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Tuesday’s Bits and Bobs – Cokin Z Series Filters

Last week I told you that I thought the Cokin filters would have to go back and I hadn’t really had much chance to use them. Well I was given an opportunity to explore them some more and I’ve been trying to make the most of it.  I’ve been out a few times to see what I can do with them.  I suppose that is the wonderful thing about digital, it does make experimenting a lot easier.

In the kit that was sent to me, I got a 77mm adaptor ring for my lens, the Z-Series bracket, and 3 graduated filters.  I was lent the ND2, the Tobacco and a Blue filter, it is all part of a kit that you can purchase.

Graduated filters, for those that don’t know, are where the filter starts at the top and the colour goes down and then fades to clear. The coloured part covers about 2/3 of the filter, which measures 10cm to 15cm.  The advantage of that is that you can then use the filter as a graduated filter, or you can use the end as a filter that will cover your whole lens.  So I have been experimenting with both.

stacking-3-filters-melbourne-100

Stacking 3 Cokin filters, the ND2, the Tobacco and the blue filter. All Graduated filters

I found the adapter ring and bracket easy to use and didn’t have any trouble with them.  I had heard that the little things that stick out make it hard to use some filters because they wouldn’t go down, but I just pushed them back, which also made it fit more snugly on the adapter ring.  I actually found myself using it a lot, which surprised me.  I would fit it to the camera and just carry the filters I wanted to use in my pocket.

I tried to see what would happen if I stacked all three filters in the kit with the above image.  So it is an exposure with all three.

One of the things I found hard, at first, was using them as graduated filters, the filters are subtle and I couldn’t tell the difference from the clear part to the filter part, but with practice I got better at it.  The above two images show the difference between no filter and the graduated ND filter.  I was surprised at how dark the foreground was without the filter, but how with the filter it would leave it looking lighter.  I tried to get the ND2 on the sky and not the foreground.

These two were done the same way.  The filter has made the clouds more like the colour you would expect as well.

I tried using my ND400 to see if I could get smooth water, and then thought what if I stacked the ND2 on it as well.  I was told years ago that you shouldn’t stack ND filters, but then the guy I have been talking to at  Maxwell International Australia suggested I do that, so I did it with the second image.  The first image was a 10 second image, and the second a 15 second, so it gave me more time to achieve what I wanted to do.

I did the same here, using the ND400, but this time the first image was 15 seconds and then I added the ND2 and I got a 30 second exposure.  I know the differences are subtle and you really have to look carefully at them to see the differences, but they are there.  I was surprised at easy it was to stack them and the results.

I took these yesterday at Marysville. The first image is a close up the water without the filter, and the second is with it.  Again a subtle change, but the second was double the time of the first, so the water is more blurred.

I also want to add that all of these images, well the pairs, have been processed the same.  They were processed in Lightroom and then the second image was synced with the first so that the only difference between them was the filter, and some slight variations in composition.  The idea was to show how different the filters were.

One of the purposes of using the filter system was to see if it would remove the vignetting I was getting with my other Cokin Series, the P series, and I am happy to say that there was none of it.  I found it easy to use, and the covers for the filters were great to just slip into the camera bag or your pocket.  I don’t know that I would get the filters that came with this particular kit.  I think I would possibly go for the ND series more, so I would get the ND2, the ND4 and the ND8.  I do like the idea of the graduated filters and the options they give you, you do get more.

I am not sure when they are going back, but I really hope to get down to the beach for a chance to try them out some more.  It would be good to try some of those slow motion images I’ve been trying to do with the filters, see what I get.  I am hoping to get down this week.

I know this hasn’t been a typical bits and bobs post, but I already told you my big news and really this is what I have been doing this last week, experimenting with the filters. I am going to put all the images into gallery, though all the pairs are also in smaller galleries.  I hope you have lots of experimenting happening where you are.

54 Comments
  1. Looking good, they work nicely. The cloud cover sure does look like you would expect too.

    October 21, 2014
    • They do work nicely, I need to experiment more with them I think. Thanks John.

