View Full Version : which filter set (kit) for small lenses.

Janko Belaj
3-Jun-2004, 07:06
I know that similar questions have been asked before on several forums, but I haven't find a proper answer, maybe better to say - I have found a lot of recommendations for general purpose, but my problem is size of filters and lenses... here is the story:

I'm preparing for few weeks of backpacking with 4x5 field camera and two small lenses. I will work only with b&w film (efke 25 and efke 100) and those two lenses are Symmar (old convertible) 135mm f5.6 and G-Claron 210mm f9. Both have same filter thread size M 40.5 (really small:)) and I have few basic screw-on filter for them (yellow-green, yellow, orange and some dark orange - don't know the specs for the last one, just grabbed him very cheap on local flea market).
What I miss is ND graduated filter and I'm aware that I will have to chose one of systems... Lee, Cokin... but which one?
According to size of my lenses, that would be Cokin A system... but, is it the right choice? I have no experiences with those systems so far. When I work, all I need is a polarizer so I have made step rings to accommodate my 52mm and 72mm polarizing filters for those two small lenses and for 90mm S-A (which I won't take on my trip because I "hate" him - it is too dark and too heavy to be a good summer "friend").
Well, now I have came to another possible problem: If I now chose small Cokin system "A", what will I do if one day I decide to take that Super-Angulon? What to do if I buy some day another lens (knowing me - not likely, but possible)?

Tnx for your help and suggestions.

David Mark
3-Jun-2004, 07:25

let me ask the obvious question: if you are only working in black and white, why bother with ND Grads at all? Photographers shooting transparency film must use them because of the limited contrast range that their film will hold. But most black & white film will hold something like 14 stops of usable information, and in the darkroom we black & white people can bring the tonal range down to what the printing paper will accept. And burning in a bright sky above an uneven horizon will always give you a better result than you would get with a ND Grad.

I know I am not addressing your question, but if I don't ask you this, I am sure someone else will.


Janko Belaj
3-Jun-2004, 08:29
Oh yes David, I'm aware of that. But there are at least two possible reasons: I might be lazy (but I don't think I am ;-)) and the second... I don't have the proper enlarger right now. And I'm not satisfied with what I can get in photoshop.
(I have to admit that I'm using photoshop a lot, but only in the "same" manner I would threat photo in darkroom (burning and/or holding light, changing contrast of papers and even changing a developers - in days when I didn't have access to "polycontrast" materials, I know to develop one print in 3 different developers... a lot of fun;-))
Well, there is the 3th and the main reason I would like to use ND grad filters on b&w material - one day I will have new condensers in my enlarger and I will start to make "proper" prints again, and why not to have the best possible negatives?
(now comes my bad english... don't know how to explain my thoughts about this, but will try anyway)
It might be fun when you have to deal with some kind of "problems" in darkroom, but instead of trying hard to take out that claud after you took picture, wouldn't be nicer to put that print on the wall, sit in the chair, take a beer (tee, schnapps, vine, whatever you like) put some music (Miles Davis if that was cute sunrise, or Led Zeppelin if question was about stormy afternoon, or anything else - just chose) and remember how good was to have that (ND) grad which help you later to get more time for doing this what you are doing right now?

3-Jun-2004, 08:59
Who dont you buy the cokin P system and its smallest adaptor? and if its not small enough, you can always use a step up ring under it too..

just a suggestion.

I never used my ND Grad with BW film personally.. doesn't mean i won't though.

David Mark
3-Jun-2004, 09:06

your english is fine. I understand you to be saying that you want to use ND Grads to make the best possible negative in the field, so that you will have less work to do later in the darkroom.

Both the Cokin and Lee systems are highly regarded, so I doubt that you will go wrong, no matter which you pick. Perhaps it will come down to which is cheaper. No matter which you go with, I strongly urge you to get a a filter holder size that will allow use of your 90 SA. It may not matter for your upcoming trip, but sooner or later you will want to be able to use the filter holder with your 90. When that moment comes, you will be annoyed with yourself if, for no good reason, you did not give yourself that option.


Ole Tjugen
3-Jun-2004, 09:21
Janko, If you can conceive of ever taking a colour photo, stay away from the Cokin filters - all sizes. Go straight to Lee. The Lee filter also fits nicely on your 90 SA (I assume it's an f:8?), without giving the strange colour changes you get with a Cokin ND grad. That colour "instability" can even be visible on B&W, as can the strong stray polarisation.

