Quick Tip–Throw Away Your Lens Caps!

Throw away your lens caps, background, and replace them with UV filters, foreground. (Copyright 2009/Andrew Boyd)

Throw away your lens caps, background, and replace them with UV filters, foreground. (Copyright 2009/Andrew Boyd)

[Editor’s Note: This tip has raised the ire of many shooters out there, more than almost anything I’ve written…instead of  ‘throw them away,’ maybe I should have said ‘put them in a drawer.’–DiscerningPhotog]

Here’s an easy Quick Tip that will improve your photography-throw away your lens caps and replace them with UV filters.  I don’t know a single professional photographer that uses lens caps. Why? Because of the obvious: how many good photographs have you taken through a lens cap? This is a useless appendage that comes with new glass which we discard along with the retail box. Get a UV filter to put on the front of that lens!

UV filters may actually filter some ultraviolet light, I don’t know. That’s not what I’m interested in. I want some protection on the exposed, vulnerable front element of my expensive piece of primo lens glass-you know, the one you paid all of that money for!

This is scratch protection, and it’s a relatively cheap insurance policy.  You can replace these once a year or as needed, and you’ll never have to worry about an awful scratch on that front element, or worse, a bunch of little scratches which makes your lens a permanent soft-focus item!

Never mind about the nay-sayers who will decry the degradation of your images due to the “inferior” nature of the “new” front element that the filter becomes. Faggeddaboutit!! It ain’t happening! I’ve never been able to see any discernable difference in the quality of my photographs with-or-without the filter. Once that big hulking scratch lands across your lens though, you might as well start watching Ebay for a good, used replacement.

Lately I’ve been buying Marumi filters for my lenses, an excellent Japanese brand, from my local supplier, Bennett’s Camera in New Orleans. These do a nice job and don’t break the bank. But I’m really not too concerned with the brand…just get something on there to protect your investment, and go ahead and toss those useless caps in the trash!

Marumi, Hoya, Tiffen, B+W--take your pick. Just get something on that front element! (Copyright 2009/Andrew Boyd)

Marumi, Hoya, Tiffen, B+W--take your pick. Just get something on that front element! (Copyright 2009/Andrew Boyd)

selfport1aHi, I’m Andrew Boyd, a.k.a. The Discerning Photographer, and I hope this post has been interesting and informative. Please leave me a comment about it, let me know what you’d like to see more of on the site! You can also sign up for email delivery of all future articles or my RSS feed. Thanks!–DiscerningPhotog

Posted in: How To

About the Author:

Photographer, videographer and photo editor. Host and creator of The Discerning Photographer web site. Currently a Canon shooter.

21 Comments on "Quick Tip–Throw Away Your Lens Caps!"

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  1. David Joachim says:

    Thought provoking. I use lens caps and UV filters. My only problem with extra glass in front of a lens is the ever so slight extra flare they can cause. This is particularly true in professional video, where the glare can’t be photoshopped away. A little extra work at flagging off extraneous light is worth the effort for the sake of lens protection.

  2. Maybe you’re just better organized than I am….for most people it seems to be one or the other, and I’ve tried to shoot through too many scratched front elements over the years….this is my “dumb” solution to this issue.

  3. Rob says:

    What rubbish!

    Maybe you have plenty of exposable income but what about protecting the UV filter from scratches?!

    Are you serioisly saying that your happy to put your lenses in your bag without a cap and let the UV filters get scratched? A lens cap is hardly an inconvenience to remove and takes all of a second to take off!!

    I’ll be keeping my lens caps thanks!

  4. Rob,
    The title of this post was a big tongue-in-cheek….the essence here is that, if you rely solely on lens caps to protect your lenses, eventually they’re going to get scratched. That’s why I like UV filters–I can afford to replace them, unlike front elements. If you like your lens caps, that’s great…but buy some UV filter protection.

  5. Mark says:

    It seems you’ve taken a “Ken Rockwell” approach to this (bit fanatical). Props to you to though for having it like that 😉

  6. xluciferx says:

    I don’t see the point of covering my expensive lens with a cheap glass.

  7. The point is to keep that expensive lens from getting a big nasty scratch across the front of it. If you’re not concerned about that , then by all means, leave your front element exposed.

  8. Theo says:

    That is a bunch of baloney. While a UV filter does indeed protect your lens agains scratches and dust, it wil not only cost you a fist full of dollars, it will also cost you about 2/3 to 1 full stop of light. So the light performance of your expensive F2.8 lens will bump down a stop to the performance of its F4 sibling. So screw on your lens cap and screw the UV filter.

