Lens Filter Questions

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by 100Teraflops, Jun 20, 2011.

  1. 100Teraflops, Jun 20, 2011
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2011

    100Teraflops macrumors 6502a

    100Teraflops

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    #1
    Hello Fellow Photographers,

    I am starting to get a hang of a 60d, as I am shooting exclusively in Manual, AV, and TV modes respectively. I am experimenting with different ISO, shutter speeds, and aperture settings, so I would like to shake things up a bit and experiment with filters.

    I started researching the use of filters and I have found informative material regarding the different filters and their purposes. My understanding is: a filter will not inhibit a bad photo, but it brings out the best in a correctly taken photo. After more research, there are several filters which create different affects with different lenses. Now to my questions:

    1. I want a filter to enhance the color of my landscape photos, so should I buy a polarized filter exclusively?
    2. Will a polarized filter enhance photos of humans and animals?
    2a. Also, does a polarized filter only affect colors such as blue, green, or red? The photos I have viewed when a polarized filter was used were not portraits of humans or animals. Hence, I want to know if a polarized filter enhances whites and blacks?
    4. I seek "an all around filter" for a particular lens, lets say the lens is a Canon 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM. It appears that being a photographer requires the use of "one of filters" for different desired results. Of course, excluding the different sizes of filters for particular lenses. :)
    5. Is the advised method for experimenting with filters to purchase them blindly? If I am burned with a filter so to speak, do filters hold their value in the marketplace?

    I think I maybe asking too many question, but the people who post in the photography section are first class! Thanks for the help, as all input is appreciated.
     
  2. Doylem macrumors 68040

    Doylem

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    #2
    My own take on filters...

    1 For "enhancing the colours" in landscape photos I try to use the quality of the light, rather than filters... though a simple 'grey graduate' filter is useful for putting some detail back into washed-out skies. Colours can be enhanced in PP (ie Aperture, Photoshop, etc), but can't rescue a poor or badly-exposed image, IMO...

    2 A polarizer can saturate colours and cut through glare and reflections (ie off water)... the 'strength' of the effect depending on the angle to the sun that you shoot. Skies can be registerd as 'midnight blue', etc. The effect would not be my natural choices for pix of people...

    4 There isn't really an 'all-round' filter... unless you're thinking about using a UV (or skylight) filter on your lenses, to protect the front element against damage. A digital workflow can now replicate a lot of the effects that filters used to achieve in the days of film.

    5 I'd buy filters as and when you need them. Sometimes 'less is more', and, personally, I'd rather let the light do most of the work than resort to filters. It's a subject that people have strong opinions about: cheap vs expensive filters, skylight vs no skylight, etc...
     
  3. 100Teraflops thread starter macrumors 6502a

    100Teraflops

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    #3
    Thank you, as I forgot about software! It appears this topic is ultra subjective, so it ends up being a post production grapple. AAAAHHH, filters were originally used to enhance film, as I did not realize this! I appreciate the 'less is more' suggestion. I am an originalist photographer, as I like to capture the true colors or untrue colors that define the moment. Maybe I will change and most likely I will, but my interest with filters is to fracture a rule of the originalist. It appears I am on the right track, but software can provide greater assistance to fracture "true blue" photography.

    Thanks again for the informative data and food for thought!
     
  4. cleanup macrumors 68030

    cleanup

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    #4
    Since as aforementioned most filter "effects" can be replicated in post processing, I really only use filters to protect lenses and to limit the amount of light entering a lens (ie. A neutral density filter) for long exposures. Graduated ND filters can be useful as well, though they can also be simulated in processing to a certain extent. The general rule is, if you have to ask or ponder, chances are you don't need it yet. I certainly advocate using UV filters to protect the front elements of lenses though. Would you rather damage a $70 filter or a $700 lens? Up to you.
     
  5. snberk103 macrumors 603

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    #5
    Absolutely agree with Doylem and cleanup - "less is more" & "let the light work" (It's why it's called photography and not filterography :) ) I will add a little bit as to why a graduated ND and a polarizer filters are a good thing.

