People often say that camera lenses are expensive and one should get UV filter to protect the front lens elements. These UV filters, as the name implies, filters out the ultraviolet spectrum of the light although newer digital cameras, nowadays, do not really need these as they have inbuilt UV filter in the camera body. So these UV filters (in front of the camera lenses) are there to prevent that little nephew of yours from poking his chocolate smudged fingers directly onto the lens.
UV filters typically cost between an affordable $10 to ridiculous prices in the range of hundreds but what are the differences between the few hundreds and the $10 piece? To list a few, they are:
- Light transmission quality – Depending on the manufacturing process and material, they have different light transmission quality, some cuts off quite a fair bit of light as it passes through the filter, some cuts off lesser. In general, the higher light transmission quality, the better.
- Surface coating – No coating, single-coat or multi-coat. These coating, in general, reduces the effect of light flare. Coating may also make the filter easier to clean. In general, multi-coated filters manage flares better
- Filter thickness – The thicker the filter, the higher the chances that you get vignetting effect on your shots which might be undesirable for most. In general, the filter should be as slim as possible with front thread for you to attach other filters on it (e.g. ND filter)
Therefore, the UV filter that you are choosing will affect your image/picture quality. I’ve bought cheap UV filters and slightly more expensive filters (from B+W). Honestly, I felt that the B+W XS-Pro MRC Nano UV Filters (010) are worth every penny. To understand why, read on until you get to the pictures test.
If you are splurging on a decent UV filter, make sure you are getting authentic filters and not some knock offs from street peddlers. More expensive UV filters usually have some form of anti-piracy protection. For example, the B+W filters have this holographic sticker. But is it foolproof? Not really. Because the boxes could be real but filters are fake. So the best is still getting your filters from reputable sellers.
The B+W UV filters comes in different variants:
- single-coated or multi-coated
- thin or thick profile.
Those that I have got are the multi-coated, thin profile with front threading (for me to mount other filters). They come in variety of sizes – 58mm, 72mm, 77mm, etc. So make sure you got the correct ones.
Well, I guess you will say that “it is just another piece of glass, probably this is better polished but what effects will it have on the pictures? I am not a pixel peeping pervert!”
To be honest, they really perform differently. I took a couple of shots – without filter, with B+W multi-coated UV filter and with a cheap Vitacon single-coated UV filter.
At least to me, it really seems like the the B+W XS-Pro MRC Nano UV filter handles the flare pretty well. To me, the UV filter should be transparent so it should perform as though it is not attached. Hope that these sample shots help you to decide whether should you go for a cheap UV filter or a slightly more expensive one to avoid annoying flares.