Help with Filters

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by MickSimpson, Mar 6, 2017.

  1. I am just getting back into photography now that I have retired. Part of my effort is to complete a plan for using filters effectively. I have the following gear: 5DMIII, 16-35 f4L IS USM; 24-70 f2.8L II USM, 24-105 f4L IS USM, 70-200 F4L IS USM and a 28-136 f3.5-5.6 IS USM Macro.

    Most of my photography is landscape with some “Americana” and a little street. I’ve just started to look at filters and their uses with the goal of maximizing my creativity with ND, circular polarizers, (other?). For example, I see some great work where a photographer uses darker ND filters to extend the shutter time and smooth out the surface of a lake. I have used a circular polarizer in the past with my older 40D to eliminate reflections.

    I’ve recently found filter kits where a frame accommodates multiple lenses holding interchangeable filters. So, in addition to advice on filter selection (brands, ND, CP, etc..), I seek advice on the type of filter (interchangeable vis-à-vis screw on).

    Thank you for your help!

    Mick Simpson
  2. The actual need for filters is lessened by digital since so many things previously impossible without them can now be done in post-processing. This is especially true if information-rich RAW files are taken and kept.

    Some things cannot easily be done in "post", however. Polarizers eliminate some kinds of glare/reflection leading to more saturated colors. Sky darkening is perhaps better done with graduated ND filters, but is so easy to do in post-processing.

    For many purposes where filters still make sense, there is a lot to be said for the square+holder filters like Cokin makes. They are not very convenient for quick shooting, however.

    Smoothing out waves and such is a feat done with overall ND filters, but it, truthfully speaking, has become a bit of a cliche. Still, if you want it, ND is the way to go.

    However, everybody has their fondnesses.....
    dcstep likes this.
  3. I consider polarizing filters essential and virtually always carry one. You can't replicate their effects in postprocessing. ND filters are useful if you want to extend shutter time, e.g., to smooth out water. Mentioning UV or protective filters here usually starts an endless argument, but I use them some of the time--when I have reason to worry about crud getting on the lens and when the light sources aren't in front of the camera. If you decide to use them, protective filters are cheaper than UV, and the UV protection is irrelevant in digital photography.

    I use screw-in filters. One case for which they square filters are clearly better is graduated NDs, but I never use those. You can often replicate that effect in post.

    Don't buy cheap ones. You have high-end gear, and it makes no sense to put cheap glass in front of an expensive lens. Filters should be multi-coated to lessen problems of flare. I usually buy Marumi now--well-rated and relatively inexpensive for their level of quality. I also have a bunch of Hoyas and one B+W. I have found some of the many different types of Hoyas somewhat hard to clean.

    In the case of NDs, you have another issue: color cast. Read reviews for any density you decide to buy. I have 3, 6, and 10 stop filters, but I don't use them often. The 3 and 6 stop are marumis, and the 10-stop is a Hoya ProND. All three have very little color cast.

    BTW, I assume that the last lens is the 28-135 3.5-5.6. If so, that is not a real macro lens. It's maximum magnification is about 0.2:1. A true macro lens reaches 1:1.
  4. Whatever requires a tripod can most likely be bought as a square system filter: strong NDs to smoothen waves, IR filters and ND grads of course.
    What I'd like to shoot handheld in action or bad weather belongs behind a lens hood and there a round filter in your lens'original size is close to unbeatable. - Some hoods permit turning polarizers - check what you have.

    Protective filters: recently blogged that their use starts to make more sense since a lot of recent high end zooms' front element replacement cost skyrocketed.
    I stock 2stop NDs, since I sometimes can't dial down studio strobes (far enough). - I am too lazy to haul my tripod by day (if I don't sleep through it) so ultra strong NDs don't tempt me. - Polarizers are probably nice but frequently I rather take the light they are eating for handholdability. - Read: its been ages since I used them and while they do work, their benefit seems limited. I own and carry the usual filters like red orange green for B&W but with color digital you can emulate them in post.
  5. I do have some ND filters, CP and UV filters. I have done a few shots experimenting with the ND but don't use them much. I also occasionally use the CP filter, but not as much lately unless I really want to see into the water or cut reflections on glass. They can be fun to experiment with.

    Here is an interesting video talking about why filters are not really needed from one photographer's perspective. LINK
  6. Hi Mark.
    The YouTube link you provided, and other similar YouTube videos, were very helpful to me and strengthen the argument that filters are not always necessary. I still see myself with a CP filter, but now think I can get along quite nicely without ND or UV filters. This is the way I will trudge forward now.

