Tag Archives: photo

How to download photos FROM an iPad directly TO an external hard drive!!!

Ok, this is HUGE to me.  I have finally figured out how to transfer pictures from my ipad directly to an external hard drive.  Now, to clarify this for those that don’t get what I mean.  Lets say I’ve been out shooting all day and I have filled up a memory card.  Well, I want a safe backup,  I go back to the hotel and backup to my ipad, but I can’t do this for long because it only has a max of 64gb space.  Now, however I have expanded that space to 1tb!  Woo Hoo!!

The basic workflow is:

Go out and shoot all day on location

Using camera connection kit, download all your shots onto your ipad

Connect external hard drive to ipad

Copy all pictures you just downloaded onto the external drive

Delete those pictures from your ipad and you have space for tomorrow


What you will need:

An ipad of course, the bigger the better, I use a 64 since you still need to put the pictures from your camera onto the ipad.  But if you are reading this far you probably have an ipad anyhow.

You must have your ipad jailbroken.  That’s the only way to do this, I’m not going to go into why or how to do it, google it, choose for yourself.

You need the app ifile from cydia

Camera connection kit with usb plug

An external hard drive

The usb cable to connect the external drive.  This cable needs to have a splitter so you can power the drive by plugging it into the wall.  http://www.amazon.com/Cables-Go-28107-Mini-B-Y-Cable/dp/B0013LQD7Y/ref=sr_1_15?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1357128160&sr=1-15&keywords=usb+splitter+cable

The ipad does not have enough power to run the drive on it’s own, that’s why you need to plug the drive into the wall, or a solar charger if you are in the field too.


So, on to the good stuff!!


First install ifile on your device, there, now you have everything you need for the software to make this work.  Never have to download it again.


1. Using the camera connection kit, download all your pictures from your camera onto the ipad.  That’s easy, just like we’ve always done.

2.  Plug the usb part of the camera connection kit into the ipad and then connect up the external drive.

3. open ifile app.  Turn the ipad sideways so you get the landscape view.

4 on the left side it has a  shortcuts menu which will say Devices.. under the devices section you will see disk, wait a few seconds and then it will show “flash drive”  there might be 2 flash drives depending on your external drive partitions

5. now, under places click images and it will give you a bunch of files.  This is the only confusing part, you have to find the files you just imported.  Simply click the file name and it will open the file.  Some files will be empty, and some will have photo file names.  It’s easy for me because I shoot all raw, so I just find the file with the .NEF extensions in the file name.

in the right corner, click edit.  Then hold your finger on one file until the “select all” appears.  Click “select all”   again, hold your finger and select “copy”

over on the left side, select your flash drive that you are using under the disk section.  Then on the right panel hold your finger over where you want to put the pictures.  “paste” will appear, click paste and all your pictures will be copied from your ipad to your external drive.


Next to the name “flash drive” there is a little button to unmount the drive.  Sometimes this works, but usually once you unplug the drive then your ipad resets itself.  Whatever reason it does this I don’t’ know, but it’s probably good to reset every so often anyhow.  All the nerds tell us that… wait, am I one of those nerds now that I’ve written a computer how to article?


Sounds like a lot of steps but it’s really simple when you actually do it


Now, since space is limited I go back and delete all my pictures from my ipad and I’m ready to start the process over again…



For those of you that need it here is a link to a youtube video that shows the same thing too.





Today we’re going to talk about art and the Zen of processing.  There are many opinions out there on processing after you get that awesome shot in the middle of nowhere.  Some people think that the best picture is completely unedited with no modifications from Photoshop or any other software.  Some see no problem with editing and making adjustments or enhancements.  Remember as you read this that this is an opinion article.  Art is an opinion and  if you don’t agree with mine that is awesome because you aren’t following someone, you are making your own decisions in life!

I’m from the opinion that it’s ok to make adjustments or enhancements.  We are creating art here and art isn’t about everyone seeing it the same way.  When I photograph something I see a wonderful image in my head and my imagination runs wild.  I can see ideas about processing and making changes as I look through the viewfinder.  Maybe I’m odd that I can see this way but I think it’s awesome!


