Well, this has been a debate for along time, with people have very strong opinions as to their positive and negative aspects.... Here is a video by Steve Perry testing the use of UV filters. It my not be the most 'scientific' tests, but it certainly has a real world feel to them! Thanks Steve for the effort! :)
In short he shows that:
- That UV filters are not needed for digital photography. Unlike film, the blue UV haze does not appear on digital sensors.
- There is image quality loss with mid range filters, but this is not dramatic and easily rectified.
- They produce more flare and ghosting when shooting into a light source.
- Your lens front element is significantly stronger than the filter and despite the filter giving some protection to the front element, the amount forced required to break both leads to WAY more damage elsewhere in the lens!
You can check out Steve Perry's work on his website!
Do I use UV filters? Yes, but not always. I have a couple of Hoya HD filters for my lenses, and I do use them from time to time, generally in less than idea weather conditions.
- Some of my lenses are only weather sealed with them on, so if i am in bad weather conditions, i slap them on. They do not, from my experience, result in significant or noticeable image degradation, but I am sure they do a little.
- Again, in bad weather conditions, but not to protect my lens, but to save me time cleaning it. If i am shooting spray by the sea, it will get all over my front element, which can produce nasty flare if i am shooting into the sun... So, i remove the 'dirty' filter for my 'final' pic, than put it back on for re-framing.
Bottom line : They do not offer significant protection, but a little. I suggest you put a lens hood on, if you want to protect your front element better! Hell, it will even reduce flare on your image too! :)