    The human eye and the camera don't always see things the same way. One of the differences is that when you look at a landscape with white puffy clouds in the sky your eyes are automatically adjusting for the difference in light between the very bright sky and the not as bright landscape as your eyes dart back and forth.

    When you capture the scene with the camera you generally have to choose between exposing for one or the other. Or combine two or more exposures into one. Or use a ND graduated filter. So in essence the ND filter is simply allowing the camera to "see" what the photographer thinks they see in this particular case. In other words the filter isn't changing the scene, it's bringing it closer to what was perceived.

    A polarizer is not as clear in this sense, because it can be used to see things that the human eye can't (piercing the glare off of a window, for example) - or it can help the camera see what we think we see when looking at a scene.

    I'm of two minds when it comes to using UV or Skylight filters for protection. I tend not to use them, but I do see their value. Keep this in mind. If the sun is in front of the lense, they may be contributing a bit of "glare" to the image, even if it's tiny amount.

    As well, I am often amused by people who spend gobs of $$ on a tripod system to make sure that there is absolutely no camera shake, and therefore are getting the sharpest image possible, and then put an extra piece of glass on front of the lense.

    If you use a filter for protection, don't be afraid to take it off when you need to get the best image possible. And don't stack your filters (i.e. put a polarizer on top of the skylight).

    Good Luck
     
  6. 100Teraflops, Jun 21, 2011
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2011

    100Teraflops thread starter macrumors 6502a

    100Teraflops

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    #6
    After I thought about it, I am going to use a filter in the foreseeable future. No less thanks to you and others who replied to this thread! I have read that people use a filter to protect a lens, so thanks for clearifying the importance of a UV filter. Do you use the neutral density filter on all sunny days or when your lenses if directly facing the sun?
     
  7. 100Teraflops thread starter macrumors 6502a

    100Teraflops

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    #7
    Thanks for a descriptive explanation of filters. Your second and third paragraphs addressed a concern I have with my photos. I feel my blues and greens are not true to the moment. I am struggling with this aspect of photography. I thought I was taking several incorrect photographs, but it is a camera issue. Will a FF body assist with the transition between the blue sky and clouds? Apparently I need to spend more time fine tuning my adjustments by experimenting with a filter or begin the journey as a PS guru. Honestly, I think I will implement a little of both.

    Also, thanks for the helpful advice about not going crazy with filters. I still want experiment with a filter and when I do, then I will buy a ND for sunny days. Furthermore, this question may be silly but, a ND or protective filter can inhibit a good photograph? Thanks again for your assistance as it is greatly appreciated! :) this is for all the persons who contributed to this thread.
     
  8. flosseR macrumors 6502a

    flosseR

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    #8
    Ok, my take:
    I do use UV filters on my lenses for protection but when I bought the lenses, the filters were in a package with them (B & W on all of them) and as those are very good filters i have them on 90% of the time. unless... as mentioned I need very good landscape shots.
    Now, there is a place for ND filters, especially ND 8 and 10. These are for these scenes when you need to have a longer exposure but the light is still too bright to be able to generate this. For example, those milky water shorelines or waterfalls etc.

    Otherwise yes a polarizer should be in your bag because it CAN generate views that we cannot see.

    My only advice on filters is,in agreement with the others, less is more and don't be a cheapskate with them. All these filter sets that contain 3 filters for 20 bucks.. forget them. use quality over quantity. The good ones are expensive but you usually get what you pay for. So an ND filter and a polarizer should be a good start. if you don't have a UV filter, don't buy them, use the lens hood instead for protection.

    just my take.
     
  9. Phrasikleia macrumors 601

    Phrasikleia

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    #9
    Hello, my name is Phrasikleia, and I'm a filter addict. ;)

    Actually, no I'm not an addict; I could stop at any time! Really! But why would I? Photography is the art of capturing light, so anything that gives you control over light is worthwhile.

    I'll give you some examples in pictures, since they are worth so many words. A caveat, though: my philosophy is that there is no such thing as "reality" in photography. Photos at their best are interpretations; the rest are merely accidents--some happy accidents and some not. There is the world 'out there,' and then there is how you see it, how the guy standing next to you sees it, and how either one of you would remember it or would wish it to be. These might all be radically different views, and none is inherently better than the other.

