Do Filters Affect the Resolution of Lenses?

Just like the old “film vs digital” or the “Nikon vs Canon” debates, lens filters often create endless discussions on the Internet. Some people argue that one should never use protective filters, since it is another piece of glass in front of the lens that reduces resolution and emphasizes other optical problems such as ghosting / flare, while others argue that filters make it easier to protect the front element of the lens and make it easier to clean that element. I personally have been recommending use of protective filters for years, as long as they are of high quality. The filters that I have been using do not seem to affect the resolving power of lenses they are mounted on and mostly do not seem to heavily affect ghosting / flare either. Having spent the last couple of weeks in a lab testing many lenses, I wondered if I could actually measure the resolution of a lens with and without a filter. I recently purchased a used lens that came with a crappy plastic filter, so I decided to run two separate scenarios – one without a filter, one with a high quality B+W filter (more on B+W products below) and one with a cheap plastic filter. The results of the study came out very interesting!

Filters to Use or Not to Use

Armed with the Imatest software, I first measured the sharpness of the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II lens, which is usually my reference lens for telephoto sharpness. The focal length was roughly 150mm and the aperture was set to f/5.6, which is the sweet spot of the lens. I then mounted a high-quality 77mm filter by B+W and did it again. Here is the result of Imatest measurements:

If you look at the above charts, they look pretty much identical. There is a slight variance in numbers, but that’s expected when going from one image to another – Imatest scores can be slightly different even when you do not change anything. Judging from the above case, using a high quality filter does not affect the resolving power of the lens at all. This is a good scientific proof for those that claim that all protective filters decrease resolution. Myth debunked!

Let’s now move to a second case scenario. What if you were to use a cheap, low-quality filter? As I have mentioned above, I recently purchased a used lens – the Nikon 55mm f/2.8 AIS that came with a cheap plastic filter (more on this project on a separate post). So it was a perfect case scenario to see what the resolution would look like with and without the cheap filter. Let’s take a look at what Imatest measured (shot wide open at f/2.8):

Now this is an interesting result. Looks like using a cheap filter does indeed affect lens resolution. There is about a 10% drop in resolving power across the frame! And I am sure, if I were to take this lens and shoot it against the sun, this particular filter would surely make ghosts and flares appear worse.

Summary

This was an interesting study, because it proved that high quality filters have no affect at all on lens resolution. If you keep them clean and in good shape, they also do not affect the ghosting and flare properties of the lens. You might see a little more ghosting/flare on some filters, but if it annoys you, simply dismount the filter and put it back on once you are done shooting against the sun. It is not like you would shoot against bright light every day right? From my experience, the multi-coated B+W filters have no affect on ghosting/flare, so I never bother to dismount filters when shooting against the sun.

At the same time, make sure that you are not using cheap, low-quality filters. As you can see from this article, cheap filters do indeed affect the resolution of the lens and they can seriously affect the ghosting and flare properties of the lens. I have seen reduced contrast and really nasty ghosting / flare with cheap filters before, so I have learned my lesson on not buying those.

Filter Recommendations

If you are looking for recommendations on what filters to use, I have been a huge fan of B+W filters. All filters that I buy (neutral density, polarizing, clear) are B+W brand. They are made of high quality glass and they are manufactured in Germany – so you can expect the best performance from them. A key feature you should always look for in high quality filters is MRC, which stands for “Multi-resistant coating”. No matter what brand you go with, always make sure that the filter comes with this particular coating. This anti-reflection coating is the key to getting little or no additional ghosting/flare in your photos.

The one I usually get for pro-grade lenses is the B+W 77mm UV Haze MRC 010M Filter. At $72, it is not a cheap filter, but it is worth it as you can see from the above test results. I have been using this particular filter for several years now. The last thing you want to do is mount a $10 filter on a lens worth hundreds, if not thousands of dollars! There is a new XS-Pro version of the above filter, which is slightly more expensive at $87 (adds nano coating), but I doubt that it will make a huge difference. I have purchased a couple of those recently and I cannot say that they are better in any way. Note that UV protection is not needed on digital cameras, because sensors have a built-in UV filter. So when you mount a UV filter on a modern DSLR, it simply acts as a clear filter. So either buy a UV or a clear filter – both should be as good.

