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Thread: Help with grad filter system paranoia

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    Question Help with grad filter system paranoia

    okay, this happens each summer - I realize I really need my grad filter set, and I have a cheap one resin grads from formatt hitech, where some filters blur the image and I get reflections/glare now and then that ruins the image. Then I start searching for replacement and I just get more confused. I've also become really paranoid from the problems with my current system, I don't want to buy yet another system that is this bad. On paper most look similar to the one I already got though, so earlier years I've just added more filters to the system I already have and just got more disappointed.

    I've searched and there are no grads that are anti-reflection coated, not even Schneider MPTV glass grads(!)

    Is glass the only material that works to make sure there is no resolution reduction, or are high quality resin (like Lee or Sing-Ray) good enough? I've heard good things about Lee filters so I hope their resin is planar enough.

    And two, will all uncoated filters be as reflection prone as my current grads are or can there be differences? With my current grads I can get glare form the sun in the frame even if I've shaded the filter and holder so light can only come into the front. Not shading the holder a bright summer day almost guarantees filter reflections. It feels kind of hopeless doing a typical sunset with a grad if the area around the sun is ruined by filter glare, it's the schoolbook example of grad usage and with my current system it all too often fails.

    When I see images of people working with grads (say Lee) they very rarely shade them, I wonder if this is so the photo should look nicer or if people are using them without shading and if that really works. I know if I would use my system the same way 50% of the images would be ruined by filter reflections.

    Say if I buy a Lee filter resin grad filter set, do you think I will struggle with the same problems as with my current? If so I think I might revert back to HDR merging instead...

    The expensive Schneider MPTV glass grads could be an option, but paying that kind of money and still not get anti-reflection coating does not feel too good.

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    Re: Help with grad filter system paranoia

    I watched a video of how Lee makes filters, and flatness /evenness was really attended to in a fanatical manner.

    I have a huge set of their filters and use their shade system ... never really noticed reflections or glare, but I suppose it is possible depending on where the sun is in the frame.

    If you get the filters, consider their bellows shade(s) also.

    - Marc

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    Re: Help with grad filter system paranoia

    I have used Lee filters for years, always with a hood. I've never had any issues due to flare. Having said that, I am in Australia with its less than soft light so always use a hood with or without grads.

    For my recent trip to Iceland, I didn't take any grads. My plan was to blend if needed. So far, as I work my way through them, I have been able to get good images from single frames. I'm starting to think that I may have been overusing them.
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    Subscriber & Workshop Member GrahamWelland's Avatar
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    Re: Help with grad filter system paranoia

    To be honest, without a shade, the LEE filters are also susceptible to some flare if there is a strong light source that can hit the filter. It is critical also to ensure that the filters are clean and not scratched as these will obviously affect the filter's tendency to flare.
    Remember: adventure before dementia!

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    Re: Help with grad filter system paranoia

    Thanks for the feedback! I will probably look into Lee some more. I did expect that I always need to shade to be sure.

    I usually shoot my LCC frame with the filter on so I can cancel out the effect, and then do all tonemapping digitally. It has happened that I've been a bit sloppy when doing the LCC shot so I get a reflection on that...

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    Re: Help with grad filter system paranoia

    I just ordered a Lee filter system now... I'll test it thouroughly, if it just stops raining. I made the brave (dumb?) move to go for the new small Seven5 system. I *think* it will work with my 35mm Schneider Digitar and 48x36mm sensor, or else I have to send it back and go for the 100mm system. I hope it will fit as it will save both space and weight in my hiking camera bag.
    Last edited by torger; 29th July 2013 at 01:24.

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    Re: Help with grad filter system paranoia

    Just starting using Lee's small Seven5 system. Never been a filter user before, and it works quite well, similar sized sensor as yours. Very compact. Only tried with 55 and 90mm lens tho.