Art is a very opinionated subject and I really believe that you can’t take someone’s art and say it is wrong just because you don’t like it yourself. There are many many modern pieces of pop art that I think are a waste of canvas, but others love them, and the artist loves his work too.  The same goes for photography.  When I go out to work I am shooting for my enjoyment.  Sometimes if I have an assignment I have to restrict myself to fit within certain guidelines, but usually I just go out and find what inspires me.

When you go back and process you have to decide what you want your end result to be.  If you want to represent exactly what you saw that day then you will only need to make small adjustments to exposure and white balance and probably some sharpening and noise reduction.  These are probably the minimal accepted processing adjustments to give you what you saw.  However, did you represent the image with all your senses?  When you are out there you see a place and you can feel the air around you, you can smell the odors of nature, you can hear the birds.  While you can’t show smells, sounds, or some other senses; you can portray a big emotional response.

I know how I feel when I see something and I want to overwhelm  someone and get an emotional reaction when they look at my art.  Rarely with landscapes can you show that with just simple exposure  modifications.  For example,  if you darken a sky it immediately adds a more mysterious and dramatic mood.  If you take focus away from distracting objects by blurring something then you can direct attention to a cool part of your photograph.

Photoshop and software similar to it are here to stay.   Making adjustments to photography has been around forever too.  This isn’t something new to digital.  When I used to work in a darkroom I always used dodging and burning and other ideas to produce effects that I didn’t see in the viewfinder.  If you look at some of the original negatives from Ansel Adams you will see that many of them are quite flat and dull.  He spent hours in the darkroom perfecting his images to the way he wanted his art to be seen.  Today our computers are our darkrooms, it’s no different, the only difference is that modern day photographers don’t know what fixer tastes like, ha ha ha ha.

10 Tips for Better Landscape Photography

Landscape photography is one of my most favorite subjects.  From the beaches and coastlines of Big Sur, California to the lighthouses of the Northeast, landscapes make up our world.  Everyone looks at them but few can capture the magnitude. Here are some tips to help you improve your landscape work and get the most out of your time

