Which UV filter for film photography?

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by rexmarriott, Oct 2, 2017.

  1. I work with black and white film. I've just bought a lens that needs a 67mm filter. I noticed that some UV filters are advertised as 'digital'. What makes a filter 'digital', and what are the issues that I need to be aware of when buying a UV filter to suit my needs?

    Thank you
  2. Shooting B&W, I can't see why you'd need one in the first place - unless you are shooting at very high altitudes.
  3. For black and white outdoors a medium yellow filter such as the B+W 022 is ideal. Indoors a UV filter protects the front element of the lens but is not needed. For color film a UV filter may help outdoors.
  4. I keep 'em on for protection, but many think that's silly. Do what you like. They may have some effect at high altitudes, higher than most of us ever go. "Digital" is just a marketing term in this case- I'm not aware of any optical difference.
  5. Vincent Peri

    Vincent Peri Metairie, LA

    I've always put UV or skylight filters on all my lenses, going back to 1974. In all that time, I've never had a damaged lens or had to clean fingerprints, smudges or dust off my lenses.
  6. Thank you for these answers. Yes, I was thinking in terms of lens protection.
  7. I am sort of rough on equipment so I always keep uv filters on my lenses for protection. I have found that the Hoya filters are very good.
  8. The only thing that makes a filter a "digital" filter is the marketing department. That said, it always makes sense to buy filters with multicoating in order to reduce potential reflections issues that could be caused by the filter. I do like Hoya filters as a less expensive alternative to European brands. On occasion though, you can find filters brands such as B&W at very attractive prices.
  9. I, too, have UV filters on all my lenses for protection. I use mostly B+W filters. After the optical properties, I have found that the material the filter rings are made of is important. I prefer the brass rings that B+W uses; I find that aluminum rings, used in less expensive filters, tend to gall and seize; I have never had any problems with B+W filters either optically or mechanically.

    As for digital versus film, I use all my lenses on both my F100 film body and my D750 digital body. I have no more problems with either lens flair or other optical problems on film than digital or vice versa.
  10. I'm one who's not convinced of the value of UV filters beyond lens protection. Optical glass is opaque to light shorter than ~350nm anyway.

    Furthermore, a while back I stuck a couple of different Nikkor lenses in a UV-Vis spectrophotometer and took a spectrum of them. I then took a handful of different UV filters, including Tiffen, Hoya, B+W, Nikon, and some no names and saw that at best they only shifted the UV cut-off by a few nanometers. Skylight and Haze filters are a different story-they do have a visible color cast and also are noticeable on the spectrum.

    I realize not everyone has access to a UV-Vis spectrophotometer, but I've started running all my filters through one. For colored filters, it allows me to see if they actually have nice, sharp cut-offs where expected. I tossed a couple of R25s, for example, because they only absorbed between about 450 and 600nm(a proper R25 is opaque past 625nm or so).

    I'll also add that for B&W photography, if I'm not going "naked" I'll usually stick a Y2(light yellow) on rather than using a UV/haze/skylight. Of course, I usually keep other colors on hand to use as appropriate.

    One last thing-you can go broke buying new quality filters. One of my fundamental axioms is don't do it :) . I'm fortunate to have a local camera shop that has a library card catalog full of filters. When I first started going there, they were $5 each. After I got to know them, they became $3 each unless it was a 77mm or bigger or a polarizer. Now they're usually free if I'm buying something else, or a dollar or two for big ones(and maybe a few more for Nikons as he knows me too well). Oh, then there's the couple of bucks each for Bay-1 and somewhat higher prices for Bay III :) . The only new filter I've bought in my life was a 72mm Hoya R72(that one hurt).
  11. Look for a filter with the best optical properties - parallelism, anti-reflective coating and overall finish. Also good at the mount, brass is preferable to aluminum. You want a filter which will not compromise the quality of your lens. The most common problem is veiling flare if strong light strikes the surface, even outside the field of view. As far as UV removal, any filter will work (glass absorbs UV). If you wish to remove haze, nothing works as well as a polarizer, since scattered light is highly polarized. A UV filter mostly just protects the front element of the lens from accidental bumps, dust, sticky toddler fingers and dog licks.
  12. My local used camera shop sells pretty much every lens with a cap and a filter-overall that's not a bad policy. They're adamant about it for the "student" cameras(AE-1s, AE-1Ps, K1000s, FMs, etc) but generally offer me one unless I'm buying a lens that takes an oddball filter(or if the lens already has a filter on it-sometimes I get lucky and get a Nikon or B+W).

    In any case, their "freebie" filters are perfectly fine for student cameras, but I've started digging one out of the used drawer rather than taking their new ones.

