I’m an occasional user of filters to accentuate the sky on my pictures. Mostly I use red with or without a polarizer, but being the cheapskate that I am, I use square series P Cokin plastic (optical resin) filters with adapters so I can put them on any lens I own. The problem with Cokin is that they are fragile and a little awkward to use compared with screw-in filters, which are far more secure when you’re hiking through town with your camera dangling on a neck strap.
So, I decided to give those cheap no-name screw-in filters available on ebay from Hong Kong a try, beginning with orange and yellow. I first ordered from a seller known as Fotocola and not being too happy with what I received, I then ordered from a seller named Citiwide, also disappointing.
Fotocola and Citiwide filters
I paid $7.99 for each of the Fotocola filters and $5.25 for each of the Citiwide filters. Both were uncoated, but then so are my Cokin filters. Mechanically, they seemed acceptable, although I didn’t experiment with whether they were easier or harder to get on and off than other name brand screw-in filters.
One instantly noticeable peculiarity about the Fotocola filters is that they are apparently laminated (two pieces of glass with filter media in between). You can see multiple reflections on these filters whereas this is not something I’ve seen with any other filter (although Tiffen is reputed to use laminated construction). The reflection looks the same when viewed from either side.
Fotocola orange on left (note double reflection), Citiwide orange on right
I don’t know how much of an impairment that would be, but it might actually make the filter more scratch resistant.
The next noticeable aspect of these filters is the color. While the Fotocola filters appeared to be almost what you’d expect for a medium yellow (K2) filter and an orange (G) filter, the Citiwide filters were more pale. This was confirmed by measuring light transmission through the filters with a light meter. The Citiwide filters passed less saturated.
Citiwide filters are more pale than Fotocola.
I don’t have an Orange (G or O56) filter from a top name company, but The Cokin yellow (001) filter (equivalent to K2) is a noticeably deeper yellow than the Citiwide filter (even if it’s not obvious from the picture below). Even the Fotocola looked a little more pale than the Cokin and, indeed, measured slightly less dense with a light meter than the Cokin.
Fotocola (left), Citiwide (right), Cokin (bottom)
Finally, the color of orange Fotocola filter was not uniform over the entire filter. The following two pictures should illustrate this.
Fotocola orange (on left): left side of filter is slightly lighter
Same picture but with Fotocola filter (on left) rotated so light side is on the right.
To summarize, the cheap filters definitely have a couple problems:
- The colors are not really coordinated or cross-referenced with the standard color values we’re familiar with (K2, 25A, G, O56, X1, etc). Of course, absolute precision in the color is not as important with black and white filters as it is with color, but the standard filter factors will be slightly inaccurate when used with these filters.
- Uniformity can be a problem and, of course, they are not coated (much less multicoated) as are filters from the more respected manufacturers.
Of these four filters, I will probably only use the Fotocola yellow filter because it seems comparable to the Cokin in color. If you don’t use filters very often, paying upwards of $50 for one might not be too appealing. I wanted to get 77mm filter which I could then adapt to all my lenses. Oddly, I was able to find new Nikon #60 (red) filters readily available for $10, while their yellow (Y48) filter is $75 and their orange (O56) is $30. I believe all are now out of production, which might be a factor.
In an upcoming post I will talk about low-priced UV filters from a company called JYC which look just like Hoya’s well regarded Pro1-D filters right down to the “Pro1-D” label.