(Rectangular) Filter Guide for Beginners

Julia

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Hey guys!

I recently embarked on the adventure of adding filters to my photography setup, and it was a very rocky start because I lacked the knowledge of even the simplest terms (I didn’t even know what to google for to ask the right questions). For that reason, I decided to write up my experiences in hopes of helping other “filter newbies” like me. The pro’s among you will already know all of this, so feel free to click away :)

If you find any factual errors in my summary, please point them out so I can hopefully correct them (not sure how long I can correct a post); please be kind about spelling or grammar errors, English isn’t my native language :)

Disclaimer 1: This is going to be a bit longer than your average post, but I hope it will be extensive enough to help anyone interested in getting started with filters make some good choices. I am *not* affiliated with any of the companies I mention (I wish!). I am also not going to use many big words or tech babble – I want to make this as approachable as possible.

Disclaimer 2: This is all coming from a filter newbie, geared towards other newbies. I am not a pro, so any constructive feedback is encouraged!


Why do I need filters? They are too complicated to use.

That’s what I was thinking for the longest time. I assumed I could pretty much do most filter effects in LR or PS. Turns out, I’d much rather get the picture in camera instead of spending hours trying to get it right on the computer. I’m not disputing that someone who’s good at post-processing can’t work magic, but I decided for myself that I wanted to get the effect in camera, if possible, and that’s the viewpoint from which I approached the topic.

If you would like to see some awesome implementations of filters in photography, I can recommend the following videos on Youtube (not boring tutorials, but real-life use of filters):

It were actually the videos of Thomas Heaton which made me buy my filters; I found his videos a revelation!

Do I need the rectangles with the holder or a screw-in filter?

I always shied away from those rectangular filters. They looked complicated and you’d need a filter holder and who knows what else! Surely, circular screw-in filters must be easier?

Filters for dummies-13.jpg
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It’s true to a certain degree. If you were only to use a polarizer or only a solid neutral density filter, you could go with a circular screw-in filter. You just need to figure out the diameter of your lens (it’s usually written at the front of the lens, like 62mm) and buy one that fits that size. I used a circular neutral density filter in the past, and since that was the only filter I used, that was fine by me.

But now I wanted to use graduated filters, and combine neutral density filters with a polarizer.

Filters for dummies-20.jpg
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There are circular filters which you can stack – meaning you can screw one into another. But with filters that have a gradient (graduated filters) you might want that transition not to be smack in the center of your image (for composition purposes). The circular grad filters have it only in the middle, naturally. With the rectangular filters, you can move that transition up and down to your liking, and most filter holders allow you to stack two, if not three filters in front of your lens.

So, my decision to go with the rectangular filters is based on my desire to have the most flexibility when stacking filters, and my desire to use graduated filters and be able to adjust them.

Which brand?

Before I talk about size, I need to talk about brands and materials. My research shows that there are filters made out of resin, and filters made out of glass. There are about a gazillion different manufacturer, and many different price points. I forced myself to not consider the cheapest filters since I wanted to use them with my Olympus 12-40 PRO lens. I figured if I invested in an excellent piece of glass for a lens, I’d be doing myself a disservice buying a low grade filter to put in front of it.


The issue which was raised most often in reviews about filters is color cast (which seems to be tied to the material the filter is made out of, and to the manufacturing process). That means that when you take a picture with the filter in front of your lens, the image might appear more blue/pink/magenta/orange… than it was in real life. To a certain degree you could fix that in post processing, but some sample images really startled me and honestly: I don’t want to spend forever in front of the computer. I’d rather be outside instead.

Now, experiences might vary! Some people recommended brands that were decried by others, so unless you try all them yourself, it’s hard to make an informed choice. I’ve linked to some reviews below that I found helpful:
Since I’d be using the m43 system and so far only have native lenses, I would not be needing big pieces of glass for a filter. DSLR lenses, which can have huge diameters, need bigger pieces of glass, but
  • why pay more for a larger glass that I will never fully utilize?
  • why burden myself with a huge extra pack to carry around if half the size would do as well?
So, I looked at companies that provided rectangular filters in a smaller size which would be perfect for m43 and that would not have any, or only very little, color cast. My personal choice came down to these two:
Lee seems to be the company for filters. They have a very good reputation, but of course their prices are also amongst the highest. I had not heard of Formatt Hitech before, which is a company from the UK, but their new(ish) Firecrest line got raving reviews as being almost color neutral and of excellent quality, and their price point is a little lower. There are, of course, many more brands that probably have great filters, too, but again: these were my choices based on weeks of research into color cast and filter durability.