  1. 1. Wake up before the sun comes up.  It sucks, I don’t know anyone that likes to wake up early but that’s when you get those great shots.  The fog is still in the valley, nobody else with half a brain is awake, and the world is at peace.  The lighting at sunrise is spectacular, you can actually watch the sunlight move across the ground and expose colors that you never see in midday.
  2. 2. Equipment; don’t think that all your landscape work needs to be done with a wide angle lens.  I frequently use a 70-200 with great results.  A good wide angle zoom lens is a great choice.  18-200 is an awesome range.  You can play with composition and observe all sorts of different options.
  3. 3. Panoramas are becoming more and more common these days.  This is one thing where it’s ok to join the pack and do the same as everyone else.  Photoshop has an incredible panorama tool, use it.  The days of 8×10 are gone, don’t worry about what the dimensions of your image are.  It’s your photograph, show that entire mountain range with the ocean leading out the side.  Your eyes see it, show it in your photography.
  4. 4. Go where nobody else goes.  As I drive up and down the California coast I always see signs that say “no trespassing” and that’s a good rule to follow.  However, go up to someone’s house and ask if you can walk on their land and take some pictures.  Just explain what you want to do and offer to email something to them when you get back home.  I’ve never been told to go away and have never been denied admission after I ask.  Just remember, some of the people that have beautiful views are rich and powerful, so when John Travolta answers the door don’t become a stupid goofy groupie.
  5. 5. Get on the ground.  The true mark of a good photographer is that we’re not afraid to get dirty.  Get down on your stomach and try some shots with a different perspective.  Or get high up on something, climb a tree, hang off the side of a mountain.  Find a new way to approach your subject.  Think of the Golden Gate Bridge; millions of pictures are take of it each year, but how many people take the extra 10 mins to climb down to the shore and get the water’s edge in the foreground?
  6. 6. Take pictures of cloudy skies.  It always happens, I’ve got a great picture with no clouds in the sky, and I’m not local to the area so I can’t go back and reshoot another day.  Well, it’s cheating, but if you have a big collection of just cloudy sky pictures you can Photoshop in some clouds and make that dull sky come alive again.
  7. 7. Travel alone without your assistant.  For me this is the best way to inspire myself.  When I travel alone my mind is 100% on photography.  I don’t get distracted and I don’t have to keep someone else company.  If I have someone else in the car there is lots of useless babble and then you have to worry about if they are hungry and they always have to find a bathroom at the wrong moment.  Also, they won’t want to sit for an hour waiting for the light to get perfect.  You will compromise your quality to make your partner happy.  Keep your quality and inspiration at the top, leave them at home.
  8. 8. Take several different exposures of the same image. This is called bracketing, and while most people reading this know all about it few do it anymore.  Most cameras today have an auto bracketing setting.  I use mine all the time. I’ll often take 5 or 7 different exposures of the image.  90% of the time I use just the normal regularly exposed image, but if I decide I want to have greater highlights or shadows all the information is there in a different picture.  This also leads to the HDR world, which I’m not going to even go near in this article, but HDR is here to stay and multiple exposures are a necessity for it.
  9. 9. Pay the extra money to get into parks and travel on scenic roads.  For example the 17 mile drive at pebble beach, California.  It’s $9 to drive along this road and I almost didn’t go the first time I was there.  Well, I’m glad I paid the money, it’s one of the most scenic places along the California coast and if I never paid the toll I would have missed out on some of the greatest pictures on that whole trip.  The same goes for state and national parks.
  10. 10. Finally, be prepared; bring food and water with you in the car.  If you are hungry then your creativity will suffer.  Make sure you have a full tank of gas.  Nothing will screw with your brain more than running near the E and looking for a gas station instead of a great landscape.
  11. 11. Ok, one more.  Find your sunset image way before sunset.  I start looking for my sunset place about 3 hours before the sun sets.  It sounds like a long time but remember, you might have to hike a half-mile to get that unique vantage point, or it might take you an hour just to find a good location.  Once I find my location I can sit and wait and relax.  I get on my iPhone and start looking for hotels in my area so as soon as the sun is down and it’s dark I can just drive strait there and relax for the rest of the night before I have to wake up at that horrid time before daylight, ha ha ha.











Buying Used Photography Equipment

How to safely buy used photo equipment.


In today’s economy every nickel counts, and just like everything else cameras and lenses cost way more than anyone wants to pay.  I’ve had good and bad experiences with buying used equipment.  However, if you do it correctly then you can save a bundle.

Used equipment is available from several sources; some examples are eBay, craigslist, store returns, pawnshops, and private sales.  There are others but these are what I will be covering. I’ll give you the goods a bads and recommendations on what to look out for.

The type of equipment you buy is a huge consideration.  Stay away from used “push-pull” zooms.  These usually get loose and wear out with age.  Outdated cameras are also not a bargain like they might seem.  For example, you can buy a Nikon d1 or d2 very cheap now.  The problem is that while they were good in their day, now they are not.  The older pro cameras are slow with writing to memory cards, use a lot of battery power and usually have much more noise than even today’s modern consumer level cameras.  They were great in their day, really awesome, but now they are just simply old technology.

Tripods are a mixed bag; if you can see it and try it before you buy then it might be a good deal.  Things to watch for are loose clamps, bent legs, center shafts that are warped, and cracks in the legs on carbon fiber models.  I would avoid eBay or any online store that does not offer a money back guarantee on anything, but especially tripods.

Big expensive professional lenses are a tough one.  Here’s an example for how to be safe.  Nikon has been selling a 70-200mm 2.8 lens for years.  They recently upgraded that lens and most pro photographers will buy the new upgrade even if their old lens was working fine.  That’s usually a safe bet.  If a lens has been upgraded then buying the old model gives you a good chance that the old owner just upgraded.  The best way to be sure is to buy the old model right after the newer model is introduced; that’s when the market is flooded with the older lenses.  Same is true for professional cameras.  When the D4 is introduced later this year (I hope) there will be many many D3’s going up for sale.