      October 21, 2014
  2. I think that the filters are great to use and I have some but I hardly ever use them as they are just another thing to fiddle with as the light disappears.

    October 21, 2014
    • I used to think that, but I am started to see that it is good to use them when the light isn’t bad, I am loving the different situations with which I can use them.
      Thanks.

      October 21, 2014
      • I think I’d need to experience this for myself, and do a lot of trials …

        October 21, 2014
      • Well you might have to do that, though you aren’t going to see a lot of differences with a ND2, you see more with ND4 and especially the ND8.

        October 21, 2014
      • I’ll look up the box of the old SLR, and do some trials …

        October 21, 2014
      • Many of my filters are from my old film SLR.

        October 21, 2014
  3. Thanks Leanne. I have a bunch of filters and I don’t use them (and I should). Will have to try them next weekend as I head out to the mountains

    October 21, 2014
    • I agree Luis, you should, I look forward to seeing some photos. I really need to think about using them more too. I need to make sure they are always with me. Thanks

      October 21, 2014
  4. Great post. I only use ND or polarizes in the field. I find if I start stacking filters I’m stacking dust spots. I use filters in post , graduating them by brushing in or out – I’m lazy!

    October 21, 2014
    • I haven’t experienced the dust spots, though you would get those regardless, wouldn’t you Rob. I can be lazy too, I can relate to that. thanks Rob.

      October 21, 2014
  5. Amy #

    They work great! Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I wonder why some say filters don’t make any difference.

    October 21, 2014
    • I think so too Amy, and you are welcome. I don’t know why they do, possibly because they are too lazy, or don’t want to acknowledge that they can be good. I remember working with a wedding photographer once who was taking a photo of a couple in front of a gorgeous waterfall water feature, and I said if you had a tripod you could take a longer exposure, he said that they would stand still for that long, and I said, if you explained what a beautiful shot it could be, I am sure they would stand still for a second, or two. then he came back, well I can’t carry that much stuff. I was shocked, he carried studio lights with him, a stand for them and massive backdrop, but thought a tripod was too much gear. I realised it was because he was in it for the money, not the beauty of photography and he was not creative.

      October 21, 2014
  6. Your posts are always full of small and larger gems of information. Thanks.

    October 21, 2014
    • Thank you Sally, it is good to get that feedback.

      October 21, 2014
  7. I don’t use filters at all these days because my circumstances don’t really mesh will with it but even when I did use filters a lot I had not thought to stack them like that. That’s really interesting.

    October 21, 2014
    • I had not thought of doing that either, it is great trying out new things. thanks Papict.

      October 21, 2014
  8. This is totally out of my league, but I do like the effect of the first pinkish sky on the right:)

    October 21, 2014
    • I’m sure it isn’t, they are very easy to use Jeanette, surprisingly easy. I like the effect too, thanks.

      October 21, 2014
  9. I absolutely love the effect of the filter! Something I’m looking forward to adding to our kit bag -Dee

    October 21, 2014
    • They are a great addition Dee, you will love them. You can do some amazing things with them.

      October 21, 2014
  10. Hi Leanne. Thanks for this post and a good demonstration of the filters. I have used both the p and z pro GND filters a lot. One of my favourite ways to use them is to stack two with one of them upside down so that you get a band of light in the centre of the photo. The only drawback with them is that they can sometimes introduce a colour cast particularly when they get older.

    October 21, 2014
    • Thank you George, I am hoping to be able to say that I have used the Z series a lot soon too. I have used the p series a lot, I first got it about 15 years ago. I haven’t tried that, though I am new to grad filters, but will have to try that now. I will have to remember that about the age, thanks for the tip.

