HDR vs. Filters

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by ManhattanPrjct, Apr 8, 2010.

  1. ManhattanPrjct macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2008
    #1
    I am thinking about the next steps I want to take in my photography. I am interested mostly in landscapes, architecture, scenery, travel, street scenes and less so in people/portraiture and macro. I already have the camera and lenses I want (slash "need") and so I don't really have any gear-lust.

    I have been thinking about a tripod upgrade, and this could lend itself to experimenting with HDR. I think the results you get from HDR can be amazing, but at the same time, some of them look very "manufactured." I know there is skill in getting a good HDR result, but how much of that is software and processing versus what you accomplish with your camera? All this aside, it still is a cool process, despite the fact it sounds a little like I am trashing it!

    Alternatively, I don't own any filters and I think that with graduated filters you can get a great exposure without the need for a lot of intensive post (though not quite to the same level of an HDR). However, this has its own learning curve, as well as the need for the filters themselves and step-up rings (assuming I want to use one with my UWA, which is an argument unto itself).

    Any feedback on this philosophical argument?
     
  2. Doylem macrumors 68040

    Doylem

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2006
    Location:
    Wherever I hang my hat...
    #2
    For landscape/location work a grey grad is a very useful tool (in fact, it's the only filter I ever use). HDR is a photographic cul-de-sac, IMO, not because it's intrinsically bad... but because people think it's a good way to make dull pix look a bit more interesting. It isn't...
     
  3. Edge100 macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    May 14, 2002
    Location:
    Where am I???
    #3
    Virtually all the skill in making a good HDR comes via manipulation of the software (outside, of course, of the composition of the photo itself). Frankly, anyone can take bracketed exposures; where people fall down is in the manipulation of the sliders in Photomatix and the like. I've also found that the output from Photomatix, even when done well, almost always requires a trip back into Photoshop to fix contrast, saturation, halo artifacts, etc. The best HDRs I've seen are composites between the tone mapped Photomatix output and one or more of the original captures.

    An ND grad filter is a standard tool for landscape photography, and can be used by itself or in combination with post-processing techniques, including HDR.

    I would say get yourself an ND grad, learn how to use it, and then use HDR as one of the tools in your PP arsenal.
     
  4. HBOC macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2008
    Location:
    SLC
  5. ManhattanPrjct thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2008
    #5
    Sorry Doylem, but I think I am going to make this statement my own - very well-put.
     
  6. ManhattanPrjct thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2008
    #6
    I know Hoya and B+W are good brands (as well as Nikon, I am sure), but my UWA is a 77mm and my street zoom is a 72mm (and it's a 17-50mm, so it is conceivable I may want to use a filter with it too) - so is there a step-up ring I should avoid or favor?
     
  7. HBOC macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2008
    Location:
    SLC
    #7
    I was in the middle of replying to this earlier, and my MBP decided to go all ape ****.

    In any case, I don't really care for HDR. Don't get me wrong, they can turn out amazing. For me, using a grad filter and perhaps bracketing (i haven't done this) and blending several shots would get a more "real" result.

    Manipulating is nothing new. Ansel Adams heavily manipulated his photos, as did many people in the film era. You could argue that the use of filters is a form of manipulation, which it is.

    I would invest in a tripod (not one of those shady walbog ones either), a cable release and some good glass (filters, in this case). Good lenses don't hurt either. I had some cheap Cokin square filters that had that resin or whatever they use on the low end filters. It worked, but they are cheap. I would suggest Singh-Ray. Their square filters (for Lee or Cokin holders) are a lot more affordable than their vario filters are.
     
  8. HBOC macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2008
    Location:
    SLC
    #8
    for grad filters, DEFINITELY get the square style. You can pick up a Cokin P holder for like $30. They also sell rings to thread onto your lenses in all sizes, and they are cheap. Then you can get the Singh-Ray or whatever. I would go this route for grads. Obviously you can't go this route for polarizers.

    Check out B&H or Amazon for the Cokin P series (they have several different series.. )
     
  9. Westside guy macrumors 601

    Westside guy

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2003
    Location:
    The soggy side of the Pacific NW
    #9
    Step up rings are cheap. I've just bought the "house brand" from B&H and Adorama without any issues.

