Personal View site logo
Make sure to join PV Telegram channel! Perfect to keep up with community on your smartphone.
General Questions on Filters for DLSM Video
  • Being a Newbie I've been somewhat confused about selecting and the proper use of Filters in particular for Video on a DSLM like the GH1/2.

    1. If I use a Polarizer does that negate the need for a UV Filter?
    2. If I use a Variable ND does that negate the need for a Polarizer?
    3. Is there a negative effect from using several different types of filters let say a UV, Polarizer and Vari ND all at once or is there a net positive effect from using all 3?
    4. What is the best pattern to organize the filters on the lens if using a variety of filter types. ie. Vari ND 1st, then Polarizer, then UV?
    5. Is it best to buy the best SET of filters from the same brand or the best individual filters from different brands.
    6. Is there some kind of rating system for Filters that can be used to compare their effectiveness? ie effect on sharpness, color etc. How would someone actually choose one filter from another to find the best one if there is no rating system? Is there a really reliable resource on the Web?

    Sorry if there is some thread that covers this, but I haven't come across any that concisely address this topic.

  • 10 Replies sorted by
  • Filters are very much up to personal preference. However one thing that's guaranteed, any filter, no matter how expensive will degrade the image quality of a lens, so it's best to try and avoid using filters as much as possible.

    A lot of people will say you should always have a UV filter or clear filter on your lens as a bare minimum for protection. The important thing is it's not either or, it totally depends on the situation. Shooting something with water splashing or in a dusty environment definitely stick a "protection" filter on there. If the lens is expensive certainly stick one on there. I default to leaving a good UV filter on the lens. If the shooting conditions allow I remove it to shoot and then replace it once done. Shooting on a clear day in a controlled environment, probably no need for a filter. UV filters were mainly useful for film which would react a lot more to UV than a DSLR, so it may be best not to use it at all, certainly good for protection.

    1. You don't need a UV filter with a polariser, you probably don't need a UV filter at all. I would avoid using a polariser on skin as it totally takes the life out of it. Best left for situations with skies and window reflections.

    2. A variable ND is simply a double polariser, so you certainly wouldn't want to add another polariser into the mix. Again, because it's really just 2 polarisers, variable NDs do not act like a true ND filter and can do weird things to the image, flattening the skin tones. I've used a LCW Fader MKII and can tell you it was a complete waste of money - deadens skin, softens the image. If you are working under controlled conditions then true NDs of different strength that you either screw on the lens, or slide into a matte box provide much better results. If you must use a variable ND and don't have time to swap out NDs one of the best is the Heliopan, which seems to keep image sharpness very well.

    3. Yes, the more glass and air to glass surfaces you stick in front of your lens the more the image will be degraded. Whenever you are going to use an ND, a polariser or a fader ND you would not be needing a UV filter. The only combination that I might stack are true NDs (not fader NDs) at different strengths to get the exposure down, or a true ND with a polariser. The less extra glass the better. The most noticeable effect you will probably see is flare, filters create a lot more flare.

    4. You wouldn't really be stacking this many different filters, as I was saying you won't need a UV with other filters. If you have lenses of varying front thread size you should always buy filters for the biggest or even larger than that and use step down rings to get to the lens size you need. This way you are not buying filters for each lens. The exception is the UV filter which should probably be on all lenses for protection and removed when required. Whether you put a polariser in front of behind an ND makes no difference.

    5. There's 2 main types of filters, glass and resin. If you want the best then you need glass. An exception to this is if you are using a matte box where I believe most filters are resin (could be wrong about that). I'm not a matte box user and yes it looks cool but I try and avoid it for the extra time to change lenses and weight that it adds. Multi-coated is better than single coated. I use hoya super hmc pro UV filters on all my lenses as a protection and take them off when a situation allows. I'm currently looking to replace a very rubbish set of fake Cokin P filters (Tian Ya) made of resin with some screw in NDs. There's a whole topic on NDs here that you should look at but I'm considering the Tiffen Indie Water White set, if they are available. It's hard to find a good ND without colour cast or loss of resolution.

    6. Not that I know of. Just see if some other people have done a line up and compared filters.

    I hope you find this ramble useful

  • @arknox, thanx for the details. Yes it was helpful. Tho now it gives me some other things to consider. I haven't really made up my mind yet as to whether i'm gonna go with a swing away Matte Box or screw on filters. I've been enjoying the low key feel of just having the camera, which few people recognize that i'm shooting video. However, there have been a lot of jobs where i've felt insecure due to comments about the small size of the GH1 and I know that a big ole Matte Box and rig would make people less skeptical.

