Why Use a UV Filter on a Camera Lens?

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In photography, a "filter" is a thin piece of glass you place over your camera lens to create image effects, enhancements and balance. Several types of filters exist, including "polarizing" filters, which help to balance wide landscape shots and "warming" or "cooling" filters, which help balance a shot's temperatures. Another type of filter, the ultraviolet or "UV" filter, is among the most used type of filters available.

Effects of UV Light

  • Ultraviolet light, known more commonly by the abbreviation "UV," is a type of light with a wavelength beyond the visible spectrum for humans. In other words, it isn't possible to see UV light with your naked eye. UV light and radiation nonetheless have several effects on humans, including the potential to damage not only your skin, but also your photographs. Namely, excessive amounts of UV light can diminish your camera's ability to capture contrast within a shot.

Anatomy of a UV Filter

  • Unlike other types of filters, which may have one or more colors, UV filters are completely clear. They're also extremely thin and screw right onto the front of your lens. As a result, it isn't evident that someone is using a UV filter simply by looking at his camera. It's important to clean your camera lens thoroughly before attaching your UV filter, particularly if it's fogged up from excess humidity -- the seal the filter creates when you attach it prohibits moisture from escaping.

Digital vs. Film

  • UV filters are available for both film and digital cameras, but some photography experts argue that they aren't necessary in the case of the latter. Photography resource "Cambridge in Color," for example, notes that digital sensors tend to be less receptive to UV light than their film counterparts, which lessens your necessity to use them if you're a digital photographer -- something it qualifies by pointing out that UV filters can sometimes decrease image quality slightly.

Lens Protection

  • One undeniable benefit of UV filters is that they provide an extra layer of protection for your camera lens. This can come in handy in several situations, such as if you use your lens cap. Even if your UV filter becomes scratched or damaged, your camera lens will stay protected -- and replacing a UV filter is significantly cheaper than replacing your camera lens. UV filters also protect the internal components of your lens from excess UV light, maintaining lens quality over time.

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