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Author Topic: Cheap UV filters: are they worth it?  (Read 22144 times)

xvnm

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Cheap UV filters: are they worth it?
« on: October 04, 2013, 11:56:45 AM »
Hi,

I'm thinking about following a piece of advice I've heard multiple times and replace my lens caps with UV filters.

However, looking at my local stores, I see there is a huge price difference between them. For instance, for 58mm filters, we have:

. Bower: $7
. RocketFish: $20
. Tiffen: $23
. Hoya: $25
. Protama: $29
. B+W: $46
. Hoya Pro: $55
. Kenko: $60
. Cokin Paris: $60
. B+W Multi: $65
. Hoya HD: $72
. Zeiss: $75/$95
. B+W Nano: $110

Since I have to buy 6 filters, up to 77mm, the savings do add up. So, I have a couple of questions:


1) How is a $110 filter different from a $7 one? Do they differ much in quality?

2) Some are multi-coated, others are not. What does that mean?

3) Do you have any recommendations? Brands to avoid?

4) How do UV filters (cheap or not) affect image quality (sharpness, distortion, vignetting, color balance, flares, etc.)? As I understand, they are not made out of thin air, so they have to affect the light passing through them somehow.

Thank you.
« Last Edit: October 04, 2013, 12:04:52 PM by xvnm »

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Cheap UV filters: are they worth it?
« on: October 04, 2013, 11:56:45 AM »

neuroanatomist

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Re: Cheap UV filters: are they worth it?
« Reply #1 on: October 04, 2013, 12:15:08 PM »
1) How is a $110 filter different from a $7 one? Do they differ much in quality?

2) Some are multi-coated, others are not. What does that mean?

3) Do you have any recommendations? Brands to avoid?

4) How do UV filters (cheap or not) affect image quality (sharpness, distortion, vignetting, color balance, flares, etc.)? As I understand, they are not made out of thin air, so they have to affect the light passing through them somehow.

1) The cheap one will degrade your image quality a lot. 

2) Multicoating reduces light loss due to reflection, and reduces ghosting and flare.  An uncoated filter reflects up to 10% of the incoming light, a multicoated filter less than 1%.

3) B+W MRC or better is the way to go, IMO.  The high end Hoya lines (HD) are ok, too. 

4) Cheap filters cost you sharpness, contrast, and add can add artifacts.  Good filters will not cause any IQ loss, with the occasional exception of increased flare with bright backlight.

Bottom line, if you're going to put a filter on a lens, make sure it's a good quality filter, else don't bother.
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pensive tomato

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Re: Cheap UV filters: are they worth it?
« Reply #2 on: October 04, 2013, 12:36:51 PM »
Bottom line, if you're going to put a filter on a lens, make sure it's a good quality filter, else don't bother.

+1 I couldn't agree more.

I don't know where you live, but I've found that filters is one thing where you can find significantly better prices online from reputable retailers. Also going to a store is really not needed for routine filters. For instance, the B+W F-Pro MRC 58 mm filter can be had for $31.50 at Amazon (compared to what I think it's your match from a local store at $65).
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duydaniel

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Re: Cheap UV filters: are they worth it?
« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2013, 01:55:05 PM »
mount you camera on tripod, shoot 2 pictures with/without filter.
See if you like it.

Don Haines

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Mt Spokane Photography

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Re: Cheap UV filters: are they worth it?
« Reply #5 on: October 04, 2013, 04:18:08 PM »
Unless you have a specific need for a filter, like going out in a dust storm or water spray, you might be better off to leave it off the lens and use a hood instead.
 
The cheap ones degrade your image much more than just using a cheap  throw away lens
 

photonius

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Re: Cheap UV filters: are they worth it?
« Reply #6 on: October 04, 2013, 05:32:00 PM »
Bottom line, if you're going to put a filter on a lens, make sure it's a good quality filter, else don't bother.

+1 I couldn't agree more.

