Should you use a lens hood or a UV filter? This is one of the most frequently debated topics in photography.
It’s entirely up to you whether you use a lens hood or a UV filter. Much depends on what you want to get from either of these, as well as the kind of images you shoot, the light conditions and the specific situation.
UV filters are mainly used for lens protection. This is because modern digital cameras are able to keep UV light from the lens sensor themselves. Therefore, you’ll generally use a UV filter to keep dirt, dust, sand, moisture, smears or scratches off your actual lens. A UV filter can also protect the lens from any accidental knocks or bumps. Some people claim a UV lens filter can increase lens flare in certain extreme scenarios. However, in most cases, image quality isn’t negatively harmed from using a UV filter. It may even help to reduce a blue cast often created by very strong light.
A lens hood is a bit like a hat for a camera lens. It’s easily attached to a camera and sticks out some distance from the lens. This means that if you drop your camera, the hood can afford the lens some level of protection. The hood can also keep finger marks off the lens, as the lens face is more difficult to reach. However, unlike a UV lens filter, it might not stop sand, dust, salt-water spray or dirt from reaching the lens. If you use a wide-angle lens, which has a very short lens hood, this may offer reduced lens protection.
Although some people use a lens hood for protecting their lens, this isn’t their primary purpose. Essentially, lens hoods act a bit like a visor and are used to prevent light from the sides of a camera entering into the lens, thus reducing lens flare. Some photographers also note that lens hoods can provide increased contrast, richer colours and deeper saturation, and they can be an asset when photographing sunsets or night scenes with streetlights. One thing to note, however, is that a lens hood only shields light entering from an angle, and not directly in front of the lens.
If you’re still unsure whether to use a lens hood or UV filter, it’s useful to know that you can use both at the same time, if you wish to do so. When choosing lens hoods or UV filters, always purchase good quality products. This ensures your images won’t be adversely affected in any way.