Why You Shouldn’t Waste Money on Filters

17 thoughts on Why You Shouldn’t Waste Money on Filters

  1. That article’s a complete toss for both the CPL and ND filter aspects.

    Stacking shots can yield a better result than using an ND filter on the basis that each shot will have inherently less noise (the longer a sensor is active per photo the more noise creeps in, especially as the sensor heats up), but realistically you’re not going to get a long enough exposure for any meaningful stacking out of daytime shots without an ND filter or pushing your aperture to its narrowest point, which introduces its own set of problems.

    CPLs, except when going into low-light areas, needn’t be removed if you don’t want the effect. Just turn the filter such that its effect is minimized/eliminated and you’re about done; you shouldn’t need to re-adjust it again all that often except when you want the effect to be more pronounced. You’re losing at most a stop of light that way which can actually be beneficial in full-daylight shooting if using a fast lens and wanting to slow your shutter speed to capture some movement.

    The gradient problem is virtually only such for the sky and only at very wide focal lengths. For just about anything over ~35mm (35mm equivalent) you’re not going to notice the gradient enough that it’ll be of concern and better yet can balance it out without significant amounts of effort; on the other hand, you /cannot/ reproduce the effect it’ll have on items in the foreground (down to earth), which will be most pronounced in just about any plants. ‘reducing the shininess’ on a car can be adjusted in intensity by turning the filter – sometimes you’re going to *want* to cut out that glare or ‘shininess’ from a car or similar rather than retain it.

    Corner vignetting isn’t a problem you’re going to experience with all lens/filter combinations and you can get slim filters to specifically avoid that issue.

    For ND filter usage there are scenarios where continuous shooting isn’t necessarily going to work because you may have interruptions in trails you specifically want to keep continuous, due to the delay between shots. There’s also the issue of the maximum FPS of the camera in question (referencing the aperture mentioned earlier) and the burst depth; if your aperture is too wide your shutter speed is still going to be relatively high. With this being the case you’re going to be filling up your camera’s buffer very quickly if you’re trying to shoot in raw, potentially limiting your effective shot duration to the point of uselessness.

    If your aperture has been narrowed down too much, specifically if you’re shooting at a wider focal length, you’re going to pick up any sensor dust in your shots much more than you would otherwise, any dust on your lens’ front element or filter you may have attached is going to be more pronounced and you’re going to get to deal with diffraction. To avoid all three of these for a focal length of, say, 20mm (35mm equivalent), you’re going to want to shoot at f/8 or lower, and your issues are going to be compounded if you’re trying to focus on something in the foreground while deliberately having the horizon at least a bit out of focus, as you’re pulling your focus closer bringing the lens/sensor dust into focus even more.

    f/8 ISO100 for a typical daytime scene = 1/250th (sunny 16, anyone?). If you’re on a consumer-grade camera like an EOS triple-digit series (or Rebel for Americans), or even a prosumer grade one like the EOS double-digit bodies, your burst depth is only around 14 shots if you’re lucky. If I’m doing my calculations correctly that translates into a shot duration of around 1.5s effective, which for long-exposure photography is virtually nothing. Putting on at least a two-stop filter (or your CPL, if it cuts that much light in general) would allow you to shoot at 1/60th per shot for f/8 instead and increase the max duration to 6s.

    “they can also be potentially sharper because you don’t have that piece of plastic in front of your lens”. Screw-in ND and CPL filters are typically made of glass, not plastic.

    “finally, they’ll be a little bit better, because if you’re on a tripod like this, if you do a 2 second exposure, or a /20/ second exposure, and there’s a little bit of shake, the whole exposure is lost”

    No, Tony. If you do a 20s exposure and the tripod shakes for a fraction of a second, you’re not going to notice it in the photo at all. Specifically, weighing down one’s tripod to avoid it shaking is a cheap (even free) thing anyone can do and shooting using a remote or self-timer to avoid touching the camera are also things people can do.


    In this photo I couldn’t weigh my tripod down and was dealing with a fairly strong wind hitting me repeatedly from the right. The best I could do to stabilize the camera during a 25s shot was hold the tripod down using both arms pulling down on the center-post; even with this it still moved some. The image’s overall sharpness suffered not as a result of the movement but water spray on the front element, droplets of which are visible.

    Could I have taken the photo using a series of photos instead? Yes, maybe; I’m not entirely sure whether the misty effect on the water’s surface would have been ‘unbroken’, but it might have worked. Could I have done so with the wind I was contending with? Not without a remote release, because the intervalometer mode on my camera introduces a full-second delay between shots and holding my hand on the shutter release would’ve caused much more shaking.

    “If you take 10 shots and one of them is shaky, you can take that shot out and blend the rest of them together”

    And potentially have a visible gap in moving objects or light sources which stands out much more than a tiny bit of motion blur would have.

    “If you’ve ever tried to buy a camera at a store they’ve tried to sell you a UV filter, it’s really just a piece of clear plastic”

    Maybe if you buy your camera gear at a dollar store. Again, UV filters which aren’t the cheapest of cheap rubbish are virtually all made of glass, not plastic.

    “Sure they filter UV, but so does the glass in your camera’s lens”

    No, that’s the sensor. CMOS/CCD sensors are much less sensitive to UV than film is (read: they’re inherently virtually unaffected by it).

    To finish things off he tries to scratch up the front element of a glass lens using a piece of wood? When last did anyone manage to scratch glass using wood? He should’ve used some stones from that beach he was on; not that it’d have mattered much as it’s long-since been established many lenses’ performance is just fine even with damage to the front element. Not all lenses mind you, but many.

  2. I use Polars – both fixed and circular – and ND filters… Gave up the UVs a long time ago when I realized they didn’t do anything special.

    I’m not a PS user, nor do I have the time to learn all of that voodoo wizardry, so I’m sticking with my filters 🙂

  3. I was watching a vid of a pro photographer using a long exposure to get rid of the waves at a beach that he was shooting. WHAT do some photographers have against waves and the movement of water? I realize this is one of those situations that will never be agreed upon. Obviously, I could sit by the ocean for hours and look at and hear the waves. The same for mountain streams. If the shot is at night and a reflection of a skyline on a river, then I more than understand why the water has to look frozen or lifeless.

  4. As long as the photos look good, other things don’t matter. At the end of day, photographers are judged by their photos but not how they got to their photos. Remember this, and also not how many words you comment on here to show off your knowledge. You’re still judged by your photos as an artist or creator of the photo.

  5. Totally disagree. CPL cannot be simulated or PS’ed for the effect they do, which is filter polarised light. ND grads and ND filters give you more flexibility and allow you to get the very best image out of your camera. PS has it’s uses, but it cannot replace filters.

  6. This article is garbage. It’s obvious the shots done with the CPL were done incorrectly, with the light at the correct angle to the filter you wouldn’t get such horrible results.

  7. Don’t learn photography and fix everything in photoshop- the new generation. Sad. As an exposure expert, a pro for 25 years, and one who writes articles for all the major photo mags, I too disagree with this piece. But then again, art is subjective so to each his/her own.

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