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Thread: Newbie Guide to Filters

  1. #1
    Moderator daredevil123's Avatar
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    Default Newbie Guide to Filters

    Questions on this topic has come up again and again. And I have cut and paste this infor quite a number of times. Finally decided to create this thread to help the newbies when buying filters.

    Filter Price Guide

    First and foremost, for the sake of convenience, I will list Clubsnap's Filter price guide as maintained by our hardworking mods. The price guide to filters can be found here:

    What are Filters for?

    No we are not talking about the ones you put into your coffee machine, or the ones that goes into your car.

    The Filters we are talking about pieces of glass or optical resin (plastic) that we put in front (and on rare occassions, inside) of our lenses to achieve a specific effect or for protection.

    Filter Brands - The Good the Bad and the Ugly

    Filters have cheap range, medium range and high end range. All depends on your budget but I would recommend you to get at least a medium range one.

    Examples of some popular/well known/notorious brands/models:
    very cheap range: Vitacon, Emolux, Steinzeiser, Sunblitz
    cheap range: tokina, Hoya uncoated, hoya both sides coated, Kenko standard, Marumi standard
    Medium economy range: Hoya HMC, , Kenko MC, Marumi DHG,
    Medium high range: Hoya Pro1D, Kenko Pro1D, Marumi Super DHG
    Hi end range: B+W MRC, Hoya HD, Kenko Zeta, Rodenstock, Heliopan

    Filter Brands are like Cars

    Continental cars are expensive and generally perform very very well. Continental cars also have higher and lower models. eg. S-class, A-class.
    Continental cars: B+W, Rodenstock, Heliopan, LEE, Schneider Optics

    French cars are ok and reasonably priced but sometimes performance is not the best in certain situations. The car makers also sometimes go into financial crisis and eventually get bought out by Japanese car makers.
    French cars: Cokin

    American cars quite a few are very good, but quite a number are lemons. Some are good but just not worth the money. Some offer custom hot rods that are extremely expensive.
    American cars: Tiffen, Singh Ray

    Japanese cars: some are cheap and perform not so good but better than the ones from China or cheap OEM. medium priced ones are quite good and very reliable. some are top of the line (like Lexus, Infiniti, Acura) and perform very well, and some of those top of the line even exceed the performance of continental cars.
    Japanese cars: Nikon, Canon, Hoya, Kenko, Marumi, Tokina

    China cars: very cheap, usually copies of more expensive brands, quality depends on the specific car. Some are terrible. But if you find a good one, it will be good and worth many times the low price you pay for it.
    China cars: Tianya

    I will stay away from any other brands not mentioned here and the ones below.

    Malaysia/Singapore cars: Brands are owned/founded locally in MY or SG. Usually most of the parts are OEM by other companies. Supposed to be very cheap. Salesman always try to tell you it is very good and give you the wrong impression that it is made in Germany or Japan. And will try to sell you at a much higher rip off price. Performance is just so so. Some are totally terrible. Some are not bad.
    Malaysia/Singapore Cars: Steinzeiser, Vitacon, Emolux.

    About Hoya and Kenko

    Hoya and Kenko (and Tokina) are very closely related companies in Japan. They are most likely in the same keiretsu. Many of their filters share almost the same model names, and some of them are almost identical. *Update: Kenko and Tokina has merged into a single company called "Kenko Tokina" in June 2011. They still maintain very close ties to Hoya. Kenko and Tokina brands and product lines are still maintained separately.

    Not all Hoya filters are made equal. Not all Hoya filters are priced equal. Not all Kenko filters are made equal. Not all Kenko filters are priced equal.
    Also note that Tokina filters are on the lower end and they do not offer any of the higher performing filters.
    Also note that Tokina manufactures all of their own, Hoya's and Kenko's filters using Hoya's glass

    Know what you are buying.

    Current models...