    Filters can help you to get your camera to "see" things your way, which it usually will not do because it's just a hunk of electronics that lacks the sophisticated eyeballs that you have and lacks the brain you have to process visual input. You have to help it along.

    For example…

    Problem: You're standing on a hillside looking at this magnificent sunset, but the camera can't record the vivid colors in the sky and still get a range of tonal values in the landscape below. It can do one or the other, but not both.

    Solution: You could take two shots at different exposures and then meticulously combine them using software. Or you could just attach a graduated neutral density filter (GND) to the front of your lens: voilà!

    Filter used: 3-stop soft GND (panel-type)

    [​IMG]


    Problem: You're crouching by the edge of a stream, marveling at some fantastic icicles that have formed on some fallen branches. The camera "sees" a very busy scene with lots of textures: texture in the water, twigs and branches, textured rocks, textured snow, etc. You want those icicles to stand out against the water.

    Solution: Slow down the exposure in order to smooth out the water, completely suppressing the water's texture (not always a desirable look, but in this case, less is more). Attach a solid neutral density filter (ND) to the front of your lens, and watch those icicles pop out at you.

    Filter used: 10-stop ND (circular)

    [​IMG]


    Problem: You're trudging through deep snow in a windy winter wonderland. The snow is reflecting glaringly bright light back at you from every angle, making your camera unable to see all of the subtle textures of the snow and ice around you. The camera also cannot pick up the phenomenal colors of the sky that you perceive.

    Solution: You need to suppress those reflections by affecting the wavelengths of the light reaching your camera. Attach a circular polarizing filter (CPL) to the front of your lens.

    Filter used: CPL (screw-on type)

    [​IMG]


    Those are just a few examples from the filters I use most.


    What you do *not* need is a new camera! Yes, software can help a lot, but your camera is perfectly capable of producing great images. Despite all I've had to say about filters, the real key to a good photo is good light. Filters can help you to fine-tune good light, but they can't create it where it doesn't exist to begin with. Whether you're finding good sunlight outdoors or are simulating it with your own lights, it is the light more than anything that will give you great colors, textures, and tonality in an image.

    So: before you run out and buy a bunch of filters (or worse still, a new camera) to solve your color problems, try shooting during the golden hour and using software to bring out your interpretation of a scene.

    When you feel as though you're starting to appreciate the subtleties of light, then you'll know what to do with the filters, and THEN you can go nuts and become a filter addict. ;) :cool:
     
  10. snberk103 macrumors 603

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    #10
    You're welcome. There is lots of good advice in this forum, so continue to ask away.
    No it's not. See below.
    Post Production is part of being a photographer. Whether you use PS, Lightroom, Aperture is up to you. Most people on this forum will tell you that they do 80% to 90% of their PP work in LR (Lightroom) or A3 (Aperture v3). PS really only needs to be brought into play for a particularly challenging image. Generally. There are some good threads here for you to search and read up on re: LR and A3 and PS.
    I'm not sure whether you understand the distinction between a ND and graduated ND - so if you do, please forgive me and ignore the next bit. A ND filter is uniformly grey, and in theory "colourless". Bigger numbers means its darker. Phrasikleia below has a really good example of when to use a ND filter. I prefer the darker ones. A graduated ND is not uniformly dark - but instead is darker on one "end", and clear(er) on the other end. In this way you can place the dark bit over the bright sky (darkening it) and leave the landscape more or less unchanged. For various reasons I would recommend not using one that screws onto the front of your lense, but instead get the square ones that slip into a holder that is attached to your lense. If you are going to go this route, get a holder that fits onto the widest (i.e. largest lense cap) lense you are own, or are likely to own. The square filters allow you to move the "horizon" up or down to match the scene's horizon in a way that others don't.
    Listen to Phrasikleia, they know their stuff and they give really good advice.

    Do some searching on this forum for some of the topics you're interested in. For the most part you can't go wrong with the advice that's given here.
     
