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08-12-2011, 03:01 PM   #1
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Need filters. What to get?

Okay, so I am in need of some screw on filters. I have shooting outside quite a bit and being by the water there are a lot of waterfalls and sailboats, etc... but I am unable to capture motion because increasing the shutter timing leads to a complete wash out of over exposure. So, if you were to recommend a must have array of say 3 or so filters for outside use, what would they be?

08-12-2011, 03:36 PM   #2
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* If you shoot in mucky conditions with blowing sand-seawater-mud-blood-beer etc, a clear optical or UV filter is handy. Otherwise not.

* If you shoot many reflexions, or cloudy skies, a polarizing (PL) or circular polarizing (CPL) filter does the trick.

* If you want to SLOW DOWN your camera (which is your question), then neutral-density (ND) filters do the job.

A single PL or CPL filter will reduce light by a stop or three, You can make a variable-ND filter with a PL+CPL or CPL+CPL set, but these sometimes turn the image purple-ish. So look into ordinary ND filters. ND1 for one-stop slowing, ND2 for two stops, ND10 for ten stops, etc. To get really rad, use some welder's glass for an ND666 effect.

There also exist graduated-ND (GND) filters, where half is darkened and the other half fades to clear. Use this to shoot scenes with a darker foreground against a brighter background, like a meadow under a bright sky. Or a waterfall under a full moon?

Last edited by RioRico; 08-12-2011 at 04:44 PM.
08-12-2011, 04:11 PM   #3
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I'd give the same advice, but not to stack filters unless absolutely necessary.
CPL is a must for outdoor/landscape photography. ND filters are a must for long exposure day time photography. IR filters are great for unique infra-red looking monochrome images. Everything else is done just as well, if not better, in post-processing (such as tinting/colour filtering, dodging & burning, etc.)
08-12-2011, 04:55 PM   #4
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And Ash is quite right, with a couple extensions:

* When shooting B&W, a Red B&W filter increases dynamic range slightly -- as well as reducing light by a couple stops.

* When shooting glaring neon lights at night, a Yellow B&W filter gives interesting (psychedelic?) colour effects.

* When shooting B&W, a Blue B&W or a violet CC (color correction) filter replicates early photo emulsions, which only saw 'actinic' (UV-violet-blue) light.

* IR filters block much visible light and pass invisible IR spectra. Shooting B&W with a 720nm (#72) partial IR filter reduces light by several f-stops.

Yes, stacking filters reduces contrast and should be avoided for best image quality. But for anyone who likes to experiment with tones and effects, filters are fun to play with.


Last edited by RioRico; 08-12-2011 at 05:01 PM.
08-12-2011, 05:14 PM   #5
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Fantastic advice guys. Really appreciate all of the help. I do love this place. I live right outside of DC and do a lot of shooting around here as there is always something going on on the water or street (festival) and I would love to be able to slow the shutter way down. There is a sailing class that runs all day at a marina across the street but any attempts at catching them with even the slightest bit of motion results in a white washed image. I will pick up a few different ND filters and a polarizing one too.


edit: What about coatings? Advantages/ disadvantages to single v. multi?

Last edited by derelict; 08-12-2011 at 05:22 PM.
08-12-2011, 05:57 PM   #6
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Plenty of advantages of MC over single coating. MC filters minimise the effects of flare, colour alterations and are generally better quality. I'd avoid singly coated filters for the fact that they worsen image quality, not just by hampering light transmission. Best value are Hoya HMC, and overall best quality are the B+W MRC series.
08-13-2011, 07:25 AM   #7
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When buying filters, remember, if you buy cheap, you buy twice. Coz once you realise why the cheap ones are cheap, you'll want the expensive ones.

Multi-coated filters are the best option, mainly because they reduce reflections between the front of the front lens element and the back of the filter. Screw ins suffer less from this issue because light can't get past the sides of the filter.

If you go for ND grads you'll probably need a filter holder. Beware, ND grads come in two main types where the transition from dark to transparent is termed either soft (feathered or more gradual) and hard (more or less dark to transparent with almost no gradual change).