  9. Forgive me, maybe it’s because I’ve spent a career as a photojournalist, out where shooting and bumping and banging around are the order of the day….but I’ve been really surprised by how much passion this one post has stirred up. I can tell you that protecting that front element is a HUGE consideration if you ever work in any kind of uncontrolled situation: sports, news, mayhem, etc. Cheers!

  10. David Joachim says:

    I thought I’d put in my two cents again. My professional career has been spent shooting TV with extremely powerful and expensive lenses. It’s unthinkable to expose them to the rigors of day-to-day news without protection. (Some photogs do, however.) A pro, or a well-healed passionate amateur, might be willing to risk a few hundred dollars worth of glass to an accidental strike, but someone working with a company’s investment will soon become an ex employee if he’s that reckless and inconsiderate.

  11. Robin says:

    I agree with the posters that have said they use both UV filters and a lens cap. UV filters offer excellent protection. I have been putting filters on all of my lenses for a while now and will never shoot another photo without one! Recently, my camera was knocked on the floor by a friend and there was a huge crack in the filter, but the lens glass was perfectly unharmed. Had I had the lens cap on it, I might have saved myself from having to buy a new filter as well, but I am pretty bad about losing those dang lens caps and I also find they tend to pop off at times. I would never chuck my lens caps, but UV filters are imperative in protecting my lenses!

  12. natasa10 says:

    Yes, I agree, nothing better than UV filter to protect your lense. I feel so free knowing my lense is safe behind the UV filter. I had my UV protective filter even before reading your post here, but when I saw your writing about it I thoght to myself that must be one smart photographer. 🙂

  13. RB says:

    2/3 to a full stop? Bwaaahahahahahaaha………..!!!!!!!!!

  14. theo says:

    That should read 1/3 to a full stop. 1/3 stop light loss for a good (expensive) UV filter and almost a full stop for a $12,99 el cheapo piece of chinese lamp glass.

  15. PF says:

    I just passed by this blog by chance, but when I read this comment I felt compelled to say something.
    I’d like to know what testing you’ve done to confirm this. I did some metering tests with my camera (Canon T90, 85mm 1.2L with a Hoya 72mm 1B filter) and I can confidently say that the difference that the filter makes is negligible. I don’t know what or how you were testing, but to everyone else reading this, use your spot metering and try it yourself. I have yet to find a lighting situation where the filter changes the exposure.

  16. Before reading this post I thought that everyone used UV filters as standard!

    I have never even ordered a lens without buying an appropriate filter – if you are doing it for a living how could you seriously be willing to risk your lenses!

    As for the 1/3 to a full stop of light loss these must be some cheep ass home made filters you are talking about!

    Great post Andrew, certainly stirred up a lot of different opinions which is always a good thing.

  17. magshooter says:

    We’re talking about UV filter here, not ND filter. Re-learn your basic of handling ur camera settings. You’ve got things wrong. If you’re that particular with the almost non-existance light fall out, I suppose you should be more particular with the quality of your shots and has won many international awards…. If all your shots resides in your HDD, it’s time to rethink your priorities…

  18. Jason says:

    I thought everyone used a filter too!

    I go for the double protection – filter and the lens cap! Those lenses ain’t cheap!

    Great post though, it sure is nice to get a good convo going and seeing quality reasons for both sides .


  19. John says:

    UV filters are a huge waste of money and they do sacrifice image quality. My analogy is this: say you have a really nice set of wine glasses… you buy a fine bottle of wine, but you serve it to your guests in plastic picnic cups because you’re afraid that your nice glasses “might” get damaged… what’s the point? Why even own the nice glasses if you aren’t going to use them? Maybe you can cover your new sofa with plastic too!

    And the whole, “I dropped my lens and the filter broke, but it protected the lens!” thing… what is that? First off, why are you so careless that you even dropped your camera or lens at all? Second, the filter, when it breaks, can send shards of glass on your lens, scratching it up…

    Also, when you use a filter, air is sandwiched between the front lens element and the filter. This is like a dank mausoleum that the light has to refract around in before it even reaches your front lens element and makes its way to your sensor or film…

    My opinion is obvious: if you have a nice, precision piece of glass, why would you put a sheet of generic glass in front of it? Just be careful with your gear and use a lens hood!

  20. KELLI says:

    just curious… I am a new owner of a nikon d5100 and i bought a uv and polarizing filter for both of my lenses but wondering which goes on 1st

  21. Put the UV filter on first. You’ll take it off and use the polarizer when needed.

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