To me, the two options seemed both equally good. The reason I went with Formatt Hitech? I had some gift vouchers for Amazon US (I’m located in Germany) and Formatt Hitech shipped to Germany via Amazon US, Lee didn’t. That’s it :)

Which kind of filters to buy?

That depends on what you want to achieve. Since there are excellent resources out there that explain what each filter type does, I just want to mention the ones that were of interest to me:

  • Neutral Density (ND): these are tinted evenly across the entire area and area meant to help you achieve long exposures (think milky water, streaky clouds in skies, …). These filters come in various strengths: the stronger the filter, the more light it absorbs, and the longer you can expose. Find out more here or take a look at the Photo Pills App because it allows you to calculate exposure times too (App Store | Google).
  • Graduated Neutral Density (ND Grad): these filters are tinted dark at the top, and then transition to clear towards the bottom. The point of them is to compensate for a bright sky (which would be covered by the dark part of the glass) and properly expose for a darker foreground (where the filter is clear). Grad filters come in several types: hard edge (very quick transition), soft edge (smooth transition). Hard edges are great if you photograph something like the horizon across the sea, which should be pretty level. Soft edges are great if you have less than level transitions (mountain ranges, etc).
  • There are special ND Grad filters like a reverse ND Grad, which is supposed to be great for sunsets.
  • Polarizer: These are great for eliminating reflections in windows or shiny surfaces like leaves or water. They can also darken the sky and produce richer colors, when used correctly.
There are many more filter types for special effects etc, but I decided to start with some NDs, ND Grads, and a polarizer.

What size to pick?

Look at your lenses and figure out what your largest lens diameter is. Please note that there are special adapters for wide angle lenses, for example the 7-14 which has a front lens that bulges (?) slightly? I don’t have one, but I’ve read that you need to be careful that the filter holder won’t show at the widest FL.

So, in my case my 12-40 PRO lens has the largest diameter of all of my lenses: 62mm. I checked the existing m43 lenses and found that even the ones I might buy in the future won’t exceed 62mm (for now at least). So I needed to find a filter size that would cover 62mm.

If your largest lens is, say, 77mm you need to find a filter size that is larger than 77mm and so on. Just figure out what the largest lens is that you need to cover, and then find the next biggest filter size.

The Lee seven5 system and the Formatt Hitech 67x85mm system both met my criteria (covering my 62mm lens). If in doubt, do the same thing that I did: cut a piece of paper to the size of your desired filter, and hold it in front of the lens to make sure you got it right (sounds silly, but if you don’t want to order filters for a few hundred bucks, only to return them…).

Update Feb 13, 2018: I just learned (and had it confirmed by Formatt-Hitech) that they have discontinued the filter size 67mm. No idea why, and I'm a bit crushed by that, but of course they still have other sizes using the same Firecrest technology/brand. They still have stock of the 67mm filters, so if you want to buy some, you still can, but they are no longer making anything new for that particular size. Bummer.

What do I need for a rectangular filter setup?

That took me a while to understand, but it seems glaringly obvious now that I have it all. To spare you the guessing:

Filter Holder

You need a filter holder that takes the size of filters you settle on. You slide the filters into the holder and secure them there.

Filters for dummies-2.jpg
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Adapter (Step up) Ring

In order to attach the filter holder to your lens, you need an adapter ring that screws into the front of the lens. For example, my 12-40 PRO lens has a diameter of 62mm. The FH filter holder is for 67mm filters. That means I need an adapter ring 62 > 67mm in order to attach the filter holder to my lens. If I’d want to attach this holder to a lens with a smaller diameter, say, 58mm, I’d need to get an adapter ring 58 > 67mm.

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Filters

And of course, you need your filters. Since I am using a filter holder for 67mm wide filters, I can only buy filters that do not exceed that size. The line I went for is 67mm wide and 85mm long for the graduated filters (so you can move the filter up and down to place the gradient were you need it) and 67x67mm square for the neutral density filters (solid tinting, no need to shift it around).

There are other sizes as well, for example: Lee seven5 is, as the name implies,75x90mm. They also have other filter sizes, for example 100mm or 150mm.

