In mammography it is essential to combine aspects of image quality with compliance with glandular dose levels. The objective of this study was to combine the assessment of the contrast-detail threshold and the mean glandular dose for different target/filter combinations in digital mammography and to indicate the optimal combination through a figure of merit (FOM). In a direct digital mammograph, performance and image quality standards were evaluated using a solid-state multidetector capable of measuring various parameters including kerma and standardized phantoms for image quality. After verifying the proper functioning of the mammograph, the contrast-detail detection threshold and the mean glandular dose values for thicknesses ranging from 20 mm to 70 mm in polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) were evaluated. Combining these values, an FOM was defined to determine the optimal combination. The results indicated that the Mo/Rh and W/Rh combinations present mean glandular doses below the limit for all thicknesses. In contrast, using the Mo/Mo combination, the mean glandular doses were below the limit only up to 45 mm. However, when considering the FOM that combines dosimetric aspects and the contrast-detail threshold, the use of W/Rh is the most optimal option. The results obtained in this study demonstrate that the W/Rh combination in direct digital mammography is the option that presents the best trade-off between the mean glandular dose and the contrast-detail detection threshold. The results demonstrate that the application of the W/Rh combination in direct digital mammography offers an optimized and applicable option, regardless of the thickness of the breast that will be radiographed. Copyright © 2020 The College of Radiographers. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.