    I remember I popped in one Friday after in a bit of a hurry to buy a lens-I was looking for the cheap plastic mount Nikon 55-200 VR(I had a specific reason that eludes me now for looking for that lens at the time). In any case, after I checked out AF and VR on it, I bought it for the princely sum of $75 and walked out with a shiny new no-name filter on it(at least I did get Nikon caps).

    I took the lens home, and the contrast was so low that I was ready to pitch the lens-or at least take it back the next day. That really surprised me for a lens that generally gets decent reviews despite its cheap construction, and also one that looked fine in the store. Then, I thought to take the filter off, and the lens was perfectly fine-I wasn't expecting a miracle piece of glass that was $250 new, but it certainly worked for me.

    BTW, after I was finished with whatever I needed the lens for, I stuck a coated Tiffen on it and gave it to someone I knew could use it. That person is happily taking photos of their kids at ball games with the lens and a D3000 :) .
  13. I got used to skylight filters, after learning about them from my father.

    Films are UV sensitive, and for color that is mostly the blue layer.

    A little UV can shift the color toward blue.

    Skylight filters, 1A and 1B, also add a small amount of warming. Maybe it is to offset some of
    the blueness that isn't blocked by the UV filter.
  14. Ben, can I infer from what you're saying that it's worth considering shooting black and white without a filter? Might the addition of an extra layer of glass be detrimental to picture quality?
  15. Rex,

    Here's the gist of what I'm saying(since I know I can ramble a bit)

    1. I do not believe that a UV filter imparts any meaningful benefit to picture quality, and consider them nothing more than a transparent lens cap.

    2. If you do wish to use a UV filter, use a good one. I'd suggest at least a single coated Tiffen, B+W, Hoya, or Nikon.

    3. For B&W, I almost always use a light yellow filter at a minimum outside. Colored filters in B&W are a different topic in and of themselves, and if you're going to shoot much B&W you would be well served by reading up on the subject. The most common scenario cited for using the yellow/orange/red series of filters is that they differentiate clouds from the sky-no filter renders the clouds virtually indistinguishable, light yellow makes the sky light gray while keeping the clouds white, and red will make the sky almost pitch black. Green and blue have a place also.

    4. Cheap uncoated filters are likely to lower overall contrast(due to veiling flare) and can introduce other types of abberation in the image. I wouldn't worry too much about degraded image quality on 35mm Tri-X, for example, but the lower contrast IS always a big deal to me.
    bgelfand likes this.
  16. And to protect against "friends" with oily fingers from eating french fries :-(
    I also like the filters when I'm shooting any place that has "stuff" in the air, like near the ocean (salt spray), or a dusty/wind blown area.
    Basically, I would rather have to clean a filter than the front element of my lens.

    Back in the day of film, I used a skylight rather than UV. I can't remember why I made that decision, but it was after a fair amount of reading, so it wasn't arbitrary.

    And don't forget a hard (metal or plastic) lens hood, for additional protection against fingers and bumps.
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2017
  17. Just to back up what I'm saying, here's some real world data. This is a plot of absorbance vs. wavelength taken on a Varian Cary UV-50(this particular instrument uses a pulsed xenon lamp as its source). Absorbance is -log(T) where T is %Transmittance. This instrument is linear up to 4.0A, and tops out at 10A(0% transmittance is ∞A).

    In any case, I scanned from 300nm to 800nm, and although the graph only shows 0-1.0A, the nearly vertical lines extend to the limits of the instrument's PMT.

    All of that out of the way, from left to right we have a generic UV, Nikon L37(UV) and a 24mm 2.8 AI-Nikkor. As can be seen, the cheap filter has a cut of of around 350nm, the Nikon filter at 400nm, and the bare lens at around 430nm.

    So, I stand by my statement that a UV filter does nothing other than provide a shoot-through lens cap.


    Raw data in the form of .csv files available on request.
  18. Adding an extra layer of glass is never going to improve the quality of a lens.

    I also agree that the stupid "Digital" epithet is pure marketing hype. Although it does help to date used filters, and modern coatings tend to be more effective than older ones.

    The way I look at it is: It's better to have to clean dust and/or smudges from a relatively cheap filter, than to scrub away at the front of an expensive lens. Yes, it's just basically a lens cap, but one that you can shoot through while you walk around amongst dust, light rain, kids with sticky fingers, careless adults (myself included) and a host of other unforeseen hazards - which include constantly clipping and unclipping a plastic lenscap on and off.

    Plus the UV filter can always be unscrewed for anything really demanding the utmost image quality.

    To answer the original question. I don't think you can go wrong with Hoya HMC filters. Good value and with an optical performance that's as good as anything else on the market.

    The Polish website "Lenstip" has a test of UV filters, and Hoya pretty much takes all the top scores.
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2017
    Sandy Vongries likes this.
  19. Excellent stuff. I have what I need, many thanks.

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