Why do I need photo filters? I can do this in Photoshop!
Wrong. Some effects can only be achieved with filters and not by digital post-processing. We have summarized the various filters and their effects.

Polarization Photo Filter

buyers guide photo filter polfilter

The polarizing filter let only pass one polarization direction of light. Thus it suppresses reflections on non-metallic surfaces or stray light from the sky. Thus this filter, for example:

  • … reduces reflections on water surfaces
  • .. intensifies the sky blue

The filter cuts down 1 to 2 f-stops of light.

When choosing the right polarizing filter you should note: There are linear and circular polarizing filters. The Leica S should be equipped with the circular variant, because linear filters interfere auto focus and exposure metering. The Leica M can be used with a linear polarizing filter.

Circular Polarizer

52 mm 55 mm 58 mm 62 mm 67 mm 72 mm

Linear Polarizer

52 mm 55 mm 58 mm 62 mm 67 mm 72 mm

Neutral Density Filter

buyers guide photo filter nd FilterLoss of light is explicitly wanted when using an ND (neutral density) filter. Reducing the amount of light allows:

  • Longer shutter speeds to create a deliberate extreme motion blur (see picture)
  • Reducing the depth of field in good lighting conditions to get a wider aperture

Manufacturers usually give different information about the properties of ND filters:

  • Filter Factor: Shows the x-fold extension of the shutter time – linear scale.
  • Neutral Density ND: Filter factor in logarithmic scale
  • F-stops reduction: Designation for the lost f-stops.

Here is a table that shows the relationship of the terms:

Neutral Density ND Filter Factor f-stops reduction
0.3 2 1
0.6 4 2
0.9 8 3
1.2 16 4
1.8 64 6
3.0 1,000 10
52 mm 55 mm 58 mm 62 mm 67 mm 72 mm

UV Filter

Today the UV filter is mainly used as a lens protector. It was originally applied to block the ultraviolet part of light. Meanwhile this task is realized by UV filters placed in front of the digital sensor.

52 mm 55 mm 58 mm 62 mm 67 mm 72 mm

photo filter gray graduatedGray Graduated Filter

In many photos the contrast between sky and foreground is too big resulting in an over- or under-exposure of these areas. A gray graduated filter can help by darkening parts of the image – similar to HDR the filter can extend the dynamic range.

52 mm 55 mm 58 mm 62 mm 67 mm 72 mm

Color Filter

photo filter color filterIn analogue black and white photography indispensable, color filters were nearly useless in digital photography as all effects were available in post processing. But the Leica M Monochrome changed that again. The various color filter can filter regions of the visible light selectively. This leads to a modified gray scale. Here are the main color filters and their effects:

  • Red filters are used in portrait photography: Skin tones are more delicate, suppresses blemishes and brightens red lips. But it can also used in landscape photography: Blue sky will look much darker and clouds are richer in contrast.
  • Green filter: Color intensities of foliage or leaves are increased.
  • Yellow filters absorb the  intensity of the sky blue and increases the contrast to clouds.

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1 Comment

  1. I am using B&W 400 ASA film and I ‘d be interested in trying the blue filters; I have been told they can be effective in environment lit by fluorescent tubes or neon lights: what do you think?
    Looking forward to your comment.

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