The light filter is a special optical glass for the lens. It protects the technique from impacts, and also affects the final photo. Color filters transform color, ND filters brighten, soft filters sharpen, and polarizing filters darken the sky and remove reflections in the frame.
In appearance, it is almost impossible to distinguish a high-quality filter from a bad one if there are no gross defects on it — cracks, stains. Therefore, when buying a light filter, we have to trust the company that makes it. We talk about the most famous manufacturers of light filters and understand their pros and cons.
Price segment and quality
When choosing a filter, decide on the maximum price and how often you will use it. For example, it is better not to save on a protective filter for a standard lens. With it, you will protect the optics from moisture, dust, scratches, and high-quality filter glass will not knock down sharpness and change color reproduction. At the same time, you can use it constantly — put it on once and forget it.
If you are an amateur who takes a camera once a year on trips, or a beginner who has not decided whether he needs a filter to create a rarely used effect, take a closer look at budget manufacturers. After you test the features and benefits of the filter, look at the more expensive models.
- Premium filters. They are produced by Tiffen, Cokin, Zeiss. These companies are renowned for producing high quality filters and optics. Suitable for professionals and those who are sure of their choice and are ready to pay extra (or maybe overpay) for quality and brand.
- Filters of the middle price segment. There are several dozens of filter manufacturers in this category, but B + W and Hoya brands are well-known in the photo community. Both companies also produce lenses, teleconverters, macro attachments. They have a wide range and there is a division of filter models by price and quality: premium, medium and standard (amateur) segments. This option is an ideal value for money, so we will dwell on them in more detail.
- budget filters. Andoer, Kenko (subsidiary of Hoya), unknown Chinese brands in online stores. Options for beginners, amateurs and those who want to experiment. It will save money and allow you to decide that, yes, you need a soft effect or night city lights in the form of crosses. But keep in mind that budget models can change color reproduction, knock down sharpness, and also that the filter will not fully reveal its full potential due to the poor quality of materials compared to colleagues in higher segments.
- If you are undecided, take a closer look at the filters of camera manufacturers — Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax, etc. Such filters are most compatible with lenses from the same companies. This is the main plus — you can be sure of the quality. Minus — the cost and a small assortment. For example, Canon offers only three types of filters: polarizing, protective and neutral density. The price range is from 1700 to 46 thousand rubles per filter. Suitable for strict brand followers who trust only him.
If everything is clear with premium segment filters: you pay a lot — you get quality, then with manufacturers of medium and budget models, everything is not so clear. We studied the B + W and Hoya lineup, figured out their pros and cons, and also tried to find out what Androer and Kenko budget filters are capable of.
A Japanese company that manufactures optical equipment and electronics. The fact that the company specializes in optics and has its own production indicates that the filters (and this is also an optical accessory) will be of high quality — they are checked, tested, and not purchased from an unknown Chinese factory.
Hoya has several subsidiaries:
- Pentax. It produces cameras, lenses, binoculars, microscopes, telescopes, glasses glasses.
- Kenko. Produces teleconverters, amateur-grade filters (more on them below) and lenses under the Tokina brand.
The company develops both premium and amateur filters. Here’s how they share:
1. Premium. Hoya HD range. Protective, ultraviolet and polarizing filters.
Glasses recommended and praised by experienced photographers. They are made of tempered glass, which means that such filters are not easy to break or scratch. In addition, they were coated with a special coating against moisture and grease, which makes it easy to clean the filters with a regular microfiber cloth or a special pencil for optics.
Also, if we compare the line of polarizing filters, they are brighter than the similar B + W F‑PRO KSM C‑POL MRC and even Zeiss POL models, which means that the frame brightness will not drop so much. Of the minuses — some users claim that Hoya HD glasses turn yellow compared to B + W.
2. Middle segment. Fusion ONE, Fusion Antistatic, Hoya HMC.
3. Standard or amateur segment. HOYA UX, TEC.
It makes no sense to compare premium with the average or amateur segment, even within the same brand — the quality of the premium segment is much higher.
But, if you compare the average with the amateur, then in some cases you can think about the choice. For example, polarizing filters HOYA Fusion One Cir-PL and HOYA UX Cir-PL. The data is as follows: Fusion ONE is easier to clean, less glare, cuts off ultraviolet better, that is, it protects the matrix from light, and increases the contrast of the image.
But the essential advantages of HOYA UX are that it is two to three times cheaper and lighter, which means that the frame will be brighter and you won’t have to raise the ISO. If you don’t have the fastest lens, is it worth it if you take a filter three times more expensive, but it will be almost impossible to shoot through it?
German brand of the Schneider-Kreuznach concern. It is renowned for producing high quality optics for medium and large format cameras, as well as supplying lenses and optical parts for Kodak and Samsung digital cameras.
Their filters are made from glass from the German company Schott, which is part of the Zeiss group of companies (the same manufacturers of premium optics that even make medical equipment, microscopes and components for planetariums).
Their filter frames are made of brass, not aluminum like other brands. Because of this, their filters are heavier, but the frame is stronger and less likely to get stuck on the lens — they are easy to remove.
