Learning the Value of a UV Filter

I learned the value of an ultraviolet (UV) filter the hard way. In photography, a UV filter is a flat piece of coated glass mounted in a ring that screws to the front of a single lens reflex (SLR) camera lens.  The UV filter screens UV light and provides some physical protection to the camera lens. The general recommendation is to use a UV filter, and we do this.

Last week we rode the Red Line subway into Chicago, to see the Art Institute.  Leaving the subway car, I put my backpack on my shoulder.  The backpack strap came apart, and the backpack fell to the concrete floor.  My camera, a Canon SLR, was inside the backpack, in a Lowepro toploader bag.  While waiting for the train, I had loosened the shoulder straps. When I put on the backpack, the strap wasn’t tight enough to hold, and the strap came undone.

At the Art Institute, we opened the camera bag and found that the glass of the UV filter was cracked into dozens of pieces.  I couldn’t unscrew the filter from the lens, so I only poured out the few glass shards that were loose.  The test shot below, taken through the cracked filter, showed that the camera still takes pictures. The focus looks soft, but the image looks better than I expected.

That night, I gripped the filter with pliers but was still unable to unscrew the filter.

When we returned to California, I took the camera to the repair desk of a local camera shop.  The technician pried out the broken glass and but couldn’t unscrew the filter from the lens. The filter was a B+W filter, which has a brass ring.  I think the camera fell lens-first, jamming the threads.  The technician snipped the metal ring and jammed a metal instrument between the filter ring and the lens, creating a gap between them.  Then he was able to unscrew the filter.  He removed the remaining glass shards and handed me the camera.  I thanked him and asked how much I owed.  The repair is free — just buy a new filter in the camera shop.  🙂  In case anyone needs a camera repair, the shop is Keeble and Shuchat in Palo Alto, CA.  I asked for another B+W filter, but they didn’t have it. They sold me a Rodenstock filter, which also has a brass ring.

Here’s a test shot.  The camera seems to be fine. Our California redbud (cercis occidentalis) has two red buds in December!  The redbud has glorious blooms in the spring, but we’ve had a mild autumn, so it’s a little confused.  No killing frosts yet.  Our tomato plants are hanging in there and still have tomatoes.

I learned that a UV filter can protect your lens and camera.  The filter did exactly what it’s supposed to do — protect the camera and lens, even with a 4-foot drop onto concrete. The filter is cheap insurance.  The filter costs much less than the camera or the lens, and camera repairs are inconvenient, taking weeks.  I like Canon cameras and lenses, B+W filters, and Keeble and Shuchat more than ever.

btw, the Art Institute of Chicago was wonderful.  We spent the entire afternoon there.  They have a very large Impressionist collection with a dozen Renoirs, more than 30 Monets, and a Degas Little Dancer bronze on loan.  We also enjoyed the Chagall windows and the American paintings.


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I enjoy travel, art, food, photography, nature, California native plants, history, and yoga. I am a retired software engineer. The gravatar is a Nuttall's woodpecker that visited our backyard.

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