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by Bart Arondson

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I currently have a cheap UV filter that was initially purchased with the camera.

I am looking at buying a HOYA UV or Skylight filter as it is suggested this may help improve the image quality.

Many people mention that the skylight adds a pink tint. I wondered is this cancelled out if you set a custom white balance?

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While this specific question wasn't asked, it is addressed in several of the answers to photo.stackexchange.com/questions/5507/… –  mattdm Apr 6 '11 at 12:06
2  
I should also add: a better filter will improve image quality only in the sense that it will harm image quality less. See photo.stackexchange.com/questions/57/… –  mattdm Apr 6 '11 at 12:50

4 Answers 4

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Removing filters improves image quality, not adding them :)

UV filters should only be used for eminent dangers such as salt-water spray and flying sand. For protection against knocks and reduction of flare, a lens hood is far more effective.

UV filters as well as Skylight filters greatly increase the chance of flare which reduces image quality and contrast because it adds a flat (and relatively cheap) piece of glass in the optical path.

Skylight filters are pretty silly to use on a digital cameras since, as you suspect, the camera compensates for it when using TTL white-balance. On most cameras that means Auto and Custom white-balance. Preset and Kelvin white-balance will get the pink tint.

If your cameras has en external white-balance sensor (such as some Olympus and Nikon DSLRs), then it will not correct for the pink tint when it decides to use the external sensor and will correct when measuring TTL. You can sometimes disable the external sensor but these camera generally decides when to use the external one vs the internal sensor. To be sure to cancel the pink out, you need to use custom white-balance from an image taken with Skylight filter on.

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Any references on that external WB sensor bit? I'd like to read more about that. –  Evan Krall May 3 '11 at 2:35
    
@Evan - Not sure what you are looking for. You mean other than the manual that comes with the DSLR in question? The latest on to use this is the Olympus E-3. The manual mentions briefly what it does and there is a setting to disable it. –  Itai May 3 '11 at 3:20
    
When was the latest Nikon to use this? I haven't seen any references to such a sensor before - I assumed auto white balance was done using the RGB meter sensor. –  Evan Krall May 3 '11 at 3:53
    
Nikon D2Xs is the last IIRC. You can see a close up of the sensor on the D2H which is from the same time-frame: dpreview.com/reviews/nikond2h/page3.asp –  Itai May 3 '11 at 4:12

Yes. As long as you take your custom white balance image with the filter on the lens, it will compensate for any tint added by the filter.

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If you are using automatic white balance, or measure custom white balance with the filter on, the color tint will mostly be cancelled out by the white balancing.

The filter does change the light that falls through it, so even if the white balancing compensates, you can't say that the effect is totally cancelled out. There might still be a visible difference in some situations, even if it's not visible as a pink tint.

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An interesting way that you can exploit auto white-balance compensating for filter tints is putting some of those old color filters to good use. I have an old filter that is a deep orange-brown color. It was designed long long ago for portrait photography to enhance skin-tones. Today I find that it is invaluable for fall foliage photography. When used with auto white-balance the camera compensates for this large color shift, while it strongly enhances all the golds, oranges, and crimsons of fall colors. Adding further color-channel dynamic-range for those hues in the final data which gives me much more latitude in post-processing for fine-tuning those particular colors.

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