    Hoya (from cheap to expensive):
    Hoya both sides coated (single coating on each side)
    Hoya HMC (Hoya Multicoated - basic multicoating)
    Hoya SMC (discontinued?, good multicoated)
    Hoya Ultra (discontinued?, thin ring, good multicoated)
    Hoya Pro1D (advanced multicoating matt thin ring with knurling edge, optimized for digital)
    Hoya HD (multicoated and hardened, scratch and oil resistant. around price levels of B+W MRC)

    Kenko (from cheap to expensive):
    Kenko standard filters (no coating),
    Kenko MC (Basic Multicoated),
    Kenko Pro1D (equivalent to Hoya Pro1D)
    Kenko Zeta (equivalent to Hoya HD)
    Kenko Zeta EX (extra thin/slim CPL filters)

    Form factor of Filters - Shapes

    Filters come in several shapes and how you use them varies. I will cover the two more popular types here.

    Round screw-on filters:
    This is the most common type of filters. They are round in shape and You screw them on to the front of your lens. They look like THIS

    Advantages of round filters:
    -Generally smaller and more compact.
    -Usually cheaper.
    -Easy to store.
    -Convenient to leave them on the camera if needed. No need to remove when storing the lens (or camera) with the filter on.

    Slot-in filters:
    These are rectangular (or square) filters. You usually need an adapter ring screwed on to your lens, and a filter holder will be attached to the adapter ring. On this holder, you will be able to slot the rectangular (or square) filters in or out. They sort of look like THIS.

    Advantages of square filters:
    -One filter can cover multiple filter thread sizes over multiple lenses.
    -Very fast to slot in and out after filter holder is set up.
    -ability to move the filters within the holder to get desired effect (especially useful for GND filters - will cover later)
    -May save more money in the long run if shared for multiple lenses.

    Size of filters

    Round screw-on filters
    Round filters come in different diameters (called thread sizes). You need to look at your lens to see the thread size for your lens. This is denoted by a special symbol that looks like a small circle with a line slashing through it vertically (symbol ). So if you see "58mm" or "58", it means the thread size for your lens is 58mm.

    Slot-in filters
    Rectangular filters are measured by the width of the shortest side of the filter. They generally come in a few fixed sizes. You will also need a Filter holder with slots the same size as your filters, and you will need an adapter ring that works with the filter holder and have thread size similar to your lens' thread size.

    Here are the filter sizes (width of the rectangular filters) more common in photography:

    67mm (Called A series by Cokin) - Good for small cameras, rangefinders
    75mm (Called RF75 by Lee Filters) - Made for small cameras and rangefinders.
    85mm (Called P series by Cokin) - Good for APS-C lenses >18mm, 4/3 cameras, NEX, m4/3. (With P series wide angle holder by Cokin - APS-C lenses >13mm, FF lenses >28mm)
    100mm (Called Z-pro series by Cokin, 4-inch or 4" filters by Hitech or Lee)- Good for FF wide lenses, APS-C, UWA lenses, Medium Format
    130mm (Called X-pro series by Cokin) - Good for FF super UWA lenses, Large Format, Professional video cameras
    150mm (only available from LEE, called SW150) - made for 14-24/2.8 UWA lens for Nikon FX use.

    *sizes in BOLD-RED denotes the most popular sizes

    Multicoated or Non-Coated?

    Many have been asking on the forum if it is wise to buy a cheap un-coated filter or pay more to get a multicoated filter? Some very cheap brands also claim to be multicoated, but in fact, are only coated once, or not coated at all. Please read the link below to understand how multicoating works and why it is important. And from the article, you will realize that coating on the inside of the filter (the side facing the lens elements) is actually very important as well. It will be best to have no filter on your lens, but if you really want a filter over your lens, do get at least a multicoated one from a reputable brand.

    Please read
    Why are MultiCoated Camera Filters worth the Money?
    Last edited by daredevil123; 12th August 2013 at 05:34 PM.

  2. #2
    Moderator daredevil123's Avatar
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    Default Re: Newbie Guide to Filters

    Types of Filters

    UV or Protective Filters

    Why UV
    In the old days, UV light can affect film. So UV filters were needed to cut out the UV light. However modern digital sensors are not affected by UV light. But the practice of using UV filters is still very popular. In the digital age, the UV filter just acts as a protective filter over the lens. This is to prevent getting dirt, smudges, fingerprints or water droplets on the front element of the lens. Some people also believe a UV filter is a good defense against light knocks. Some people also uses a Skylight filter in place of a UV filter (skylight is slightly warmer while UV is neutral). Some people uses a Protector or a Clear filter in place of a UV filter as well.