Filters are a pretty safe bet.  Unless the threads are damaged or there is a scratch on the glass then there’s nothing that can go wrong with it.  Avoid batteries at all costs!  That seems like common sense but I see used batteries online all the time.  Strobe units are another to avoid, just way too many electronic parts to go wrong.  Bags and soft cases are usually safe.  Avoid hard cases because the padding is usually already cut to fit the previous owner’s equipment.

Used underwater cases are a huge treasure! So many scuba diver try underwater photography and fail it’s ridiculous.  Ebay is full of underwater systems that are used very little and you can save thousands sometimes!  Just remember to test the case in a pool without your camera in it first to make sure it doesn’t leak.

So where to buy your stuff, what’s safe, who will screw you?  Those are the important questions.  I’ll address several companies I’ve purchased from.  I really have no specific complaints for any company—I think I’ve just had a lot of good luck, ha ha.

KEH.com is my favorite place to buy used cameras and lenses.  They are very very honest and their return policy is awesome.  Their descriptions are accurate and their grading is very strict.  I hardly ever buy their top condition grade because I think they are way too strict. I usually look for items in their BGN or bargain grade.  To me they look almost perfect.  As far as I can figure is that if there is a scuff or scratch on something then it’s bargain to them. If there is anything specific wrong like a ding in the filter ring they will note that in the item description.  Their service is super fast often shipping the same or next day and the people on the phone are very knowledgeable.  Unfortunately you will wait on the phone on hold for a while because they are so popular.  I think that’s my only complaint with them.  Their return policy is simple, if you don’t like what you buy for any reason you can send it back and get a refund!

Amazon.com has a section that they sell items people have returned.  These things aren’t really  “used” they are simply customer returns.  If you call and get the right person sometimes you can get the operator to look in the notes and find out why it was returned too.  Do not wait and “think about it” these items move very fast, so buy it fast.

Ebay is a risky place.  I’ve had mostly good luck but remember, these are usually regular people that think their item is in much better condition that it usually is.  You will often see descriptions such as “mint, perfect, like new, pristine”  these are simply sales words and really don’t help you any.  Look at the description and contact the seller with specific questions.  I always ask for a phone number from the seller so I can call him and talk to him about it.  If he doesn’t give it to me I move on to the next item, easy.

Craigslist is another source.  Unfortunately it seems that everyone selling on craigslist thinks their stuff is made out of gold.  I rarely find good deals on there.  The advantage of that site is you can physically put your hands on the item and examine it before you give out any cash.  You can also put a listing on there that you want to buy used camera equipment.  This gives you the ability to name your own price if you are a good negotiator.  The only problem with that is you will get tons of people calling you and annoying you with old junk film and point and shoot cameras.

Pawnshops are great. You can get a great price and still be able to examine the item before buying it.  In today’s economy people are pawning everything.  The shops are paying almost nothing these days and that gives them a lot of leeway in what they need to charge.  Don’t pay the first price they ask, haggle with them.  If you develop a relationship with a certain store they will often call you when they get something in that they think you will want to buy and give you a better price than a normal customer.

Even with all these sources I still buy a lot of my equipment brand new. Just go by the old philosophy of Buyer Beware and use common sense and you should be fine.


Camera Stabilization

No matter how good of a photographer you are, if you can’t hold the camera steady your images will turn out like crap.  Image stabilization is one of the most important aspects of photography.  If you have a great picture opportunity make the most of it and be sure you will be holding that camera steady.

This article will explore a lot of different tools that you can use to hold your camera steady and reduce the dreaded camera shake. I will also give my opinions on brands.  So here is my disclaimer: I do not have any corporate sponsors, I pay retail for all my equipment and I give ya the good and bad opinions for brands of things I try.

First, lets examine the best ways you can hold your camera to be steady on your own without extra mechanical aids.  Really, who wants to carry extra crap if you don’t have to, right?  The basic rule for years has been anything slower than 1/60th of a second you can’t hand hold.  That rule still applies and you also have to remember that it was designed for use with a 50mm lens.  A more accurate rule is that you can’t hand hold anything lower than the “length of your lens”.  For example 200mm you need 1/200th, 600mm you need 1/600th.  There will always be people out there that have big egos and like to compete about who can hand hold 1 second exposures, but they are usually young and have a lot less years on their body than I do, ha ha.