I don't know where you live, but I've found that filters is one thing where you can find significantly better prices online from reputable retailers. Also going to a store is really not needed for routine filters. For instance, the B+W F-Pro MRC 58 mm filter can be had for $31.50 at Amazon (compared to what I think it's your match from a local store at $65).

I agree with both these comments.
THere is a series of filter tests at lenstip, I collected the links at the bottom of this page:
http://photonius.wikispaces.com/Filters
You will see what problems you can have with the filters, multicoated is definitively better. I bought on ebay, brand names, with no issue.
For a cheap lens, like a 18-55 IS kit lens, a filter is not really worth it.
There are situations when you do wish to have a filter, i.e. photographing welding, with strong chemicals (when pieces can burn into your glass), i.e. in general when you want to protect you skin as well, you can use a cheap filter that you can discard later.
I use protective multicoated filter (UV is not a must, doesn't really do anything on dSLRs) on some of my more expensive lenses, because I find them easier to clean than recessed front elements.  But many people just don't use any filters at all.   Longer tele lenses are more susceptible to minute glass imperfections, so people report more problems with filters (bokeh, softness, AF inconsistency).
Some Canon L lenses need a front filter to complement weather sealing.
« Last Edit: October 04, 2013, 05:33:38 PM by photonius »

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Re: Cheap UV filters: are they worth it?
« Reply #6 on: October 04, 2013, 05:32:00 PM »

pwp

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Re: Cheap UV filters: are they worth it?
« Reply #7 on: October 04, 2013, 07:56:56 PM »
It's a balancing act between reality, acceptable quality, affordability and occasionally snobbery.

-pw

cliffwang

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candc

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Re: Cheap UV filters: are they worth it?
« Reply #9 on: October 04, 2013, 08:21:39 PM »
I read the articles and they are very informative. I learned that as photonius also pointed out there is no IQ benefit from a UV filter because the cameras now do that anyway? I just always thought I needed a filter for that, if not then I will have to rethink if I want to use them?

wickidwombat

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Re: Cheap UV filters: are they worth it?
« Reply #10 on: October 04, 2013, 09:01:23 PM »
1) How is a $110 filter different from a $7 one? Do they differ much in quality?

2) Some are multi-coated, others are not. What does that mean?

3) Do you have any recommendations? Brands to avoid?

4) How do UV filters (cheap or not) affect image quality (sharpness, distortion, vignetting, color balance, flares, etc.)? As I understand, they are not made out of thin air, so they have to affect the light passing through them somehow.

1) The cheap one will degrade your image quality a lot. 

2) Multicoating reduces light loss due to reflection, and reduces ghosting and flare.  An uncoated filter reflects up to 10% of the incoming light, a multicoated filter less than 1%.

3) B+W MRC or better is the way to go, IMO.  The high end Hoya lines (HD) are ok, too. 

4) Cheap filters cost you sharpness, contrast, and add can add artifacts.  Good filters will not cause any IQ loss, with the occasional exception of increased flare with bright backlight.

Bottom line, if you're going to put a filter on a lens, make sure it's a good quality filter, else don't bother.

exactly this,

just to expand on number 3, I have both hoya HD and B+W filters there is no IQ difference i can see between them however the B+W are much easier to clean so i just buy the B+W now, also the kenko zeta are the exact same filter as the hoya HD so worth looking at too
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JPAZ

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Re: Cheap UV filters: are they worth it?
« Reply #11 on: October 04, 2013, 09:39:07 PM »
On a trip, I put a Canon branded UV filter I had in my bag on my 100-400 because it was drizzling.  Looking later at the photos, I was amazed at just how much the quality had degraded.  I like this lens but it is not the clearest lens out there, and the filter made it worse. 

