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04-09-2010, 09:24 PM   #1
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Photography filters - Quality?

There are different types of filters from different manufacturers available in the market. What decides the quality of these photography filters?

Is it just the price?

Does a UV filter visually affect the outcome of the photograph?

Thanks,
Krishna

04-09-2010, 09:30 PM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by krishna Quote
There are different types of filters from different manufacturers available in the market. What decides the quality of these photography filters?

Is it just the price?

Does a UV filter visually affect the outcome of the photograph?

Thanks,
Krishna
Don't waste your money on UV filters for a Digital camera. For the rest, glass type, manufacturing tolerances, coatings, and yes, name brand, affect price. For some filters, you'd be better off putting a piece of window glass in front of your lens. It'll offer just as much protection (UV filter) and will degrade your photo just as much, and won't cost you anything near what a filter does.

04-10-2010, 01:26 AM   #3
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Jeff is absolutely right. You can do general photography with a digital camera for a lifetime and never ever need a filter. A UV or Skylight filter would only be needed if you shoot in a sandstorm.

That said, some filters serve certain purposes. Neutral-density (ND) filters block various amounts of light, useful if you want a slow shutter speed at a bright scene. A graduated ND filter is half-dark and half-light, so you could shoot a darker foreground against a brighter background, useful for land-and-sky-scapes. A polarizing filter (PL) will reduce glare and reflections from glass, water, etc. These are the most popular and useful filters for most digital photographers.

There are other special-purpose filters that block and pass certain colors; I call such filtration spectrum-slicing. These include IR-pass filters for InfraRed photography, which block visible light; traditional Yellow-Orange-Red-Green filters used in black-and-white film photography, which change color/tone rendition; certain blue-violet filters, which emulate early film types; and UV-pass filters, which are used in some scientific and forensic work. Don't worry about any of these until you need to. (But I LOVE them!)

Any filter will degrade your images somewhat. You have to decide if their utility in a situation outweighs that quality loss. It's usually best to leave the lens bare unless you NEED a filter for the purposes I listed above, or just to experiment with color and tone. For such experimentation, cheap filters are available, and fun to play with. For serious work, get the best.
04-10-2010, 01:39 AM   #4
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I think that's a tough question to answer because there are so many filters out there. Who has actually tested them all to tell? Speaking from experience, I once came across some old uncoated HOYA UV which was great for portrait because it softened the sharpness so slight you wouldn't notice it. A portrait photographer I knew even stacked 2 for the effect he wanted. Of the rest of the filters that I have used over the years, TIFFEN was horrible from build quality to actually impact image quality. I even saw one with a large chunk of glass missing, and it was a brand new filter with the latest packaging. Talking overpriced junks. The rest of my experience has been mostly HOYA from green to HD series. The green is to be avoided, but the rest are quite alright and I have never noticed any drop in IQ. The only catch is that any filters induce flare when hitted by the light source, even the most expensive HOYA, B+W, Pentax or Nikon. But for the rest of the time, I feel fine using them, except maybe when I was doing landscape on tripod. Don't believe everything you have read (even mine), do you own test and draw your own conclusion. You might be in for a surprise.

05-16-2010, 04:56 PM   #5
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I have a UV filter on my lens simply to protect it from getting scratched or damaged in any other way. Should I worry about this, or does it compromise IQ so much that I should keep my lens bare?
05-17-2010, 09:40 AM   #6
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Good question Tomzee93! Here is my answer. As has already been mentioned ANY filter will degrade and image somewhat...question is, How much is too much? Here is what I did. I took my camera out with filter on, took a shot, then immediately took the filter off and took the exact same shot. i did this for about 10 shots of typical things I like to shoot. I then processed all shots the same and took a look at the results. I had a moderately priced Hoya filter. That filter now floats around in the bottom of my backpack until I find myself shooting in that aforementioned sandstorm. It makes a difference and sometimes it is significant. From that time on, I always use a lens hood to protect my lenses and NOTHING gets between my subject and my lens.
Try this experiment for yourself and make up your own mind.
05-17-2010, 10:03 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Tomzee93 Quote
I have a UV filter on my lens simply to protect it from getting scratched or damaged in any other way. Should I worry about this, or does it compromise IQ so much that I should keep my lens bare?
One place the UV will help you as regards scratches is resale. People just like to see that pristine glass. I usually rely on good rigid hoods, but lenses with vulnerable elements (like wides) will often get UV's, especially if I intend to resell. (A lens I in fact traded up got a pretty nice skylight filter for just that reason)

There's kind of a cost-benefit curve, where maybe it should be proportional to how nice the lens is. Sometimes they're useful to people, depending on their handling-habits: either if they're careless or clumsy or on the other hand, obsessive lens-cleaners. In which case a filter may as well suck up the abuse.