    Notes when using UV filters
    • Adding a piece of glass in front of any lens will cause IQ degradation. The better your UV filter, the less the degradation. Cheap UV filters tend to be very bad with flare, ghosting and haze. Get at least a multicoated filter to reduce these artifacts.
    • When shooting at night, filters will easily cause ghosting. It is very advisable to remove all filters when shooting night scenes. Except the ones you need on to give you the effects you need.
    • Remove the UV filter before you attach another filter (like the CPL for example). Never stack filters unnecessarily. This will cause glare and a lot of IQ degradation.

    Why you shouldn't buy the cheapest UV filter out there...

    Read this

    Which UV filter brand and model?

    So which UV filter is the best? Which is the most value for money? Which should I buy? did a comprehensive and controlled test of 20 of the more popular UV filters on the market. You can read the entire test below. The results may surprise you. But do note that some of the new recently released filters (like Hoya HD and Kenko Zeta) were not included in the first test. Be sure to check out the 2nd link to see results from other filters including the Hoya HD.'s UV Filter Test -'s UV filter test suppliment (Hoya HD included) - UV filters test - supplement - Introduction -

    Circular Polarizer Filter (CPL)

    What is CPL
    It is a filter that filter out light rays other than ones in a certain orientation. This will improve contrast, cut reflections and make skies bluer. If you want to know how Polarization works and the science behind it, here is an easy to follow tutorial on how polarization works:
    How Polarization works -

    How to use a CPL
    A video says a million words.

    Notes when using CPL filters
    • When using UWA lenses, CPLs will tend to give uneven polarization. This means parts of the sky will be darker than the rest. So the advice is to avoid using CPL with UWA lenses. If you have to use one, use it carefully and observe the effect in your viewfinder and LCD.
    • CPLs come in thick and thin versions. When shooting wide angle, try to use the thin versions.
    • You do not leave the CPL on your lens all the time. You only use it when you need it.
    • For adding contrast and removing haze, CPL works best when the sun is perpendicular to the direction where your lens is pointing. So this means if you are shooting into or away from the sunset/sunrise, a CPL is not very useful in giving you more contrast.
    • You will lose light when using a CPL. Depending on the specific model and brand, you will lose around a 1 to 1.5 (even 2) stops of light. You can use this to your advantage if you know how.

    Which CPL filter brand and model?

    So which CPL filter is the best? Which is the most value for money? Which should I buy? did a comprehensive and controlled test of 25 of the more popular CPL filters on the market. You can read the entire test below. The results may surprise you. But do note that some of the new recently released filters (like Hoya HD and Kenko Zeta) were not included in this test.'s Polarizing Filters Test -

    Neutral Density Filter (ND)

    What is ND
    It is a filter that reduces the amount of light entering the lens.

    How to use ND filters
    A video says a million words.

    How strength of ND filters are labelled

    ND filters are quantified by their optical density or equivalently their f-Stop reduction as follows:

    (Attenuation Factor, Filter Optical Density, f-Stop Reduction, %transmittance)
    ND2: 2, 0.3, 1 stop, 50%
    ND4: 4, 0.6, 2 stops, 25%
    ND8: 8, 0.9, 3 stops, 12.5%
    ND16: 16, 1.2, 4 stops, 6.25%
    ND64: 64, 1.8, 6 stops, 1.5625%
    ND1024: 1024, 3.0, 10 stops, <1%

    How to use ND to get proper exposure for long exposure with ND filters

    1. Take a meter reading of the scene without the ND filter (in A or Av mode)
    2. Keep ISO and Aperture fixed. Switch to M mode, making sure you keep the same aperture and ISO setting.
    3. multiply the shutter speed by the attenuation factor of the ND filter you are going to use, to arrive at your new shutter speed. Set your shutter speed to this new value.
    4. put on the ND filter.
    5. shoot.
    6. The picture will have the same exposure "brightness" as the metered reading without the ND. But the shutter speed will be longer to achieve your purpose.

