So you get a new camera. People tell you to get filters. You’re wondering why so you ignore it. People tell you again. So you research why you need a filter. You learn there are various filters for different uses.
“They all do the same thing. I’ll get the cheap one from eBay”
This is pretty much my scenario. I started shooting cars, cars were my thing. I shot cars for maybe 2 years until someone told me to use a circular polariser (CPL). Firstly, a CPL filter reduces reflections and adds more vibrance/colours to your photos. As a car photographer I needed one.
At first I didn’t understand it because I love what a clean car looks like, especially when the reflections look so shiny..why would I want to take away the reflections? Anyways, because of this reason I bought the cheapest brand filter I could find on eBay. Hoya have always been a quality filter brand so I stuck to this.
Through the years my lens collection got bigger and bigger so I kept buying the same type of filters. Cheap Hoya filters.
For years I used them and thought nothing of it. There were times when my photos are a bit blurry..or pixelated..or incredibly noisy. My first thought was always the same. I didn’t focus properly or my aperture is too wide. Actually now that I think about it..this happened quite a lot actually.
Fast forward to July 2018. I sold my Canon 5d mk3 for a 5D mk4..then I bought another one..but that’s another story.
The 5D mk4 has more mega pixels compared to the last generation 5D (24mp v 30mp). The images started to become worse than before. I immediately changed the focus settings. I did help slightly but didn’t solve the problem.
Next I did many micro adjustments to the camera and lenses. Didn’t really help.
After a few jobs and photoshoots my photos were actually quite good. Same standard as the 5D mk3 but it was always in the back of my mind about my bad focusing skills..or so I thought. So in July 2018 I upgraded my 70-200mm f4 IS to the f2.8 IS ii version. This was when it got very interesting.
So, getting a new lens meant I had to test it, obviously. after approximately 100mm focal length, I noticed through the DSLR eye piece I was in focus, but on the screen zoomed in it was horrendously out of focus.
What the actual f#@$?! They obviously sent me a bad copy!
I quickly took the lens in a calibrated it myself, however, taking it inside meant I had to take the filter off because I only used the CPL filters outside. calibrated it, tested it and thought- “Yay, perfect!” I stuck the filter back on went outside and did more test shots. Because I just calibrated it I didn’t want the blame on me so I blame it on the lens. Photo after photo at 200mm every image I got was so out of focus. It was like shooting at 1/4th every-time and no I did check. July had an incredible heat wave so my shots were 1/2000th – 1/4000th.
Again, took the lens inside and did the same thing..this time I reset everything back to factory settings. For some reason, it hit me..take photos without the filter. So I went out and did the exact same testing. This time, my photos were insanely sharp and in focus.
“It’s the damn filter! You cheap piece of…”
I immediately stopped using filters after this. However, as a car photographer, I always knew I needed a CPL filter for certain shots so I grew some and bought the proper expensive circular polarisers. This time the Hoya HD Nano versions.
On average I think I spent £120 each on 3 lenses. Then I would be smart and buy a step up ring so I didn’t need to buy a filter for each lens.
I am glad to say- my images have not suffered since buying these Hoya HD Nano filters. I have noticed the noise/blurry photos have disappeared completely. You still get a tiny bit but unless you are pixel hunting you won’t see it as much. I do remove my filter if I am not shooting cars or landscape. I can totally see why these expensive filters exist.
So what have we learnt today?
Have you guys experienced the same problems? Have you tested cheap filters on different focal lengths?
It wasn’t until I turned photography into a full time job is when I noticed how bad cheap filters were. I genuinely stay away from them. I cannot let my images suffer.
I understand people can get cheap stuff online. There are many people who would tell you not to chase the best or have the best equipment to be a good photographer. I am the opposite, if you have great equipment means there are little errors made. If I had invested in the Hoya HD Nano filters in the first place I would’ve saved a lot of money from the cheap filters. I think I have 12 of them!
Please do your research, I understand not everyone can afford the more expensive stuff..believe me- after buying 3 of them, I couldn’t afford the next weeks grocery shopping!