    For solid NDs I think screw-in works fine in most cases - there's always the possibility of contributing to vignetting with any screw-in, of course. But as was already mentioned, for grad NDs you really do need the square filters so you can adjust where the gradation falls (e.g. if your horizon is low in the frame, you need to be able to slide the filter down to match it). And there's certainly nothing wrong with square solid NDs, of course.

    BTW there are polarizers made for Cokin-type holders. I don't have one, but they do exist.
     
  10. mahood macrumors member

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2009
    Location:
    UK
    #10
    Seconded - one holder, various (cheap) step up & down rings and you can spend all your money on the filter, instead of having to buy one for each lens size... But be aware on a very wide angle lens you need a 'thinner' filter holder, otherwise the edges of the holder can appear in shot, giving you a vignette-style effect. They're called 'wide angle filter holders' and I think only allow one filter to be used at a time - the regular one allows you to stack up to 3 or more.

    Mark
     
  11. HBOC macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2008
    Location:
    SLC
    #11
    ^
    on the wide holders, you can still do three filters, although i wouldn't.
     
  12. Ruahrc macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2009
    #12
    Yeah I'd recommend to get the larger filters not the Cokin "P" size ones. Cokin calls their larger ones "Z" size I think and also if you buy from like Lee or Singh-Ray those are the same size as Cokin "Z" (4x6in)

    The larger filters not only provide more stacking opportunities (wider filters and holder = less or no vignetting), they are also a lot easier to hand hold. I found that I hardly use my filter holder because I typically am only needing one GND and it's easy enough to handhold because of the large size. I like hand holding a lot because it's a lot faster than putting on and securing/mounting/aligning a filter into the holder, and also if you havea polarizer things start to get screwy. Hand holding you can keep a regular polarizer on the lens then just hold the GND in front of the lens no problem. If you hand hold the P size it's easy to get fingers in the frame which is why I prefer the Z size.

    I'd recommend to not get the Cokin filters. In my experience they have had a color cast (they are just "grey" colored and not truly neutral density like other brands) which can affect the final image. Lee filters are high quality but expensive. I went with Hitech which sells filters that are a little smaller than but still compatible with the Lee filter standard (Hitechs are 4x5, Lee is 4x6). The Hitech filters are a lot less money than the Lee or SR but are still high quality with no color cast.

    As to filters vs. HDR, well technically exposure bracketing can replace the use of GNDs in many cases, but often times it is going to be easier to use the filter. As for filters vs PP in general, sometimes PP is a valid alternative but other times filters will give you effects unachievable with PP (polarizing filters for example).

    Ruahrc
     
  13. Westside guy macrumors 601

    Westside guy

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2003
    Location:
    The soggy side of the Pacific NW
    #13
    Singh-Ray sells pretty much everything in both Cokin-P and Lee (Cokin-Z) size.
     
  14. ManhattanPrjct thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2008
    #14
    I went to some of the local shops here and the choice for the non-screw in (the holders) is either Lee or Cokin. Samys is actually not going to carry Cokins any more, but I found somebody who does.

    Lee's holder seems to be able to hold more than two filters at a time. Cokin's holder didn't seem that effective or easy - even the clerk had a hard time attaching the polarizer to it. Any bad experiences?

    Any opinions on brand preference here? I am probably just going to order from B&H to save on the California's outrageous sales tax.
     
  15. Westside guy macrumors 601

    Westside guy

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2003
    Location:
    The soggy side of the Pacific NW
    #15
    I've had no problems with the Cokin holder.

    Whatever you choose (Cokin or Lee or whatever), be sure to buy extra adapter rings for your various-sized lenses. You'll get one ring with the holder, of course.

    I bought one of the regular holders (holds three filters) and one of the slim/wide ones (holds just one filter).
     
  16. ManhattanPrjct thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2008
    #16
    Has anybody had any particularly negative experiences with a Cokin Z holder versus the Lee holder? They are practically the same price, but I have read that the Cokin holder tends to scratch the periphery of the filters due to the loading system. Lee holder users love to gush about the functionality versus the Cokin (one handed vs. two handed adjustments to the filters).