    How to use ND in bright sunny coditions
    - Good for lowering shutter speed to flash sync speeds when in bright conditions. Also good for lowering shutter speed to enable the use of large apertures in bright sunny conditions.
    1. Just attach ND filter.
    2. Make sure your camera can AF properly.
    5. shoot as per normal.
    6. The picture will have the same exposure "brightness" but with a slower shutter speed.

    Shortcut when calculating shutter speed when using 10 stop ND filter

    Instead of going nuts trying to figure out the multiplication to 1024, the easy way is to just multiply it by 1000 instead. The difference is quite negligible.

    Color cast when using ND filters

    Sometimes when using very dense ND filters, or when stacking filters, you might get a color cast. Do not panic. It is normal. This following article will explain why it happens, and give some suggestions on how to solve the problem.
    Last edited by daredevil123; 23rd February 2015 at 02:42 PM.

  3. #3
    Moderator daredevil123's Avatar
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    Default Re: Newbie Guide to Filters

    Graduated Neutral Density (GND) Filters

    What is a GND filter?

    A GND is a filter that reduces the amount of light in one part of the filter, and allows all light in the other part of the filter. Usually the transition from dark to clear is from one half of the filter to the other half. So basically half of a GND filter is in fact a ND filter, while the other half is clear. The middle portion where the two edges meet is graduated with a transition. GND is very useful in situations where the part of the scene is very bright, and part of the scene is very dark (like a sunrise or sunset where the sky is very bright and the land is very dark), and the difference in exposure between the two areas are too far apart for the dynamic range of the sensor or film can handle. By using a GND, you can bring the exposure of the bright part of the scene down to manageable range from your dark part of the scene. For example, it can be used to darken a bright sky so that both the sky and subject can be properly exposed.

    Types of GND

    There are two kinds of GND namely:

    1. Hard Edge - The transition from dark to clear is quite abrupt and the graduation is across a very narrow area. This type of GND is very useful when using in scenes where the horizon is very flat and defined.

    Hard Edge GND

    2. Soft Edge - The transition from dark to clear is very smooth and the graduation is across a very wide area. This type of GND is useful in situations where the horizon is not defined well or where there are a lot of terrain or buildings disrupting the horizon.

    Soft Edge GND

    Notes when using GND

    1. How to determine what GND to use? - Spot meter the bright area (sky), and spot meter the dark area (foreground). The difference in exposure (in number of stops) is usually NOT the strength of GND I want to use. I would use something that can bring the exposures of the two areas to within, usually, 3-5 stops of each other. I will fine tune in PP to get to the exact balance I need.

    2. Use hard edge when the horizon is flat and very clear. Use soft edge if there are buildings or elements that break that horizon significantly.

    4. When metering with GND on, please do not use center weighted or matrix/evaluative metering. You will not be getting an accurate reading. Instead switch to spot meter.

    5. When using aperture (A or Av) mode, you should be using spot meter to meter the dark foreground (clear part of GND). (Note: this does not work for Canon bodies 5Dm2 and below, as spot meter means center AF point only). When using M mode, you should set the exposure to what you spot metered on the dark foreground (clear part of GND).

    6. Using long rectangular slotted GND filters will allow you to adjust the position of the graduation. If you use a square or screw-on GND, the transition is in the middle, and you will be forced to compose with the horizon in the middle. Therefore, for GND, rectangular filters is really the way to go.

    7. If you purchased the long GND filters (like the Lee or Hitech 4"x6", 100mmx150mm GNDs), when you desperately need an ND fitler, you can use the GND to double as one. Just slide the filter so the dark area completely covers the entire view.

    How to use GND

    A video says a million words. This talks about the Lee foundation kit holder as well as Lee GND filters but it does cover all the basics of GND.