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    Re: Help with grad filter system paranoia

    If you don't have a bellows hood, sometimes just changing your position relative to the sun (or waiting a few minutes) can have a big impact, especially if you are shooting into the sun:




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    Re: Help with grad filter system paranoia

    [QUOTE=corposant;528038]If you don't have a bellows hood, sometimes just changing your position relative to the sun (or waiting a few minutes) can have a big impact, especially if you are shooting into the sun:

    You are so right!!

    Also I like the composition of the second one better

    Phil
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    Likes 1 Member(s) liked this post

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    Re: Help with grad filter system paranoia

    Lee filters are my choice. We used those in film production in Los Angeles for almost every shoot. I've never used the hood, but sometimes use my hand if an offending flare is obvious. The Lee seals nicely and has many options.

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    Re: Help with grad filter system paranoia

    Got the Lee Seven5 (Sev5n) kit today, it's a really small system with 75x90mm filters, adapter rings up to 72mm. My wides are SK35mm and SK47mm both 67mm diameter with center filter attached (edit: center filter for SK35 is 72! I'm just using the SK47 filter for both because I'm cheap, does not alter the results of these tests though). I wanted small for portability, and I sure like the small size.

    I made some quick test on vignetting on my worst case lens, the SK35mm. Sideways the width before vignette is 80mm, and height is 88mm. The SK35mm image circle is officially 90mm (although I rarely want to use more than 75mm to keep edge quality) so you lose some, but as a landscape photographer you usually use rise/fall and then you have those 88mm.

    As the filter is only 90mm high there's also a limit on how high/low you can place the transition and still have filter left to cover the frame. Fortunately the transition is placed at 90/2=45mm (unlike my old Formatt Hitech filters where the transition could be far off center) so you get optimal use of the 90mm size. You can place the transition about 18mm off center, which for a 48x36mm sensor in portrait orientation (worst case) means 1/8th from the top/bottom.

    I think these limitations are okay, so if SK35 is your widest lens you may consider this smaller system.

    Note that an add-on polarizer will cause further vignetting, I don't have that so I don't know how much.

    The SK35 has recessed board on the Techno so the filters get very close to the front standard base, but you can rotate them past (with about 0.1mm gap :-) ), you can't rotate the holder in full though with this recessed board as the attachment handle of the filter holder collides with the base. Only problem with the recessed board, and as you can rotate on the side that has no handle you can still position the filter as you like.
    Last edited by torger; 31st July 2013 at 14:29.

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    Re: Help with grad filter system paranoia

    Hi Torger,
    Is there different version of centre filter for the 35 digitar xl?
    Mine is 72mm "output" (schneider 2f) ...

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    Re: Help with grad filter system paranoia

    Oh, my mistake, I'm actually using the SK47 center filter (the "center filter size 2") for my SK35 and that is 67mm, and often no center filter for the 47. As I'm using a 7.2um pixel back the color casts are not as bad so the need of center filtering is not as large as for the 6um backs. The SK47 center filter is a little bit weaker than the 2f (1.5 stop instead of 2). At shooting aperture f/11 there's certainly no vignetting issues from the smaller diameter.

    The Sev5n does have a 72mm adapter ring (the largest diameter in the system) so it should work with the same result.

    I should have known about the 72mm diameter though :-\, poor research by me, I planned to get the 2F in the future, and now I've just got a bunch of step rings and a new polarizer aiming at 67mm... the old system was 77mm, so in the end I will have a lot of step rings... using step-down ring from 72 to 67 will probably not be a problem though as I very rarely shift more than 10mm with the SK35 to keep corner quality.

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    Re: Help with grad filter system paranoia

    I use the Tiffen Hi-Trans Multicoated grey grad - this is ring-mounted so somewhat limiting for critical work but quick to use and doesn't cause any reflections, plus it can be used with the normal lens hood attached.


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    Re: Help with grad filter system paranoia

    Quote Originally Posted by baudolino View Post
    I use the Tiffen Hi-Trans Multicoated grey grad - this is ring-mounted so somewhat limiting for critical work but quick to use and doesn't cause any reflections, plus it can be used with the normal lens hood attached.
    Not being able to move the horizon is a bit limiting, but less so with a technical camera, as the camera is almost always level and placing the horizon is done with shifting. But it does happen that the horizon is high in the scene itself (mountains, nearby treeline, buildings etc).