  11. 100Teraflops, Jun 22, 2011
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2011

    100Teraflops thread starter macrumors 6502a

    100Teraflops

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    #11
    Thank you for separating the difference between 'less is more' and less is none, as that is how I interpreted 'less is more.' I hope that makes sense. :) I am sold on a ND filter thanks to Doylem, cleanup, snberk103, Phrasikleia, and you! When snberk103 described capturing landscape images, I thought he/she pulled that particular aspect of photography from a hat- dually noted. :D

    So let me make sure I understand the purpose of ND filters, they are used specifically or in this case, used for landscape photos. Furthermore, there are different shades of ND filters: lower number is lighter and a higher number is darker? Can ND filters be used for changing the tone of human skin and innate objects?

    The polarizer filter adds effects unseen or unnoticeable to the human eye, which can be paired with landscape images among other aspects of photography. Also, I will not shop for bargain basement deals. Thanks again for your assistance! :)
     
  12. 100Teraflops thread starter macrumors 6502a

    100Teraflops

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    #12
    Phrasikleia said the following ("..."):

    "I'll give you some examples in pictures, since they are worth so many words. A caveat, though: my philosophy is that there is no such thing as "reality" in photography. Photos at their best are interpretations; the rest are merely accidents--some happy accidents and some not. There is the world 'out there,' and then there is how you see it, how the guy standing next to you sees it, and how either one of you would remember it or would wish it to be. These might all be radically different views, and none is inherently better than the other."

    Touche! Right now I am trying to capture what I see and authenticity is important to me. I plan to add creative effects to my workflow sooner than later. Furthermore, you are right in the sense that I should experiment, as my current philosophy will become quite tedious.

    "Filters can help you to get your camera to "see" things your way, which it usually will not do because it's just a hunk of electronics that lacks the sophisticated eyeballs that you have and lacks the brain you have to process visual input. You have to help it along."

    Kindly noted!

    Thank you for providing the photos, as they are excellent visual aids! :) Now I know which filters to buy for a specific effect. It appears to me that filters are tools in the photographer's toolbox.

    "What you do *not* need is a new camera! Yes, software can help a lot, but your camera is perfectly capable of producing great images. Despite all I've had to say about filters, the real key to a good photo is good light. Filters can help you to fine-tune good light, but they can't create it where it doesn't exist to begin with. Whether you're finding good sunlight outdoors or are simulating it with your own lights, it is the light more than anything that will give you great colors, textures, and tonality in an image."

    Actually, I wasn't going to buy another camera, as I was not clear and precise. I understand that the camera can only focus on one object in the view finder, but I though there was not a trick to manipulate the photo without the use of software. Now I know I am wrong. Funny, I am experimenting with my built in flash and realize I need an external flash. Your replies are very helpful and greatly appreciated, as photography has a gradual learning curve or so I claim. :D

    However, it must be noted that I am eyeballing a 5D MKII. ;) I have to wait before I jump the crop body ship though, as I want to learn how to use my current camera. Also, the cost of a full frame is nothing to take lightly, as I can buy a few lenses and filters! :)
     
  13. 100Teraflops thread starter macrumors 6502a

    100Teraflops

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    #13
    Yes, I need to research aperture and Lightroom. I own PS and I bought a book to help guide me, as the learning curve is rather steep. I have not used any image editing software until a few months ago. I like iPhoto, because it is a great organizer. Although, it does possess editing limitations, as I have found out. I have a lot of photos to cleanup in iPhoto or PS, as those editing apps are currently in my possession. It is ironic that I am thinking about buying either Lightroom or Aperture. i will download both apps and go from there. I learned my lesson when I bought Adobe Production Premium. Thanks again for reiterating the basics, and then some.

    I am not going to lie, I do not know the difference between the ND filters! The explanations in this thread are very helpful. I need some time to digest your explanation of ND filters! Meaning, you folks might be hearing from me again regarding filters.

    So you recommend a filter that attaches to an "adapter?" Does the filter and its attachment contact to the barrel end or body end? For example, if I used a teleconverter, the filter system you recommend would not affect the lens's connection to the TC? Like I said, I need time to digest the different arrays of filters. Furthermore, the filters I have researched attached to the barrel end of the lens, hence the 'screw' type.