    Square/Rectangular Filter holders and filters available

    Lee Filters
    1. Lee offers 3 kinds of holders: Standard holder (100mm or 4" wide), RF75 (75mm wide for Rangefinders or smaller cams), and the SW150 (150mm wide holder custom made for Nikon 14-24mm lens.
    2. For GNDs, Lee offers 5 densities, 0.3 (1 stop), 0.45 (1.5 stops), 0.6 (2 stops), 0.75 (2.5 stops) and 0.9 (3 stops). All these filters comes both in hard edge or soft edge flavors. These are all resin filters.
    3. For NDs, Lee offers 3 densities for Resin filters, 0.3 (1 stop), 0.6 (2 stops) and 0.9 (3 stops). Lee also offers 2 glass ND filters with less IR pass-through called "Pro Glass ND" available in 0.6 (2 stop) or 0.9 (3 stop). These pro-glass filters block more IR light, thus decreasing the tendency for color casts even more.
    4. Lee also offer a 10 stop ND filter called "Big Stopper". It is made of glass, similar to "Pro Glass ND" but it comes with the addition of foam gaskets to prevent light leaks in long exposures.
    5. Please note that filters for the SW150 are very limited at the time of writing. IIRC, only a couple of filters are available for the SW150 (all GNDs).

    Hitech/Formatt Filters
    1. Hitech offers both 85mm and 100mm wide holders.
    2. Glass filters are sold under the Formatt brand. I have not seen them yet in Singapore.
    3. Hitech branded filters are all resin. The ND filters come in many densities. You can see them HERE. Also note that there are 2 kinds of high densities ND filters (5 stop and above). The better one will be the "PRO STOP" filters.
    4. Note that the high density filters also come with foam gaskets. There are 2 kinds available, 3mm if you are using Hitech holder, and 1.5mm if you are using Lee Holder. Make sure you get the right one for your filter holder.
    5. Hitech GND filters can be found HERE.

    Cokin Filters
    Cokin is now officially bought over by Tokina.
    1. Cokin offers holders and filters in widths of 67mm (A series), 85mm (P series), 100mm (Z-pro series) and 130mm (X-pro series).
    2. Cokin filters for these holders are mostly resin, except for their CPL, which are made of glass.
    3. You can check out their range of products HERE.
    4. At the point of writing, Cokin official site has shifted to Tokina has officially bought over the company (or what's left of it). No news whatsoever were heard about Cokin or their products going forward.

    Variable Neutral Density (Vari-ND) filter

    What is a Vari-ND filter?
    These filters are basically made with two polarizing filters fused to each other. While being turned, the amount of light let through changes according to the position of the rotating side.

    • One filter to get multiple Attenuation Factor. From 2 stops to 8 stops (depending on brand and model).
    • Quick and easy to use. Just screw on and turn the ring for different optical density.
    • Saves you a lot of room for different ND filters

    • The filter is usually quite a bit more expensive than normal ND filters
    • Only ring filter available
    • Vari-NDs are usually quite thick and may cause some vignetting with wide lenses.
    • At wide focal lengths, you can get cross banding at higher densities. (tendency depends on brand and model - see below)
    • All Vari-ND shows some color cast. Amount of cast depends on brand and model and selected optical density.

    A quick comparison of several popular Variable-ND filters.

    Cross-banding when using Vari-ND filters

    Sometimes when using variable ND filters we might get a large cross (or X) shaped shadow across the frame. This undesirable effect is called cross-banding. Just like when using CPL filters on UWA lenses. You run the risk of getting uneven polarization. On a vari-ND, that effect is amplified because there are 2 CPLs. when the ND density is low, the CPLs are more closely aligned, so the effect is less amplified. The higher the ND, means the less aligned the CPLs are, causing the uneven polarization to happen more and when amplified through another CPL, causes the X shape shadow to appear. The wider the FOV, the more you see it, because the uneven polarization happens near the edges more than the center.

    The reason why better (more expensive) vari-ND filters handle it better, is because, wider band CPLs get less uneven polarization, reducing the effect. Wider band CPLs are more expensive to make, and when paired, the price difference is doubled. Which is why some folks prefer to use slot in filters for higher densities.

