have been through a lot – first taken from RAW, taken to 100%, made into a JPG file with SRGB profile, and compressed for the web, then uploaded to WordPress. In changing to JPG for the web there was noted a levelling out of colour so the differences that you can see are reduced.
The images are of a cropped background at 100%, a distant scene with Canary Wharf, London in the background on a sunny day – UV haze is noticeable so lets see how our UV filter coped with it.
The images were taken with an Olympus Pen without sharpening with a B+W UV filter of professional quality.
The first image is without a filter and the second one with a UV filter. Taking into account the degradation in quality mentioned above you can see that the trees are clearer in the image without the UV filter. So what does it do if anything?
It has reduced contrast slightly and the white of the buildings seem warmer (though this may be hard to see).
So what use are UV filters? Most people use them as a lens protector which makes some sense, also the degradation in quality will be worse the better the camera resolution, which means it won’t be so noticeable with entry-level cameras. It is up the the individual if their need to feel protected is most important is they are not tuned to be affronted by differences in quality anyway.
I was surprised at how much was lost in quality here, I had not expected to see any difference that would bother me.
If you put quality of your images high on your preferences then it’s probably best to not use UV filters, certainly when shooting landscapes or cityscapes – allowing that there may be some increased risk to your lens if you drop your camera. For more close-up street photography you may as well keep it on (if you think it’s worth buying one in the first place).
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