I do like to have 'beater' filters around for lousy conditions. If your UV or polarizer is too precious to want to take out on that windswept sandy beach, you aren't getting photos, either.

To be quite honest, if one's there, you may as well use it until you're used to handling your equipment. People who are starting out tend to either excessively-baby their gear or sometimes just be totally heedless/forgetful. For people who walk around with cameras every day, there's a certain casual familiarity that is not the same thing as heedlessness: it's just something that becomes second nature. There's certainly no shame in using a UV on your glass until you're comfortable with not needing it.

Hoods, though. Hoods. Use em, love em. They aren't an add-on, they're a removable part of your lens.
05-17-2010, 01:49 PM   #8
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I might have posted this before, but the image below illustrates the perils of choosing poorly when you select a UV filter.

In general, it is not a good idea to use them if you care about image quality.



Data from here, which is recommended reading:

UV filters test - Introduction - Lenstip.com

05-17-2010, 02:14 PM   #9
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The only filters that have any use in digital photography are polarisers and ND (neutral density). Graduated ND is much better handled with exposure bracketing.

Consider that even if a filter is a perfect piece of glass, it still adds an air gap to the lens system and so increases the chances of diminished contrast, internal reflections, etc.
05-17-2010, 02:23 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by rparmar Quote
The only filters that have any use in digital photography are polarisers and ND (neutral density). Graduated ND is much better handled with exposure bracketing.

Consider that even if a filter is a perfect piece of glass, it still adds an air gap to the lens system and so increases the chances of diminished contrast, internal reflections, etc.
Expsoure bracketing and blending is in many situations not an option, aka, whenever there are moving elements in the image.

Also, my personal opinion (everybody please feel free to wholeheartedly disagree) is, that I can save a lot of time in front of the computer screen, by using the Grad ND for the shot. I get a clean, well-balanced RAW and don't need to torture the last highlight contents out of a blown file. I personally consider Grad ND filters to be one of the two completely indispensible filter types (the other one being solid NDs).

Ben
05-17-2010, 07:09 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ratmagiclady Quote
There's certainly no shame in using a UV on your glass until you're comfortable with not needing it.

Hoods, though. Hoods. Use em, love em. They aren't an add-on, they're a removable part of your lens.
Thanks for the tips, everyone! I'll probably keep the UV off for my personal usage, but put it back on when I'm with friends who usually like to try it out. On top of planning to order a hood soon, I just ordered a step-up ring to try out a 55mm polarizer I found in the house. I'll probably end up ordering a new 52mm one though so I can use it with the hood.
05-18-2010, 03:04 PM   #12
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It seems that manufacturers could easily produce readily replaceable front elements that could sell for about the same price as expensive filters (only because the expensive filters are overpriced, but still...) that would settle the UV filter argument once and for all.

Paul
05-18-2010, 09:43 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by tibbitts Quote
It seems that manufacturers could easily produce readily replaceable front elements that could sell for about the same price as expensive filters (only because the expensive filters are overpriced, but still...) that would settle the UV filter argument once and for all.

Paul
At least one of Pentax's high quality, high priced, long focal length lenses (600/4) was sold with a front element protection filter standard. I don't have that lens, so I don't put a filter on the front other than my Moose Filter (CPL with 81A warming).

I shoot RAW, so many images can be taken into Photomatix by adding a stop to a copy, subtracting a stop from another copy, and combining the two copies using the Highlight/Shadow option. it is surprising how many images that appear to be beyond the capture range of the camera can actually come out looking great but real. If it's dark, it stays dark but the details are brought up enough to be seen and the highlights are pulled back enough to be clear, but still appear bright.

One of these years I might get myself a graduated neutral density filter, but not yet.
05-19-2010, 02:06 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Canada_Rockies Quote
I shoot RAW, so many images can be taken into Photomatix by adding a stop to a copy, subtracting a stop from another copy, and combining the two copies using the Highlight/Shadow option. it is surprising how many images that appear to be beyond the capture range of the camera can actually come out looking great but real. If it's dark, it stays dark but the details are brought up enough to be seen and the highlights are pulled back enough to be clear, but still appear bright.

One of these years I might get myself a graduated neutral density filter, but not yet.
Albert, with your experience in the background, I bet, once you get used to a Grad ND, you'll ask yourself, how you have managed without these for the last decades! Don't wait any longer...

Ben
05-19-2010, 07:50 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ben_Edict Quote
Albert, with your experience in the background, I bet, once you get used to a Grad ND, you'll ask yourself, how you have managed without these for the last decades! Don't wait any longer...

Ben
That's probably true, Ben. Unfortunately, I have other fish to fry at this time. One being whether cropping the 400 without converter is better than with ...
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