When people are buying a filter holder system, i.e. the square ones, the first question that is asked is “what size do I need?” The answer to this depends on the type of camera you use (full frame or crop sensor), the lens you use and the focal length you shoot at.
I would always advise buying the biggest filter holder and filters you can afford as when it comes to filters it is better to have too big and not suffer vignetting, than have just the right size and suffer vignetting.
When I was looking at buying square filters I was horrified how much extra the 100mm x 100m and 100mm x 125mm were than the 85mm equivalents, and it was the additional cost that convinced me the 85mm filters were all I needed. Besides, I was going to use them with lenses with filter threads of no more than 77mm, therefore the front of the lens would be totally covered once the filter was in place.
I’m going to cut to the chase here, the 85mm filters are not worth buying if you intend to use them on lenses with filter threads of 67mm or more. I can’t comment whether 85mm filters are suitable on lenses with smaller thread sizes since I don’t own any, but I can guarantee you 85mm filters are not suitable for lenses with larger filter threads.
When I got my 85mm filter kit the first test was to place the holder on the front of my Canon 16mm – 35mm F4L IS and then venture outdoors to take some test shots, and I have to say that I was disappointed. Using the lens at 24mm – 35mm was fine and everything worked as it should. At 22mm – 24mm there was a tiny amount of vignetting, i.e. darkening at the corners, which turned out to be the filter holder visible in the photo. I managed to solve this by removing two filter slots, leaving a single one left. This is fine if I were only going to use one filter, but considering I often use a neutral density filter and a graduated neutral density filter the one filter slot solution is not ideal for me, and if I wanted to use multiple filters without vignetting I had to shoot at 22mm – 35mm.
Using my lens at 16mm – 22mm vignetting was a problem using a single filter, and using multiple filters was even worse. To say I was disappointed was an understatement, especially since I had spent quite a lot of money on an ultra-wide angle lens and couldn’t use it at the ultra-wide angles I bought it for.
After taking the test shots I soon came to the conclusion that 85m filters simply weren’t large enough for my ultra-wide angle lens and I needed 100mm filters (or bigger) to shoot at the short focal lengths I wanted to. Basically, I had gone and waster a considerable amount of money on a filter system and filters that were no good for my Canon 6D/16mm – 35mm lens set up. The filter set up would work fine with my travel photography equipment, which consists of a Canon 7D/28mm – 300mm set up, but it was still a waste of money.
With the 85mm filter set up being an expensive disaster I ordered a 100mm filter set up, like I should have done in the first place. My attempt to save a few pennies ended up costing me more than it need have, and whilst this is frustrating you live and learn, right? The 100mm filter holder set up works great with my Canon 16mm – 35mm lens and I can use two filters and not have vignetting issues, even at 16mm. There is vignetting using three filters at 16mm – 22mm, however this doesn’t bother me because I use a maximum of two filters in my landscape photography.
If you want to shoot wide angle, and I am guessing that is why you want a square filter system in the first place, dismiss 85mm filters and go straight for the 100mm filters. The 100mm filters work great with my camera/lens and maximum two filter set up, so I have no need to use bigger filters. If you want to use three filters and stil shoot at ultra-wide angles you will need the 150mm filters, however this is a very expensive set up and you will need deep pockets for this.
If you think you will save yourself a few quid and buy 85mm filters, you won’t. Whilst you may make a saving to begin with you will soon find yourself limited by the 85mm filters and want to shoot wider, i.e. at shorter focal lengths, without vignetting and this isn’t going to happen with 85mm filters. Even with a really thin 85mm filter holder and single filter you will still experience vignetting using a lens with a field of view of more than 84 degrees (which is a lens with a focal length of no less than 20mm (full frame equivalent)). This means all the money you spent on that ultra-wide angle lens was wasted because you can’t use the shorter focal lengths that made the lens so expensive.
The 100mm filters are significantly more expensive than the 85mm however they are definitely worth shelling out for. I mean, what’s the point in spending all that money on a DSLR camera and expensive landscape lens and then go and scrimp on filters? It doesn’t make sense. Buy the 85mm filters and it will be a costly mistake. I know, that’s what I did all trying to save myself a few quid. Don’t make the same mistake I did.
Here are some links to other filter related articles you may find interesting:-
“The best filter for landscapes” is an article providing advice on the best filter holder, and the best filters to help you get the most from your landscape shots. Landscape photography is one of those genres where a filter is a must have, and whilst many people argue you can get the same effect using photo editing software I want to spend more time taking photos than sat in front of my monitor editing so I like to use filters and get it right in camera.
“When to use a big stopper” is an article explaining when and how to use a 10 stop neutral density filter AKA a “Big Stopper”. Many people buy these powerful ND filters on a whim without knowing when or how to use them, and then whinge about the images. If you want to know about the big stopper and when to use be sure to take a look at this article.
“Review of the Zomei 10 stop ND filter” is an honest an unbiased review of the Zomei 10 stop ND filter. In the world of 10 stop ND filters the big names are Lee, Singh ray and Hitech and all of these are very expensive. The German made Zomei is an affordable alternative that is just as good as the top names, although it is a product few photographers seem to be aware of. Having bought and used the Zomei 10 stop ND filter I have to say I am very impressed with it and if you want a lot of bang for your buck this is the ND filter to get. Please feel free to check out the review and see for yourself – you may well be pleasantly surprised.
“Should you use Cokin Filters?” is an article that focuses on the Cokin brand of filters and seeks to identify if they are the right brand of filter for you or not. Take a look at this article and then decide.
“Using ND filters for portrait photography” is an article explaining how ND filters may enhance and improve your portrait photos.
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.