    This is a test done by ephotozine for Lightcraft Workshop's vari-ND filter for amount of ND density range usable before the X-banding appears. The numbers are for a APS-C camera. So for FF cameras, just factor in the crop factor when figuring the corresponding focal length.
    The information below shows the degree of light loss you can achieve at different focal lengths on a cropped sensor DSLR.

    12mm: ND4 to ND8 3 stop operating range
    15mm: ND4 to ND16 4 stop operating range 

    18mm: ND4 to ND32 5 stop operating range

    24mm: ND4 to ND64 6 stop operating range

    35mm: ND4 to ND125 7 stop operating range

    40mm: ND4 to ND175 7.5 stop operating range
    50mm: ND4 to ND250 8 stop operating range
    70mm: ND4 to ND350 8.5 stop operating range
    100mm: ND4 to ND500 9 stop operating range
    Last edited by daredevil123; 11th October 2014 at 09:48 PM.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Newbie Guide to Filters

    Nice guide! Thanks!

  5. #5
    Senior Member
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    Default Re: Newbie Guide to Filters

    Fantastic . . .

    awaiting patiently for all the 'reserve' to be filled up with more info . . .

    i reserve here too . . .
    Shot more cos digital is FREE !!!

  6. #6

    Default Re: Newbie Guide to Filters

    Very helpful guide.

    Many thanks.

    Waiting for the rest of the tutorial to be uploaded

  7. #7
    Member yilin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Newbie Guide to Filters

    Very nice and comprehensive guide .
    Much more information compared to the book that i have just borrowed from Library

  8. #8

    Default Re: Newbie Guide to Filters

    Very informative and detailed! Thanks for putting this up bro.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Newbie Guide to Filters

    Great work!

    I've never remembered what filter is what grade. The vendor website (Hoya, Kenko, etc) are never clear about them. They usually give the impression that all their range are good. Using pricing as a guide at point of purchase is a pain since I won't know if the shop is trying to pull a fast one (ie. lowest grade filter sell at mid grade price)

  10. #10
    Moderator daredevil123's Avatar
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    Default Re: Newbie Guide to Filters

    Glad this info is useful to some of you...

    This is still a work in progress... still have tons to cover, like ND... and a section on how to use GND and the different brands or kits available.

  11. #11
    Senior Member oceanpriest's Avatar
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    Default Re: Newbie Guide to Filters

    nice info. this should be a sticky

  12. #12

    Default Re: Newbie Guide to Filters

    Really useful guide for newbies like me Thumbs UP!!!!!!

  13. #13

    Default Re: Newbie Guide to Filters

    Should put this thread as sticky! Thanks al ot

  14. #14

    Default Re: Newbie Guide to Filters

    Quote Originally Posted by daredevil123 View Post
    Glad this info is useful to some of you...

    This is still a work in progress... still have tons to cover, like ND... and a section on how to use GND and the different brands or kits available.
    yes yes,
    ND and GND, thats the section i am waiting for..

  15. #15

    Default Re: Newbie Guide to Filters

    appreciate this....very good thread
    very informative

  16. #16
    Senior Member
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    West Legion

    Default Re: Newbie Guide to Filters

    hope to see how the marumi super DHG compared to hoya HD or B+W MRC in terms of scratch resistance, oil and dust repelling..

    have the normal DHG, they compared well with the hoya pro1 but cost cheaper

  17. #17

    Default Re: Newbie Guide to Filters

    Thanks for sharing.

  18. #18

    Default Re: Newbie Guide to Filters

    Wondeful thread! Thanks for the effort, now newbies like me can also understand the application of filters instead of relying on saleperson's 'possibly inaccurate' info!
    Canon 500D||17-85||50mm 1.8

  19. #19
    Member leshrec's Avatar
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    Sydney, Australia

    Default Re: Newbie Guide to Filters

    Excellent thread for newbies who have no idea about filters!

    I was considering to buy a ND filter soon for waterfall shots and will wait for the updates to this thread regarding that type of filters.

    Last edited by leshrec; 4th December 2010 at 07:07 PM.
    Memories From A Canon EOS 7D

  20. #20

    Default Re: Newbie Guide to Filters

    Nice info, tks for sharing!

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