My filter set up of choice is a square filter system based on a Hitech 100mm filter that I use with Hitech branded 100mm filters, other than my 10 stop ND filter, which is a Zomei branded one (better than the Lee Big Stopper and Hitech 10 stop ND in my opinion, and a lot cheaper too – check out “review of the Zomei 10 stop ND filter” to see just how good this ND filter is) and, up until very recently it was the only way I would use photography filters when taking photos.
The square filter system is very versatile and the only option when using multiple filters, however setting everything up can be a bit of a faff, and it is more stuff to carry around – which is fine if you can drive right up to the location, but if you have to hike a few miles this is a bit of a pain. Like everything in life, you have to take the rough with the smooth, and overall the advantages of using the square filter set up far outweighs the disadvantages.
Even though the square filter system is awesome it is not always the best option, and many people don’t seem to appreciate this. Square ND grads are a doodle to position and use with this system, as is filter stacking but what about those occasions when you don’t need a ND grad? What about those situations where one filter is all you need?
In situations where I am only using a single filter, and not using an ND grad filter I use screw in filters. Yep, I leave the filter holder, square filters, and all the other accessories at home and opt for the basic and ‘old fashioned’ screw in filters. If I can get the shot using a screw in filter I would opt for it every time over using the square filter set up.
Screw in filters are small, light and obviously require no large holder in order to use them. Screw in filters are perfect for hand held shots, and whilst you can use a square filter system for taking hand held shots it does make the camera a little unwieldly and the whole process becomes cumbersome. One of the biggest advantages I have found using screw in filters is that they fit the lens perfectly, i.e. leaving no gaps so there is no light leakage. This is especially useful for long exposures when an ill-fitting square filter (i.e. one that leaves gaps) results in light leakage, which in turn ruins a photo.
It’s strange because when photographers start using a square filter system they seem to dismiss screw in filters as something beginners use, and this never ceases to amaze me. Read any article on using filters by a photography enthusiast and I guarantee it will cover square filters only and totally dismiss screw in filters.
Compared to square filters screw in filters are cheap, however this doesn’t make them a poor choice for photography. In fact, I have many screw in filters that outperform (cause less of a colour cast resulting in less time in front of the computer editing) the more expensive square filters every time. In addition to this these screw in filters are tougher, more durable, more scratch resistant and ‘feel better’ in the hand. The screw in filters are top value for money.
The big question has to be “why are square filters so much more expensive than screw in filters?” I guess the answer to this is not because the square filters are bigger (they are but only fractionally) but because square filters are the “in thing” and are very popular, which means they can be sold for more. Pro photographers rave about square filters, and seldom mention screw in filters, and the amateur photographers simply follow suite and buy and use square filters.
This may sound like I am bashing square filter systems, however I can assure you I am not. I love my square filter set up, and it has helped me achieve some awesome photos, it’s just that I don’t instantly reach for the square filters when I am taking photos. If a single filter will suffice my filter of choice is a screw in filter, whereas if I am going to use multiple filters, i.e. filter stack, I will use the square filter system.
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.