Years ago, the idea of protective UV filters on a camera lens was phased out. Photographers needed them when film was dominant to cut down on optical issues. We needed them in early digital for similar reasons and also for the protection of your lenses. But these days, honestly, you don’t need them anymore. Instead, there are a few tried and true reasons why I like them anyway.
Now, you should note that this idea probably won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. But if you come to this blog, then you probably don’t care about critical sharpness or anything else like that. Instead, you want character. You know and understand that modern lenses these days are too sharp or too clinically perfect.
What better way to get lens character than a fingerprint smudge on a lens? We’ve done it a few times here in our reviews. And years ago, photographers would even smear a bit of Vaseline on a camera lens to get a specific look. But when using UV filters, you can let all that stuff just build up on your lens. Modern lenses these days are barely if ever affected by smudges on a lens. If anything, you’d see it when stopped down a lot or with a lot of megapixels. But with UV filters that doesn’t have the same coatings as a lens’s front element, you’ll get an even more pronounced effect.
I’ve used the smudged UV filter often with certain lenses and cameras to get a specific look. They’re fantastic with Fujifilm cameras.
But more importantly too, folks don’t realize how many lenses out there aren’t weather sealed. Yes, we’ve posted a test from photographers to show how durable their cameras are in the ice. But in reality, this is reckless behavior. We wouldn’t do this kind of test. And if something went wrong, the lens manufacturer wouldn’t say that they’re responsible for this at all. Your warranty won’t cover a problem like this. So if you’re using something like the Sigma i-series of lenses, you’ll need a UV filter on the front to protect it. There are loads of other lenses too that aren’t weather sealed. Voigtlander and so many others have this issue. Canon’s Non-L glass isn’t weather-sealed either. So why would you choose to not protect your lens?
In the end, I don’t think that protective filters these days are stupid for photographers. Instead, I think that they can be a very welcome tool to help us keep being creative. But that requires you and other photographers to just be creative about how you use them and about shooting. We can’t just sit there massively capturing scenes in front of us, instead, we need to work to make our photos stand out.
Not a fan of UV filters? Try something else like an intensifier filter. This will take the colors from the scene and tweak them just a bit. But that can be just enough to make you not even want to or need to do post-production. After all, you can and should shoot both RAW and JPEG. But why bother editing if you’re able to just get the photo to look great in-camera?