Protective filters and digital cameras

Nancy writes,

When I told you I rec’d a Nikon D80, you recommended a protective lens to me. My husband bought:

Tamron 67mm UV Haze Filter

Will this lens work as you recommended?

It should do the job to protect your lens, but it might not be your best choice.

First, there is some controversy about the use of the UV filters with digital cameras.  A few years ago a Nikon employee explained that digital cameras have a built-in UV filter and that adding a second UV filter in front of the lens can sometimes cause colour accuracy issues.  If you look through a UV filter on a sunny day, you’ll indeed notice that it does change the colour.  However, in practice, I’ve shot through a UV filter with the default auto-white balance setting, and my camera seems to compensate just fine, as should your D80.  I have noticed a slight difference when shooting RAW since the camera doesn’t apply the same adjustments as it does to jpegs, but it has never been a show-stopper. I suspect that if you were manually setting your white balance it would be much more of an issue.

Second, if you’ve paid for a high-end lens, for example with Nikon ED Glass, I don’t think it makes sense to put anything short of a high-end filter on it.  On the other hand, if you’re shooting a lower-end lens it also wouldn’t make sense to put an expensive filter on it.  Since the purpose of the filter, in this case, is simply to protect the lens, one must also consider the cost of the lens.  For example, the Nikon 50mm f1.8 lens is fantastic, and you wouldn’t want to put a cheap filter on it.  Given that the lens itself sells for around $200, it also doesn’t make sense to spend a lot on a filter to protect it, so I don’t bother.  On the other hand, when you’re buying a $1000+ lens, another $100 for a filter to protect your investment doesn’t seem unreasonable.

I personally use Cokin filters for effects (because they can fit different lens sizes) and I have also used Tiffen filters for specific applications.  Hoya also makes some good filters, but you have to be careful because they have a high end and a low end line, and the difference between them is quite significant. I also find the coating on the Hoya filters makes them more difficult to get clean.  I haven’t personally tried Tamron filters, but assuming their filters are similar quality to their lenses, I’d expect them to be a reasonable, middle-of-the-road quality.

In my opinion, B+W makes the best filters.  My circular polarizing and neutral density filters are from B+W, and even though they cost almost twice as much as some other brands, they’re worth every penny.  Back in the film days, I put a B+W UV filter on the front of virtually every lens I owned.  Unfortunately (are you reading this B+W) they don’t make a non-UV protective filter, so these days all my Nikon lenses are protected by a Nikon NC (neutral colour) filter.

Hope that helps!

7 thoughts on “Protective filters and digital cameras

  1. Oops – sorry, wrote the comment before I saw remainder of article.
    I just wanted to protect the lens as you’d suggested. I can return it and get a non-UV lens? Better idea?

  2. That’s a good lens and has ED glass, so I would probably buy the Nikon 67mm NC Neutral Colour filter. Henrys has them listed at CDN $69.99 and bhphotovideo.com in New York has them for US $49.99.
    My guess is that’s $30 or so more than the Tamron filter, but I think it would be worth it on that lens.

  3. This was perfectly timed. I’m going to be picking up my D40x this weekend so I’ll definately keep this in mind while I’m shopping over the next few weeks.

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