You’ve just spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on a lens. The glass is pristine, and you want to keep it that way, so the moment it arrives, you affix another piece of glass to the front element. After all, if something gets scratched, better the less expensive filter than the multi-hundred dollar lens, right?
I used to think so.
I’ve spend hundreds of dollars on filters over the years. I thought it was a worthwhile investment at the time, but I’ve changed my tune and I’d like to share my reasoning with you. Maybe you’re an avid user of protective filters (the standard UV filter being the most common) and you’re only reading this because you saw the title and can’t wait to give me a piece of your mind. That’s cool. I welcome differing opinions. How else are we supposed to learn and grow? It’s those differing opinions that changed my mind. See, I was the person described in the first paragraph. I always put filters on my lenses, pretty much the moment I unboxed them. But no more.
To begin with, lens glass is sturdier than you think. Lens manufacturers are well aware of the abuse gear takes and they put it through its paces before it ever hits the shelves. Unless you’re storing your lens in a bag, sans lens cap, surrounded by things like your car keys and loose change, you’re unlikely to scratch it. If you keep it strapped to your person as you’re walking around, using the lens hood (most lenses come with one) will offer sufficient protection from bumps and such. Maybe you hate lens caps and lens hoods…well, maybe you’re asking for your lens to get scratched then. Is that harsh? Sorry. Ish. I mean, you have to use common sense here, but if you do, your lens is well built and can withstand normal use.
Which brings us to the fact that your lens is precision made and will produce the best results as is. A protective filter does not add to the optical quality of the glass. It doesn’t improve your images. I can’t say it lessens the quality of your images either, however, just to be fair. I don’t feel like my filters took away from my images when I purchased high quality filters. In my experience, using cheap filters does degrade the quality and also introduces other annoyances like ghosting.
Oh, but if you only purchase high quality filters, you’re adding an additional $50-$100 to the cost of EACH LENS. Why each lens? Well, because filter thread sizes are specific. You can’t necessarily buy just one filter and have it work across the board. And tacking on that extra cost to each lens adds up quick.
Not only does it add up, but you don’t recoup the cost of it. If you decide to sell the lens in the future, the filter adds no value. A private party buyer may appreciate it, but if you sell to a reputable reseller like KEH, MBP, B&H (I just noticed how many of these places only use letters in their name…), they’ll actually ask you not to send the filters. They know they have no value and so would rather not mess with them.
As I sit typing this, I have six unused filters in my drawers. They probably cost me about $250 and not one of them fits the two lenses I currently own. And guess what? Not one of them has even the slightest scratch on it. (Unlike my desk apparently). They weren’t needed to protect my lenses after all.
And so, my filter buying days are over. I’d rather invest that money elsewhere. In fact, I just bought an “UGLY” rated lens from KEH for significantly less at only $190! (Spoiler: it’s pristine, it simply didn’t come with front or rear caps or a hood). I think that’s a much better use of my hard earned money.
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