Obviously, you have to choose the right filter size for each lens you own. The above links are for lenses with 77mm threads, so if you need another size, simply type something like “B+W 67mm MRC” in the search box at B&H and you will find a clear filter quickly. You will see that as the size of the filter get smaller, the price of the filter is reduced as well. For example, a 67mm B+W MRC filter costs around $43, which is significantly cheaper than the 77mm filter.

If you do not know much about filters, I wrote a detailed article on using lens filters. Give it a read – it is pretty extensive and covers all of the above-mentioned filters.

Comments

  1. 1
    ) ken
    August 29, 2013 at 3:36 am

    Thanks for the findings. Any experience on Hoya HD filter?

    • August 29, 2013 at 3:55 am

      Ken, I have heard good things about Hoya, but I have not personally used them in the past. It would be interesting to compare Hoya HD to B+W and see if there is any resolution drop…

      • 15
        ) Max
        August 29, 2013 at 8:31 am

        Hoya HD is easy to clean and are not a magnet to dirt as B+W which hard to clean

        • August 29, 2013 at 2:34 pm

          Max, I think the new “nano” versions of B+W filters are specifically made not to attract dust. Hoya pro stuff should be very good though – I only heard good things about them.

  2. 2
    ) Saleh Alahmar
    August 29, 2013 at 3:38 am

    Thank you very much brother Nasim

    What about the original Nikon filters?
    Why You avoiding talking about it in all of your articles?
    :)

    • August 29, 2013 at 3:56 am

      Saleh, you are most welcome! I do not remember avoiding talking about Nikon filters – I have just not used them personally to talk about them. They should be pretty good too, but I doubt they are as nice as the B+W brand. It is hard to find info on them – I don’t even know if they are MRC coated or not. If they are not, I would avoid using them.

      • August 29, 2013 at 7:36 am

        Yes they are (multicoated) and about the same price as B&W – I use Nikon NC 77mm filters on 16-35, 24-120 and 70-200 on D800 – never had a problem. I would think that flare is going to be a problem with or without filter if you are not going to use the supplied hood – that is what they are for! That said the N coating on Nikkors does make a difference in this regard.

        • August 29, 2013 at 2:35 pm

          Fred, flare happens with and without lens hoods – typically it is a result of internal reflection. If you photographed a bright source of light at night, you might see some flare and ghosting as well – and that’s shooting the target directly.

      • August 29, 2013 at 3:23 pm

        I use either B+W UV or Nikon Protect filters on all my lenses. Can’t see any difference.

  3. 3
    ) Pascal
    August 29, 2013 at 3:39 am

    Very interesting indeed!
    I stopped using protective filters ever since I had a case where I got some flare on a 17-55 f2.8 (in my DX days). It turned out that the flare was caused by the protective filter because it was gone as soon as i removed it. I used a high quality and expensive B+W with MRC coating. Since that day I no longer use these and I honestly don’t see the point for such filters. I take great care in handling my gear and the sun hoods do provide an additional layer of protection (against bumping into things).

    • August 29, 2013 at 4:00 am

      Pascal, your filter was probably dirty – that would certainly add more flare to the image. Also, you can find some really cheap B+W on the Internet. Those are all fake (made in China) and have really bad performance characteristics. As for protection, a filter is not just for protecting against bumps – I use filters, because they are much easier to clean. This is especially true for lenses with recessed front elements…

    • 58
      ) C
      August 31, 2013 at 9:35 am

      I agree with you. I stop using filter since once shot that has horrible ghost in a wedding event. The ghost completely destroyed the absolutely nice photo in which the bride touched and burst into tears. It took me some days to remove the ghost using PS but it is still not perfect.

      From that time I do not use any filter.

      I found no difficulty in clean the lenses and I have been using dslr for >10 years and found no problem in the front elements of the lenses without so-called “protective” filter.

      Therefore, the protective filter does not protect the lenses, does not make the lenses difficult to clean, and it does increase the size, and cost more money. I just do not see any value of the filters, provided that you are experienced in taking care of your lenses.

