Kase Filters circular AGC filters
Almost every photographer, certainly landscape and outdoors photographers have got or used circular screw in filters with the usual circular polariser and typically a few neutral density filters. Often videographers will use circular filters but typically a variable density filter to help manage shutter speeds and keep a shallow depth of field; i.e. f/2.8, 50th second for 24fps.
I remember buying my first set from Amazon for £10 which came in a cheap fabric wrap with a set of six filters inside. They were cheap, dirty but did an okay job. Long exposures were interesting with the colour cast issues, this probably explains why a lot of my early long exposure experiments are black and white.
The typical photographer will get sick of these cheap circular filters and look for something better so often move on to square filters thinking this is the right answer for them.
I went straight in to the Formatt Hi-tech system and eventually the Firecrest before moving on to 84.5mm filters - 100mm line of filters as they were cheaper, and my bank account was suffering from Formatt’s more expensive filter system when they chipped or cracked inside my rucksack. Last Summer I dropped my filter system in a river and lost some £300 worth of filters and adapter. At the same time the photos were a mess with water spots and drips across the front due to the amount of rainfall. I don’t want to stop my photography just because of a bit of rain. My clothing and equipment can keep me out in it but why not my filters?
In the UK we are very fortunate to have so many brands offering various filter systems, none of which are a bad choice, and all offer various sized systems for different needs. Sick of wasting my money on square filters and wanting a lighter and easier filter system to use for my camping, outdoors and regular shooting in the rain. Many who know me, know I typically end up with bad weather, usually rain. I am cursed!
My answer was to return to circular filters. Shortly after this trip I purchase a set of Hoya Pro circular filters to match my present variable density filter*.
*Variable density filter is used for videographer to help maintain shutter speeds and shallow depths of field. These filters shouldn’t be used for photographic applications as the two polarisers used to create the variable density filter cause black hazes in opposite corners.
Benefits and weaknesses with both systems
Better for long exposures especially when shooting 5-10minute exposures, you have greater control in camera which enables you to balance exposures over a longer period of time. By dropping in graduated filters of varied densities. (Bracketing won’t work as well here).
Typically higher quality glass and less issues - vignetting as the filter is larger than the front thread of the lens.
Quicker, more convenient and easier to use.
You can hide the filters inside your lens hood meaning the filter is protected from the conditions and you can carry on shooting in the rain or snow.
Cheaper when compared to square filters and a lot smaller so can be stored with ease - Often the go to for most when first purchasing filters before investing in to a more expensive square system.
Susceptible to the elements as the filters sits on the front of your lens.
Can be expensive to replace when broken - You have to ensure the holder is attached to the front and doesn’t fall off and adapters are attached to the lenses properly.
Can be fiddly in cold weather but easier than circular filters - Answer to solve this is magnetic adapters.
Larger pouches required and although not heavy can take up vital space if you are hiking long distances and carrying other kit for camping. You also need to remember to pack the filter bag, adapter and holder. Many filter cases don’t accommodate for the adapter…
Can be difficult to put on the front of your lenses when cold or wet.
Often get stuck together in cold when stacking filters - Answer to solve this is magnetic adapters.
Size means you won’t forget them as they can be stored inside your camera insert with the camera body and lenses but also due to size, makes them easier to lose. (Never lost a filter yet but never say never).
Stacking can cause vignetting and colour casting issues. Answer to solve vignetting is to buy larger filters than your lenses so the corners don’t become dark. Also not buying cheap £5 filters will help with colour casting.
Graduated filters in the form of circular filters aren’t that good and limited to location where the gradient sits - Answer is to blend/bracket photos together which is more processing time and hard-drive space, plus knowing how to blend and use post processing software. This can be seen as a strength and weakness depending on the style or competence in post production.
It’s worth remembering neither is a more “professional” method, it simply boils down to what is your subject is and as a photographer.
If you wish to do more long exposures on the coast, a square system is the better option where you can have greater control at longer time periods. Whereas, if you are hiking and up on mountain sides a circular filter can be beneficial with weights, size and ease of use with greater protection from the weather conditions, as you can house them inside your lens hood.
where does Kase Filters come in to all of this?
Most who know Kase Filters, know of the impressive Wolverine 100mm system or the K8 system. Before the end of 2018, Kase Filters released a new range, this being the new AGC circular filter line up. Consisting of a polariser, numerous neutral density filters, both solid and grad and a case to keep them safe.