    Any anecdotes people would care to share?
     
  17. HBOC macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2008
    Location:
    SLC
    #17
    I have had the Cokin filter holder (and unfortunately their filters) and didn't have any problems. From what i understand, the Lee series is of higher quality and more expensive i believe.
     
  18. Ruahrc macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2009
    #18
    I have the Cokin Z holder, and while I don't have "negative" experiences, I would rather have the Lee holder. I only got the Cokin because when I needed to get one, the Lee holders were out of stock everywhere (they had some kind of manufacturing problem last year and they did not produce any holders for many months, and *everybody* ran out of stock for the holders).

    As it is the holder is fine. But, if you have a very wide angle lens (I have the Nikon 12-24mm lens), a little modification is needed to the Cokin holder in order to prevent vignetting at the very wide angles. It's kind of hard to describe in words, but there are 3 pegs which secure the holder to the mounting ring that screws onto the lens. As designed, it works, but you cannot mount a filter flush with the surface of the holder. With a little modification (basically pulling the pegs out and putting them in backwards) you can change it such that you can mount an additional filter flush with the holder surface, effectively giving you an extra slot. Or, if you have a UWA lens, you can remove all the excess filter slots from the front and mount them to the back, and then you will not get vignetting.

    Unmodified, I would see some vignetting at 12mm if I turned the filters to an angle, maybe even if I mounted them sideways (for example taking a portrait format picture). But after the modification I can use a single filter at any orientation without vignetting at 12mm. If I want to stack 2 or more, I will get vignetting but only at certain angles.

    IIRC, the lee holder is designed a little differently and it does not vignette on most UWA lenses as the closest filter to the holder is more flush like the modified Cokin Z holder.

    Ruahrc
     
  19. ManhattanPrjct thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2008
    #19
    Okay - this is great info. My UWA lens has a diameter of 77mm and my street zoom (which I could also use for landscapes at the wider end) has one of 72mm. Instead of buying two adapters for the holder, couldn't I use my 72/77 step-up ring?
     
  20. Westside guy macrumors 601

    Westside guy

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2003
    Location:
    The soggy side of the Pacific NW
    #20
    You could, but that does put the holder a few millimeters further forward. That could possibly cause/exacerbate vignetting.
     
  21. CK Williams macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2008
    Location:
    Metro Atlanta, GA USA
    #21
    As long as you use a 77mm filter that setup should work fine. Starting with a 72 filter stepped up to a 77 on a UWA will definitely cause problems with vignetting.
     
  22. The Mad Kiwi macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2006
    Location:
    In Hell
    #22
    The adaptors only cost a few dollars so get one for each size lens you have, sometimes it's better to spend a couple extra dollars for ease of use.
     
  23. ManhattanPrjct thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2008
    #23
    For the Lee system:

    77mm: $27.95
    72mm: $59.95

    Seems kind of silly to spend the money for the 72mm adapter if I already have a 72/77mm step-up ring (which I use for my 77mm polarizer).
     
  24. The Mad Kiwi macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2006
    Location:
    In Hell
    #24
    Yeah, I bought Cokin Z and use Singh-Ray filters, cheaper than Lee just as good. Using a step up ring into an adapter into a holder just sound annoying, it's bad enough trying to finding the crap in your bag when it's dark using a torch as it is.

    To answer your original question HDR vs Filters.

    Both.

    I use filters and HDR, I try to get the exposure as correct as possible with filters as it gives a great base shot without blown highlights in the sky of too much shadowing in the foreground, then I use 2 stops either side of the correct exposure, I just blend them together to bring back just a little detail in the highlights and shadows. HDR especially helps to bring back some detail in the foreground rocks in the shadows. Filters can't help with this at all. The key is to be subtle.
     
  25. HBOC macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2008
    Location:
    SLC
    #25
    Well, for me; if i am spending $120+ on a filter, buying one different size adapter i wouldn't mind. I know most popular L lenses are 77mm and some are 67mm (70-200f/4L). Of course they have 82mm, etc.

    If cost is an issue, the Cokin will be fine.
     

Share This Page