  4. 7
    ) Puneet Verma
    August 29, 2013 at 4:12 am

    Hi Nasim,
    Thank you for sharing your study and bursting the myth about use of filters.
    On another note, your tutorial on IR is truely inspirational. I will be trying it soon on my visit to Himalayas this October during a trekking trip. Regards, Puneet

    • August 29, 2013 at 2:35 pm

      Thank you for your feedback! Yes, Bob did a great job with that article and he is a phenomenal infrared photographer.

  5. 8
    ) Fearless
    August 29, 2013 at 5:05 am

    Great, review and considerations.
    I totally agrre with Nasim. PRO filter good, cheap filter not good! :D

    In past I used different filter, on different lens. Now on my 17-35 (tokina) – 28 – 50 – 85 (nikon 1.8g) I use hoya HD and Nikon NC filters. They are booth good filter, little difference in price, but great performance.

    You can find a deep comparision here on my flickr:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/merola_r/sets/72157634553406200/with/9159874297/

    I compare different situation with no filter -> hoya filter -> nikon filter.

  6. 9
    ) Sid
    August 29, 2013 at 5:17 am

    Hi Nasim,

    I’ve been taking photographs of the moon using my Nikon 70-300 lens for quite a while. I’ve found out that photos of the moon without the UV filter are noticeably sharper (@100%)compared to the ones taken with it. My photos are taken with a sturdy tripod + mirror up mode + remote release so Im pretty sure the quality has nothing to do with camera shake. I use Hoya Multicoated UV filters for my 70-300. Would you consider this filter as a “cheap filter”? It costs around $20.

    • August 29, 2013 at 2:38 pm

      Sid, I think there is a variety of Hoya filters out there, some of them are fake. If the photos turn out to be sharper without a filter, you might have a bad/cheap one. Like I have shown in this article, a good filter should never affect the resolving power of the lens.

      • 72
        ) whisky
        September 7, 2013 at 1:15 pm

        an interesting subject. i might add it’s not just the filter, but the number of air to glass layers which affect resolving power. you can test this by stacking 2~3 hiqh quality filters in front of your lens. other variables include misalignment, thickness of the glass, temperature, humidity, coatings, and impurities.

        kodak’s thriftier wratten gels optically performed better than most glass filters, but were consumables affected by handling and humidity. furthermore, they offered little to no protection against the elements.

        one benefit to nikon filters on nikon glass is they matched the coatings and properties of the glass closely with their lens designs. this could significantly reduce interference patterns caused by atypical lighting — but bears more significance to scientifically controlled photography than general purpose.

  7. August 29, 2013 at 6:18 am

    Over the past 30 years, I have destroyed countless protection filters on the fronts of my lenses, from dropping them or something. It is a lot cheaper to replace a filter than the front element of a lens I use everyday. As Nasim says, if it is a good quality filter, there should be no problem. Remember to keep it clean.

    I think some people get too absorbed in minute things and miss the big picture. If you get a scratch on the front element of a 70-200 2.8 and have to ship it off to get fixed, that costs a lot of money AND you are not able to use that lens. As a working person, that does not add up.

    By the way, I really like your website. Keep up the good work, Nasim!

  8. 11
    ) Neil
    August 29, 2013 at 7:10 am

    I’m curious, why use a UV filter specifically when a No-Color filter wouldn’t introduce any possible color casts in various environmental situations. I think the choice of a filter as protective is definitely a personal choice. If a lens is insured then it really doesn’t buy you anything. And there is also the issue that the front element is the cheapest to replace and if you banged the lens just right the filter may get stuck to the lens.

    I’m not against people using filters as protection but to also bring up the other considerations. Good care and insurance is always the best way to start protecting a lens.

    • August 29, 2013 at 2:45 pm

      Neil, UV filters are not needed on digital sensors – they were only relevant in film days. Just ignore the “UV” title, as it does nothing. Just a clear filter, that’s all. B+W sells a variety of filters, some called UV, others called clear. As far as I know, there is no difference between those (I have used both) and I have never seen my filters introduce color casts to photos. And you are absolutely right – using protective filters is definitely a personal choice!

  9. 13
    ) David B
    August 29, 2013 at 7:58 am

    I have good experience with using multicoated filters by B+W, Marumi (very thin and light filters from Japan), Hoya and Kenko. I’ve used some CP filters from other manufacturers with success but I think the above 4 manufacturers are pretty safe.