Formatt Hitech Firecrest also have other sizes, for example 85x100mm, 100x125mm etc.

The bigger the filter, the more expensive. You need to decide which size makes the most sense for you, since you can’t stick small filters into large holders, and large filters won’t fit small holders. You want to pick a size that you’ll be able to use across multiple lenses with different diameters.

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Adapter Ring for Polarizer

Now, the polarizer will always be a circular ring. That’s because you have to turn it to get it to work it’s magic. Ideally, the polarizer will be attached at the very front of your filter setup. You can stack it with the other filters, but since the polarizer needs to be turned and fiddled with, it makes the most sense to have it easily accessible, ergo at the front of the filter setup:

Filters for dummies-16.jpg
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In German, we have a humorous saying that comes from our soccer obsession: “The round thing has to fit into the rectangle” (referring to the soccer ball and the goal). In order to fit the polarizer (circular) onto the filter holder (rectangular), you’ll need another adapter. That one will be attached to the very front of your filter holder, and into that you’ll screw the polarizer. It’s quite the sandwich and you have achieved the squaring of the circle. Congrats. In my case, the only available polarizer ring (adapter) for the 67x85mm system was 77mm in diameter. That means I need to buy that adapter ring, and then a polarizer with a 77mm diameter.

Filters for dummies-5.jpg
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Something to take into consideration: the more you stack in front of your lens, the bigger the risk of those filters to show up in your image. That is especially risky with wide-angle lenses. My lens starts at 12mm and with the entire setup (holder for 2 filters + circular polarizer) I have very slight vignetting in the corners. I could probably fix it by adjusting my holder to only hold one filter (which would make it slimmer).

Filters for dummies-17.jpg
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Using the filters

Now, there are amazing videos (see the ones linked above) on how to use filters so I won’t even attempt to explain all of that again. I just want to point out some stuff that I noticed:

Filters for dummies-18.jpg
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  • You can turn the entire filter holder by loosening it a bit before tightening the screws again. This allows you to work with gradients in situations where there is no level horizon.
  • You can combine filters and holders from different manufacturers. You’ll have to do your own research on what fits, and what doesn’t. I heard good things about the Formatt Hitech filter holder, so I picked that one up with the filters by the same company. Makes it also easier to ensure everything fits.
  • If you’re smarter than me, you get a lens cap in the size of the step up ring for the filter holder. My 62mm filter cap doesn’t fit the 67mm step up ring, so I constantly need to remove the ring after I’m done. With a lens cap at 67mm, I could leave the step up ring on the lens since it doesn’t bother me there at all.

Storing Filters

I originally kept the filters in the boxes they shipped in, but that was too much hassle, even during the first outing. Also, one of my filters didn’t come in the black, soft pouch. I reached out to Formatt Hitech, who sent me a pouch for free immediately!

Since the filters are made out of glass, they are obviously rather breakable, so I opted to buy a pouch that would hold them and the holder securely and which I could carry on my belt if necessary.

Filters for dummies-6.jpg
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I went with the Haida 100 Series pouch which will fit 6 filters up to 100x100mm or 100x150mm. Since my filters are much smaller, they fit really easily, but I didn't want a pouch much smaller since it might be a tight fit for the filter holder otherwise.

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Thanks for reading! I hope you found this useful! As I said, I am a beginner at this, and I had very specific needs, so your mileage may vary. But I hope this summary gives you a good start into the world of filters.
 
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Thanks for the very detailed interesting article. I looked at the Lee system as well but decided against it as being too bulky for my use, but they look very well made and I may get some in the future. I am also a bit afraid of breaking them.
I do like the way you can move the graduated filters up and down in these systems, they look quiet flexible.

In the mean time I have a few Hoya HD series filters.
 

hazwing

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Good write up. I've been too lazy to get into gnd filters, but may one day.

Could you use a step down ring to use a smaller sized cpl on your set up? E.g. 62mm cpl, or would that vignette?
 

Julia

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Good write up. I've been too lazy to get into gnd filters, but may one day.

Could you use a step down ring to use a smaller sized cpl on your set up? E.g. 62mm cpl, or would that vignette?

Thanks! As to your question: I already have slight vignetting with the CPL added to the filter holder. No vignetting without it. I do have a 62mm CPL which I can use on the lens just by itself, though. I do that sometimes if I'm just after minimizing reflections and don't need the grad or ND filters.

