Are UV Filters Even Necessary Anymore In These Marvellous Days Of Digital?

by Karin Gottschalk1 Comment

When shooting film in my analog days, the question of whether or not to screw a UV filter on front of my hand-camera lenses was never actually a question. It was a given. I would always use UV filters and sometimes Skylight filters when shooting color film on my Leica rangefinder cameras outdoors.

The biggest reason why? In those days I was living in a state where the sunlight had one of the highest percentages of ultra violet in its sunlight anywhere, at sea level as well as up in the hills. Normal sunlight there rendered way more blue than yellow and it was not a pretty look. Especially when shooting color transparency film, mostly either Kodachrome 64 or Velvia and sometimes Ektachrome. Especially Ektachrome, which seemed the most susceptible to UV light of the three.

Whenever possible I would match the brand of my lenses to the brand of my filters, or the next best thing, So I accumulated a small collection of Leica UV filters as well as B+W filters made by Schneider-Keuznach, whose large format lenses I used on my 4”x5” sheet film cameras.

That particular Australian state is home to some of the most spectacular countryside in the world, but also some of the most challenging climate extremes. Especially in the desert interior where many of my corporate photography assignments took me.

Deep underground in the mines or above ground at day or night in whatever weather presented itself, I had no choice but to be well prepared so every lens was equipped with UV filters if I needed them.

If the fine red dust was blowing or the thick black dirt was flying then those filters stayed on. If not, then I removed the UV filters from my large and medium format camera lenses but kept them on my Leicas. Greater possibility of taking a fall when dodging hurtling giant dump trucks and wildly swinging cranes, you see.

Nowadays almost all my UV filters have long been retired. There are a couple of B+Ws on two small, ageing digital hand cameras and the Leica filters are stored in a box somewhere. But since then the only filters I have bought are clear glass protection filters or ND filters.

My favorite walk-around lens for stills and videos, the Olympus M.Zuiko ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro, and the Olympus 62mm Zuiko PRF-ZD62 Pro Protection Filter that always sits screwed onto its front. This filter only comes off when I am using ND filters for moviemaking. Images not to scale.

My favorite walk-around lens for stills and videos, the Olympus M.Zuiko ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro, and the Olympus 62mm Zuiko PRF-ZD62 Pro Protection Filter that always sits screwed onto its front. This filter only comes off when I am using ND filters for moviemaking. Images not to scale.

The reason? Digital cameras don’t really benefit from UV filtration. Or at least that was the word from the R&D department of the major maker of lenses (amongst other things) where my BFF worked for almost a decade.

I haven’t put any of this to the test but the experts at that company seemed to know what they were talking about. I used their lenses from the time I bought my first digital camera, until the moment I happily bought a Panasonic GH4.

I use clear glass filters on the lenses for my GH4 now too.

So, over to Kishore Sawh at SLR Lounge for his insights into the whys and wherefores of UV filtration and a great movie from Steve Parry.

UV Filters – Do You Need Them Or Not?


Via SLR Lounge:

The first cameras I ever shot with belonged to my dad and my uncle. I vividly remember that par for the course of shooting with those early 80’s Nikons was using a UV or Skylight filter. It was just what was done, and even recently, after digging out my dad’s old lenses which I love to shoot with on with my DSLRs, they still had those very filters on, long after the lens caps had been lost.

So if you grew up shooting film, you were probably of the mindset that shooting with these types of filters was the thing to do, and largely for protection. Protection from what? Well, a host of things from scratches, front element lens breakage, to sand, water, or any of the elements in general, and of course, UV light that often would give a strange hue to some images.

UV Filters 2

But that was then, and this is now, and digital has sort of changed things a bit, as well as have modern production processes. So the question is, should you be using a UV filter still? And does it serve any purpose as a protective element for your lenses? Steve Perry from Backcountry Gallery recently did some rather extensive, albeit not the most measured or scientific tests, to help answer these questions. The video and the conclusions of the tests have caused some brouhaha over the old debate, and about time really.


Note: it is our policy to give credit as well as deserved traffic to our news sources – so we don't repost the entire article – sorry, I know you want the juicy bits, but I feel it is only fair that their site get the traffic and besides, you just might make a new friend and find an advertiser that has something you've never seen before

(cover photo credit: snap from SLR Lounge)

Karin Gottschalk

Karin is a documentary moviemaker, journalist, photographer and teacher who conceived and cofounded an influential, globally-read, Australian magazine of contemporary art, culture and photography. While based in Europe, contributing to the magazine and working in advertising, she visualised a future telling the same sorts of stories with a movie camera and audio recorder. Now back in her home base in Sydney, Karin is pursuing her goal of becoming an independent, one-person, backpack multimedia journalist and documentary moviemaker. Mentorless and un-filmschooled, she is constantly learning and sharpening up her skill set.
Karin Gottschalk


  1. I used a clear filter a long time ago and all I got from it was a reflection of my lens back into the picture anytime I pointed the camera into sunlight.  Never again.  The most useless practice of photography is worrying about UV or clear filters on a lens.  Lenses clean off with the appropriate cloth or fluid and filters are for polarization, ND, or Grads–not for hermetically sealing a lens surface from the outside world.

Leave a Comment