It's time for Filters - What do I need?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by wheezy, Oct 30, 2006.

  1. wheezy macrumors 65816

    wheezy

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2005
    Location:
    Alpine, UT
    #1
    Howdy ya'll. I've been a pretty avid fan of photography for about 2 years now and have invested money is some good equipment and have been pretty proud of some of my shots. However, I need to get into using filters now, I guess you could say it's my next level. What do I need to get? I like landscape/sunset shots, people shots when I can, and close up shots with a nice soft bokeh in the back. Here's what I shoot with:

    Canon 20D
    Canon 135MM F2 L
    Canon EF 50mm 1.8 II
    Canon EF 28-135 3.5-4.5 USM

    Any help from those in the know (aka filter users) would be appreciated. THANKS!!
     
  2. furious macrumors 65816

    furious

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    Aug 7, 2006
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    Australia
  3. beavo451 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2006
    #3
    I think you mean a polarizing filter.

    Based on the OP's description, I think you will benefit from a Circular Polarizer and a Graduated Neutral Density Filter.

    B+W filters, Hoya Super HMC, and Nikon are good filters.

    Look at a Cokin P system filter holder for the graduated ND filter.
     
  4. mleary macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2006
    #4
    definitely get a circular polarizer first... they are so much fun.
     
  5. sjl macrumors 6502

    sjl

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    Sep 15, 2004
    Location:
    Melbourne, Australia
    #5
    Circular polariser is a must have. Get a good quality one; you won't be disappointed. (I'd also suggest looking at the kit you're likely to buy in the future, and buy one to fit the biggest thread you may need - most likely 77mm for Canon. Get some step-up rings to put it on the smaller thread sizes. High quality polarisers are not cheap; a bit more money now will save you from having to buy a second one down the road. Feel free to ignore this bit of advice if you think it doesn't apply to you.)

    Landscape/sunset would suggest ND gradient filters; as others have said, look at the Cokin P series holder for those, they're much more flexible than standard type filters.

    Close up and people shots - maybe a one- or two-stop ND filter, especially if you'll be doing them in strong sunlight, so you can open the lens up nice and wide without needing a superhuman shutter speed. :D

    Good luck.
     
  6. annk Administrator

    annk

    Staff Member

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    Apr 18, 2004
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    Somewhere over the rainbow
    #6
    I'm not trying to high-jack this thread, but could those of you offering the OP advice, also say a few words about screw-in filters vs. systems like Cokin?

    I'm planning on investing in a few basic filters soon, too, and am a bit confused as to whether it's best to get a system like Cokin, or just buy screw-in for all filters. I assume this will be interesting for the OP, as well. :eek:
     
  7. Abstract macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

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    Location Location Location
    #7
    Haha, me too. I looked into Cokin, but for one reason or another it doesn't seem like their filters are of fantastic quality from what I've read. I know you can put in filters from other companies in there, but they may be hard to find depending on where you live. I don't live in a place where I can just look at all sorts of filters from any camera store. They all have Hoyas though. :eek:
     
  8. -hh macrumors 68020

    -hh

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2001
    Location:
    NJ Highlands, Earth
    #8
    My rule of thumb is generally to put a 1A (Skylight) filter on most of my lenses. People also often talk about doing this to protect from damage (rationale is that it is better to scratch the flter than the lens), but I do it mostly because it reduces the labor of cleaning. Its also sometimes convenient to be able to instantly have a clean lens by just taking it off.


    YMMV, but I'd rather not have "all of my eggs in one basket" with a single big polarizer and step-up rings for the 58mm and so forth: a good polarizer is dang expensive in the larger sizes ($175 for a multicoat in 77mm).

    Murphy's Law says that you're most likely to break the darn thing by dropping it when moving it between lenses, usually on a rocky, windy clifftop with a great view but lousy footing (been there, done that).


    Agreed. Just keep an eye on Cokin's lens diameter constraints for their various systems. I have a mittful of their square filters, but IIRC, the holder's maximum lens diameter is around 58mm. Now that I've gone to fatter lenses, it means having to replace everything.


    Personally, I'd go for a very strong ND filter, as I don't generally believe them to be worth bothering with for only 1 or 2 stops - - on digital, can easily do this by changing the ISO.


    BTW, a trick that I've heard ...but have yet to get around to trying... for an "infinitely adjustable" ND filter is to just stack two polarizers together.


    -hh
     
  9. maxi macrumors regular

    Joined:
    May 23, 2006
    Location:
    Buenos Aires, Argentina
    #9
    IMHO the most important thing to do before putting on a filter is to know what you want to with the filter. Don't use them just cause they are expensive and you paid for them :).

    That said, circular polarizers are very neat, they will basically help you in most outdoor situations: increasing the contrast in a scene, darkening the sky and eliminating reflections from both water and leaves, etc. Polarizers don't seem to have so much effect on digital as they did on film (that's a personal opinion of mine, your mileage may vary) but they are useful.

    As for Cokin filters, they are not of the greatest quality, but they are used sporadically... which wont affect you much. Graduated screw in filters are (IMO) almost useless because they will make you have the horizon on the middle of the frame, you will loose the ability to compose the shot. That's the main reason most people use systems like cokin for grads.

    ND filters can be useful for a variety of reasons, but then again, whether you need them or not is up to you... look around the net, there's loads of information about filters, just don't buy a filter cause someone uses it, buy them because they will be useful to you. ie: I shoot BW film all the time, so I have quite a few yellow and orange filters that are amazingly useful, but if you shoot digital you don't need them. The same for all the filters designed to use with different lighting conditions, now we have a button to set WB.