    Thanks Mark!
  7. Thanks for your feedback JDMvW. I believe that I will go forward without filters at this time and do most of the work in post-processing.

  8. Hi Paddler4. Thanks for your feedback. I am going to run with a CP filter for now sans all others. It seems like there are easier and less expensive ways to get the same results, with some exception I think for the CP filter.

  9. Hi Jochen.

    LOL! I am a bit too lazy too when it comes to dragging a tripod around with me. Going to go forward with CP in my kit sans all of the others as everyone has helped me see the alternative methods for achieving my desired results.

    Thank you!

  10. The CP filter can be useful sometimes. I did some experimenting with ND filters and manual flash in bright daylight and having my lens aperture opened up for a narrow depth of field to get a nice bokeh. Since using manual flash will limit your shutter speed to under 1/250th a second or 1/200th on some cameras and I wanted the flash to remove harsh shadows from bright sun, I used the ND filter to allow me to reduce the shutter speed but keep the lens opened up to f/3.5. I got pretty good results. But you would not have to do this if using a flash with hi speed sync. And of course you could use a reflector, but sometimes they cause folks to squint their eyes. Of course, the ND filter can also effect your color so I had to do a bit of adjusting in lightroom. You certainly can get by without it.
  11. Frankly, if you take landscape shooting seriously, I can't think of a reason to not at least carry a small set of screw in filters (at a min an 82mm set w/ step down rings, though I'd probably go for a 77mm set too). I would consider both a CPL and ND2 filter a necessity (at a minimum!) for landscape work - as well as a reasonable tripod of course. The cost is a couple $$$ bucks and a few pounds (for the tripod ) The difference IME is snapping pics of landscapes, and being able to capture landscapes artistically. Yeah, you can post the heck out of a RAW - and PS can probably make it look pretty good... however taking the time to capture the scene fully, and take full advantage of the light not only makes the process more 'photography' and less 'graphic design', but it also teaches you how to manipulate the elements entering the lens - which is VASTLY more rewarding IME.
  12. One can make do without an ND filter as a CP filter will lose you 1.5 to 2 stops, which is usually sufficient if you stop down a lot too. I very rarely feel the need for either filters, to be honest, but I suppose when one wants one nothing else will do. If it is blue skies you are after then post processing can get that for you easily without the need of a CP filter. I see many people with them on the front of the lens when there is no polarized light to be seen, so they are just making life more difficult for themselves. CPs and clear tropical water with sand/coral are popular but often bare little resemblance to reality, so use with care.
  13. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    It would be wise to buy a good quality CPL, I’d suggest you think seriously about a good quality slim profile 82mm CPL.

    Then seriously consider buying the following STEP UP RINGS to accommodate the CPL on all of your lenses:

    67mm to 82mm
    72mm to 82mm
    77mm to 82mm

    Be careful when using the CPL on a lens any wider than around 40~35mm, (on a 5D series camera), especially if there is sky across the whole compass of the frame - Colour Banding in the Sky is very difficult to fix in Post Production and often difficult to see in the viewfinder.

  14. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member


    I think you got it the wrong way around - I think you meant buy a 82mm and maybe a 77mm filter and then buy appropriate Step UP Rings?

    The way I remember the correct naming of the Stepping Rings, is that they are correctly described as you see the stepping ring when you hold the camera to make a picture ... and just look forward at the Stepping Ring.

    For example if you have a lens with 77mm thread and need to put an 82mm filter on it, then when holding the camera to make the picture... you see the step going UP... "77mm to 82mm Step Up Ring".

  15. I like the idea of using a step up rings with 82mm filters where one gets a set of filters. For now I'm limiting myself to a CP but am thinking of getting an 82mm CP with step up rings.
    William, I get what color banding is, but are you saying that the CP filter will cause this under all circumstances with a 5D (FF) where focal length is greater than 35-40mm, or only where there is a predominant sky?

  16. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I am saying neither.

    For clarity:

    If I, you or anyone, puts enough effort into NOT getting:

    a) the rotation of the CPL appropriate for the shot
    b) the angle of the Lens's axis relative to the Sun's position appropriate for the shot

    then a CPL Filter can stuff up many images made with a variety of Focal Lengths. I have used a 70mm lens on a 5D Series camera to show this point.

