In my courses, I always stress the importance of using a filter on the front of your lens.
I am not talking about polarisers, grads or ND filters here. A simple skylight, UV, haze or protection filter is good enough.
Every couple of weeks a post pops up in my Facebook thread about whether or not to use one. The opponents argue that lens manufacturers go to great lengths to ensure that their products are optically perfect and putting another piece of glass at the front will degrade the quality. The proponents argue that with a good quality filter, you will not notice the difference and will be afforded another level of protection.
I am (and always have been) an advocate of using a filter to protect the lens for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I never use lens caps and the filter protects the front element when in my bag and when carrying it around. Secondly, I would rather wipe any dirt or water from the filter than risk smearing or scratching the front element. Thirdly, if the camera slips off your shoulder or is knocked against a hard surface, the filter will take the brunt of the damage as mine did last Tuesday.
I returned from a photography class and had my Fujifilm x100 on my shoulder. The camera simply slid off my shoulder and fell lens first onto a marble floor. The only damage was to the filter. This was soon replaced and nothing major happened to prevent me continuing to shoot, nor did my camera have to be sent away to be fixed*.
I have always had a skylight, UV, haze or protection filter on the front of my glass. I do make sure though, that it is of good quality. How do I do this? I simply buy a well known brand (Tiffen, BW, Hoya etc) if I don't know the brand, I will simply take a couple of pictures at varying apertures with and without the filter. They will then be enlarged to 100% to check if there are any glaring differences between them.
The picture on the wall behind me on the picture above was taken with a Canon EF 50mm f1.4 lens fitted with a Hoya skylight filter. I defy anyone to tell me that the quality would be better without a filter. the enlargements are three meters by three meters!
So my conclusion is to use protection in the form of a clear filter on the front of your lenses.
Thanks for reading.
* To add insult to injury, the lens hood which would also have protected my lens, fell off, unknown to me, on the way to the photo class!