    • August 29, 2013 at 2:46 pm

      David, I have heard good things about the brands you’ve mentioned. Not very knowledgeable about Kenko, but I know they make nice extension tubes and teleconverters.

  10. 14
    ) Richard
    August 29, 2013 at 8:17 am

    Thanks and an interesting review Nasim.

    On the basis that UV or Sunlight filters have no effect on digital cameras as the sensors already have filtering capabilities, I use the higher end clear protection filters from the Hoya pro range. I do have some older pro UV/Skylight filters and use them occasionally on my 35mm Nikon film cameras.

    Richard

    • August 29, 2013 at 2:47 pm

      Richard, you are right – digital sensors already have UV protection. Which is why the title “UV” does not do anything, so you can use those just as well as clear filters.

    • 55
      ) Flores
      August 30, 2013 at 9:31 am

      “Skylight” filters usually induce some color casting (pink/brown). Good quality UV and clear (protective) filters do not.

  11. August 29, 2013 at 9:34 am

    Thanks for this! Will share. You’ve confirmed what I’ve felt for years, and have debated with other photogs who don’t use filters. I’ve used Nikon filters for decades and they’re very good, but I generally buy B&W also now. I absolutely will not take a chance and use a $2000 lens “naked” w/o filter … they are cheap insurance, and then I don’t hesitate using my t-shirt to clean the lens :) Did I just say that?

    • August 29, 2013 at 2:48 pm

      Patrick, I fully agree! I often clean filters with my t-shirt myself, LOL. And despite what anyone says, I have no problem with breathing on the lens and then wiping it :) I would probably not do it on the front element directly, but having the filter gives me a piece of mind.

  12. 17
    ) Robert
    August 29, 2013 at 9:35 am

    Why did you measure the expensive filter at f5.6 and the cheap filter at f2.8? I’d say that pretty much invalidates the results. The expensive filter might show the same drop off at f2.8.

    • 22
      ) Neil
      August 29, 2013 at 11:01 am

      The aperture doesn’t matter. Only the difference between using a filter and not. He tested at f2.8 without a filter and 2.8 with cheap filter. Perfectly valid.

    • August 29, 2013 at 2:50 pm

      Robert, not really – I actually measured all apertures on both lenses. Could have given f/5.6 from the 55mm, which pretty much shows the same picture as wide open – sharpness is degraded with a cheap filter. I wish I had a cheap/crappy 77mm filter to do this all on the same lens, but unfortunately I do not.

  13. 18
    ) Peter Looper
    August 29, 2013 at 9:37 am

    I use a selection of high quality filters, mostly Hoya Pro-1D UV, a B&W 67mm polariser and a Hoya HD 77mm. I have had no problems with any of these quality brands.

  14. 19
    ) StevenP
    August 29, 2013 at 9:44 am

    If you spend $2K on a lens, why would you buy a $40 filter? Quality matters in your glass, it should also matter on the filter your choose.
    I have used Hoya, B&W and Kenko and find them all great quality. Lately I have been moved to Singh-Ray and find that the results are incredible. They are expensive however, but worth every penny.

    • August 29, 2013 at 2:51 pm

      Absolutely agreed! Singh-Ray is phenomenal and I personally own their warming polarizer, along with some 4×6 filters. Great stuff, but very pricey :)

      • 53
        ) StevenP
        August 30, 2013 at 8:22 am

        My wife swears by her LB Color Combo (warming polarizer) and we have various others including the Hi-Lux, Blue/Gold (fun) and the Vari-NB Duo and GND filters. I would love to have more, but its a gradual move to bankruptcy not a race.

  15. August 29, 2013 at 10:43 am

    Thanks for the testing and debunking of the myth. I have mentioned both sides in my Photography classes I teach at the college level. I have always been purchasing higher quality filters for the expensive lenses. I agree with StevenP–make the investment not just on the lens.

  16. August 29, 2013 at 10:50 am

    My Hoya UV filters have given me good service but a couple of cheap ND filters used recently gave very bad picture quality SOOC. Will have to see if I can recover some of that in post-processing.

