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Old Jul 21, 2009, 9:22 PM   #1
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Default Filters - a novice's necessity? Which?

I'm heading off to Hawaii for my honeymoon in a couple weeks, and I have a new Panasonic FZ-28 I'm excited to put to the test. I'm a complete novice, and I'm looking at whether or not it would be a good purchase to pick up a couple of filters that seem to work really well with the camera; however, I'm not sure if it's worth the expense in regards to (a) my likelihood to leave the camera in auto a lot for quick shooting and only sometimes get to really experiment with the dramatic scenery and (b) the time it takes to get filters on and off, and whether this is an investment of just a quick screw-on-screw-off like the lens cap or a hurry-up-and-wait a little longer (as can be the case with the lens hood).

Anyway, the thing that most catches my eye is a Tiffen 46mm 3-pack that I found on Adorama and Amazon - a "photo essentials filter kit" - that includes a UV filter, a circular polarizer, and a "warming filter". I also looked at the neutral density 0.6 filter, because one review said it's "great for waterfalls", but that's sold separately. Is the effect that any or all of these filters would have on a novice worth the expense? Is there a better set (still within this price range) that I can get? Can I buy two of the three from the set individually and also buy the ND filter, if one of the "set' ones is superfluous? Finally, I think the kit thing comes with a "filter wallet" - will this fit easily in my case that snugly houses the camera, hood, and extra battery? And, if I don't get the kit but buy separately, do I also need such a wallet?

Sorry for the bunch of questions... hopefully they can be consolidated easily! I appreciate any quick answers, since I need to order them and get them on the way as soon as I can!

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Old Jul 22, 2009, 12:01 AM   #2
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A polarizing filter is a very good item to have for outdoor shots with water, and helps for landscapes as well. I wouldn't bother with warming, or other colored filters, with digital cameras because anything they can do can be done either in the camera or with some post processing. Some people like UV filters, but I find them to be not useful except to keep sand away from the front lens element when at the beach. (since you're heading to Hawaii, it may come in handy) A ND filter will let you use slower shutter speeds if that is what you need for the soft marshmallow waterfall effect (personally, I dislike the effect and find it way overdone), but again, the same thing can be achieved with multiple exposures and a little post processing.
The filter wallet is an excellent idea if you carry several filters around, as it will help to keep them from getting scratched. Scratches can result in some nasty surprises if there is a bright light source in, or just out of your scene.

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Old Jul 22, 2009, 12:55 PM   #3
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I go with the idea that the less junk between the subject and the sensor the better. A polarizing filter, however, would be really good, especially with the water and sky available in Hawaii.
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Old Jul 28, 2009, 3:10 PM   #4
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For the most part, filters are not necessary. A polarizing filter is not a bad choice, but they are surprisingly hard to get used to. If you are at all persnickety, they'll drive you nuts trying to get the photo you want. For example, they normally will create a very unpleasant (to my eye) artifact in the sky such that the sky looks unnaturally dark at one angle and quite normal at others -- the overall effect is that the sky just couldn't possibly have looked like that. Maybe that won't bother you, but it makes me crazy. The good thing about a polarizing filter is that you can see the clouds in sharp relief. But it just doesn't compensate for the artifacts to my eye.

A filter that I would not leave home without is a gradually (or softly) graded neutral density filter, 0.6 to clear. This filter is a must-have unless you are into high-dynamic-range photography. Any time you see a shot that interests you where part of the view is in sun and the other part in shade, slap on that puppy and you're good to go. If you want to take photos where the sky is blue instead of white on a sunny day, and yet you can still get a proper exposure of the foreground that may include shadow, a GND is what gets you there. It doesn't suffer from the artifact problem of polarizing filters, and gives you a terrific increase in dynamic range in a typical scene that is spatially divided into bright part and shadowy part.

You can get a neutral density filter for those brightly-lit waterfall pictures where you want a slow shutter if you like, but you'll probably use the filter once or twice and then find that it just sits in your camera bag for years thereafter. If the river or waterfall isn't brightly lit, you can usually slow the camera down enough by setting the ISO. In my experience, an ND filter is just not a high-use item.

Other filters are even more rarely useful in my estimation.
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