Blog 13: The wonderful world of filter systems

January 19, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Introduction

As a (landscape)photographer you will encounter them sooner or later: filters. Get up early in the morning, put some water in the machine, add a filter and some coffee.. Sorry, wrong kind of filter. Of course, this blog is not about coffee filters, this blog is about the filters you can use to improve your photographs. Too often you will encounter a scene where the contrast between the sky and the ground is too great to get a nicely exposed photograph (think about a sunset for example), the colours and the blue sky are not what they are cracked up to be or there is too much light to create that beautiful soft cloudy sky by using a slower shutter speed. Luckily for us, there are people that came up with a solution to these, and other, problems. These people worked around these problems by adding a piece of glass in front of their lenses. These pieces of glass is what we call filters. These filters can be used to solve great differences in contrast (gradient filter), revive colours and blue skies (polarizing filters) or help you use those slower shutter speeds in broad daylight (ND filters). These filters exist in all different forms, shapes, sizes and price categories, but they can be divided into two subcategories: screw in filters and system filters.  
Figure 1: Screw in filter (UV)
 
A screw in filter can be, as the name suggest, screwed on the front of a lens. This is also the greatest advantage of this system. You do not need a special adapter and filter holder to use the filter. Simply take it out of your bag and screw it on your filter. A great disadvantage is that it is a set size. Some lenses are 77mm in diameter, others 63 mm for example. This means that, to use a UV filter on both lenses, you actually have to buy two. Some filters cost a small fortune (you get what you pay for), so buying two is expensive! Another disadvantage is that you are less versatile using these filters. As an example, look at figure number 2. This figure depicts a gradient filter that darkens the bright sky while leaving the ground untouched. If you were to use a screw in gradient filter, you horizon should always be in the middle of your photograph. A system filter (as in figure 2), can be adjusted so that the horizon of the gradient is on 1/3rd of the photograph, making it more versatile. Also, if you change to a lens with a different filter size, you only have to buy a new adapter ring.  
System filters (or filter systems) need special equipment to work. First you need an adapter ring, which is screwed onto the lens. Then you need a filter holder to keep everything in place, and last but not least, you need a filter (as the one seen in figure 2).
Figure 2: Haida filter system (gradient)
 
Total cost: 255 euros (for one filter). A screw in filter will cost about 90 euros. So why then, do professional photographers opt to use these expensive filters and not just use the screw in filters?
I have asked myself the same question. 
 
Now, thanks to www.cameraland.nl and www.photosbenelux.nl, I can experience first had what it is like using these filter systems, what possibilities they bring and if and why you should invest in them. Cameraland has asked me to test a new filter system made by Haida. Haida claims to have developed an affordable filter line up that delivers top of the line quality, while leaving the photo quality untouched. I am excited to test these filters!


 

Christmas came early this year.

In collaboration with Cameraland.nl, it was decided that I will be testing and reviewing some filters. Underneath the Christmas tree there was a special package with my name on it! Obviously I could not wait till Christmas day and decided to unwrap my present.
 
Figure 3: Unwrapping the present
 
This present contained the following filters from Haida: a 77mm adapter ring, a 100mm filter holder, a 3 stops ND filter, a 10 stops ND filter and a circular polarising filter.
 
Figure 4: Christmas came early this year
 
The first thing I noticed is how much well these filters are packed using special casings for all of them. All filters come with a special protective casing. There was even a special casing that allows you to carry the adapter ring, filter holder and one of the ND filters!
 
Figure 5: filters and their casings
 
After opening everything, I faced my first challenge. How do I use these filters? I am used to using screw in filters, but here I was, sitting in my studio with an adapter ring, filter holder and some filters. So I set back and took some time to think!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 Before long, I had the system figured out (go me, it was very easy) and a filter on my lens. During the coming weeks I will test the different filters and tell you what I think. You can follow my journey through the wonderful world of filter systems on www.facebook.com/photojitsu.nl or instagram (www.instagram.com/photojitsu.nl/)!  

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