    • August 29, 2013 at 2:53 pm

      Kumar, hard to recover decreased resolution and contrast in images…I hope you’ve learned the lesson! I have done that myself in the past and I will never go back to cheap/crappy filters.

  17. 23
    ) Art
    August 29, 2013 at 11:07 am

    Thanks for the greatwebsite and the information on it.
    IMHO I will not put a filter on any of my lenses unless it for a specific purpose such as a polarizer, ND or a Graduated ND. Why even invite the chance of the loss of contrast, ghosting or flare by putting another glass air interface in front of the sensor or film (unless that is effect you desire). Digital cameras or todays film do not require UV filtration, so that leaves only one reason to put a Neutral Color filter on a lens; “protection of the lens front element”. In most cases I find that a lens hood provides better protection than a filter does except when I shoot motocross (lots of mud) or in an environment unfriendly to my front element, then I will use an NC filter to prevent damage to my lens.
    Recently I was using a lens with a ND filter on it (24mm PC-E) that I dropped and when the filter broke the glass from it deeply scratched the front element making the lens useless and also the filter ring was dented. That repair set me back a few bucks and if the filter was not on it I doubt that the front element would have sustained such severe damage. I may have been unable to mount filters but I still could have used the lens. Another thing to be careful of is vignetting on wide angle lenses, my 16-35 F4 will vignette at 16mm even with the thinnest of filters mounted on it, so if you have an NC filter on it and you want to add another filter such as a ND and forget to take the NC filter off first you will be cropping to remove the dark corners.
    So unless you shoot in unfriendly environments with lots of airborne dirt, grit, or something that could ruin your day put that money you would have spent on a NC filter into something useful like a good grad, polarizer, or ND filter which will improve your images and makephotography more interesting than something that really does nothing.

    Regards,
    Art

    • August 29, 2013 at 1:36 pm

      Agreed! The biggest issue for me with filters is ghosting and flaring due to additional panes of glass, which this study does not address. Secondly, as a landscape photographer, the testing at f/2.8 and f/5.6 are pretty much meaningless for me. I can shoot through blades of grass at those apertures without affecting the IQ! Think of the amount of sensor dust that appears in an image shot at f/16 versus f/2.8… aka a ton (potentially) versus none at all. Any and all affects will be far more pronounced at smaller apertures, so I’d like to see results for those.

      • August 29, 2013 at 3:07 pm

        Matt, I measured the entire range of apertures using Imatest – I can publish the rest of the result as well, just did not want to overwhelm this article with too many graphs. One thing to keep in mind as far as optics, is that the front element has very little effect on image quality overall, even when stopped down. This 10% drop in quality just shows how bad the plastic filter is and probably represents the worst case scenario. And if you stop down, image quality does not get worse – it actually gets a little better. That’s because beams of light enter the lens through different directions and very little actually shows up in the final image. If you were to put a lot of dust on the front element of the lens, you will be surprised that the image will look OK, just some decreased contrast. In fact, you have probably seen “DYI bokeh” articles on the Internet, which show that you can cut different shapes out of paper and attach them to the front of the lens. While less light will make it through the camera, you will still see the whole image, not just the cut out shape – that’s because light still enters the lens and spreads in all directions, even though the opening is 10+ times smaller.

        What truly does affect the performance of the lens is the rear element – that’s where things could get real bad. Make that rear element dirty or temporarily attach a small particle to it and you will see it in your image. Stop it down and you will see a really nasty blob! Check out this article on the affect of dust on bokeh – I wrote that a while ago. If I stopped down the lens to f/16, it would be almost similar to having dust on the sensor.

    • August 29, 2013 at 2:59 pm

      Art, simple answer – protection and easier cleaning. For me, those two are worth adding a filter in front of the lens. Too bad that your 24mm PC-E got damaged so badly due to the filters. I often hear stories about filters saving lenses and this is the first time I hear a story that a filter made the damage worse. I guess that happens too!

      As for vignetting, yes, that’s absolutely true – you have to be careful about vignetting on ultra wide angle lenses. The 16-35mm vignettes even without a filter, so I would avoid using one. When I used a polarizing filter on this lens, I had to chop off the corners, because they were too dark to recover. So it certainly should go on a case by case basis.

