In the days of film, film was sensitive to UV rays and UV or Skylight filters were necessary to block out that spectrum.
Nowadays, the digital sensors of our cameras are able to effectively filter out those UV rays so we can produce more pure images.
Because of that, UV and Skylight filters have been reduced to mere ‘protective filters’. If you would put a UV, skylight and clear filter on top of white paper, you will see that UV has a yellowish tint which improves contrast on sunny outdoor scenes, skylight has a pinkish tint that counteracts haze especially for distant object, while clear is clear.
You must also know that there are cheap filters, and the more expensive ones. The difference is mainly in the coatings used and how effective the coatings reduce reflections on the filter’s glass surface.
This surface reflection is what causes ghosting, veiling flare, and loss of contrast is you use cheap filters. More expensive filters reduce the reflection and therefore produces a better image transmission.
How do you tell a cheap from a good filters? Easy!
With the lighting above your head, and you holding the filter below eye level — if you tilt the surface of the filter, a cheap filter will show you a strong reflection on the surface, while a good filter will let you see through the glass.
From experience, a cheap filter isn’t so bad to work it. I just remind myself to remove it when there are bright light sources such as when using flash or if there are strong lighting in the scene.
Also from experience, I noticed that cheap or good filter does not matter much with lenses that are 50mm or longer. My ultra wide Tokina 12-24mm f/4 is often very sensitive to the internal reflections introduced by the filter.
Can you tell if I’m using a cheap or good filter in the image below? How about in the images I posted above, can you tell which filter?
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