Photographic filters are fantastic. They alter the light and allow for great photographic creativity.
They are also a pain in the posterior.
For a long time, I would do my best to avoid using them. Multi-stop ND filters in particular were avoided since focusing would need to occur before placing the filter on the lens. Circular filters need to be screwed onto the lens. You can inadvertently throw the focus off while putting on the filter. Take the shot, look at the LCD, and ouch, the image is out of focus. Now the filter has to come off and the cycle repeats until you get a sharp image.
This cycle can be very frustrating. As patience is not one of my virtues the filters would often be left in the car. I’d bring them along for the ride but they never saw action.
I also avoided drop-in square filters. These are easily stacked and swapped. They are a bit easier to use than circular ones but for me, they were dangerous. Since the filter slides into the holder, you would need to balance holding the filter by the edge and slide it into the holder, get it into position without it sliding out the bottom and smashing it onto the ground. Too much holding my breath and nervous sweat are required for these types.
Now I use both.
Some years ago, I discovered magnetic filter holders. It’s a two-part system, one ring attaches to the lens and a slim ring attaches to the filter. Add rings to all your filters for a super fast on and off application. No more fumbling, no more wrecking the focus, no more wasting precious time. No more frustration. All my filters and most of my lenses have magnetic rings attached. Now my filters are used regularly. These rings are fantastic for full-spectrum infrared cameras as well. Swift filter swap between the various infrared filters. Creativity is now freer and by far, more enjoyable.
XUME (Manfrotto) has been my go-to system for many years. Recently their parent company, in their fine wisdom, decided to stop making them. There is still stock in various filter sizes to be found but they are becoming very rare so I went on a search for alternative systems. To my delight, I found another company that now makes magnetic filter holders. Kase Wolverine Magnetic Filter holders function just like XUME. Keep in mind if you already use XUME, Kase and XUME are not interchangeable. You would need to figure out a system that works for you when a hybrid magnetic filter holder system is in your kit. I find nail polish works very well for marking things. It’s long-wearing, a tiny mark does the job and it’s cheap. Plus you can color code whatever you want to your heart’s content.
Square is Dandy
A company finally understood the issues with drop-in square filters and did something about it. ,Benro created a fantastic filter holder system. The filters snap into filter frames which makes handling delicate glass much more secure and the filter holder stops the filter from sliding out the bottom. When using graduated filters (100 x 150mm) it has a thumbwheel whereby you can move the filter to a precise location. This system comes with a built-in polarizer too. I loved the 100mm system so much, that I bought the 150mm system for my Nikon 14-24mm lens. Since the delicate filters are now in a frame, I can easily hold up the filter in front of a student’s camera to illustrate something without fear of dropping it and making a mess of it with fingerprints all over it.
Here’s a video I came across that explains how this filter holder system works.
There are clip-in filters as well that some of my colleagues swear by. There are also filters that fit at the mount end of the lens (lens dependent). Ultimately, use what works best (and easiest) for you.
Do you use filters? If so, are you using them as much as you could/should? Let’s hear about your experiences with filters in the comments or drop me a line. I’d love to hear about it.
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