There are a few techniques you can use to help hold steady.  The way you hold your camera is a big consideration.  Keep your elbows in and hold the camera to your face to help stabilize it.  Also, hold your breath as you press the shutter.  Leaning against something like a tree or a building can help you a lot as well, or sitting.  If you are in a car, that car window is a great support for your camera.

After you are done with your best ability of your body there are many mechanical aids out there that will make your life easier.  Some are bigger and bulkier than others; basically you sacrifice comfort for greater stability.

Tripods.  Tripods are the best means of stabilization.  Basically the bigger, stronger, heavier they are the more stable they will be.  I started out many years ago using a Slik aluminum tripod.  I still have it and my kids use it all the time.  It is actually nice and steady and lightweight.  The head is useless but the kids are just happy to have something big and professional looking, ha ha.  Slik still makes tripods and I haven’t tried one out, but I’d say they are worth a look since they have always been low cost.  Plus if they are still in business they must be doing something right after all these years.

Today I use Gitzo carbon fiber tripods.  I honestly can’t say anything bad about them except for the price, ouch.  But they open and close easily, they are strong and the quality is worth the price.  I do have one Benro tripod.  It is the travel one that folds up backwards to make it very small and compact.  Unfortunately I really can’t say much good about it except for the small size.  The included ball head does not let me feel comfortable with a professional camera and medium size lens.  I’m afraid it will fall off or wobble around.  The biggest complaint I have with it is the legs do not stay locked.  Now, let me explain; often when I’m walking through the woods I use the tripod to help me steady myself.  I extend one leg and use it like a walking stick or support when I’m climbing over a log or large rock.  With the Benro tripod it will almost always collapse inside itself.  I have never had it collapse when I’m using it with a camera thank goodness, but it is a big complaint I have.  Upon examination I discovered that they use a very fine thread pattern to tighten and loosen the twist clamps for the leg.  I think the fine thread is the problem because obviously it doesn’t allow you to tighten it enough.   Also, for some weird reason they do not use the “righty tightly , lefty loosen” method to tighten and loosen the legs; it’s backwards.   So enough bashing them, just buy the gitzo version and you’ll be happier.

Now, if you can’t afford the best tripod out there you can add some stability to the one you have.  Firstly, try not to extend the tripod out all the way.  The shorter it is the more stable it will be for you.  Try not to extend the center column either, that will take away some of your stability.  If you do have to have all the legs extended, hang something heavy from your center column.  This will help it stay down and make it a bit stronger.

Ball heads are the next important part of a tripod.  I personally haven’t found one that I’m overjoyed about.  I suggest that you go out and try a few at your local store if possible.  Look for a heavy one that has big knobs which you don’t have to turn much to tighten or loosen for adjustments.  If you are using at larger lens like a 300mm 2.8 or larger then you need to use a gimbal head.  Wimberley makes an awesome one.  There are a lot of knock off versions of their older model.  Some are good, some are not.  Their newer model is spectacular and I figure if you spend thousands on that big lens then spend another $500 and get a real Wimberley head.  They are a small company and it feels good to support them.  Plus they have the best customer service that I have ever delt with from any camera equipment manufacturer. Period!  Call them, I’d love to be sponsored by them, I think they really deserve our money.

Moving down the road we come to monopods.  Monopods are awesome if you only need to get a little bit of stabilization or if you need to be portable.  I often use a monopod on my 600mm with fantastic results.  The best way I’ve found is sitting with it extended a small amount to get the least amount of wobble with that big lens.  They are great tools where you are in a rush to get the shot or you just don’t want to carry that big bulky tripod all over the woods with you trying to find those bears.

Beanbags are wonderful for all sizes of lenses.  A beanbag can completely immobilize a camera on a car window, a rock ledge, almost anywhere.  The biggest complaint I hear about beanbags is that they are big and bulky and take up a lot of space, well that’s easy to fix.  I don’t own an actual beanbag, I have an empty zip lock bag and I fill it with dirt, sand, or whatever is laying around the area.  It works, it’s free, and it doesn’t take up any space in my bag.