1. Premium models B + W Proline and B + W XS-Pro (a ruler with a thin frame so that the filter does not get into the frame if you shoot with a wide-angle lens on full-frame cameras). These are polarizing, protective and ultraviolet filters.
2. B+W Basic for beginner photographers.
3. Models for creating special effects. For example, soft filter B + W Soft-Pro, infrared B + W 092 Dark Red, B + W 093 or gradient B + W Graduated. Gradient filters come in different colors: gray, orange, purple, green, blue, red.
B+W filters have a brass frame. They are heavier but stronger than the same Hoya frames.
Another plus in additional accessories that allows or does not allow you to put a light filter on yourself. For example, the B+W XS-Pro allows you to mount a lens cap or hood on top of yourself, despite the fact that these are models with ultra-thin frames, while the Hoya Super HMC does not.
Of the minuses, some users complain that the polarizer rotates tightly on B + W polarizing filters.
A Japanese company famous for light filters and teleconverters. A subsidiary of Hoya that manufactures high-end optics. But Kenko itself has more than 10 subsidiaries that make lenses (including industrial full-frame lenses for production automation), filters for production lines and image quality control centers, tripods, and components for video surveillance.
In their lineup protective, ultraviolet and polarizing filters. There are also models for macro photography and neutral gray models that reduce the amount of light that enters the lens.
Unusual models include the Kenko 82S Variable NDX ND filter comparable in price to the premium segment. This is a filter that will be useful for videographers — it allows you to adjust the amount of light by turning the ring on the filter. This is useful if you’ve been shooting video indoors and then suddenly went outside on a sunny day, or if you’re recording video outdoors with partly cloudy skies.
You can also highlight the filter for astrophotography Kenko STARRY NIGHT, which, according to the manufacturers, suppresses the light “noise” of the city and makes sky photos more contrast and deep.
Despite the fact that Kenko filters belong to the standard segment, amateur photographers constantly compare them with Hoya and try to find out who is better. At the same time, in Japan, it is Kenko that is considered the leader among light filters, while Hoya is designed for the Western market. It turns out that these are the same products, but under different brands and for different markets.
The fact that Hoya and Kenko are essentially the same company adds credibility to the latter’s filters. Many users really do not see much difference between their filters, while others claim that Kenko scratches more easily and cleans worse. But if this happened to your filter, it is likely that instead of the original, you were sold a plastic fake, on which, instead of sputtering, they could simply stick a cheap film.
The main thing to pay attention to, whichever of these two brands you choose, is the degree of enlightenment. It is better that it be higher, and, therefore, the filter itself is more expensive. The second point is the quality of the glass. If you suddenly found a Hoya or Kenko filter for 100 rubles instead of the expected several thousand, most likely you have an imitation in front of you.
Chinese consumer brand. In addition to light filters, the company produces macro rings, budget action and digital cameras, lavalier microphones, video cameras, tripods and accessories for them, photophones, universal flashes for any cameras, budget studio lights, reflectors and photo bags.
It is distinguished by its affordability and the fact that it allows you to buy a whole set of filters with a rich package for less than two thousand, which will also include a carrying bag, cleaning wipes, a lens cap and a hood. Ideal for the beginner who wants to test different effects and get a feel for the possibilities of filters.
The range of filters is quite narrow: protective, polarizing and ultraviolet filters. Of the unusual and interesting — a set of filters for macro photography, which reduce the minimum focal length for focusing. If you don’t want to connect your life with macro photography, but it’s interesting to try, it’s better than overpaying for a Hoya kit, which will cost 14 thousand rubles against a thousand for Andoer.
Conclusions and tips for choosing a light filter
- In order for the filter to be put on the lens, they must have the same diameter. The diameter of the lens is always written on the border behind the front element of the lens, as well as on the cap. Only after that you should choose a filter and decide on a brand.
- The range of manufacturers is huge. After a cursory look in a search engine, you can easily count at least 25 brands, not to mention Chinese sites that sell “nameless” accessories for photographic equipment. Of all the variety, it is better to choose a well-known manufacturer who values \u200b\u200bits reputation. But this means that you will have to overpay for the brand.
- An important parameter when choosing a filter is the degree of enlightenment. It shows how much light the filter blocks. This is regulated by applying a special coating to the filter. The more spray layers, the higher the percentage of light that the filter traps, and the less extra glare will enter the frame.
There are the following designations:
— Glass without enlightenment. Blocks out 92% of the light.
- Single layer coating. Indicated by the letters SC, C or E next to the name and diameter of the model. Blocks out 95% of the light.
- Three-layer. Designated by the letters MC. Blocks out 99% of the light.
- Six layers. Designated by the letters SMC, HMC, MRC and retains 99.7% of the light.
If you do not trust the markings or there are no symbols on the filter, test the level of enlightenment as follows: put the filters on a plain surface so that bright light (lamp, flashlight, sun) shines on them. The better the glare from the light is visible, the worse the coating.
- On wide-angle lenses, the filter can enter the frame, forming a hard vignette. To avoid this, look for a filter with thin frames. Of the minuses — on a thin frame, the lens cap can constantly fall off.
- Always pay attention to the material from which the filter is made. High-quality optics is necessarily glass. Avoid plastic.