Hoods are better than UV filters for Lens Protection
When I got my first DSLR, a Canon Rebel XS (1000), and the kit lens that came with it, I lived in fear that I would scratch the lens, drop the lens, or otherwise destroy the lens. I immediately got some inexpensive Sunpak UV filters and put it on the lens. As I progressed in this hobby/profession I upgraded the camera and the lens and started a collection of lenses. OMG I could scratch, drop, or otherwise destroy any of these lenses. But I did notice that sometimes the light would hit the lens and I would get artifacts (even with a hood).
So I went out and got some better quality Hoya filters. This filter was better, but I still saw some weird light effects every now and then.
And then it happened.
I had a neck strap around the camera. I had it off my neck resting on a bench (with no hood as I had packed that away). I stood up to walk away, grabbed the camera, and then as I moved away from the camera some invisible force (the strap was caught in the bench) pulled the camera out of my had and on to the concrete sidewalk. There was a sound of shattering glass and little glass shards everywhere.
I thought…. I have destroyed my lens and my camera!!!!
Upon closer examination…. it was only the filter that shattered. And the rim of the filter was bent. The camera was still in perfect condition. BUT!!!! I could not remove the ring. Since it was bent it was jammed into the lens filter threads. So I was afraid to use it until I got home and inspected it more closely.
I probably should have brought it to a camera shop but I love tinkering with things (I am a rocket scientist after all…for real), With a lot of needle nose pliers effort I was able to pull the ring off.
But this made me think….. Is a UV filter really the best way to protect a lens given that you can have some weird undesired light effects and it may jam itself into the lens.
I searched the internet. Again DPreview is my favorite…. I found that many if not most pros do not use a filter unless it if for image affects. Furthermore I got comments like….”Why would you want to put an added piece of relatively inexpensive glass in in front of $1000-4000 lens (note that I have not gone over $2000…..yet….). Note that this is one of those arguable issues or preferences the you will see on the internet. They suggested keeping a cap on it when not in use in your camera bag or at home. When it is in use keep the hood on. With the hood on it should protect you from 98% of any item that would scratch it…. And if you get in the habit of having it on all/most of the time, then when you drop it (AND YOU WILL DROP IT SOMETIME), The hood is a great shock absorber for the lens and the camera… and its only plastic. It probably won’t jam on anything and would be easy to remove if it was damaged.
So about 2 years now, I have only used a cap and hood.
There are a couple of downsides. Dust and water. Some lenses, like the 17-55mm f2.8 IS sucks in dust. I have/had (selling on ebay at this moment) this lens. It is known to suck in dust primarily from the front side under the label. After about 6 month’s use it looked filthy with dust on the inside, although it never affected the images. But the dust bugged me. I have read that if you use a filter on this lens it prevents dust. There are some other lenses that do the same. They are typically the Non-L class zoom lenses. When you move the lens in and out….the air has to go somewhere. And air carries dust. I rented a 100-400mm L on a trip recently and it was filthy with dust (the store rents them without a filter BTW)
But I still did not want to put a filter on. So I cleaned it (Another blog to follow) and put a bead of silicone glue under the label (per another poster’s suggestion). Problem fixed…..
As for the water. If you want to take pictures in the rain or snow…… Unless you have a newer L class lens, there are other places for the water to leak in on a lens. So while a filter will help….its not the only answer. You would have to use some kind of rain cover. If its light rain and not blowing the hood will help.
So…… No UV filters for me!
BTW as I was posting this blog to some forums I came across a REALLY thorough coverage of this topic by a moderator ( Lester Wareman) at the Canon Digital Photography on the net site here.