So, I'd say if you'd attach a step-down ring to the CPL adapter, you'd most definitely have vignetting with that particular lens.
 
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Good write up. I've been too lazy to get into gnd filters, but may one day.
Could you use a step down ring to use a smaller sized cpl on your set up? E.g. 62mm cpl, or would that vignette?

I think the holder puts the CPL too far from the original lens. If the step down was screwed to the original lens it may have worked.

I am just starting to use filters myself. I started getting 62mm filters for my 12-40 then saw how much extra filters are for 72mm lenses. To save duplication I am going to purchase all 72mm and step up to that size.
I can see why people get these rectangular filters as they are more versatile, especially if the bulk is not a problem. Especially for landscape.

I once saw a person using filters made from glass from a stained glass window shop. He was only using them for the top half for clouds etc. When I asked if they were clear enough he commented that clouds are not sharp anyway. So lots of things you can try with one of these filter holders, and I really like the quality of the Lee holders. They look really well made.
 

MichaelSewell

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@Julia this is an excellent article.
I'm not a landscape photographer, and have had little need for filters in my commercial work to date. However, after reading your article, I think there may be occasions when a little more of a creative approach may be worth looking into.

And as an aside, whilst you pointed out English is not your first language, I believe you have a much better command of the English language than most, including me.
 

AllanG

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Julia, an excellent article -well written and factual.
There are many different filters as you say and I took a slightly different attack in my reasoning.
I got onto the web and bought some acrylic filters which were really cheap as I just wanted to test what was possible with graduated and ND filters without much of an outlay in $.
To my great surprise there was no apparent colour cast and they worked very well. Since I realised they will scratch in time, they will be easy to replace with better filters in time. But for an initial outlay of $30 for four 2-16ND and four graduated 2-16 ND filters I was happy.
I did spend more on my CPL and 10 stop ND filters as I use them more frequently.
But again - an excellent article that I enjoyed reading.
 

LucDeSchepper

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Thanks a lot Julia for your detailed and well written and illustrated article!
 

stagor

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Great article Julia, after reading it I ordered a set of three Haida 58mm round filters, ND8, ND64, ND1000, complete with filter box, stack cap, and lens cap, all for
€69. from, timetrends 24 schnellversand, Deutschland, via amazon de. Can't wait to get out and try them.
 

Lcrunyon

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I really like your graphics. What software did you use?

I own the full set of Lee Seven5 filters and I love using them. I can combine grad filters and ND filters and a polarizer all on one mount, and angle and position them any way I need. The Lee system doesn't require an additional adapter for the polarizer. I can slow down shutter speeds to blur motion, even out uneven lighting, and get rid of reflective glare. They are a very fun and useful kit. Since they are sized for smaller cameras, they pack smaller than one would think with a good pouch, which can be hung off the tripod (a convenient feature to consider to avoid fumbling around). The only item I don't recommend is the hood, which doesn't fit as snugly (though it can be tightened) and it doesn't completely block out the sun.

Regardless of what brand you get, I wouldn't worry about color cast too much, as it can easily be corrected in post.

I also recommend carrying around a lens cloth to wipe off the filters. Though you can hold them on the ends where they won't be in the scene, I still get finger prints on mine occasionally.
 

Julia

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@MichaelSewell, thank you so much for your kind words, much appreciated! I did benefit from spending one year in the US and now working at a company that has English as its main communication language. Of course, my English native speakers also teach me naughty words without telling me they are naughty, so I have to be careful about what I say where :D

@AllanG , so happy to hear that you found some affordable filters that work well for you! I had made some bad buying choices in the past, so I was hesitant to try cheaper filters, but believe me, the temptation was great! Thanks for sharing that there are more affordable alternatives, I am certain many will appreciate it!

@LucDeSchepper , my pleasure! Hopefully it will be a good start for those of us who are just getting into filters and are overwhelmed by all the choices and technicalities :)

@stagor , yay! Hope they'll arrive soon and that you'll have some nice conditions to try them out! My first outing with the filters was bitterly cold, so I'm really waiting for some warmer weather to not have numb fingers when handling them ;)

I really like your graphics. What software did you use?
Thank you! I kept it simple, for a change. I exported the images from Lightroom, and then used the standard Apple Preview app. It has annotation features which were more than sufficient for what I needed here. And you are absolutely right about having a cloth to clean the filters with you – I just noticed that the last time I was out, and then realized that I always carry a microfibre cloth with my sunglasses :)

Thanks everyone for your awesome feedback, and for sharing your thoughts!
 

newfie

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This was great Julia!
I too have been considering ND grads for a while. I currently use circular 77mm Hoya pro ND400 and circular polarizer.

