This guy shot a lens and UV filter with an airsoft rifle to see just how much “protection” they offer

Jan 12, 2017

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

This guy shot a lens and UV filter with an airsoft rifle to see just how much “protection” they offer

Jan 12, 2017

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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It’s one of those debates that’s been going on since the dawn of digital photography. To use UV filters or not? In the film days, a UV filter was often a wise choice, depending on what film stock you were using. In the days of digital, it didn’t really offer the advantage it once did. But, many still choose to use them. The common reason is for “protection”. In the event that something bangs into it, or the lens is dropped “I’d rather replace a UV filter than a front element”.

But just how tough are front elements, really? And just how strong are the UV filters? Are they really protecting the element from impact as much as most people think? That’s something YouTuber Vaes Joren wanted to find out. After his Nikon 18-55mm kit lens broke, he decided to shoot both it and a UV filter with an airsoft rifle to see just what would happen.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bXWAezxJHEc

Now, I’m not going to tell anybody whether they should or shouldn’t use UV filters on their lens. Ultimately, it’s their call and nothing I say is going to change their mind one way or the other. But it does show just how strong a front element can be, even in a cheap kit lens, compared to a thin UV filter.

On first imspection, it does look like the airsoft pellets took a couple of little chunks out of the lens.

After a bit of a wipe, though, you can see there’s almost no damage at all. Perhaps the coating might’ve have a couple of spots in it. But no shattered element, no spiderweb cracks through the glass, nothing, really. That small speck would likely make no difference to your shot unless, perhaps, you were shooting straight toward the sun.

The UV filter, on the other hand, did not fare so well.

It’s highly unlikely that people are going to be shooting projectiles at most of us while we’re making photographs. But I’ve seen photos of many smashed UV filters posted to social media over the last few years with descriptions such as “It’s a good job I was using a UV filter, this could’ve been my front element!”. When, the reality is, no, that same amount of damage probably wouldn’t have happened to your front element.

And, yeah, Airsoft weapons aren’t exactly powerful. So, one might say that this isn’t really a great test to show the kind of abuse a front element can take. Sure seemed to get through that UV filter just fine, though, huh?

Again, I’m not trying to tell anybody whether they should or shouldn’t use a UV filter. The decision is totally yours, and I’m fine with whatever you want to do. It doesn’t affect my photography one way or the other. But, you really can’t rely on them for any kind of impact protection.

Do you use UV filters? If so, why? Does this video change your mind? Let us know in the comments.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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28 responses to “This guy shot a lens and UV filter with an airsoft rifle to see just how much “protection” they offer”

  1. Lars Stokholm Avatar
    Lars Stokholm

    Well, my uv-filter saves the coating on the front element from grinding sand and salt on the beach, when I shoot surfers.?

  2. dimitrisservis Avatar
    dimitrisservis

    You know this is stupid right? It’s like saying “yup, we threw a car off a cliff and the passengers died despite wearing a seatbelt, so do seatbelts help?”

    1. Kaouthia Avatar
      Kaouthia

      Not quite, because the passengers would’ve died with or without the seatbelts. The lens element, however, survived just fine without the UV filter on the end.

  3. Johannes Keller Avatar
    Johannes Keller

    Ti Her Onur Kalkan Tim Hasl

  4. Rob Hall Avatar
    Rob Hall

    I just use them as scratch protection.

  5. Rob LeBlanc Avatar
    Rob LeBlanc

    No one uses UV filters for impact protection. The author fails to realize this.
    It’s for scratch protection and preserving the lens’ resale value. ;)

    1. Valentin Zahariev Avatar
      Valentin Zahariev

      UV filters scratch much easier that front lens element, plus they decrease light (slightly) and gives flares
      Usualy hoods is much better protection for some impact and scratch protections

    2. Howardo Mansfieldio Avatar
      Howardo Mansfieldio

      Right, so if something hits the front element of your lens with enough force to scratch it, would you prefer it to damage the filter or the lens itself?
      Think about what you’re saying.

      1. Les Mcc Avatar
        Les Mcc

        If something is going to break the filter then it probably would have damaged the lens anyways. the filters really just to protect from lowes annoying light scratches when you put your camera down and brush up against something.

    3. Rob LeBlanc Avatar
      Rob LeBlanc

      Valentin Zahariev
      That’s only with cheap filters.

  6. Paul Richards Avatar
    Paul Richards

    I use mine for sea salt protection on the beaches where I live

  7. George Pavlov Avatar
    George Pavlov

    I think if someone is aiming at your filter or lens there is a great chance for hitting you in the head, so no, not much “protection” from these from airsoft shooters. I’m sure uvs aren’t very good against swords or axes either.
    Dust, mud, snow, splashes, sand… that’s where I’d stand behind my uv filters.

  8. Scott Lightner Avatar
    Scott Lightner

    They sometimes have trouble under 18 wheelers too!

  9. Howardo Mansfieldio Avatar
    Howardo Mansfieldio

    I use mine to protect the lens from a toddler’s fingers.
    It also allows me to do the time honoured tradition of cleaning it on the bottom of my shirt.

  10. jayadan Avatar
    jayadan

    This proves pretty much nothing. Adds nothing to the debate. Is in no way scientific. It’s silly. Not sure why you posted it.

  11. Duncan Knifton Avatar
    Duncan Knifton

    I’m not sure they were ever meant to be “bullet” proof !?
    haha

  12. Laurent Roy Avatar
    Laurent Roy

    I never used any filter to protect my lenses (I just take care of them). BTW, the only kind of filter I’ve been using is circular polariser…

  13. Roelien van Neck Avatar
    Roelien van Neck

    Yeah a rifle is something completely different then dust, sand or mud… Test seems a bit overdone here :)

  14. Mike Aubrey Avatar
    Mike Aubrey

    I never used a filter until those anti-static, liquid repelling filters arrived. It’s so much easier to keep things clean.

  15. Allan Alcibar Avatar
    Allan Alcibar

    Yea, im real concerned about rifles shooting the front of my lens.

  16. Gordon Monk Avatar
    Gordon Monk

    I’d rather clean gritty mud and rain from a filter!

  17. Justin Dunn Avatar
    Justin Dunn

    Next, we need to have them test javalins.

  18. Desmond Downs Avatar
    Desmond Downs

    I tried this a year ago as well https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G8KUkpKOTSg

  19. csnyderphoto Avatar
    csnyderphoto

    This is a wasted exercise; not because of the test itself, but just simply because there are those that believe a good UV filter is worth the investment, and others that find it a waste. Ultimately there is no changing either’s mind.

  20. Theuns Verwoerd Avatar
    Theuns Verwoerd

    This old-fashioned type of testing is boring.

    What you need to do is check whether the filter offers protection against LASERS.

  21. Michael Hickey Avatar
    Michael Hickey

    When I tested IQ with and without the UV filter, the filter immediately went in the trash.

  22. Joe Gilmore Avatar
    Joe Gilmore

    Next up: Condoms don’t stop bullets! Great news guys… great news!

  23. Kryn Sporry Avatar
    Kryn Sporry

    Why not use a Barrett sniper rifle with explosive shells and depleted uranium tips that are teflon coated?