    I use them off-center often enough to want a square holder. I also want 3 stop in addition to the 2 stop (I use 2 stops most often, but sometimes 3).

    I do have 4 stop in my Hitech system but has so far not used it in a real scene. Possibly I could make more use out of the 4 stop if I allowed "inversion" (ie ground becomes brighter than sky), which I could since I generally cancel out the filter effect with LCC anyway, but so far I've only worked with what's looks good in camera and then not apply to strong filter effect. And in that case 2 and 3 stops covers what I need. A drawback with 4 stop is that overlaps get a bit dark, 2-3 is a good tradeoff. Lee does not make 4 stop grads.
    Last edited by torger; 31st July 2013 at 14:24.

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    Re: Help with grad filter system paranoia

    tiffen makes some very nice glass grad filters that fit a cokin holder. I have a couple, and really like them - easier to clean and less fragile. I have full set of lees as well and use those when shooting the DF (or the d800), but I prefer the tiffen ones in the simple and cheap cokin holder when shooting the Arca Swiss. I don't know if they make the glass grads in the larger size, but Schneider does, and sell them with a modified Lee holder to accomodate the thick glass.
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    Re: Help with grad filter system paranoia

    I had a tiffen glass filter once, nice quality but it was a blender, and I almost always use hard-edge filters. I did not find any hard-edge tiffen glass filters, perhaps I did not search well enough. I'd like to have a razor sharp edge too (no transition zone) as I shoot longer lenses as well, but I haven't found anyone that produces such filters.

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    Re: Help with grad filter system paranoia

    I have used my new Lee Sev5n grad filter system a few days now, and it seems okay. It's not immune to reflection though, not sure if it's actually any better than my old Formatt Hitech system in that regard.

    I've attached an example, SK 35mm f/11 center filter and 3 stop hard edge grad for the sky. Flatfield-corrected and lightly tonemapped in post-processing. The brightest part was top left corner, but applied som vignetting to balance the image. Anyway one can see that there's some "fog" in the forest top left close to the sky, and that is caused by the filter.

    Using center filter + grad filter and doing a 30 second exposure is a tough case though. For 30 second exposures I've had cases when I've got reflections from the center filter alone (despite its actually coated). The image is also pushed about 2 stops in post-processing (yes my Leaf Aptus 75 was really pushed to the limit here, but the result was still nice I think) so the fog is more visible than when not pushed.

    Well, I guess I'm pleased with the performance though, and the quality of the holder and filter finish is very much better than my old system. A little bit boring that there's no high end coatings for these type of filters though.

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    Re: Help with grad filter system paranoia

    Did you use any hood in addition to the filters? The 'fog' you refer to looks like flare to me that a flag or hood would help alleviate by keeping the bright light source from the front of the filters.
    Remember: adventure before dementia!

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    Re: Help with grad filter system paranoia

    The light source is just the sky so its actually not overexposed there (no clipping in the raw), the sun is down and in a different direction. I did not use a hood or further shade the lens, I did not think it would make a difference in these shooting conditions, but maybe it would? There is no sun but shading the bright sky outside the frame maybe helps?

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    Re: Help with grad filter system paranoia

    I swear by my Lee system, I've never had a problem with flare, even shooting into the sun. I use the Lee lens hood whenever possible but haven't had that long and used to shoot without it without issue, I just make sure my filters are clean, no fingerprints etc.

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    Re: Help with grad filter system paranoia

    I would guess that having a bright area to the side of a wide angle, double the grad filter with a center filter under it increases the risk of reflection greatly, and top that with pushing two stops. Without pushing it's hard to see the fog.

    As I nearly always use a workflow where I cancel out the gradient with LCC (like here) and then digitally tonemap in post (not rarely adding in a virtual gradient as a part of the tonemapping) dark stuff gets pushed so there's an increased risk issues like these get visible compared to the traditional workflow where the gradient effect is kept as-is out of the camera.

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