Cheap Filters, yay or nay?


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Oct 1, 2015
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HI guys, I'm new to photography. I'm currently using an older model Canon Rebel XSI and just starting to figure it out. I really want to get into landscape and long exposure photography, but I've read a lot about using UV, Polarizing and ND filters to help the colors and block light for the long exposure shots during the day. I'm on a really tight budget and can't shell out $100 + per filter so I've took the obvious route and went to Amazon to look for a cheap alternative. I've found some bundles that include everything I'd be looking for but I'm just wondering if anyone can tell me if they'll even be worth putting on my lens. Or will they completely ruin the quality of my shots?
Nay! Save your time, and buy better. You can often get great deals on used filters on your local Craig's List/Used<location>/(assuming you're near St John's) or eBay. Cheap filters will often cause more problems than they resolve in the form of flare, colour casts, and softness.
I have to second Tired's point. Dirt cheap filters are just going to harm your photography because they won't bring much to the table besides poor performance.

If I were you I'd
1) Consider looking into how to do HDR photography. That will let you take photos in a lot of situations where you'd otherwise need filters to get the shot. Sure it means more editing but it means that you can get quality results without needing the filters.

2) I'd get a good polarizing filter first - mostly because its the only filter you cannot mimic in editing (with reference to its reflective stopping features). You can also use it as an ND filter (1 to 2 stops -varies a little between models).

A good filter is going to cost money; but it will be much more worth it to consider. Also if you're going into landscaping seriously consider looking at Cokin and Lee filters. Cokin is the affordable range - Lee is the top. Many oft use a Cokin filter holder and Lee filters. You might find a good large filter holder and filters from them to be most long term cost effective approach becauase a large square glass filter with a holder will fit any lens (barring a handful of exceptions) with the right holder - thus the large size prove to be the most cost effective in the long run.

Of course this isn't cheap; but take your time whilst saving up and you can get a really good kit that will last you a long while. Far better to buy once and buy right than to buy cheap stuff by the bucket and claw your way up the costs list.

Of course it also depends on your standards, demands, desires and budget so you'll have to balance a little of what you consider "best" against your own situation. But again I will repeat that those kids you've found on Amazon would not be the choice of many here - they are low grade and will degrade your overall camera performance.

The two posts above me covered it really well. It's better to invest more money into a better filter that will produce better results and last a lot longer. Especially with nice glass!

Those cheap filter 'kits' are designed for one thing and one thing only: extracting money from your account.
Thanks guys! I figured as much but I just wanted another opinion from someone that knows a little more.

Cheap filters work great!
One huge NAY !!!!!!!!!!!!!

How to put this.

The one element of your camera that does the most about image quality is the OPTICS. And cheap filters means: you intentionally and massively degrade your optics. Your photos wont be as sharp, contrast will be lowered, secondary problems like flare will explode, color will be off, etc.

Also, filters are for LIFE. You move towards a larger sensor - you will need new optics. Filters however will stay.
Forget the UV filter, it's only on film that they make any significant difference.
I find a CPL makes enough difference that a moderately good used one is a real improvement over nothing. Some of these can be quite cheap.
Cheap ND filters will often have a considerable colour cast, and I think you can mange without for most situations. I have been known to use VERY cheap welding glass when I want a severe cut in light (10-20 stops) but I've never completely solved the colour issue with those.
Even if you were a billionaire and could buy all the filters in the world now, I'd say don't buy anything. Only buy a filter if/when you know you need its function. Otherwise, just use your lenses as the manufacturer intended.
Overall, avoid kits. They always include crap you don't need and stuff that is totally worthless. The higher the number of things included, the higher the chances you don't need that stuff.
soufiej said:
Overall, avoid kits. They always include crap you don't need and stuff that is totally worthless. The higher the number of things included, the higher the chances you don't need that stuff.

OMG, fewer than three dozen words! And, every single word well chosen. Spot on!
Actually lighting gear can often be best got in kits - again you have to be choosy on what you get but there's some decent mid-range stuff sold in kits and a few higher level options as well.

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