      October 21, 2014
  11. lensaddiction #

    I am saving up for a set of Lee filters, I have read that a lot of people start with the cheaper options but get frustrated and they can scratch quite easily which is a concern for me. I really like the idea of the grad ND effect and use it in LR a lot but I see the value of the filter in the field from the shots you have taken, a really good set of examples

    Try the Filters book by Ross Hoddinott – an english guy who is really into filters, I have his book and another one by a Lee someone, both useful references

    October 21, 2014
    • I have used the Cokin filters for years, the P series, and never had a problem with scratching, I am very careful with them, beside scratching them, you also don’t want to get them dirty. There are quite a few brands which are good, though many of them are hard to get here, and you have to get them from overseas which also means having to pay heavy shipping costs, especially from the US.
      Thanks Stacey.

      October 21, 2014
      • lensaddiction #

        Yes that’s the reason they are on my bucket list, the cost! One day hopefully

        October 21, 2014
      • 😀

        October 21, 2014
  12. Thanks for this blog Leanne. It helps remind to “experiment” and play around with the gear we have. Well done my dear…Cheers!

    October 22, 2014
    • You’re welcome Dan, I agree, I think it is something that we all need to keep doing. Thanks.

      October 22, 2014
  13. Filters are fun. I only have one that’s ND16, but I love using it.

    October 22, 2014
    • They are fun, and you can use them for a lot more stuff than I thought. Thanks Cardinal.

      October 22, 2014
  14. I will have to check these filters out!! Fabulous shots Leanne and thanks for the comparison explanations. I still need to work on graduated filters as I don’t always get the result I would like on longer exposures!! as you say- vignetting.

    October 22, 2014
    • They are good and you can use them for lots of things too. You’re welcome, do you think I should do post on using them? I might do one for the Up for Discussion posts. I am still trying to work them all out. It has been good to have a set to play with. Vignetting is usually because the filters are not the right size for your lens, like wide angles can be really hard.

      October 22, 2014
  15. Great post, Leanne. I didn’t know about graduated filters before, so I appreciate your experiment here! Thanks!–Patti

    October 22, 2014
    • That is great to hear Patti, I hope you were able to follow it. I love experimenting and I am looking forward to doing more. Thanks Patti.

      October 22, 2014
  16. Hi Leanne, I use Lee ND grads all the time. I have a 10 stop filter that I use to get that smokey water effect even in good light. I’m not so keen on colour tinted filters but that’s just down to personal preference. I think ND grads are an absolute must for landscape photography. Some people say you can just balance up an exposure in post but it’s simply not the same as getting it right, out there in the field. You can’t necessarily correct an over exposed sky or an under exposed foreground in photoshop. If you’ve blown highlights, you can’t get them back and if you’ve under exposed, detail is frequently lost that again you can’t recover in Photoshop. It’s one of the requirements for people attending my workshops, you have to bring along a set of ND Grads. 🙂

    October 22, 2014
    • I am starting to see how important they are too. I’ve never seen the Lee filters, but have used Cokin for a few years now. I’m a bit the same with the colour tinted ones, but am willing to give anything a shot. I agree, you can’t always balance up an image in post. I think after experimenting with these I might have to see about getting some. They are fantastic. I was thinking of doing a post on the up for discussion posts, would you be interested in contributing. Thanks Chillbrook.

      October 22, 2014
      • I would Leanne, I could probably put something together for the week after next. Just let me know what day so I’ve got a deadline and I’ll write about how I use the filters and why I think they’re an essential part of any landscape photographer’s kit. 🙂

        October 23, 2014
      • What would be fantastic, do you want to send me an email and we can discuss it. leanne@leannecole.com.au

        October 23, 2014
  17. Hi Leanne – this is a really interesting post, with some great results.
    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    October 22, 2014
    • thank you Robyn, I haven’t quite finished experimenting, but I am really enjoying what I am getting.
      You’re welcome. 😀

      October 22, 2014
      • Experimenting is very rewarding… Well mostly 😉 Definitely, in this instance! Have fun.