I use Lee filters on all my cameras - most of my LF gear I hold the filter in front of the lens by hand. But that's because most of my LF lenses have damaged filter threads, and that's why they were cheap. Some of the others have very old "unstandard" threads.

The Lee filters are very good. So are the holders - I use mine a lot on MF and one LF lens (210/4.5 Xenar). Thanks for reminding me to get an adapter for the 90/8 SA - and the 121/8 SA as well ;)

Janko Belaj
3-Jun-2004, 09:56
Tnx to all your responses so far, but there might be one thing I didn't mentioned loud enough: the weight of that filter system...
Imagine this situation: you are on the coast of the see and you wish to take picture of small rocks which are out of the water, the sun is strong in the late afternoon with lot of lightning reflections on the water which you would like to have blurred by motion. You will probably tilt front panel to get focus more parallel to the plane of the water, you will close your aperture to get at least 2 seconds of exposure time and you might like to darken those highlights... (sky isn't the only think I'm expecting to photograph this summer :))
Well, if my future filter system will be screwed on the lens, will Tachiharas front panel be strong enough? I'm waiting for that Tachihara to came to me, so all I know is what I have read on the forums and users comments ("...The front standard: the knobs are too small, and it is a pain to set them tight enough,...", "...Also, my front standard is now getting a little sloppy..." just to quote one page from this site).
I'm sorry I missed to accentuate (is that correct word?) this part question before... Maybe I'm worried too much, but I'm afraid I won't have time to check Tachihara a lot before I will go on the trip.

Tnx again.

Mark Erickson
3-Jun-2004, 13:05
Just a side note--Singh-Ray sells a number of very nice ND grad filters that they designed in collaboration with Galen Rowell. They're expensive, but are quite color-neutral (at least mine are). The ones that I have are sized to fit the Cokin P holders.

Jim Ewins
4-Jun-2004, 00:21
Lee makes a "Gel Snap" filter holder. It uses a rubber band (1/4" to 3/8" wide) to atttach it to most lenses. It works great on my 90mm but also on my old protars. It will accomodte 4" gels and probably "P" series Cokin. It was $20. I have ND gels and Cokin for B&W. Good images to you, Jim

Keith S. Walklet
4-Jun-2004, 08:45
Expanding on what Mark just posted, cost-wise, the most economical approach is to buy the Cokin P series holder and a set of adapter rings to fit your lenses. But, as for the filters themselves, it is best to go with another brand. Many manufacturers make 3-inch square filters to fit the P series holder, including Tiffen, Sing-Ray, etc. These manufacturers are more quality-concious and make graduated ND filters that are far better than the Cokin NDs (which are not a true neutral gray, actually often green).

The Cokin A series filters also provide adequate coverage only in the best of situations, which is, not often. On an image which is mostly sky, for instance, the filter is not long enough to have a sliver of ND, and the rest clear without the edge of the filter entering the field of view. With the P series holder, many manufacturers make ND filters that are extra long with these situations in mind.

A filter system is one of the few instances with photographic gear where it is possible to buy something that works with all of your equipment, and only becomes a limiting factor if you choose something too small.

Cost aside, LEE is the way to go. A better holder, better filters, easier to use, larger coverage.

BTW, with regard to your Tachihara challenges, I have a good friend who has overcome the wobbly front standard by using two small clamps. The clamps, I believe are made by Quik-Grip, are no longer than 3 inches across and can't weigh more than a couple ounces. They are yellow, with black trim, wide jaws that easily fit around the camera bed and black rubber grips that hold tight. The most significant aspect is that they have a ratchet locking mechanism, which is far better than just a spring-loaded solution. When he has his lens focused, he secures one of these on either side of base of the front standard, squeezing the base plate to the camera bed. They attach and release in an instant. They cost about $3 at Home Depot.

David A. Goldfarb
4-Jun-2004, 09:40
If you're shooting b&w and using grad filters, consider color grads as well as ND grads. Color grads are completely hokey with color film, but with B&W they let you do thinks like increase the contrast in the sky while bringing the exposure closer to the land, without changing the exposure for the land.