    Thanks again to all the help from every forum member who contributed to the secret of photographical success! :D
     
  14. Phrasikleia macrumors 601

    Phrasikleia

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    #14
    ND filters can be useful for photos other than landscapes. They can be very useful for portraits too. Let's say you're shooting outdoors in very bright light and want to use a really wide aperture to make the background very blurred, thereby giving you great subject separation. However, in really bright light, your camera may be unable to achieve a fast enough shutter speed with the lens opened up that far. So you screw on an ND filter to solve the problem. The ND filter merely slows down your shutter speed. The "N" stands for "neutral," which means the filter should *not* change any colors, though some of the cheaper ones will introduce an unwanted color cast.

    Essentially, yes. The polarizer will affect which kind of light will get absorbed or passed along, so it will reduce reflections that you would otherwise see with the naked eye. Uses for landscapes would include knocking out reflections on waxy foliage, reflections on water, reflections on snow, etc. For portraits, it can reduce reflections on oily skin, on a person's glasses, or in their hair, among other things. A polarizer can also help to make skies more blue, though the way a person actually perceives color in the sky is subjective, so in this case I wouldn't say the filter is necessarily creating an effect that the naked eye could not see.

    I'm not sure you quite understood my point about reality. I'll try to be more clear. Let's take an image of a rushing river as an example. When you're standing by the river, you perceive the water as being in motion, but what may fascinate you the most is the way that individual droplets of water get launched into the air in different trajectories off of the same rock in the river. The guy next to you, however, is most impressed by by the overall flow and force of the river rushing away from its source. You take an image at 1/1000s, which freezes the motion of the river and captures some of those water droplets suspended in mid air, emphasizing the individual bits of liquid that the river comprised in that particular fraction of a second. The guy next to you takes a photo at 1 full second, which causes the water to look like a mass of misty striations, emphasizing the rapid motion of the river as a whole. Which photo documents "reality"? Which one is "authentic"? I would say neither. There is no "reality" in photography, in my view.

    I could go on with more examples. It's not just a matter of motion or time. What really matters is that you acknowledge the limitations of cameras and don't assume that what they produce most easily is somehow the most genuine or truthful type of depiction. Trust your eyes and try to make your camera "see" things your way.

    So I'm not necessarily saying you should experiment and be "creative." I'm saying you need to take responsibility for what your camera produces. It's just too easy to throw the camera in "P" mode and call the results "authentic." Reality is all relative; for you it's one thing, and for the guy standing next to you, it could be something else.

    The most common type of filter holder for panel-type (rectangular) GND filters attaches to the filter threads on the end of your lens. You first attach a round adapter and then slide over it the square holder itself. There is also a kind that attaches to the barrel of the lens with rubber bands, but I have no experience with that kind.
     
  15. snberk103 macrumors 603

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    #15
    @100Teraflops Just heading out to a meeting, so I'm doing this quickly. Re: A filter holder system. Check out this link.

    Lee Filters is just one of several makers of these systems, but it is the 1st name I could retrieve from my fading memory. The link is shows a camera with a holder attached to the lense (labeled RF 75). While this is for a different type of camera system than you have, it does show the holder. Plus further down the page you can see some examples of graduated ND filters.

    The holder fits onto the front of the lense, and does not interfere with any internal workings. If you get one too small, you will/may see vignetting in the corners of your images.

    Forget trying to get the perfect filter set up. You can't do it at this point 'cause you don't know enough about what you want to shoot, and how these filters are going to change how you shoot. And we don't know enough about you to give you the perfect advice. So, just get a well priced one that is decent quality and start using it. Once you figure out what it does for you, and what you want it to do you'll buy a better one next. And a better one after that. I hope someone has already told you that photography is an expensive hobby.

    One last thought. A good polarizer can also be used as a ~2 stop ND filter.

    My recommendation is to invest in a good polarizer, and start with that. Then haunt any camera swap meets that pop up in your community. You'll find good deals on filter holder systems there, for various reasons.
     