    As for leaving a UV or skylight filter on all the time: you will find equally contradictory opinions. Some say they use them for protection all the time, some say they only put them on during very bad conditions (in the beach, etc) and some never do. The truth is that putting another piece of glass in front of your ver expensive lens will deteriorate the image at least a bit, whether you mind that (or even realize it) or not is up to you. :)

    Good luck with your filters! and remember that when buying glass, you get what you pay for. I don't mind using a cheap filter for some certain shots, but if you are using one on the majority of them or even leave it on, please buy the best you can afford.
     
  10. annk Administrator

    annk

    Staff Member

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    Apr 18, 2004
    Location:
    Somewhere over the rainbow
    #10
    I've already done my research, and am basically ready to buy a couple filters for each of my two main lenses. At this point, I'm not looking for information on what filters do, or which filters other people use (though it's always interesting to know which filters people used on images they post here).

    My question pertains to the systems people use, and why they use them. From your answer, it would appear that screw-in filters (like my Hoya UV, for example? It screws in, but I was under the impression it was a good filter) are useless, and Cokin aren't of the greatest quality. But that can't be right, can it?? :confused: Is there no such thing as a good filter?
     
  11. maxi macrumors regular

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    May 23, 2006
    Location:
    Buenos Aires, Argentina
    #11
    Hahaha, no... I'm sorry if that wasn't clear. I think screw-in filters are useless for grad filters. Grad filters are those that are essentially 2 different colors and graduated. This is what I find cokin filters very useful for. Since they are rectangular, you can adjust them so the division between both colors (I use an ND grad) is exactly where you want it. Screw in grad filters require you to have that division in exactly the center of the frame.

    As for quality filters: Nikon, Canon, B+W, tiffen are some of the most renowned brands out there. Nikon polarizers are excellent, and i've heard very good things about b+w.
     
  12. cube macrumors G4

    Joined:
    May 10, 2004
    #12
    Kaesemann circular polarizers are the best. From B+W or Heliopan. They are edge-sealed.
     
  13. sjl macrumors 6502

    sjl

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2004
    Location:
    Melbourne, Australia
    #13
    Nah, you misunderstand. If you buy a gradient filter of the screw-in type, you're limited in your composition: the line between "full filter" and "no filter" (or as much no filter as the filter allows) is set to the center of the filter, and you can't move it. Rotate, yes; move, no.

    Cokin filters let you both rotate and move the dividing line, giving you a great deal more freedom in your composition. With gradient filters, this is a Good Thing(tm). And that applies to any sort of gradient filters, where the filter is not uniform in its effect across its surface.

    For filters that are uniform, screw-in is the way to go. Much less stuffing around, much more convenient. eg: if and when I buy a neutral density filter (as distinct from an ND gradient filter, which I have in the Cokin system), it will be a screw in ND, not a Cokin ND.

    Cokin and its relations have its place, and it's damn useful in that place. But it's not the be-all and end-all of filters.

    You aren't wrong, which is why I said "feel free to ignore this". In my case, I have the 100-400mm, which wants a 77mm filter; a multicoat in (eg) 52mm (for my 50mm f/1.8) is $AU89. So I have the choice: I can spend $AU175 on a polariser for the 100-400; $AU123 on a polariser for the 17-85; and $AU89 for the 50mm ... or I can spend $AU175 on the 100-400mm, and $20 on step-up rings for the 50mm and 17-85, and use the one polariser on each.

    Would it be ideal to have a polariser in each size? Yes. But I don't have the money to do that, alas. Everybody is different, and I'm just trying to suggest possible options for doing things "on the cheap", with the acknowledgement that some of what I say may not apply to the OP. eg: major drawback to step-up rings: no lens hood (which may or may not be of concern).
     
  14. annk Administrator

    annk

    Staff Member

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    Apr 18, 2004
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    Somewhere over the rainbow
    #14
    This was exactly the kind of thing I needed to know, thanks. :) Is Cokin good enough quality that I can justify putting them in front of my Canon L lens?
     
  15. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2006
    Location:
    Redondo Beach, California
    #15
    They are thin plastic. Being thin and of low refractive index the surface does not need to be perfect. In stiuations where you need a gradient it will do far more good then hard.

    If you are REALLY picky about optical quality then there are third party gradient filters that fit int the cokin holder. I have a pair of "tiffen" brand glas filtrs tht are Cokin "P" but I'm not surethey are better, certainly more expensive and easier to break. There are a few other conpanies (Hitech and Singh-ray) who make glass filters in cokin sizes. These are marketed as having a more nuetral gray Fond the site: www.singh-ray.com/grndgrads.html
     
  16. sjl macrumors 6502

    sjl

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2004
    Location:
    Melbourne, Australia
    #16
    Depends on what you're trying to achieve. I have floating around here somewhere several shots that I took with a Cokin filter. Some came out technically brilliant (but visually unappealing - sigh. ie: the composition wasn't as good as I'd hoped it would be.) Some came out with some very obvious reflections off the filter (and it was the Cokin that caused them - I've taken similar shots without any filter, and had no reflections at all.)

    If you need a gradient filter, you're better off with Cokin than without, as ChrisA has said. I'd say that, if you need/want them, get the Cokin filters; they're relatively cheap, and you'll find out soon enough if they're not good enough for the job at hand. They'll also give you a chance to play and learn; gradient filters are not the easiest things to fiddle with. The aperture you shoot with will affect the end result, for starters ...

    The main advantage of (eg) the Singh filters is that they are sufficiently long that you can position the line (or gradient section) anywhere you want it. Cokin's aren't; there's a limit (although it's still better than a screw-in ND grad - you only miss out on putting the line very close to the edge of the lens.)
     

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