The next day, because the weather was still bad, I took a B&W MRC off my 24-105 and put that on the long zoom to see if that would matter.  The better filter really made a remarkable difference in the IQ that I cold see.  Certainly, this was not very scientific since the lighting and conditions might have been different (although they seemed not to be)I won't get into the argument over to filter or not to filter (seems to me there have been numerous threads and discussions here on just that topic) but if you put a UV or other "protective filter" on your glass, get the best ones you can.
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Chris Jankowski

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Re: Cheap UV filters: are they worth it?
« Reply #12 on: October 05, 2013, 12:31:36 AM »
I would like to make the following points:

1.
You do not need UV filters on digital cameras to cut out the UV portion of the light spectrum.  The sensors are designed not to register the UV radiation.  It was different story in the film days.

2.
You may wish to have a filter to physically protect the front element of the lens, if you believe that it is worth doing.  Also, you may wish to put on a filter to complete the weather sealing of a lens.  Most Canon lenses built as weather sealed still require a front filter to complete the sealing.  Any filter can be used for the two purposes including UV.  However, there are now also filters marketed specifically as protective filters.

3.
Each filter adds two air/glass transitions and thus each filter will decrease the quality of the image to a degree.  The loss of quality may be very significantly reduced by good quality multicoating.   Essentially, you should not consider a filter without multicoating, as all your lense have all of their elements coated.  By using an uncoated filter you will be 100 years back in optical technology terms.

4.
Filter vendors are very busy trying to convince people to pay $200+ for a small piece of flat glass.  Obviously they are preying on people fears, as $200 would e.g. buy you Canon EF 40mm F2.8 STM lens that contains multiple complex optical elements, all of them multicoated, aperture, motor and electronics.  So, you need to be very careful to  get quality product at a reasonable price.

5.
A site optyczne.pl ran an excellent and very thorough evaluation of filters - UV and CPL a few years back.  This has been translated from Polish into English and published on lenstip.com:

http://www.lenstip.com/113.1-article-UV_filters_test_Introduction.html
http://www.lenstip.com/120.1-article-UV_filters_test_-_supplement.html
http://www.lenstip.com/115.1-article-Polarizing_filters_test.html

6.
Personally, I found that Hoya/Kenko multicoated filters are good value for money.  Not necessarily even their top range - Hoya HMC tops the ranking and is a quarter of the price of a B+W filter.
The simple point is that double sided multicoating reduces reflections from about 8% to 0.3% of transmitted light.  One could, in principle, reduce the reflections further to 0.1% through use of nanocoatings.  But nano coatings are still so expensive that they are only used very selectively on only some surfaces of some elements of some top price bracket lenses. 

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Re: Cheap UV filters: are they worth it?
« Reply #12 on: October 05, 2013, 12:31:36 AM »

chilledXpress

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Re: Cheap UV filters: are they worth it?
« Reply #13 on: October 05, 2013, 01:09:11 AM »
On a trip, I put a Canon branded UV filter I had in my bag on my 100-400 because it was drizzling.  Looking later at the photos, I was amazed at just how much the quality had degraded.  I like this lens but it is not the clearest lens out there, and the filter made it worse. 

The next day, because the weather was still bad, I took a B&W MRC off my 24-105 and put that on the long zoom to see if that would matter.  The better filter really made a remarkable difference in the IQ that I cold see.  Certainly, this was not very scientific since the lighting and conditions might have been different (although they seemed not to be)I won't get into the argument over to filter or not to filter (seems to me there have been numerous threads and discussions here on just that topic) but if you put a UV or other "protective filter" on your glass, get the best ones you can.

I've always been amazed that Canon's filter offering are pure shite... really crazy they would even sell them. Goes to prove that UV filters are not just flat pieces of glass, at least good ones.

rahkshi007

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Re: Cheap UV filters: are they worth it?
« Reply #14 on: October 05, 2013, 03:19:43 AM »
I have used cheap filter be4, it make your lens not sharp at all.. My best recommendation for bang of buck is Hoya HD, I do have 1 B+W Nano on my 85mm L, i see no difference in image quality in Both this filter.. Both filter has special coating which is much easier to clean compared to cheap filter.  The different is B+W nano has much thinner frame compared to Hoya HD.
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Re: Cheap UV filters: are they worth it?
« Reply #14 on: October 05, 2013, 03:19:43 AM »