Why have I chosen to use Kase Filters? The Hoya Pro filters I previously used, despite the price of near £50-100 a filter did cast some magenta hue in long exposures and the polariser was a little weak, often it would do very little to cut glare. I have yet to hear anything bad about the quality of Kase Filters and with the same quality glass and features to match with smear/water proof glass and super tough, anti-scratch glass, I opted to purchase the new AGC circular filter system.
I have been using them for the last three months and have yet to find any issues when using them. They have been used in numerous conditions; sun sets on Barmouth beach, blown off a mountain side on Cadair Idris, snow on Pen y Fan and the sunshine and rain around my local areas, Berkshire and Chilterns.
What Kase Filters say:
AGC/GCLP circular polariser:
CPL/Polariser is one kind of filter that frequently using in photography. It can remove the reflected light on the non-mental surface, increasing colour saturation. Suitable for mountain scene, sky, glasses, leaves.
Before you use a CPL, you should remember to take the UV filter apart from the camera lens. And screw the CPL filter into the camera lens. When you settle the CPL, then you can turn the CPL on the camera lens for searching the best angle to eliminate the reflective light.
Material: AGC optical glass+6063 aluminum alloy+Nitto polarising film
AGC Neutral Density filters:
The ND filter also is called neutral density filter, which aims to reduce the amount of light passing through the camera lens and slow down the shuttle speed. We usually use in outdoor photography, shooting the clouds, water, and pedestrians with a large aperture, by extending the exposure time, so that we can get better photo beyond our human imagination.
ND64 ： 40.5/49/52/55/58/62/67/72/77/82 mm
Advantages with AGC filters
B270 optical glass
IR: Anti infrared glass
H: High definition
MC: Multi-layer coating
CIAA: Mildew resistance
SMP: Thin filter frame
GAA: Aviation grade aluminium
8HD: Steel anti scratch
How have the Kase AGC Circular filters performed?
They’ve endured a lot and so they should! As an outdoors/landscape photographer, filters are a vital tool in the kit to help achieve the results you are looking for. So, you want a filter which is going to be tough and not suffer in anything other than good weather. Which by now we all know I rarely get! In three months the AGC circular filters have been dropped numerous times in water, mud and sand. (Yes, I am clumsy at times). As well as just being thrown in to my rucksack with other kit.
Having seen plenty of rain, as well as snow and fair share of cold environments, with the worst case being -14ºc on Cadair Idris in the howling gales or the -6ºc below Pen y Fan with snow fall. In all these times, the circular filters haven’t found the cold or damp and issue. The polariser hasn’t fogged up nearly as much as I’ve seen previous filters before. It wasn’t perfect and did a couple of times. When wet the filters were very easy to clean and left no marks or smear marks. This can often be the worst part, thinking the filter is clean but then only to find you have the odd smear mark around the outside leaving corners and edges in a soft blur.
I don’t use the leather case from Kase Filters to house my filters, instead use a metal screw adapter, still from Kase filters which double up as lens caps on my lens which is very helpful. As they are metal it means the filters are further protected, this means they are tougher and means I can just throw them around and not worry.
When it comes to colour casting, I have had none. The polariser is neutral as is the neutral density filters, mine isn’t a strong filter with it only being a 6-stop but at 60 second exposures in bright sunlight it’s retained the correct colours as we witnessed. I’ve used some leading brand filters before and often had to use custom white balances to overcome the casting. With the Kase AGC filters so far, I can just leave the camera in auto white balance which means I have one less thing to worry about and leaves me to focus on taking photos.
What I’ve really appreciated the most with returning to circular filters is the practicality and use in the outdoors despite poor weather. Yes, the filters are waterproof, smear proof and super tough but it’s even better if the filters don’t get wet in the first place. I can house the filters inside the lens hood and continue shooting, now the lens hood is no guarantee in stopping rain or snow hitting the lens or filter but it offers a lot more protection over not using one. An added benefit is I can use my rain cover (Peak Design Shell) over the top and this can be tightened around the lens hood rather than the lens itself, leaving room to control and turn the focus and zoom rings on the lens. It also means you don’t get the flaps poking over the edge and in frame.
This is a major benefit when you are out for multiple days wild camping with no easy means to clean filters. You need something that is practical, yet rugged and tough enough to last in any weather condition, so if I can house my filters inside the hood to protect them further, it’s a big tick and has more use over a square filter system which is open to the elements and needs a larger pack to store.