Recently I’ve discovered a new product called a Steadepod.  It basically screws into your tripod socket on your camera, then a wire comes out of it and you step on the end of the wire.  Then you pull up and it adds tension and support.  I know you have no idea what I mean so check out their website www.steadepod.com they can explain it better than I can.  I haven’t tested it enough to say one way or another if I like it yet, but for $25 it’s worth a try I figure.

Nobody likes to carry a tripod and set it up and then carry it back to the car, it’s a pain in the ass.  Unfortunately it’s often a necessity until we can figure out how to make the assistant become frozen.







Nikon 600mm vs. Sigma 300-800mm

When you need a huge long lens for your Nikon there are a few choices.  Today we will talk about the Sigma 300-800mm and the Nikon 600mm.  If you are looking for a quick answer, in my opinion, the Nikon 600mm is the better lens. There, now you can quit reading if you only wanted a fast answer.

Onto the details:  I first purchased the Sigma lens when I couldn’t find anyone that had the Nikon in stock.  The Nikon is still extremely difficult to find and buy however.  Both lenses have advantages and disadvantages from weight, size, and both have a learning curve to being able to use the lens to it’s best.

When you have both in your hands the Nikon is a smaller lighter lens but it is still very large and heavy.  The sigma weighs just under 13lbs while the Nikon weighs 9.8lbs.  I’m not sure that’s really a noticeable difference when you are carrying it around with all the other gear, but if you are only carrying the lens and camera body hiking a couple miles I’d rather bring the Nikon.

Length, the Nikon is 17.5” and the Sigma is 21.5” which does make a difference in traveling.  I fly a lot and I would never ever want to check this lens.  I try to pack all my gear in a standard roll aboard suitcase so I can bring it with me onboard the plane as a carry on.  The Nikon will fit in a standard roll aboard suitcase and the sigma will not.  This is a huge advantage to me because if you get a grumpy flight attendant they can enforce the one carry on rule and you’re stuck out of luck.  Both lenses come with their own cases; hard case for Nikon and soft case for Sigma.  Both of the cases are acceptable as carry on size but like I said, one carry on rule can get ya sometimes.  My basic rule is that if I’m traveling alone I only bring the Nikon.  And if I’m doing a driving road trip then I use the Sigma.

Physically handling each lens is different.  The Nikon has VR so in the right conditions you can “almost” hand hold it.  Basically, I’ve been successful using a monopod or leaning it against a tree, rock, car window, or other stable surface.  The sigma does not have VR so a large stable tripod is a requirement.  When I use the Sigma I put it on a large gitzo with a Wimberley head and a 6” Wimberley plate.

The big advantage of the Sigma is that it is a zoom lens.  You will read in other reviews that you can find your subject at 300mm and then zoom in to 800mm.   This does work good and I’ve used this technique several times with good success.  I don’t think it’s a huge advantage though once you learn how to keep both eyes open with the Nikon you can find your subject easily too.  To clarify that technique, look through the viewfinder with one eye and keep your other eye open looking at your subject.  Your eyes will adjust and kind of “match” and you can find your subject easily using that technique.  It takes practice but works with any lens.

Performance; both lenses will give you great images.  Both lenses have internal motors to focus.  The Nikon does focus faster.  Nikon also says you cannot autofocus with teleconverters.  This is NOT true.  With a Nikon 1.4 or the new 2.0 teleconverter I can still use autofocus.  When you put both converters on and stack them you do have to use manual focus.  The sigma will autofocus with the Nikon 1.4 converter but will not autofocus with the 2.0 teleconverter.

So now we get to the real story. How sharp are they and which one gives you a better image.  Honestly there is very little difference in sharpness.  I’m not going to go into crazy charts and scientific method, you can see all that stuff on their web site and if you understand what those charts mean then you are better than me, ha ha.

To test sharpness I went out to a cemetery and found a dark stone against snow with some good colorful flowers.  I figure that’s going to give the best idea of color, contrast and sharpness.  The following pictures were taken on a Nikon D700 set at iso 200 and aperture was 5.6 for each image.  I set the Sigma to 600mm so it would show the same magnification as the Nikon lens.  The images have not been sharpened or anything.  There is no post processing work done to any of the pictures.

