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The best protection filters for lenses: UV, skylight and protective filters for cameras

best protection filters for lenses: UV, skylight and protective filters for cameras
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The best protection filters for lenses are inexpensive pieces of glass; you can generally pick them up for very little money. What they offer, however, is arguably priceless, and that's peace of mind. They are the first line of defence for your lens, and if you take a tumble on the rocks, this £10 piece of glass may be the one thing that saves you from a four-figure repair bill.

A good protection filter is better than relying on a lens hood when out and about, or than relying on a jumble of clothes when jamming a lens into a suitcase (don't pretend you've never done it). Lens hoods won't protect against sand and grit scratching the front element of a lens; protective filters will.

There are plenty of different types. It's possible to get simple clear protective filters with no other function, however, you can also opt for a two-in-one option. The most common is the UV filter, which stems from the days of film, when it was used to block out ultraviolet light to prevent blue colour cast and haze issues when shooting faraway subjects in daylight.

This is less of a problem than it used to be. Digital sensors aren't sensitive to UV in the way that film is, so UV filters are now mainly just used to protect the lens. Similarly, in the days of film cameras, another alternative to UV filters was a skylight filter. The aim was similar – to deliver natural-looking colours, prevent shots having a blue tinge, or warm a shot up with a warm pink, orange or magenta hue.

These functions are all less necessary in the digital age, but these filters certainly won't do any harm, and as mentioned, if the worst should happen and you drop your kit, you'll count yourself lucky if the cheap filter is ruined in place of the expensive lens.

With the above in mind here are the best skylight filters, UV filters and protective filters we could find for photographers right now…

best protection filters for lenses: UV, skylight and protective filters for cameras

(Image credit: K&F)

1. K&F Concept UV Filter Ultra Slim

A slim, inexpensive and durably made filter, this is a winner

Thread diameter range: From 37mm to 82mm | Thickness: 3mm

Ultra slim and inexpensive
Made from aluminum
Not much wrong here!

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.

(Image credit: Amazon)

2. AmazonBasics UV Protection Filter

One of the cheapest around, this filter is a solid bargain

Thread diameter range: From 52mm to 82mm

Extremely cheap
Perfectly functional
Says "Basic" on the side
Limited thread range

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.

(Image credit: Hoya)

3. Hoya UV Digital HMC Screw-in Filter

A slender filter to keep on at all times, this works for all users

Thread diameter range: From 37mm up to 95mm

Multi-coated surface
Slim profile
Larger sizes get pricey
Other brands are cheaper

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. 

(Image credit: Hoya)

4. Hoya UV HD3 filter

The filter with most sophisticated coatings, but it comes at a price

Thread diameter range: From 49mm to 82mm

Anti-smudge coating
Nano coating 800x stronger
Expensive
Possibly overkill

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.

(Image credit: Gobe)

5. Gobe UV Lens Filter

A great mid-price filter, and the makers plant trees when you buy them!

Thread diameter range: From 37mm to 95mm

16-layer nano coating
Blocks 99.8% of UV light
Eco-conscious makers
Lesser-known brand

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.

(Image credit: Hoya)

6. Hoya HMC Skylight 1B

A good way to make skies look a little more natural, especially for film

Thread diameter range: From 46mm to 82mm

Lots of thread sizes 
Protects against lens flare
Less necessary for digital

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.

(Image credit: Tiffen)

7. Tiffen UV Protector filter

Good for incorporating into a filter setup, this Tiffen UV slots right in

Thread diameter range: From 25mm to 86mm | Thickness: 2.5cm

Inexpensive 
Pairs with other filters
Thicker than others 

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.

Read more:

10 things you need to know about camera filters – and which ones to buy
The best ND grad filters
• The best polarizing filters
• The best neutral density filters
Best variable ND filters
• The 50 best camera accessories right now
5 tips for choosing and using… polarizing filters