Add to the matter that the circular filters are very light and small I can pop them in my trouser or jacket pockets, left inside my camera insert or even on the front of my lens without any worry of damage or losing them. This weight and size factor are especially helpful when it comes to hiking long distances or camping on mountains. If you are used to hiking long distances, whether that be valleys, coastal walks or mountains you will know every gram count and if you plan on camping then the weight limits are more to watch out for. Before any camera kit hits my rucksack it’s already weighing some 10kg so add a few lenses, bodies, tripod and insert you quickly see your 10kg rocket up to 15kg plus and that is just in Summer! Winter is a whole different challenge. All of that camera gear takes up a lot of space too. In Summer its easier to pack as the kit is generally lighter and smaller but the real challenges come in Winter where larger jackets, waterproofs and warmer kit is required.
If I can have one small insert with all my camera gear inside and not have to worry about packing another filter case or small packs to go with the camera it makes life a lot easier and subsequently you don’t have to sacrifice any kit.
The Kase AGC Filters aren’t the cheapest on the market but also not the most expensive either, costing £30-50 a filter. You won’t typically buy as many filters when it comes to circular filters as you won’t be using grad filters so the polariser, 6 and 10 stop ND will do 90% of what you’ll need. So not only do you have to pack less but also save a lot more money. Most know that feeling when you break a camera filter… You feel sick! It’s expensive.
Knowing these AGC filters cost a lot less in comparison I am not as worried in smashing them, remember the three I mention above - polariser, 6 and 10 stop ND filters, in square format could cost you upwards of £300-400 so the circular filters work out a third of that cost, which when it comes to the outdoors and having little control over weather, having something that can do the same and offer the same quality and strengthens but costs a third of that. Why wouldn’t you pick them?
Now, there is no getting away from the fact that circular filters can be a pain to screw on and off, especially in cold or wet conditions. The Kase AGC Filters are no exception here. The problem comes more when stacking the filters rather than not getting the filter off the lens. I am yet to have any issues getting the filters off the front of a lens. I’ve heard horror stories of cheaper circular filters getting stuck and having to use pliers to get them off, often leaving the filters broken or damaged beyond use.
Yes, I haven’t had issues with getting the filters off the lens but have found when stacked on top of each other is the difficulty. Usually trying to get the polariser off is the difficult part as this filter spins so it’s hard to get a good grip around the edge in order to rotate and get off. I’ve found you can get them off once they have warmed up a little or not wet. So, I have bought extra lens clothes to have spares for these occasions. This is why I am looking at moving to magnetic filter adapters to make the process easier.
Moving on from the difficulties of removing the filters, getting them on has been fairly easy and I have found the build and thread of the metal ring consistent and doesn’t snag when attached to the lens. It might sound odd considering they are difficult to get off but at least I know they aren’t going anywhere once attached.
My style of photography is to take multiple exposures and stack them in post, or just to take one shot and carry on. As I use an Olympus, I often use the high res shot to get more information in shot and have found this the best means for when photographing such extreme differences in light in these mountain regions at sunrise or sunset. Unless you are going to going out for long exposures, for the most part the circular filters are widely a more practical and quicker tool. Now, that’s not to say you can’t do long exposures as demonstrated in the photos seen.
These are 2/3 photos stacked with one for the sky, another for the foreground and another for the mid ground. This does mean blending in Adobe Photoshop which isn’t for everyone and does require some knowledge of layer masks and confidence. I find using a graphics tablet very helpful here as I can paint in the areas I want with more control and precision over a mouse or trackpad. This doesn’t mean you have to stack and blend files but to deal with such extremes of light it’s the best means and gives a cleaner result versus using a grad filter.
So, when it comes to the outdoors, travel, hiking and camping the circular filter isn’t a tool to shy away from but likely the better option being lighter, small and easier to pack, more practical when it comes to the weather and all-round use. In the Kase Filters instances, the tough and waterproof design of the AGC filters makes them more desirable as it means cleaning the filters in these remote regions easier if water was to get on them. So why take a larger square system where you’ll be worried about packing them in, use in rain or just damaging that expensive filter system?
The Kase AGC filters have delivered what I need, a filter system I don’t need to worry about when it comes to poor weather, cold or hot, golden hour and colour casting or vignetting issues with long exposures. They have continued to perform as I need throughout and meant I could enjoy and focus on the photography at hand rather than worrying about filters not performing and ruining my shot I wanted and have been the perfect solution as someone who wild camps and spends half his time on a mountain side in the rain. They have been easy to use and will continue to serve me well for many months, hopefully years to come.