Do Filters Affect Image Quality?

Lens filters are one of the many subjects that photographers just can’t seem to agree on. It seems like everywhere you look, you get a different answer. Some people will tell you to use filters on all of your lenses while others advise against it.

do-filters-affect-image-quality

Personally, I’ve been using filters my lenses since I first started using SLR cameras. As soon as I buy a new lens, I purchase a UV filter for it and I rarely ever take off (except for cleaning). I usually recommend using filters to other photographers as well, but as with anything, it’s your choice.

Quality matters

When I was first starting out in photography, I bought a couple cheap UV filters. One of my friends had told me, “you have to use a UV filter on all your lenses.” The filters I bought produced really bad ghosting and flare in direct light and my images lacked sharpness. Instead of assuming that all filters are awful, I did some research and found out that using filters is okay, but only if you buy quality filters.

High quality filters do not have any negative impact on your images as long as you keep them clean. It also helps to protect the front element of your lens. Lenses with a pristine front element will sell for a lot more than one with scratches. Once I realized how much of a difference there was between a “good” filter and a “cheap” filter I was sold. I’ve been using filters ever since.

UV filters and clear filters will both produce the same results. The UV blocking quality isn’t important for digital cameras. In the past, with film cameras it was useful, but digital cameras already have a UV filter built-in.

Coatings

Whenever shopping for new filters, always look for filters that are multi-coated, also called MRC (multi-resistant coating). The coating eliminates reflections and glare. It also helps to repel dirt and water and makes the glass more resistant to scratching.

Recommendations

The two brands of filters I am most familiar with are Hoya and B+W. They both make high quality filters. I am a huge fan of B+W’s products. They are based in Germany and their filters are made with high quality optical glass and brass.

The filters I use: B+W UV with MRC (010M)

b+w box