As others have said, a good quality circular polariser is a huge benefit in landscape photography, or where there might be lots of horrible reflections, like water scenes or heavily glazed buildings.
08-14-2011, 07:58 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by RioRico Quote

A single PL or CPL filter will reduce light by a stop or three, You can make a variable-ND filter with a PL+CPL or CPL+CPL set, but these sometimes turn the image purple-ish. So look into ordinary ND filters. ND1 for one-stop slowing, ND2 for two stops, ND10 for ten stops, etc. To get really rad, use some welder's glass for an ND666 effect.

There also exist graduated-ND (GND) filters, where half is darkened and the other half fades to clear. Use this to shoot scenes with a darker foreground against a brighter background, like a meadow under a bright sky. Or a waterfall under a full moon?
I thought a PL or CPL was worth about 1/2 to 1 stop of light? That has been my experience with my B+W linear POL.

And a correction regarding the naming of ND filters. ND4 is a 2 stop, ND8 is a 3 stop and ND400 is a 9 stop (Hoya). And other manufacturers use 0.3, 0.6, 0.9 for their 1, 2 and 3 stop filters. And I think there is another naming system also. So I try to just use x stops for naming.

I do stack filters when taking waterfall pics and I haven't noticed any degradation although it is a valid concern. Currently I only have a 2 stop ND filter (Hoya HMC) and a linear polarizor. I use the polarizor to reduce reflections from wet rocks (I think I have pics of this effect) and the ND filter to reduce the shutter speed to 1/2 to 2 seconds. One thing to keep in mind when reducing the shutter speeds is whether or not you have wind (tree movement) or people in the scene.

I have several waterfalls in my flickr that I've shot and almost all of them have been with both filters. I still have some refining to my technique but Taiwan has an unlimited supply of waterfalls.

08-14-2011, 09:15 AM   #9
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abacus07, thanks for the corrections!
08-14-2011, 12:54 PM   #10
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A perfect polarizer removes 1/2 the light from an unpolarized beam. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polarizer Therefore you can expect a perfect polarizer to decrease unpolarized light by one stop.

I believe that most polarizers sold remove more than one stop because of inherent tinting adjusted towards grey with dye. A polarizer that removes much less than one stop isn't very good.

A linear polarizer can be stacked atop another polarizer to make an effective variable density filter.

Any defect in a filter or its surface is multiplied by the focal length of the lens used so may affect image quality. This is especially a problem with complex filters like cpls (which have a minimum of 4 layers and 5 surfaces.
08-15-2011, 07:03 AM   #11
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with digital, is it still as necessary to use a graduated ND? I can get either a ND or a GND at this point.
08-15-2011, 07:27 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by ChatMechant Quote
with digital, is it still as necessary to use a graduated ND? I can get either a ND or a GND at this point.
These have different applications so it really depends on what you want to do.
08-17-2011, 02:22 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by derelict Quote
Okay, so I am in need of some screw on filters. I have shooting outside quite a bit and being by the water there are a lot of waterfalls and sailboats, etc... but I am unable to capture motion because increasing the shutter timing leads to a complete wash out of over exposure. So, if you were to recommend a must have array of say 3 or so filters for outside use, what would they be?
Thing is, your topic title reads "Need filters, what to get?"

If you don't know what to get, how do you know you need them?
08-17-2011, 03:11 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by mannesty Quote
Thing is, your topic title reads "Need filters, what to get?"

If you don't know what to get, how do you know you need them?
Really? I could understand your statement if I hadnt explained why I needed filters in the exact piece you quoted.



I bought a B+W one stop ND filter and used it today. MUCH better in the bright sunlight. Im going to buy two more that are a few stops darker than that one. The difference is fantastic.
08-17-2011, 03:44 PM   #15
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I was being a bit flippant, sorry, didn't mean to offend.

I do understand the question, really.

I suppose the point I was trying to make was that if you know why you would need a particular filter, then you'd know what to buy.

For anybody else who doesn't understand the need for filters, don't just go out and buy some just because somebody said "You need some filters". First understand why you might need them and if you discover that you don't actually need a 4 stop ND Grad (or whatever filter), don't buy it.

Glad to know you've had good results from your 1 stopper.
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