The best protection filters don't need to do anything at all except take the bangs, knocks and scratches that might otherwise wreck a very expensive lens! Simply put, they're one of the most affordable ways to give your lens an extra layer of protection from damage. Lenses are precious, fragile and often expensive – and if something has to get cracked against the ground, wouldn't you rather it was a $20 filter than the front element of a $1000 lens? Yep. We thought so.
Protective filters can serve other purposes too. Some are simply clear pieces of glass that have no other function, but you can also get a UV filter, which is designed to block out unwanted ultraviolent light to reduce the level of haze in an image. This is something of a holdover from the days of film, and is considerably less necessary when using digital sensors, but can still come in handy and certainly doesn't hurt.
You can also consider using one of the best polarizing filters as a protective filter, though this will cost more than a clear or UV filter. Another alternative is a skylight filter; these also date back to the film era, and were originally used to warm up images with a pink, orange or magenta colour cast, to prevent them coming out too blue. Significantly less necessary in the era of custom white balance and RAW format, skylight filters now make great protective filters.
A lens protection filter is a far better option than just using a lens hood. The front element is a hugely important component, and if you're shooting out in rough conditions, grit and dirt can easily scratch it.
One of the best protection filters is far better than shoving on a lens hood and hoping for the best – or leaving your glass naked. While lens hoods do provide a level of protection, it's still easy for sand or grit to scratch the front element. However, the best protection filters will prevent small, troublesome particles from reaching the glass.
No matter what variety you'd like to invest in, you can discover the best protection filters, UV filters and skylight filters below…
The best protection filters
Japanese optical excellence yet affordability is one of the core pitches for this slimline protective UV filter.
Another claim is that the multi-coated filter allows for 99% transmittance compared with circa 90% transmittance of most UV filters on the market. Given the price of this one we’re not going to quibble, especially when the threaded front element of its aluminum frame conveniently allows for a lens cap to be fixed for another layer of protection still.
Naturally the multi-coated glass here prevents the harmful effect of UV rays and eliminates haze that can result in a blu-ish cast. Promising top-level light transmittance, optimum clarity and color fidelity with it, it does feel like you can’t go wrong with this one.
While UV filters can be thought of as cheap, disposable things (see our next entry for an instance thereof), one new company is choosing to think of them more sustainably. Urth is a company that makes a variety of premium, high-grade filters, and its protective UV filter is a great choice for those who want the UV component of the filter as much as the protective aspect of it.
The Urth UV Filter Plus+ is a premium product, capable of cutting out up to 99.6% of ultraviolet light. Its German B270 SCHOTT glass is protecting by 30 layers of nano-coating, meaning it's easy to clean and is well protected against water, dirt, oil and other smudges, while also providing top-notch light transmission. The size range from 37mm to 95mm filter thread also means you're all but guaranteed to find a size that fits your lens.
Urth also plants trees for every purchase of its filters, giving your choice a real impact. Though all this does mean these cost more than a lot of other options out there.
Part of Amazon's "AmazonBasics" range, this UV protective filter will suit everyone who doesn't mind using a bit of kit with "Basics" written on it in bright white letters. It's no frills and nothing special, lacking the aluminium frame of the K&F Concept filter, or the sophisticated coatings of the Hoya UV HD3 filter further down this list, but it's cheap and it works.
The thread range only goes down to 52mm, while others on this list go down to 37mm, so make sure to double-check your lens before hitting the "Buy" button, but otherwise, you're good to go here.
We’ve picked this slim profile example because Hoya claims its Digital HMC filter range is optimized for use with digital SLRs, while also being suitable for use with 35mm SLRs, and perfect also for black and white photography.
Covering all bases then, this is a multi-purpose fine-weather filter available in a broad range of sizes from 37mm up to 95mm (incrementally increasing in price).
Although it is designed to block UV light, the manufacturer also advises that it’s safe to keep this filter on your lens at all times for added protection. Manufactured using heat-resistant tempered glass, the multi-coated surface is said to suppress ghosting, flare and reflections whilst increasing light transmission.
This top-of-range protective UV filter is aimed at users of the latest-generation digital cameras boasting high megapixel counts – and with a bigger price tag to match.
More positively, as well as being one of the more recently released examples available, the ‘HD3’ has had a whopping 32 layers of anti reflective coating applied to its optical UV glass.
Hoya also says its ultra smooth nano coating is 800% harder than the previous generation HD2 series, thereby delivering a high level of lens protection and cleanliness. It has an anti-static top layer that is water repellent, stain and scratch resistant, while any smudges or fingerprints are easily wiped clean.
Yielding a 99.7% light transmission rate, the filter is said to have no adverse effect on colour balance, contrast or clarity, while a lifetime limited warranty introduces extra peace of mind.
Available on both sides of the Atlantic and claimed to be ideal for telephoto and professional lenses, Gobe may be a less familiar name to some. But this mid-priced UV filter which claims to cut out 99.8% of ultraviolet light, features premium German Schott B270 optical glass that purports to be able to achieve the sharpest images, while also reducing haze.
Naturally, its other key property is protecting the lens from water, dirt and scratches. Gobe claims its filters will have no effect on digital cameras’ exposure settings, so users can happily keep the filter on their lenses at all times.
As an added extra for the climate conscious among us, Gobe is promising to plant five trees for each of its products sold.
Another filter option available in a broad range of thread sizes, enabling photographers to increase light transmission and suppress reflections, while protecting precious and expensive lenses from dust, moisture and scratches.
Here we also get multi coating to help protect against lens flare and ghosting, whilst Hoya claims it can reduce the excessive bluish-ness that can occur in outdoor color photography – especially with a clear blue sky.
Whether or not this warrants consideration if you’re shooting with a digital camera – as opposed to film – is up for debate as we noted in our introduction, but at least here we have a ready-made and inexpensive disc with which to protect our expensive lenses with into the bargain.
An inexpensive general means of protecting your lens from filter stalwart Tiffen, this one comes with a ten-year warranty and once again is designed to reduce the blue-ish cast of daylight, while helping to absorb ultraviolet light.
Tiffen adds that this filter, in particular, is useful if taking photographs at high altitude or around bodies of water. Another bonus is that since the filter features no additional colouration or contrast, this Tiffen option can be paired with other filters, if so desired.
An inexpensive option that many may consider good value because of it.
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