I have always been an advocate of carrying as little camera equipment as possible. In fact, most people are surprised to hear how little I carry with me on any trip. Besides the obvious weight to carry, it also means more things to lose or have stolen. But whilst carrying less is always better, there are some things that I simply can’t live without. Filters are one of the sets of accessories that I always take with me as they are essential for my photography. So when given four new K&F Concept filters recently, I was very excited to put them to the test.
Why should you use filters?
As advanced as digital cameras are these days, they still occasionally need some help to capture photos the way you want. Often the big issue in photography is light. Too much of it, not enough, too harsh, in the wrong place…if only you could control outdoor light like in a studio.
Filters can help a photographer control light in varied circumstances. There are lots of filters that all fill different objectives. Two of the most common filters are neutral density filters and polarizing filters.
Polarizing filters help to remove unwanted reflections from non-metallic surfaces. For example, if you are photographing water or through glass, they can help ensure you keep reflections to a minimum. In addition to this, they also help to boost the saturation in images (especially blues and greens). So, they are very useful for photographing things like waterfalls.
Neutral Density filters
Neutral Density filters help to reduce the amount of light that enters the camera. This allows you to select a slower shutter speed to create motion blur (when photographing water during the day or moving clouds). However, even in day to day photography, you may sometimes find ND filters useful to help avoid overexposure at wide apertures.
Square filters vs screw-on filters
There are two types of filters these days – square filters and screw-on filters.
Square filters are either square or rectangle and attach to a holder attached to your camera. As the name suggests, screw-on filters screw onto your lens directly.
There are pros and cons for using both. Historically, I have always used square filters, so this was a good test to see how I get on with using screw-on filters instead.
The filters tested
The four filters tested for this article are:
- 77mm ND8-ND128 Variable Neutral Density ND Filter Nano Coated
- 77mm Variable ND2-ND32 Neutral Density and Circular Polarizing Filter Coated
- 77mm Circular Polarizers Filter, K&F Concept 77MM Circular Polarizer Filter HD 18 Layer Super Slim Multi-Coated CPL Lens Filter
- 77mm ND2-ND32 Variable Neutral Density ND Filter Nano Coated
My first impression of the filters was of the beautiful and secure packaging they arrive in. They come in a hard cardboard box with the filter itself placed in a hard plastic case inside the cardboard box. The filter is further protected inside the plastic box wrapped in a plastic bag and placed on a piece of foam. The plastic box that they come in makes them really easy to get in out to use when needed as the lid flips open. The circular polarizing filter comes in a slightly different plastic box which twists open but is still secure inside due to some rubber ridges. This stops the filter rattling around the case.
I will need to stick some small stickers on the plastic boxes and write the filter on them to make them easier to find – something that is currently lacking on the plastic boxes. Other than that, the packing is very impressive.
Build and ease of use
The frames of all of the filters, except the circular polarizer filter, are made from an aluminum alloy (the polarizer filter has extra-tough magnalium). Even though they are very slim in design, they certainly feel rigid with no real bending even when forced.
The glass itself on all the filters is coated optical glass (to help reduce reflections) that is waterproof and scratch-resistant.
Overall, all of the filters performed very well. As someone who has always used square filters, I was skeptical about the quality and how they would affect the image. I deliberately headed out during early afternoon as I wanted to test these filters in harsh light. Below are the images taken using these filters.
Circular Polarizer Filters
I conducted the first test with the circular polarizer. Below are two images taken from the same place only seconds apart. The image on the left was with no filter. In the image on the right, you can see how the reflection from the water has been removed using the K&F Polarizer Filter. In addition, you can see a boost in the blue in the sky a little. There is a very slight vignette on the top left corner, but this is so minor that it can easily be removed in post-production.
ND2-ND32 Neutral Density
I conducted the next tests with the two ND filters. Both filters easily screwed in and were subsequently easy to remove with no jamming at all. Both filters performed very well with no color casting or vignetting. I also didn’t come across the X cross-issue that might sometimes occur with variable ND filters.
ND8-ND128 Neutral Density
The thing that I found so useful with these variable filters is the ease of transporting them and the amount of space saved in my camera bag. To be able to carry two ND filters that cover such a wide range is definitely something I feel is worth including in my camera bag.
ND2-ND32 Neutral Density and Circular Polarizing
The final filter tested was the ND filter with the circular polarizing filter. Whilst I was really impressed with the other filters, this is the one that I really found useful. Normally in a situation like this, I screw on my circular polarizing filter, then screw in my filter holder ring, put the holder on, and add the filters I need before I’m ready to shoot.
This filter does all of that. You can see below how using the filter gives you a longer shutter speed to achieve smooth water, and also removes much of the reflection as well. This helps bring out the details on the river bed.
As mentioned, I have always been skeptical of using circular or screw-in filters. However, I am thoroughly impressed with the K&F Concept filters I tested out. The image quality is superb and the added benefit of just using one filter and adjusting the gradient without having to stack filters is really useful.
The thing that really impressed me about these filters is how premium they look, feel, and perform. In fact, I did not notice any difference between these K&F Concept filters and my very expensive current square filters.
Another huge benefit of these filters is the cost. For example, at the time of writing the 5-stop variable ND and CPL filter is priced at $89.99. In other words, you are getting six filters for that price. Individually purchasing good quality filters will be a lot more expensive. This will obviously help anyone starting out and wanting to build their accessories up without spending a small fortune. I, for one, will be adding these filters to my collection.
Note: The author was given the K&F Concept filters free of charge to test out. But he is not paid or affiliated with K&F Concept and his review is honest and unbiased and based his personal experience of using the products.