As you can see, the Nikon images have a bit more brightness and contrast which makes it appear a tiny bit sharper.  However, I don’t think it actually is sharper.  If you process the Sigma image and add some contrast then the sharpness is identical.  It’s just a trick of your eye.  Personally I like the brighter contrast in the Nikon lens, but that is just a matter of opinion.

Both lenses are excellent.  Don’t get discouraged by thinking a non Nikon lens will give you any less performance than using Nikon glass.  When you get to this price range Sigma really did the job well and didn’t cut any corners.

That being said I would recommend the Nikon mainly because of the faster autofocus and the vibration reduction.  Unfortunately it is almost impossible to find the Nikon 600mm lens to purchase in the USA.  I finally had to get mine from Canada and Nikon USA will not honor any warranty for goods purchased outside of the United States.  I am playing the odds on this one simply because I figure if I spend a fortune on a lens then they are going to build it well and I’ll never need warranty repair.

If you can’t find the Nikon 600mm then purchase the Sigma 300-800mm and throw on a few teleconverters and go take a picture of the United States flag on the moon.

UV Filters in Photography, pros and cons

UV filters as protection on a lens.  This subject has been a huge constant battle among photographers for as long as I can remember.  The topics range from quality of glass, protection, vingnetting, and more.

Right off the top, I DO NOT use a UV filter on the front of any of my lenses. I will do my best to give information in this article on both sides of the issue so you can make your own informed decision instead of going with the cool crowd.

UV or Skylight filters  ( I’ll just say UV from this point forward) are traditionally put in on the front of your lens to protect it from being scratched.  While this is a good theory it has quite a few drawbacks.

First, lets examine the construction of the filter.  Basicly the UV filter is a piece of glass coated to keep the ultra violet rays of the sun from hitting the film.  Today film is rare so this factor isn’t really an issue.

The glass is surrouned by a metal ring which screws onto the front of the lens.  Here is the first problem.  If you have a wide angle lens sometimes this filter ring will be seen at extreme wide angles and cause vignetting.  There are some filters that are “slim” design which have a thinner ring construction but most of those do not have theads on the outside to put a polarizer or any other type of filter you may want to attach.  So there is problem one; vignetting caused by the filter ring.

Another problem is the quality of the glass used to make the filter.  Lens manufacturers spend a fortune to test and develop and polish their glass to perfection for the lens.  Then you just slap a cheap filter in front of all that expensive polished glass.   This will create a noticeable difference in image quality.  I can say with certainty that filter glass is not the same quality as lens glass.  So there is problem two, lower quality of glass in front of optimal quality lens glass.

In the following pictures you can see the difference between pictures, one with a filter and one without a filter.

with filter above

without filter below


An additional problem is that today’s cameras are all basicly handheld computers.  They are calibrated for use without filters.  When you put a filter in front of a lens it changes how the camera reads the image and can cause subtle exposure and color changes as it reaches the sensor.  There is problem three, changes to the image exposure and color.

Now, there is the advantage of using a filter to protect your expensive lens.  If you have a filter in place and you hit the front of the glass it will damage the filter but hopefully not the lens.  Also this can work for banging the side of the filter ring.  You will again damage the inexpensive filter  instead of the main filter rings on your lens.  I see these things as irrelevant.

Firstly, if you respect your equipment the risk of damage to the lens is much lower.  I use lens caps, and lens hoods.  Both of these together have worked great for me, I have never scratched the glass on my lens or dinged the filter ring either.  I have often hit the end of the lens hood so I definitely recommend leaving that in place.  Usually when I’m driving around doing my landscape and wildlife work I have cameras sitting on the passenger seat of the car. I have had them fall off the seat, accidents happen.  But even with them falling off the seat to the floor the lens hood protects the end of the lens from breaking and the lens cap prevents scratches.  I think that if I only used a UV filter I would have more severe damage.

Using a filter is a personal decision, you have to judge in your head what kind of a risk you feel is acceptable.  I personally feel that anything in front of the lens that can degrade the image is a liability.  Image quality comes first to me.  Whatever you chose just try not to drop the camera in the lake, no filter will save that. Ha ha ha