        October 22, 2014
      • I agree, mostly, sometimes damn frustrating too, LOL. Thanks Robyn. 😀

        October 22, 2014
  18. I love t Leannne! It reminded me to look for some filters I use to have for my Cannon, but then remembered they went with the divorce. : ( Guess I’ll have to start again… Thanks for the nudge! 😀

    October 22, 2014
    • Thank you Keli, what a shame about the filters, I hope you can get some more, and you’re welcome. 😀

      October 22, 2014
  19. Johann Briffa #

    Hi Leanne, glad to see you having fun with the filters! I have the Lee system, which is the same size as the Cokin Z. I chose that simply because I already had an ultra-wide angle lens, and I knew the smaller formats would cause vignetting. I did my research on this a while ago: http://jabriffa.wordpress.com/2012/06/23/filters-starter-kit/

    The Lee system (and I would expect the Cokin Z as well) does not give me any vignetting even at 17mm on a full-frame camera. However they’re considerably more expensive than their smaller cousins. The only place where vignetting will be an issue is with the addition of a 105mm polarizer. I did some experimenting with that to see how far I can go: http://jabriffa.wordpress.com/2014/02/15/polarising-filter-for-lee-100mm-system/

    As far as filters go I only have the ND grads (1,2,3-stop in hard and soft grads), a 105mm polariser to sit in front, and a set of color gel filters for B&W film use. I also have the Big Stopper, a 10-stop square filter that fits with the system. I’m with Chilbrook on this one: the ND grads are pretty much essential for landscape work – I tend to use them on almost all my tripod shots, often stacked with the polariser and/or the big stopper. Only the big stopper gives any color cast, but that is well-known and pretty consistent, so easy to remove in post.

    I would not bother with coloured filters for digital cameras – such changes are more easily fixed in post, but the effect of a ND grad or a polariser isn’t. I also talked a bit about grad filters in a presentation I gave earlier this year to the university photographic society: http://jabriffa.wordpress.com/2014/03/14/managing-exposure/

    I also noted you said the effect is very subtle: I think that’s mostly because the ND grad you were using is only 1-stop difference. I tend to use that very rarely, and usually only in addition with another filter. I’d say the 2-stop is the most useful while still ‘natural’, with 3-stop having more ‘drama’. Between hard and soft, the hard variant is the one I generally recommend getting first, but I find I’m using the soft more often myself, mostly because I generally have an uneven horizon.

    Apologies for such a long comment!

    October 22, 2014
    • I am having fun with the filters. I have to admit, I’ve heard of the Lee System, but I have never seen it. Most people I have seen with filters here seem to have Cokin or Hoya. I had the p series, so I did get the vignetting with the wide angle I have now, wasn’t a problem with my film camera.

      I don’t get the vignetting with the Z series, no issue at all really.

      I think I want the ND grad filters when I get some of my own. I can see that I would use them a lot. I have some already, but I would like some others, a good set, then I will be ready for nearly everything. I have used them with my tripod so far. I like the idea of what chillbrook was saying about using them to stop over exposing certain parts of the image, which makes perfect sense to me. I want to remember that.

      Yes, the effect is subtle because it is a ND2 grad filter, I don’t know that I would use it much, but would be good for stacking and adding a bit of extra time. Though it was good at the waterfall I was at the other day.
      Thanks Johann, never mind a long comment.

      October 22, 2014
      • Johann Briffa #

        Thanks Leanne. Lee is a British company, so tends to be more popular there and also more easily available. Quality is great, though they’re a bit more expensive than similar products, and several items have constant availability problems. Everything seems to be done by hand, and demand is greater than supply. Good for them, I guess!

        October 22, 2014
      • Oh they are British, I thought they were from somewhere else. Singh Ray filters are much the same too. I have never seen them here either.

        October 22, 2014
      • Johann Briffa #

        Yeah, I believe Singh Ray are American, and tend to be rather popular there.

        October 22, 2014
      • I think they are actually Canadian, I did look into them, but you can’t get them here in Australia.

        October 22, 2014
  20. I use the P system at the moment pretty much all the time for landscape shots, wouldn’t be without them. Will upgrade to the Z system if I get a lens with a larger filter size. Nice post.

    October 24, 2014
    • I was very happy with the P series until I got some very wide angle lenses, then I started getting vignetting. Thanks Dave.

      October 24, 2014

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