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cheap camera filters

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cheap camera filters

Postby pvnisher » Thu Oct 11, 2012 4:25 am

I ordered a UV filter to protect my SLR lens, and no complaints. It came bundled with a circular polarizer and a fluorescent filter, too.
I brought the polarizer to Tuscany with me last week, and kinda liked how the photos looked (on the camera sceen).
When I got home and looked at them, though, the filter made the photos look like absolute shite.
You know the "watercolor" or "pixelate" filters in photo editing programs? Yeah, it makes the photos look like that. Even without zooming in you can see they're crap.
Luckily I didn't have the filter on all the time, and my companions took some great shots, but I'm pissed.
Check out how crappy it made the background on this one. Yes, it's been resized, but just look at that background.

So is it user error and I'm doing it wrong? Or is the filter just a complete pile of bollocks?

DSC_0501_1024x683.JPG
DSC_0501_1024x683.JPG (237.84 KiB) Viewed 456 times

Re: cheap camera filters

Postby Bean » Thu Oct 11, 2012 5:11 am

If the filter is clean and your camera didn't jack up the ISO because of the reduced amount of light making it to the sensor, it could just be a cheap filter that should be tossed. You get what you pay for.
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Re: cheap camera filters

Postby Dave B » Thu Oct 11, 2012 12:55 pm

Yeah, that looks like your ISO is set too high, did you have that on auto?
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Re: cheap camera filters

Postby bergsteigen » Thu Oct 11, 2012 1:16 pm

Since my polarizers tend to get gunked/scratched over time, I'm continuously getting new ones. I have noticed a difference in brands/$. The bad ones produced very blah images. With a decent one, the images really pop.

How much does your polarizer drop the f-stop? That could be another problem, along with the ISO.
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Re: cheap camera filters

Postby Bean » Thu Oct 11, 2012 1:37 pm

bergsteigen wrote:How much does your polarizer drop the f-stop? That could be another problem, along with the ISO.

That shot was at F/20 at 1/1600sec. That's a fast exposure for being stopped down so far, looking more like ISO was the culprit.
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Re: cheap camera filters

Postby wboland » Thu Oct 11, 2012 1:42 pm

It's probably a combination of both filter quality and user error. The scene is backlit, which means you are shooting into the sun. Generally polarizers do not perform well in this situation. Polarizers are affected by the angle of the sun with respect to the direction the lens is facing. You can get unintentional results when the sun is directly in front or behind you.

Also, circular polarizers (assuming that's what you have) change behavior based on how they are rotated in front of the lens. The position of the polarizer and it's relationship to the location of the sun affect how much "polarization" is applied (for lack of a better term).

The background looks like the main issue is glare, which can be caused by a poor quality filter, but also affected by the aperture you used when you took the photo. Cheaper polarizers are made from resin (vs glass) and will produce more glare.

Before you throw it away, you may want to take it out and shoot it into different conditions and measure the affects. I typically do not use a polarizer if the sun is low and either mostly in front of me (producing glare), or behind me (which will produce a reverse vignette and graduation problems in your sky). Side lit scenes, or those where the sun is directly overhead tend to be the best candidates for a polarizer.

In general, it's a filter that should be used selectively, for specific purposes. I tend to use them for the following:
- cut through haze
- deepen the saturation of the sky in mid-day light
- increase saturation in foliage
- deepen rainbows
- cut through a reflection
- enhance a reflection
- slow my shutter speed (if I forget a neutral density grad)

Hope this helps...

Re: cheap camera filters

Postby MonGoose » Thu Oct 11, 2012 2:16 pm

From the image:

Model: NIKON D3100
Lens: 18.0-105.0 mm f/3.5-5.6
Focal Length: 38.0 mm
Exposure 1/1600 sec; f/20; ISO 12800 :(

No wonder it looks like crap.

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Re: cheap camera filters

Postby speth » Thu Oct 11, 2012 7:08 pm

MonGoose wrote:From the image:

Model: NIKON D3100
Lens: 18.0-105.0 mm f/3.5-5.6
Focal Length: 38.0 mm
Exposure 1/1600 sec; f/20; ISO 12800 :(

No wonder it looks like crap.


I didn't even know they could make a camera with such an extreme ISO. Mid-day is certainly a weird time to use it.

Cheap polarizers are certainly a way to go, but I agree, you get what you pay for. If you're going for the cheap route, look at it more like, "This filter will protect the optics" instead of "this filter will enhance the image." Why would you want a piece of crap filtering your image, though? It would be like purposefully looking for the "worst" film possible.

Learn to use the tool you're holding, it'll help shooting more than buying filters.
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Re: cheap camera filters

Postby pw » Fri Oct 12, 2012 9:04 am

MonGoose wrote:From the image:

Model: NIKON D3100
Lens: 18.0-105.0 mm f/3.5-5.6
Focal Length: 38.0 mm
Exposure 1/1600 sec; f/20; ISO 12800 :(

No wonder it looks like crap.


Get a decent polarizer, don't use the auto ISO feature, set it yourself and keep it probably below 3200, especially during the day (100 to 400 should be adequate during daylight), and also don't use f20, smaller apertures lead to diffraction, you get the best out of a lens in the f5.6 to f11 range. On second thought, there is probably an option to set a ceiling on ISO if you do want to use that feature, so check into lowering the max ISO your camera will use if set to auto.

Re: cheap camera filters

Postby MonGoose » Fri Oct 12, 2012 10:00 am

pvnisher,
What mode were you shooting in? I'm assuming you didn't manually pick these settings. It's always important to be aware of what settings your camera is auto choosing. For starters, it's a good idea to lock your ISO down to 100 or 200 (there are exceptions, usually in very low light). Anything above 3200 on most cameras is going to look really bad. In terms of exposure, 1/250 sec is fast enough to cover motion at most sporting events. 1/1600 sec would be used to capture race cars or hummingbirds, way too fast for a landscape photo. You could have easily gotten away with 1/100 sec for this shot. Lastly, you're lens "sweet spot" is going to be around F9 or F11, although I wouldn't consider F20 to be bad for this type of shot because you want everything in focus.

What I would recommend doing is shooting in P (program) mode. When you press the button halfway down to Autofocus, the camera will display what settings it thinks you should use. You can spin the scroll wheel and the camera will change the exposure and F-stop to keep the picture properly exposed. If your ISO is locked down, you'll be getting much better photos in most situations. NOTE: Flash will not fire in Program mode.

If you want to learn more on beginning photography, I would highly recommend Scott Kelby's first book in the four part series. It does a very good job of explaining these concepts without going into too much detail.
http://www.amazon.com/Digital-Photography-Book-Scott-Kelby/dp/032147404X/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1350057120&sr=8-4&keywords=scott+kelby

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Re: cheap camera filters

Postby Dave B » Fri Oct 12, 2012 10:26 am

MonGoose wrote:From the image:

Model: NIKON D3100
Lens: 18.0-105.0 mm f/3.5-5.6
Focal Length: 38.0 mm
Exposure 1/1600 sec; f/20; ISO 12800 :(

No wonder it looks like crap.


Actually, I'm surprised at how good it does look at that high of an ISO!
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Re: cheap camera filters

Postby pvnisher » Fri Oct 12, 2012 2:55 pm

Haha. Total user error. That makes me feel better. Oh wait, I mean worse!
I hadn't used it before, and had no idea it would change the settings so drastically.
I know some of the basics but am still getting used to manual mode.
Good tips!

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