    The tough part about all of this is that i've been getting bigger jobs lately and so I think I will run into more doubters who would look down on my GH1 minus the Matte Box. Size does matter to so many people :) It's sad really. My next bit of research is probably going to Slide in Filters for a Matte Box. I know next to nothing about the options for those. As for Screw in Filters i've seen some Marumi's that look good and have good reviews. If anyone has some suggestions on Slide in Filters for Matte Box they have used it would be appreciated.

  • @arknox Thanks for all the good information, only the part about filters for matte boxes is not correct: there are many (most?) filters made of glass for matte boxes.

    @Aria Professional 4x4 or even lager filters are all made of glass. In this case, I would only go for the well known brands, as the bigger the glass, the harder it is to get the quality right.

    Tiffen is a very popular brand and, as far as I know, good quality. Schneider is the top brand in the market. Both are expensive, especially the multicoated filters.

    So, a matte box can give a more professional look besides other advantages but when it comes to filters, keep in mind that the 4x4 or bigger filters are much more expensive than screw in filters.

  • To me, a UV filter is just something to put on the front of the lens so it doesn't get scratched.

    I disagree with the idea that filters create some image degradation, therefore it's better to shoot without them. Filters can be necessary to achieve a specific goal. If you don't want to achieve that goal, don't use them, but if you do, then you will be getting the image closer to what you want. I don't use color filters, since that can be done better in post, but ND filters, polarizers, IR filters, Contrast filters, and most diffusion cannot be matched in post-production.

    I find that I regularly stack ND, IR, Ultra Con, and black diffusion filters with very little image degradation. Filters do move the back focus plane of your image backwards by approx 1/3rd of their thickness, so this can change your focus, but in the real world, I don't see problems with this. Of course, fewer filters is better, but go for the effect you need to achieve. The one thing to watch out for is flare. If a light source gets into your filters, you will reflect back and forth off them to create massive flare. So a matte box or french flag can be important.

    The only rule I know about placement of filters is that, if you use mirrored filters (some IR filters or ND filters) you must place them on the outside of the filter stack.

  • @DouglasHorn, thx for the info. Keep it coming guys. It's all been very helpful. I think i'm going to go with screw in Filters and a Matte Box to allow me the flexibility to go in stealth mode without the Matte Box when I don't want to draw too much attention.

  • @Aria - I standardized on 77mm threaded filters for all my FD lenses. It's much less expensive meaning that I can afford the filters I want and also a second set of the more important ones so my B-cam can match my A-cam. I would not be able to do that with 4x4 filters.

    Honestly, a matte box is probably overkill for a setup like this, though. A french flag or good lens hood is probably more suited for the job.

    That said, down the road, I may wish that I'd bought 4x4 filters instead as they're impossible to outgrow.

  • My reasons for the Matte Box are unfortunately due to the size bias of some of my customers. I literally had a client ask if I had any big cameras and it was crazy cuz I actually have huge old standard def pro video cameras, but they of course suck in comparison. I've actually done jobs with my JVC GY-DV500u's with my GH1 on top of it just so people wouldn't say anything. I had Police let me through a crowd barrier simply cuz he saw the big camera. sigh :(

    The reason I think i'll go with the screw in Filters is cuz it will still allow me to go small for when I don't want to draw attention, which is still quite often. I think i'm also going to go with the 77mm size just in case. Right now most of my lenses are only 49mm thread size, but i'd like to be able to deal with any size lens I might get in the future.

  • Yep, this size bias is real. For those clients I typically rent an Alexa or similar. I mostly use my GH2 for projects where money is tight, the small size is a virtue, or the clients understand that sometimes good things come in small packages.

    I also have several 49mm size filters for my M43 lenses, though unfortunately many of the filters I like don't come in these sizes. I have a 49mm-77mm adapter that looks very funny on the little pancake lenses.

  • @ DouglasHorn - I totally agree. I just shot a commercial with F3- pix240 just because the EP didn't want the client to think that we were skimping. We easily could have pulled off a similar look with the hGH2.

    I use 4X4 NDS, Cons and ND Grads. I also use a Fader for quick/stealth shooting.