  18. 24
    ) Serkan
    August 29, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    As an expert in physics, particularly in optics with a PhD, I can say there are two possible reasons why a filter might reduce the resolving power of an optical system (i.e. sharpness of your lens)

    1. the surface roughness of the glass on the filter
    Surface may seem smooth to your eye, but in nanometer level it has “valleys and mountains” all over it. This roughness diffuses the light therefore your sharpness is reduced. Surface polishing is a relatively expensive and time consuming process.This also causes flares and ghosting. I assume this is the main reason why the cheap filters do worse.

    2. Birefringence
    The glass itself may refract the light differently depending on the angle it passes the filter. This is called “Birefringence”. Normally, these kinds of materials are more expensive then regular glass. It is very unlikely to have these on any kind of filter. However if filter glass is made of some sort of a polymer (i.e. plastic) they might have some level of bireringence which reduces the sharpness further. But this probably minor compared to the surface roughness.

    In conclusion technically anything that you put in front of your lens will reduce the sharpness. However, the amount will depend on how good is that thing made. With a good filter probably no one will notice any difference. After all we are judging by the image from the sensor which has limitations too.

    Best

    • August 29, 2013 at 3:24 pm

      Serkan, awesome stuff, great to hear from an expert in physics!

  19. 26
    ) Frank Jr.
    August 29, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    Great article Nasim,
    I use B+W XS-Pro Clear MRC-Nano 007 filters on all my lenses. Heliopan makes excellent filters as well.
    Both feature a brass mounting ring. Most others are made of aluminum. On some lenses I even use a rear mounted filter. When necessary I would much rather clean a filter than the actual lens glass.

    • August 29, 2013 at 3:24 pm

      Frank, those are great filters, no doubt! Thanks for sharing.

  20. 27
    ) HomoSapiensWannaBe
    August 29, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    Nasim,
    Advantages of nano coated B&W filters include: they are more “slippery” than regular single or multi-coatings and much easier to clean, they resist fingerprints (ever touch your CPL while adjusting it with the hood mounted?), and water and mist simply beads up and rolls off or is very easy to blot away. Marumi also have very high quality filters, but they are not available from B&H.

    Are you planning to test the new B&W XS-Pro Digital ND Vario 1-5 stop MRC nano filters just arrived at B&H? They are much more reasonable in price than Schneider and Heliopan variable ND filters.

    • August 29, 2013 at 3:27 pm

      Thank you for clarifying the nano coated filters! I have not really noticed much difference between those and the old filters, but now that you have said it, I have to check it out :)

      As for the ND Vario filter, I have not seen it yet, so would love to test it!

  21. August 29, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    Good article, thanks.

    I’ve been a big fan of B+W filters for many years. In addition to their excellent optical properties, the filter ring is machined brass which is far less prone to jammed threads than aluminum. I usually run a fine mechanical pencil lead around the filter threads whenever I get a new filter to add a bit of extra insurance.

    My own tests show no visible deterioration in images when using B+W filters. If anyone is worried about getting maximum resolution, processing software that re-writes pixels, (e.g. lens correction or chromatic aberration removal) has a very visible impact, especially on high performance lenses. Maybe a test topic for the future?

  22. 50
    ) Paul Digney
    August 30, 2013 at 7:17 am

    Plastic?
    I’ve never seen a filter that was obviously plastic. There are very cheap (1/5th BW price) glass filters. It might be a much more reasonable test to try one of those against the higher priced filters. It seems to me (with limited knowledge) that it is obvious that a plastic layer in there would mess things up. I’m only surprised that it only measured at 10 %.

    • 51
      ) StevenP
      August 30, 2013 at 8:19 am

      Most of the Gradual Neutral Density filters are made from resin when they are produced in the 4×6 (100x150mm) size. Its high-quality resin and as these are from manufacturers such as Lee Filters, or Singh-Ray it would not be inferior in any way.
      I am sure there are cheap, plastic filters out there but most of the common brands, Hoya, Tiffen, B&W, Kenko etc are all high-quality (lens-quality) glass.

      • 52
        ) StevenP
        August 30, 2013 at 8:20 am

        Oops, meant Graduated (not Gradual). Still early for me.

