A few months ago I was lucky enough to pick up a sponsorship with a new camera filter maker, 84.5mm. Their aim is to produce high quality filters at affordable prices. The filters are made by an enthusiastic bunch of photographers and are based in Slovakia. When I first accepted their offer I agreed to write a review of their filters on the basis that it would be a truthful and honest review and not biast in any way.
First off just a little note to say all pictures in this article are straight out the camera JPG’s with no post processing and also may not be a true reflection of my standard of work.
If you are unaware of what filters do, they for me are an essential piece of kit along with a tripod for landscape photography and a little bit of explanation below:
There are three main types of filters:
Graduated neutral filters (GND):
Camera’s unfortunately do not have as much dynamic range as the human eye and as such will either expose for the foreground or the sky. If you’ve ever took any photos without filters then at some point, depending on the conditions you’ll have noticed either a “white sky”, very bright sky with little detail or a foreground which is a silhouette.
GND’s are essentially a piece of plastic (or glass in some cases) which has a neutrally coloured grey top and clear bottom. They come in a number on strengths, usually from 1 stop to 4 stops of difference. The grey section of the filter is lined up in front of the lens to level be level with the horizon and covering the whole sky. What this then does is reduce the exposure of the sky bringing the dynamic range of the overall scene into a range which the camera’s sensor can deal with and if used correctly will result in a perfectly exposed image. GND’s come in two forms, hard edged or soft edged. Hard edged is particularly useful for scenes with a straight horizon and a soft edge is good for mountain scenes where you don’t want to see the effects of a filter on uneven foreground. A GND can effectively be replicated in post production by ensuring you take two images of the scene initially exposing one image for the sky and one for the foreground and merging the two correctly exposed images together in Photoshop.
Neutral Density (ND):
Neutral density filters are solid grey filters that are designed to reduce the exposure throughout the whole scene. By placing one of these filters in front of the lens you reduce the exposure throughout the whole scene. This technique is used where you want to slow the movement in the scene e.g changing flowing water into a silky white flow. ND filters tend to be most common from 1-3 stops of exposure but go all the way up to 10 stops. The 10 stop filter is an extreme filter used to change exposures that would usually be seconds into minutes and minutes into hours allowing really abstract and surreal creative effects. ND’s can’t be recreated in post production but using a smaller aperture when shooting the image will have the same effect, albeit at the expense of image quality and sharpness.
This is another filter that can’t be replicated in Photoshop and no camera technique can compensate for it. A polariser is a filter which contains two pieces of glass which you rotate to give you desired effect. They are very good for removing unwanted reflections from water or any other reflective surface (e.g. leaves after rain) as well as saturating colours, mainly blues and making clouds pop and appear 3d.
84.5mm sent me out around 20 filters. Currently they are only making GND’s (light, medium and strong soft edge and a medium and strong hard edge. Roughly light is 1 stop, medium is 2 stops and strong is 3 stops) and colour filters. I received the 3 soft edged GND’s and almost all of their colour filters.
84.5mm filters are the same size as Cokin P filters meaning you can use them in any of the equipment designed for Cokin P filters. They are also looking to release a professional range which are still the same width, but 150m in length which gives a bit more flexibility when using the filter.
The review will be mainly based upon their GND’s because I rarely use colour filters. Colour filters can be replicated in Photoshop but 84.5mm believe using a filter is the better way to go about it. As I generally don’t wish to change the colour tone of a scene I don’t really wish to use either approach though having the filters there are a nice to have.
First off is really how they are packaged and presented. If you have ever had Hi-Tec filters then they are packaged fairly similar. They come in a tough plastic sleeve with a cardboard insert displaying the filter name, brand details etc. The cardboard insert is there to help protect the filter from scratches because any grit that gets in the packaging will no doubt scratch the filter if the grit got between the filter and the plastic sleeve. They’re presented simply but I think if possible get yourself a proper pouch to store them in because I know with the Hi-tecs they would scratch over time anyway.