[GCM Photographic] Are all UV filters the same?

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I know it sound like a strange title for a review of UV (Ultra Violet) filters and since this is generally the first filter most people purchase, it is very valid, as the review will show.
This review came about as a result of a conversation we had with William Wu, the MD of STC Optics at The Photography Show back in March.
Whilst being new to the United Kingdom, but having been America for a while, STC were eager to demonstrate the superiority of their filter technology to us.

Liking a challenge, we asked if we could do a review of their filters, to which they agreed, so confident were they, that, STC provided us with both the UV filter and the UV blocking test cards to use in the test.
We are testing both their UV and ND filters (the ND is unique because it fits within the camera instead of fitting to the front of the camera lens) The ND filter test will follow soon.

To provide a balance, we have pitched the STC filters against a selection of their competitors and taken from our own collection of filters.
In this review we used the following UV filters: B+W 010, Hoya UV(0), JYC Pro1-D UV and of course STC SMRC 11.
The photographs were taken on a tripod mounted Nikon D800,fitted with 24-85mm lens, camera set at 100 iso, Jpeg fine, exposure: 1/400th second at f11. All images straight from camera, no subsequent adjustments or sharpening were applied.
All the photographs and tests were performed at the beach.
Why you ask?
Answer: A beach on a sunny day has higher levels of UV light, absolutely ideal for our tests.
To provide a benchmark a frame was exposed without any filter, all images were subsequently viewed and assessed on a colour calibrated monitor.

There were some surprises to be had! Below are the full frame images.

Benchmark image, without filter.

JYC Pro1-D

B+W 010

Hoya UV(0)

STC SMRC 11

Next are cropped sections of the respective images, viewed at 100% in Photoshop the difference between the filters is a little more apparent.

Benchmark crop

JYC crop

B+W crop

Hoya crop

STC crop

To test the true ability of the filters to block UV light, each filter was placed on a special card with a UV sensitive coating and left in direct sunlight for 5 minutes. The results are below and again some surprises.

JYC

B+W

Hoya

STC

As a rough guide, price wise STC and B+W are at the more expensive end, Hoya just below and bargain basement JYC.
We have not quoted prices due to currency variations from country to country.
B+W and Hoya filters are available from most good photographic suppliers and also Amazon and Ebay.
JYC filters are available from Amazon and Ebay
STC filters are available from their own webshop : http://shop.stcoptics.com  
STC and B+W use German, Schott glass, Hoya, being a glass manufacurer use their own glass and JYC use Japanese imported glass.
Both STC and JYC filters are multicoated, slim filters, whilst the B+W and Hoya filters are single coated and conventional thickness filters.

Conclusions

Using the without filter image as the benchmark and in the sequence the images were taken, the results are as follows:

The JYC filter gave a marginal increase in sharpness, there was a slight magenta cast but a loss of contrast. B+W showed a very slight loss of sharpness and a little less contrast. Hoya gave a fractionally sharper image, whilst displaying a slight yellow cast and a small increase in contrast. The STC filter however showed an increase in sharpness across the whole frame giving a very even image, with neutral colour and an increase in contrast.

Since all the filters are described as UV filters, one would expect a fairly even set of results, not so!

The JYC filter blocked hardly any UV light (that filter is heading for the bin) B+W was certainly a surprise, it allowed a noticable amount of UV through, considering the price point of this filter, more was expected of it, both the Hoya and STC blocked all UV light.

Which filters would we purchase?
We would choose STC , the results speak for themselves.

 

Source: GCM Photographic (http://gcmphotographic.com/?p=958)

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