Filter tips: meet the new breed

By Geoff Harris

Most photographers, if you are anything like me, have a complicated relationship with lens filters.

Sure, you can see their value, particularly when it comes to polarisers and ND Grads – who doesn’t want bluer skies, less glare on water or better-balanced landscape exposures. But filters can also be a fiddly pain. They clank around in your bag, they get damaged or jammed on the lens, or your keep leaving them at home or in the car. Some require the dexterity of a piccolo player to fit on the lens, too, which is not what you want on a cold shoot with the sun rising quickly. Fortunately, filter makers are having to innovate and diversify, as they are facing a shrinking market too – smartphone photographers rarely bother with filters, and even experienced camera users are finding they can replicate more and more filter effects in editing software (which is also getting more ingenious with the rise of AI technology).

So, let’s take a look at some of the more interesting new photographic filters on the market and how they can deliver great results, while saving you faff out in the field or time on the computer

Kase Magnetic Filters

The Kase Wolverine Magnetic Circular Filters are quite ingenious: you simply screw an adaptor ring on the front of your lens to which the filters snap on via magnetic force. So you don’t have to screw the filters onto the lens threads, which is not only a time saver, it can also prevent them from getting jammed on if you use excessive force or ‘cross thread’ by mistake. Circular polarisers can be freely rotated on the magnetic mount and an ND filter can be stacked on top. If you accidentally try to mount the filters the wrong way around, it soon becomes obvious, as the magnets won’t work, so it’s all pretty foolproof. The Kase filters are made from tough, colour-neutral pro glass and are light and compact. Just make sure you carefully put the adaptor ring and the filters back in the carrying case after use, so they don’t fall out on a windy hillside when your mind is on other things.

Kase night filters

Staying with Kase, the company has also brought out an interesting range of neutral night filters. These are very handy for helping to control the effect orange sodium lights, particularly when shooting at long exposures. See our previous article on the Wex Photo Video Photographer of the Year, Andi Campbell, to see how night filters can be put to good effect. The Kase Alyn Wallace special edition, named after the noted astro photographer, is also great for getting stars to really ‘glow’ during night photography.

LEE85 filter system

If you have a smaller camera, such as a mirrorless device from Fujifilm or Olympus, another good option is this new filter system from LEE, famous for its Big Stopper – an essential tool for landscape photographers who love the effects of very long exposures. The LEE85 system is particularly easy to use. You simply clip the polariser on and off at the front of the holder, while other filters slide into guide blocks to be held with the minimum of fuss. LEE85 graduated and standard ND filters also have new labelled grip tabs, so they are easier to find in your bag and prevent fingerprints and smudges as you fumble around trying to work out what filter is what. Definitely worth considering if you use smaller lens with filter threads ranging from 37mm to 72mm.

Cokin Nuances

Cokin is another long-established filter maker and I am also impressed with its new Nuances range. The filters are made from highly resistant tempered glass and are very tough – you can certainly drop them on hard ground a few times without any damage. Their 2mm thick, rounded edge design makes them easier to insert into the sturdy yet relatively light and compact holder and you can stack several filters without causing any strong colour cast. The Nuances Extreme line features three graduated neutral density filters with variations in absorption from 2 to 4 stops, and various gradient transitions, but I particularly like the new Infrared 720. If you have a full-spectrum converted infrared camera, this filter will give you really deep, attractive tones in black and white shots. It absorbs light in the visible spectrum and transmit it in the 720nm to 950nm wavelength range, and it’s now my go-to filter when shooting black and white infrared (which for me looks less gimmicky than ‘false colour’). Cokin Nuances filters are available in sizes M (84x84mm), L (100x100mm) and XL (130x130mm) – also known as P-Series, Z-Pro and X-Pro.

Geoff Harris

I am a journalist and photographer and currently work as the Deputy Editor of Amateur Photographer (AP) the oldest weekly photographic magazine in the world. Before that I served as the editor of Digital Camera, Britain's best-selling photography magazine, for five years. During my time as editor it became the UK's top selling photo monthly and won Print Publication of the Year at the 2013 British Media Awards. As well as being lucky enough to get paid to write about photography, I've been fortunate to interview some of the greatest photographers in the world, including Elliott Erwitt, Don McCullin, Martin Parr, Terry O'Neill and Steve McCurry. This has been a wonderful learning experience and very influential on my photography. Beyond writing, I am a professional portrait, travel and documentary photographer, and reached the finals of the 2016 Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year competition. I am a Licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society and hope to take my Associateship whenever I can find the time. In addition I write about well being/personal development and antiques collecting for a range of other titles, including BlueWings, the in-flight magazine of Finn Air.

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