    My comment to you was only a general warning.

    The most common type of stuff up using a CPL Filter that I have seen, is when a wide angle lens is used (about 35mm or wider) and the photo is made in Landscape Orientation and the Sky covers the whole width of the image and the error in this case is - "Colour Banding in the blue sky area".

    But as I stated, this is a general warning to you when using a CPL Filter, because you can certainly get Colour Banding in the Blue Sky using a 50mm lens.

    Also there are other errors (not just colour banding) that you can get using a CPL.

    For example if you were using the CPL to cut glare across a lake or shoreline, you could get an uneven result which might stuff up the picture, for example if it were a shoreline of sea-coral.

    Similarly you might be making a group portrait inside and you choose to use a CPL to cut the reflection and glare from the large glass window at one side of the image - but you don't notice that one of the Subjects is wearing eye glasses. Alternatively, in same shooting scenario, but the whole background islarge glass (think large indoor atrium) and you get an unevenness of the glare cutting effect in the background glass area of the picure.

    Does that better explain it?

  17. It sounds good doesn't it?

    • with adapted 'step' filters, you can't easily use a lens hood -- and lens hoods are all the more needed with additional glass tacked on the front of the lens.
    • keeping track of the rings and filters together is more trouble than you'd think
    • polarizer filters need to be turned, sometimes the step ring won't cooperate.
    So although it costs much more, having screw-in filters that are the right size for the lens is really a lot easier to work with.
  18. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    There are always going to be compromises when one is evaluating value for money choices, and you do not have an unlimited budget.

    A good quality CPL would cost me around AUS$195 - no idea what you can get one for. Aluminium Step Up rings are around $5 each. Whist I might not think too long about spending 200 bucks on one CPL for a treat and as a learning experience - I would think long and hard about buying four of them but rather I would consider seriously spending $15 (or less) and buying one or two or three Step Rings - but maybe no rings at all until I got more knowledgeable and more experienced about using CPL Filters.

    Addressing the specific considerations raised above, you might consider these points are also relevant to your situation:

    > "with adapted 'step' filters, you can't easily use a lens hood -- and lens hoods are all the more needed with additional glass tacked on the front of the lens."

    I agree. From experience and specifically my uses it is a particular pain in the butt when I am using my 70 to 200/2.8L and that's why I bought a CPL specifically use with for that lens.

    AND also I machined a little groove in the 70 to 200/2.8's LENS HOOD so I can easily rotate the Front Element of the CPL. (see the last point)

    Also consider the specific usefulness of a Lens Hood, when using Zoom Lens: in difficult Lighting Scenarios cover protection more than a Lens Hood (such as an umbrella or a shading hand) is necessary, because (by design) the Lens Hood of nearly every Zoom Lens is only at its maximum effectiveness at the Zoom's Widest Focal Length - and that by definition for any Wide Angle Focal Length, is not very effective, anyway.

    Also consider that using any Lens Hood with a CPL attached to the lens (sans Stepping Ring) can be a pain in the butt, because it can be very difficult to attain access inside the lens hood to make for a quick and ACCURATE rotation of the CLP's front element: that's why I have machined a Lens Hood for my 70 to 200, because that is the lens on which I most use a CPL. For the other lenses (wider angle lenses) when I occasionally use a CPL, I sometimes take the Lens Hood off and use another shade option OR set up the shot without the lens hood and then place the lens hood on before releasing the Shutter, or both.

    I supposed that considering details you have supplied, you are not inclined to use a tripod and I thought you'd be moving around with an hand held camera getting acquainted with the CPL. In this case you'll need reasonable and easy access to the CPL to rotate it, so I think you'll be considering often going sans lens hood at least for some shots. It is all a compromise, no one method is correct.


    > "keeping track of the rings and filters together is more trouble than you'd think"

    It occurs to me that's more about personal opinion and choices rather than logic: in this case there would be 4 (four) items, (one CPL and three rings) but if one had a CLP for each lens's Filter Diameter there would be four CLPs; that is the same number of items "to keep track of".


    > "polarizer filters need to be turned, sometimes the step ring won't cooperate."

    With a CPL (Circular Polarizing Filter is what is being discussed) the front element is the one which rotates. The rear element of the CPL is mounted to the lens (or the Stepping Ring) and in ether case there is no necessity for the lens or the stepping to 'cooperate'.

  19. Excellent clarification!
  20. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    OK. Good. Thanks for confirming

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