      • 57
        ) Paul Digney
        August 30, 2013 at 11:10 am

        Yes, I guess there are cheap, nasty plastic filters around. What interests me is the cut off between effectively zero % sharpness loss (as Nasim’s excellent work shows) and 1 or 2 or 3 %. Do you have a choice of only the highest quality glass with near zero loss or cheap and nasty at 10%. If this is like almost everything else you can buy there is a wider range of choices available. And if it is like everything else half of the money in the highest end is wasted because they aren’t better than other cheaper options. Comparing the best and the worst doesn’t help since it is also a universal (almost :) ) rule that there is always a really cheap and useless alternative for almost everything so I’d expect the worst to be a poor purchase.

  23. 54
    ) Jason
    August 30, 2013 at 9:29 am

    Interesting article. I think another question that needs to be asked is how much does a UV filter really protect the lens? If you were to hit front of the filter hard enough, it could shatter and send glass back into the front element. From what I understand, glass scratches glass pretty well. Plus, at the right angle, whatever you hit the filter on could go right through the filter and still impact the front element. I guess I see the value in paying money for a high quality filter in order to “protect” the lens. Using the lens hood seems like a much better (and cheaper) alternative.

    • 56
      ) Flores
      August 30, 2013 at 9:49 am

      I use protective filters in harsh environments, particularly when expecting salt water projections. Like Nasim says it’s easier to remove the filter to clean up than cleaning the front element of most lenses. I do confess I only use protective filters in those conditions. Now polarizer, NDs and graduated filters are another story…

  24. 59
    ) Randall
    August 31, 2013 at 7:16 pm

    Nikon introducing a D610? Nasim I need your thoughts on this??? Does my D600 need to get on ebay ASAP? LOL

    • September 3, 2013 at 11:52 am

      Randall, it is hard to say if the rumors are true. I personally doubt that we will see a D610 – I am still hoping to see the D400! :)

      • 65
        ) Randall
        September 3, 2013 at 5:37 pm

        My guess is d4 sensor and d7100 autofocus but still handicapped in some obscure way as to no eat into d4 sales. I guess we will wait and see. I think this camera was rushed in to save nikon as people really want a true d700 successor. If so bye bye to my d600. :)

  25. 60
    ) Dan
    September 1, 2013 at 8:20 am

    Nasim,

    B&H suggests that there could be a problem putting the original hood that comes with a lens on the lens if a B&W UV or Clear filter is attached to the lens. They don’t say it IS a problem. It is just a warning that it could be a problem on some lens/hood combinations.

    Since you use Nikon lenses with B&W UV filters, could you tell us if the filter makes it difficult to attach the hood that comes with the Nikon lens? Also, do any of your filters (perhaps slim B&W’s or Wide B&W’s) make it impossible to put the Nikon lens cap on the lens when the filter is attached?

    Thanks for an interesting article.

    Dan

    • September 3, 2013 at 11:34 am

      Dan, I have never had any issues attaching lens hoods on my lenses, with or without filters. I think they mean to say attaching lens caps. If you use a standard B+W filter, lens caps are not an issue. However, if you choose any of the “slim” models of filters, then you will not be able to attach the lens cap. The slim filters are for super wide angle lenses (to prevent excessive vignetting), which is why there is no room on the front of the filter.

      • 66
        ) Dan
        September 3, 2013 at 11:10 pm

        Nasim,

        Thanks for your reply. I just checked B&H Website. I thought I saw the notice about lens hoods on several of the B&W filters listed but only found one in a quick search of only 3 filters. The one with the notice is the 77mm XS Pro Clear MRC nano Filter. Below is the Note that can be found on B&H for this filter in the “Overview Tab” :

        “Note: This filter ring’s outside diameter is slightly larger than the actual thread size, and because of this you may be unable to attach the lens manufacturer’s bayonet-mounted lens hood to the lens while using this filter. This is dependent on your specific lens and how thick the front rim of the lens is; with thinner, low-profile lenses usually being affected more.”

        So, it is not just the lens cap. I did not find this warning on the non-nano versions of the clear filter. You said you tried the nano version of either the clear or the UV filter and found no difference, but did not mention any problem with the hood attaching. Do you or anyone else know about this and is it a problem for any 77mm Nikon lenses?