  16. 100Teraflops thread starter macrumors 6502a

    100Teraflops

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    #16
    Thanks again for taking the time to bring me up to snuff! I am copying and printing the replies in this thread to use the information for future use. Obviously, I have to research the use of filters and experiment with them. I agree that two people possess different aspects of the "river." Excellent analogy by the way. :)
     
  17. 100Teraflops thread starter macrumors 6502a

    100Teraflops

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    #17
    I viewed your link, thank you! Now I know where this type of filter attaches to the lens. I hope you weren't later for your meeting! :) Yes, I realize that photography is an expensive hobby. But it is cheaper than some of my past hobbies. Nonetheless, since I am too new to photography: trying to find anything perfect will be a daunting task and most likely impossible.

    I thank each person who posted to this thread, as your knowledge and experience is held in highest regard. :) Before I posted this thread I was very confused about the purpose and use of filters, but now I think gained significant insight with both the former and the latter!
     
  18. snberk103 macrumors 603

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    #18
    Glad it helped. I find a picture very useful in these cases. But then I'm biased that way.... :)
    Nope, not late. It was an interesting one too.

    The only hobbies I can think of, off the top of my head, that are more expensive than photography are Cars, Motorcycles, Boats, Drugs, and Scotch. And I think Photography can give Motorcycles a good run for the money. :)

    I usually find that Photography is all about trade-offs - a balancing act. So, perfection is almost impossible.

    -Big DoF, OR fast shutter speed to freeze the movement of the grasses.
    -Fast ISO to work in a dim light, with the noise it produces, OR add artificial lighting.
    -Carry one zoom lense for convenience and mobility, OR several non-zooms that are 2 stops faster but now require a camera bag 3x bigger and heavier.
    - Etc Etc, OR etc etc
     
  19. 100Teraflops, Jun 24, 2011
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2011

    100Teraflops thread starter macrumors 6502a

    100Teraflops

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    #19
    LOL, yes, cars and motorcycles are expensive. Been there and done that! I like scotch, but my collection is nowhere near the price of a Canon L series lens. :) Photography can give motorcycles a run for the money, but one has to buy top end bodies and lenses, IMHO of course. Boats and drugs I have now experience with.

    Photography is expensive, but I enjoy it tremendously! Thanks again for the feedback! :D

    Also, I found a filter that I would like to add to my bag. The first filter I plan to buy is a polarizer filter manufactured by B&W or Hoya. I am buying it for my kit lens. Now to research the UV filters. Thanks for the help folks! :)
     
  20. Waybo macrumors regular

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    #20
    This is a great thread, with a large amount of detailed info. I have learned a great deal. Thanks to the OP, as well as to those who have provided such great info. :D
     
  21. Ravaroo macrumors 6502

    Ravaroo

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    #21
    http://www.adorama.com/HY67CPLHD.html is the circular polarizer I picked up before a vacation to Hawaii. It's performed very well, easy to clean, and allows the lens cap to fit snugly. Was able to get clean water shots(no glare) without much hassle and other times I would rotate the polarized portion to darken the sky a bit.
    All around a good choice if you're leaning towards a Hoya filter
     
  22. 100Teraflops thread starter macrumors 6502a

    100Teraflops

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    #22
    Yes it is! I have learned a ton as well!


    Thanks for the recommendation. I am still deciding which way to go. I am investigating the Lee filter systems. I like the fact that the same holder can be used on different bodied cameras. But it comes at a premium.

    So, it is a three dog race right now: Lee vs. Hoya vs. B&W. Thanks again for the assistance pertaining to this matter! :cool:
     
  23. Ruahrc macrumors 65816

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    #23
    You're going to likely end up with at least 2 out of the above 3. CPLs work best in screw-in type, as the polarizer adapters for the Lee system are really expensive and clumsy to work with. GNDs are obviously only usable as drop-in filters, because a screw on GND (yes, they sell them, and no, don't buy them) is only useful for shooting the ocean, with the horizon in the center of the frame. NDs can go either way, but some find it easier/more convenient to use drop ins if they already have a drop in holder system.

    FWIW, reports "on the internetz" are that the Hoyas can be prone to falling apart.

    http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/1003748

    I own a Hoya UV filter which has not broken or fallen apart (less likely to do so also because of no moving parts) but definitely not as solid as my B+W CPLs.
     

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