Irix Edge Filters
A few weeks ago, Irix dropped me a set of their Edge 95mm screw-in filters to try on their fabulous 15mm Blackstone lens.
Now before we go any further, I have to say, that filters for landscape photography can represent something of a bottomless pit of expenditure in your photography gear.
I see folk with vast numbers of filters; NDs, grad NDs, tint and temp grads, fogs and soft focus filters and all sorts of exotic bits of glass and acrylic to stick on the front of their superb (and sometimes not so superb) landscape lenses.
Some of those same folk then look inside my bag in horror when they see that I only carry 3 filters – a 10 stop ND, 6 stop ND and polarizer.
I gave up using ND grads years ago, simply because they are time-consuming, and because if your horizon is not perfectly flat they will always effect the exposure of your middle to far foreground in some way or other.
For me, I find it far faster to shoot a bracketed sequence.
When your are shooting under very transient light conditions, such as sunset and twilight, time spent choosing and lining up a grad ND is time lost.
Followers of this blog will know that I have Lee SW150 and Lee 100 systems, both with 10 stop and 6 stop NDs and a polariser – the SW150 a circular, and the 100 system is a linear. I’d have linear for the 150 system if they made one, simply on the grounds that they are normally cheaper – and I’m a tight-ass cheapskate!
When Irix sent the 15mm Blackstone for review, I purchased the Lee SW150 adapter ring for 95mm thread lenses – it works well and I can’t fault it.
But, I had the insanely expensive SW150 system holder and glass filters ALREADY, because I used them on the 14-24mm f2.8 Nikkor, and sometimes on my beloved Zeiss 21mm.
When I originally reviewed the 15mm Irix Blackstone there was really no other option for filtration.
But this new range of 95mm Irix Edge Filters now means that landscape photographers can have the necessary filtration without having to go with any form of 150mm filter system.
The 95mm Irix Edge Filters range.
The packaging is robust and keeps the filters safe. The card outer sleeve tells you what filter is inside, though if you remove/loose it then you have to open the case and examine the edge of the filter to see the same information – it’s the only niggle I have, and it’s a minor one and certainly not a deal-breaker.
Though our Richard might argue that point after sprinting along the side of Howden reservoir after one that blew away in the wind yesterday!
But it would be nice of Irix to put the information inside the case so you could see it without faffing around – it all saves time, and time can be of the essence!
The filter range consists of:
A UV/Lens Protect – you all know my attitude to these by now!
Circular Polariser – this is mounted in a low profile 5mm frame with knurled edges, and has a double-sided anti-reflective nano coating. AND – it is front-threaded to allow for a certain amount of stacking with other filters in the range – more on that shortly.
ND 8, 32, 128 & 1000 Neutral Density – these ND filters are all built in a 3.5mm metal frame, so are super low-profile. They are all front-threaded and have the Irix double-sided anti reflective coatings.
ND filter terminology:
This seems to confuse a lot of people, which I suppose is understandable because different manufacturers persist in using different, and in the case of Lee for instance, MIXED terminologies.
So let’s try and break this down for you.
A one stop drop in exposure results in HALF the amount of light reaching the sensor/film plane.
A half is represented by the fraction ‘1/2’.
Irix, and others, take the denominator (bottom number of the fraction), stick the letters N & D in front of the said denominator, and now we have the filter value of ND2.
So, an ND2 neutral density filter is a ONE STOPPER – to use one particular Lee parlance!
If we reduce our exposure by 3 stops (that’s half of a half of a half, in other words 1/8th) then an ND8 filter is a THREE STOPPER!
An ND32 is a FIVE STOPPER, and ND128 is a SEVEN STOPPER.
And finally, an ND1000 (which is actually an ND1024!) is a TEN STOPPER – of Lee Big Stopper fame.
However, an ND1000 (ND1024) can also be classed in the ‘X.Y’ system as ND3.0 – oh dear!
The ‘X.Y’ (x point y) system is most commonly encountered with ND Grads – for example the Lee Soft-edged ND Grad set featuring 0.3, 0.6 & 0.9 ND Grads.
A 0.3 ND is the same as an ND2 – a ONE STOPPER, a 0.6ND is a two stop or ND4 and a 0.9ND is a 3 stop or ND8 – don’t you just love it!!