        Thanks for your replies and a fantastic website.

        Dan

        • September 3, 2013 at 11:38 pm

          Dan, it will depend on the lens you are trying to use. I had no problems with the 24-70mm hood, but some other hoods might be a problem if they are too tight. If you are worried about this, just get the plain, non nano version of the filter – it is just as good optically :)

          • 69
            ) Dan
            September 4, 2013 at 3:15 pm

            Thanks, Nasim. I appreciate the fast response. Your website is great.

            Dan

  26. 61
    ) Antonio Mario
    September 2, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    Nasim,

    Thanks for the very informative article.

    What filter do you use, if any, with your 500mm f/4?

    Best,

    Antonio Mario

    • September 3, 2013 at 11:35 am

      Antonio, I use the standard Nikon clear filter (slip-in) that comes with the 500mm f/4.

  27. 68
    ) Lawrence Nieland
    September 4, 2013 at 10:21 am

    Interesting test – but, IMHO – filters on, especially tele lenses, affect the focus more than the absolute resolution – but not sure if this has an implicatation with imatest ? …..Larry

  28. 70
    ) Kusdi Putro
    September 4, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    I used to put on filter to all my lens, yes good quality filter not give any effect to the pic quality. I’m not against people contras with filter lens but for my experiences and personally filter lens help me in difficult situation taking photo eg. Landscape photo in dessert very fast build dust in the front of the lens, or mist in the area of water falls. When the camera fall/droped the impact will hit the filter first and it will reduce impact to the lens but this it will not give you guarantee your camera/lens will not have effect from that accident at least already less risk to the lens.

  29. 71
    ) Steve E
    September 6, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    Great work Nasim!
    Question, what impact do think leaving on a HOYA Super HMC PRO 1 under a circular polarizer? Mine is a B&W MRC nano XS pro.
    Im using the Fuji 55-200 lens. If there no appreciable difference it would be nice not have to remove the uv filter to use the polarizer.

  30. 73
    ) StevenP
    September 7, 2013 at 5:39 pm

    On an aside, but interesting topic. We recently purchased the Canon EF 15-35mm f2.8L. Absolutely fantastic lens, but realized (post purchase) that it was an 82mm filter size. I was very disappointed, then learned that Canon had also changed the filter size on the 24-70mm f2.8 as well…both 82mm.
    We, like many people, have invested heavily in 77mm filters and are quite disappointed that they would do this, especially on a lens which would be considered a stock lens, not a speciality lens.
    I sure hope that this is not the trend…Nikon, DO NOT do this please!

    • 74
      ) StevenP
      September 7, 2013 at 5:40 pm

      I should note that we exchanged the 16-35mm for the 17-40mm (f4) for this exact reason. Am using the $800 difference to buy more filters :-)

  31. 75
    ) Sameer
    September 16, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    Nasim,
    Thanks once again for a very useful article. Was wondering – do you happen to have photos of the same thing shot from expensive filter + cheap filter? If not, is there any perceivable difference to the eye when viewed on screen or print?

    Thanks again for the great job you do on this website.

  32. 76
    ) devonte lowe
    October 1, 2013 at 9:18 am

    Great Article, was looking for something like this..

  33. 77
    ) Robert
    December 24, 2013 at 11:31 am

    I am trying to decide on a filter for my new Ultra Wide zoom = Canon EP-S 10-22mm. B&H recommends that I consider a slim filter to avoid vignetting issues. The 2 filters I am trying to decide between are the B+W 77mm UV Haze SLIM MRC 010M or the 77MM XS-PRO UV MRC-NANO (010M). I get the impression that the nano lens is also slim, but not sure whether slim enough to avoid vignetting on UWA lens. I like the idea of easy cleaning of the nano lens, and it appears it does have some threading so that the original lens cap could be used. The nano filter is also cheaper than the Slim MRC. Not sure whether either filter would allow me to use in conjunction with a lens hood. Your thoughts?

  34. 78
    ) Tuesday
    June 4, 2014 at 8:37 am

    I ordered a B+W 77mm UV Slim MRC 010 filter from an online vendor. When it arrived, I found the box was sealed only on the top side – the bottom side had no seal at all. Is it normal?

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