Does anyone know if I could incorporate these in to a square system (i would imagine light leakage between the grads and 9 stop would be the issue)?
 

Balinov

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I might not be aware of all possibilities, but the only way I can think of this working is your lens has much smaller diameter (i.e. 46/52mmm) and via some home DIY holder..
 

bassman

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Hey guys!

I recently embarked on the adventure of adding filters to my photography setup, and it was a very rocky start because I lacked the knowledge of even the simplest terms (I didn’t even know what to google for to ask the right questions). For that reason, I decided to write up my experiences in hopes of helping other “filter newbies” like me. The pro’s among you will already know all of this, so feel free to click away :)

If you find any factual errors in my summary, please point them out so I can hopefully correct them (not sure how long I can correct a post); please be kind about spelling or grammar errors, English isn’t my native language :)

Disclaimer 1: This is going to be a bit longer than your average post, but I hope it will be extensive enough to help anyone interested in getting started with filters make some good choices. I am *not* affiliated with any of the companies I mention (I wish!). I am also not going to use many big words or tech babble – I want to make this as approachable as possible.

Disclaimer 2: This is all coming from a filter newbie, geared towards other newbies. I am not a pro, so any constructive feedback is encouraged!


Why do I need filters? They are too complicated to use.

That’s what I was thinking for the longest time. I assumed I could pretty much do most filter effects in LR or PS. Turns out, I’d much rather get the picture in camera instead of spending hours trying to get it right on the computer. I’m not disputing that someone who’s good at post-processing can’t work magic, but I decided for myself that I wanted to get the effect in camera, if possible, and that’s the viewpoint from which I approached the topic.

If you would like to see some awesome implementations of filters in photography, I can recommend the following videos on Youtube (not boring tutorials, but real-life use of filters):

It were actually the videos of Thomas Heaton which made me buy my filters; I found his videos a revelation!

Do I need the rectangles with the holder or a screw-in filter?

I always shied away from those rectangular filters. They looked complicated and you’d need a filter holder and who knows what else! Surely, circular screw-in filters must be easier?

View attachment 521856

It’s true to a certain degree. If you were only to use a polarizer or only a solid neutral density filter, you could go with a circular screw-in filter. You just need to figure out the diameter of your lens (it’s usually written at the front of the lens, like 62mm) and buy one that fits that size. I used a circular neutral density filter in the past, and since that was the only filter I used, that was fine by me.

But now I wanted to use graduated filters, and combine neutral density filters with a polarizer.

View attachment 521876

There are circular filters which you can stack – meaning you can screw one into another. But with filters that have a gradient (graduated filters) you might want that transition not to be smack in the center of your image (for composition purposes). The circular grad filters have it only in the middle, naturally. With the rectangular filters, you can move that transition up and down to your liking, and most filter holders allow you to stack two, if not three filters in front of your lens.

So, my decision to go with the rectangular filters is based on my desire to have the most flexibility when stacking filters, and my desire to use graduated filters and be able to adjust them.

Which brand?

Before I talk about size, I need to talk about brands and materials. My research shows that there are filters made out of resin, and filters made out of glass. There are about a gazillion different manufacturer, and many different price points. I forced myself to not consider the cheapest filters since I wanted to use them with my Olympus 12-40 PRO lens. I figured if I invested in an excellent piece of glass for a lens, I’d be doing myself a disservice buying a low grade filter to put in front of it.


The issue which was raised most often in reviews about filters is color cast (which seems to be tied to the material the filter is made out of, and to the manufacturing process). That means that when you take a picture with the filter in front of your lens, the image might appear more blue/pink/magenta/orange… than it was in real life. To a certain degree you could fix that in post processing, but some sample images really startled me and honestly: I don’t want to spend forever in front of the computer. I’d rather be outside instead.