So hopefully we’ve cleared any confusion over ND stop values, so let’s get back to the Irix Edge Filters and my thoughts on how they perform.
If you click this link HERE you will be taken to page where, if you scroll to the bottom, you can watch a video of me doing a couple of shots at Salford Quays the other day. I didn’t have my glasses on for the ‘talk to the camera bit’ and so made a slight screw up when talking about the focus scales – watch it and you’ll see! And I’ve been told that I must apologise for inferring that Salford Quays is in Manchester!
Anyway, here are the two shots we did in the video:
The first image (Media City Footbridge) is shot with just the 95mm Irix Edge Filters circular polariser.
Conditions were vile with sun and rain in rapid succession and the shot will never win any prizes, but it does help show that the filter does not effect sharpness in the image, and is a lot more colour-neutral than a lot of CPLs out there on the market.
The second shot is with the ND1000 stacked on top of the CPL – and again there is no noticeable lack of sharpness.
When you stack the filters there IS a SMALL amount of vignetting as seen in the uncropped/unedited raw file below:
But that’s easily taken care with a little bit of content aware fill in Photoshop, so you don’t HAVE to crop it out:
And just for reference, here’s the unfiltered scene:
As a final testament to the stacked CPL + ND1000 Irix Edge Filters combo, here’s a shot from Howden Reservoir in the Peak District, taken yesterday directly into the teeth of ex-hurricane Ophelia:
If you look at the larger image, considering the fact that this is a 15 second exposure and that everything not nailed down is moving, then this image is plenty sharp enough – check out the fence lines on the hill, and the left tower of the dam in the distance.
Do NOT forget, this is a 15mm lens, not a more conventional 21mm to 24mm lens.
I could not pull this shot off with a Zeiss 15mm – no filters and bad edge performance. And I couldn’t pull it off as easily with the Nikon 14-24mm because the filters would have been unshaded from the sunlight off to my front right.
I was asked a couple of weeks ago ‘how neutral are the Irix Edge Filters Andy’?
It turns out the person who asked me had just read about some U.S branded CPL and ND filters that are supposed to be the most color-neutral filters on the market. This is also the same guy who still uses a Mark 1 Lee Big Stopper with its phenomenal blue/green cast.
“Do you ever change the colour balance, hue, saturation or luminance of any of your 8 colour channels in Lightroom, and the Basics Panel vibrance and saturation sliders?” I asked.
“Of course I do” came the reply.
“So why are you asking about filter neutrality then?” asks I. This was followed by a long silence, then the penny dropped…!
Yes, we all want some degree of filter neutrality because it shortens our workflow; but please remember that we are not shooting archive. We shoot creative imagery. We make shots of ice bergs have a blue tint to emphasize the cold atmospheric of the image, and we invariably warm up and saturate certain areas of every sunset image we ever take.
So to a large degree, full neutrality of of our landscape filters is not required, as long as they are neutral enough NOT to exclude certain wavelengths/colours of light from our recorded raw files.
And yes, on the neutrality front, these Irix filters are very good. The ND1000 is a little brown/warmish, but about 20% less so than the B&W screw in 10 stop I used to use – and no one ever complained about that filter.
I did a very ‘Heath Robinson’ test on the Irix 95mm CPL and got a colour shift of 2,7,5 RGB, but I’m just waiting for Paul Atkins to get back of his holiday so I can use his small colourimeter to check it more accurately – so PLEASE don’t go quoting that value or treating it as hard fact.
I’ll do an colour shift evaluation test on a range of filters at some date in the future, but for now all I can say is that I find the 95mm range of Irix Edge Filters exceptionally easy to work with both in terms of colour rendition and image sharpness.
So much so that I’m going to try and ‘bum’ an 82mm and 77mm step-down rings so I can use them on my Zeiss and Nikon lenses – apart from the 14-24 that is, which is now banished from my landscape and astro gear line-up for ever.
In the meantime, guess what? Irix have asked me to do a talk at Camera World Live on Saturday 28th October!
I’ll be doing my brief talk at 3pm – see here – and I’ll be on the Irix stand all day, so if you are there, just pop along for a chat or any advise you want.