Now, experiences might vary! Some people recommended brands that were decried by others, so unless you try all them yourself, it’s hard to make an informed choice. I’ve linked to some reviews below that I found helpful:
Since I’d be using the m43 system and so far only have native lenses, I would not be needing big pieces of glass for a filter. DSLR lenses, which can have huge diameters, need bigger pieces of glass, but
  • why pay more for a larger glass that I will never fully utilize?
  • why burden myself with a huge extra pack to carry around if half the size would do as well?
So, I looked at companies that provided rectangular filters in a smaller size which would be perfect for m43 and that would not have any, or only very little, color cast. My personal choice came down to these two:
Lee seems to be the company for filters. They have a very good reputation, but of course their prices are also amongst the highest. I had not heard of Formatt Hitech before, which is a company from the UK, but their new(ish) Firecrest line got raving reviews as being almost color neutral and of excellent quality, and their price point is a little lower. There are, of course, many more brands that probably have great filters, too, but again: these were my choices based on weeks of research into color cast and filter durability.

To me, the two options seemed both equally good. The reason I went with Formatt Hitech? I had some gift vouchers for Amazon US (I’m located in Germany) and Formatt Hitech shipped to Germany via Amazon US, Lee didn’t. That’s it :)

Which kind of filters to buy?

That depends on what you want to achieve. Since there are excellent resources out there that explain what each filter type does, I just want to mention the ones that were of interest to me:

  • Neutral Density (ND): these are tinted evenly across the entire area and area meant to help you achieve long exposures (think milky water, streaky clouds in skies, …). These filters come in various strengths: the stronger the filter, the more light it absorbs, and the longer you can expose. Find out more here or take a look at the Photo Pills App because it allows you to calculate exposure times too (App Store | Google).
  • Graduated Neutral Density (ND Grad): these filters are tinted dark at the top, and then transition to clear towards the bottom. The point of them is to compensate for a bright sky (which would be covered by the dark part of the glass) and properly expose for a darker foreground (where the filter is clear). Grad filters come in several types: hard edge (very quick transition), soft edge (smooth transition). Hard edges are great if you photograph something like the horizon across the sea, which should be pretty level. Soft edges are great if you have less than level transitions (mountain ranges, etc).
  • There are special ND Grad filters like a reverse ND Grad, which is supposed to be great for sunsets.
  • Polarizer: These are great for eliminating reflections in windows or shiny surfaces like leaves or water. They can also darken the sky and produce richer colors, when used correctly.
There are many more filter types for special effects etc, but I decided to start with some NDs, ND Grads, and a polarizer.

What size to pick?

Look at your lenses and figure out what your largest lens diameter is. Please note that there are special adapters for wide angle lenses, for example the 7-14 which has a front lens that bulges (?) slightly? I don’t have one, but I’ve read that you need to be careful that the filter holder won’t show at the widest FL.

So, in my case my 12-40 PRO lens has the largest diameter of all of my lenses: 62mm. I checked the existing m43 lenses and found that even the ones I might buy in the future won’t exceed 62mm (for now at least). So I needed to find a filter size that would cover 62mm.

If your largest lens is, say, 77mm you need to find a filter size that is larger than 77mm and so on. Just figure out what the largest lens is that you need to cover, and then find the next biggest filter size.

The Lee seven5 system and the Formatt Hitech 67x85mm system both met my criteria (covering my 62mm lens). If in doubt, do the same thing that I did: cut a piece of paper to the size of your desired filter, and hold it in front of the lens to make sure you got it right (sounds silly, but if you don’t want to order filters for a few hundred bucks, only to return them…).

What do I need for a rectangular filter setup?

That took me a while to understand, but it seems glaringly obvious now that I have it all. To spare you the guessing:

Filter Holder

You need a filter holder that takes the size of filters you settle on. You slide the filters into the holder and secure them there.

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Adapter (Step up) Ring

In order to attach the filter holder to your lens, you need an adapter ring that screws into the front of the lens. For example, my 12-40 PRO lens has a diameter of 62mm. The FH filter holder is for 67mm filters. That means I need an adapter ring 62 > 67mm in order to attach the filter holder to my lens. If I’d want to attach this holder to a lens with a smaller diameter, say, 58mm, I’d need to get an adapter ring 58 > 67mm.

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Filters

And of course, you need your filters. Since I am using a filter holder for 67mm wide filters, I can only buy filters that do not exceed that size. The line I went for is 67mm wide and 85mm long for the graduated filters (so you can move the filter up and down to place the gradient were you need it) and 67x67mm square for the neutral density filters (solid tinting, no need to shift it around).

There are other sizes as well, for example: Lee seven5 is, as the name implies,75x90mm. They also have other filter sizes, for example 100mm or 150mm.

Formatt Hitech Firecrest also have other sizes, for example 85x100mm, 100x125mm etc.

The bigger the filter, the more expensive. You need to decide which size makes the most sense for you, since you can’t stick small filters into large holders, and large filters won’t fit small holders. You want to pick a size that you’ll be able to use across multiple lenses with different diameters.

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Adapter Ring for Polarizer

Now, the polarizer will always be a circular ring. That’s because you have to turn it to get it to work it’s magic. Ideally, the polarizer will be attached at the very front of your filter setup. You can stack it with the other filters, but since the polarizer needs to be turned and fiddled with, it makes the most sense to have it easily accessible, ergo at the front of the filter setup:

View attachment 521867

In German, we have a humorous saying that comes from our soccer obsession: “The round thing has to fit into the rectangle” (referring to the soccer ball and the goal). In order to fit the polarizer (circular) onto the filter holder (rectangular), you’ll need another adapter. That one will be attached to the very front of your filter holder, and into that you’ll screw the polarizer. It’s quite the sandwich and you have achieved the squaring of the circle. Congrats. In my case, the only available polarizer ring (adapter) for the 67x85mm system was 77mm in diameter. That means I need to buy that adapter ring, and then a polarizer with a 77mm diameter.

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Something to take into consideration: the more you stack in front of your lens, the bigger the risk of those filters to show up in your image. That is especially risky with wide-angle lenses. My lens starts at 12mm and with the entire setup (holder for 2 filters + circular polarizer) I have very slight vignetting in the corners. I could probably fix it by adjusting my holder to only hold one filter (which would make it slimmer).

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Using the filters

Now, there are amazing videos (see the ones linked above) on how to use filters so I won’t even attempt to explain all of that again. I just want to point out some stuff that I noticed:

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  • You can turn the entire filter holder by loosening it a bit before tightening the screws again. This allows you to work with gradients in situations where there is no level horizon.
  • You can combine filters and holders from different manufacturers. You’ll have to do your own research on what fits, and what doesn’t. I heard good things about the Formatt Hitech filter holder, so I picked that one up with the filters by the same company. Makes it also easier to ensure everything fits.
  • If you’re smarter than me, you get a lens cap in the size of the step up ring for the filter holder. My 62mm filter cap doesn’t fit the 67mm step up ring, so I constantly need to remove the ring after I’m done. With a lens cap at 67mm, I could leave the step up ring on the lens since it doesn’t bother me there at all.

Storing Filters

I originally kept the filters in the boxes they shipped in, but that was too much hassle, even during the first outing. Also, one of my filters didn’t come in the black, soft pouch. I reached out to Formatt Hitech, who sent me a pouch for free immediately!

Since the filters are made out of glass, they are obviously rather breakable, so I opted to buy a pouch that would hold them and the holder securely and which I could carry on my belt if necessary.

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I went with the Haida 100 Series pouch which will fit 6 filters up to 100x100mm or 100x150mm. Since my filters are much smaller, they fit really easily, but I didn't want a pouch much smaller since it might be a tight fit for the filter holder otherwise.

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Thanks for reading! I hope you found this useful! As I said, I am a beginner at this, and I had very specific needs, so your mileage may vary. But I hope this summary gives you a good start into the world of filters.


Julia - a really excellent writeup!
 

Wisertime

Mu-43 Hall of Famer
Joined
Aug 6, 2013
Messages
2,840
Location
FL
Real Name
Steve
For the Thrift set, the Cokin A filter holder and adapter rings are compatible with HiTech square filters and much less $$.

Well done Julia. Looks like your covered many of the same pages I stumbled on in my early search for M43 filters.
 

mcrosa

Mu-43 Veteran
Joined
Jun 26, 2013
Messages
293
Location
Miami, Florida
Real Name
Mike Crosa
I also have the Cokin A filter holder, rings and filters. The original set I got when I owned my Om1. Many many years ago. Have supplemented somewhat the last couple of years through E-Bay. You can get some pretty good deals.
 

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