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In The Practicing Photographer, photographer and teacher Ben Long shares a weekly serving of photographic instruction and inspiration. Each installment focuses on a photographic shooting scenario, a piece of gear, or a software technique. Each installment concludes with a call to action designed to inspire you to pick up your camera (or your mouse or smartphone) to try the technique for yourself.
I spend a lot a time in classrooms and in Lynda courses telling students, oh, buying new gear won't make you a better photographer. You know, you don't need to think about, buying some new thing that's going to suddenly improve your images. I can say that because I've bought every piece of gear, and I can tell you it didn't make a difference. I'm going tell you this week though, on this installment of the Practicing Photographer, how you can not spend very much money and get much better use out of your gear. Here's the situation I'm talking about. I have here a 24:105 millimeter lens on my camera.
I really like it, it's my walk around lens. It has a 77 millimeter thread size. I also happen to have this 50 millimeter, f1.2 lens that I really like. It's great in low light. It's great when I just want to work with a normal lens. It's got a 72 millimeter filter size. Really, Canon couldn't, 5 millimeters? They couldn't manage to get a 77 millimeter thread size on here? So here's why this is such an issue for me. Lets say that I want to put a nice expensive filter on this lens, like a neutral density filter.
I happen to have, I have and own along with everything else a 77 millimeter neutral density filter that I keep right here in my neutral density filter holder. I never travel anywhere without this. This is a nice Hoya 77 millimeter neutral density filter. The problem with these big filters is they're pricy, if you want to get a good one. This one is somewhere between 75 to a 100 bucks. Now, you can buy cheaper ones. But this is a nice piece of glass on this camera right now. I don't want to corrupt it with a bad filter. So I went ahead and spent the money on the nicer filter.
But it's 77 millimeters, I can't use it on my 1.2 50, or can I? There actually is a way I can do it, I can buy a step-up ring, which I happen to have right here. This is a 72 to 77mm step up ring. It's just a little piece of metal. It's got 72 millimeters threads on this side, and 77 millimeter threads on this side. So I can take this and screw it on to the end of a 50. It fits just like any filter does. It really is just like a filter there's just nothing inside it.
Screw that down, then I can attach my filter to it. So what this means is rather than having to buy a $100 filter for one lens and then go out and buy the same $100 filter for another lens, I can buy one $100 filter and then a couple of $4 step-up rings. So, if you have a filter set that you like, maybe you have a neutral density and a circular polarizer, maybe an infrared, those are all expensive filters, especially when you're buying the larger sizes. You have a filter set that you like. But you've got a bunch of lenses you'd like to use it on. And they don't all have the same filter size.
Some simple step up rings can be a very inexpensive way to get them there. Now, there are some caveats. If I'm working with a wide angle lens, then a step up ring might actually be visible in the corners of the frame. I might get a little bit of vignetting. Typically, just zoom in a little bit, it goes away. So you might lose a little bit of your wide end, you may not. It depends on your particular lens. I can also step down. I can go from 72 millimeters, sorry excuse me; 77 millimeters down to 72 millimeters. I can go all the way down to 58 millimeters. If I do that, I'm definitely going to have vignetting.
Still, this is such a better alternative than buying a bunch of expensive filters. I can buy I spotted the other day, a kit that went from 58 to 77, not one step up ring, but a series. And it was 15 bucks. So you can mix and match different filters to get get things adapted to the size as you want. The more you stack, the more you're going to risk that vignetting effect. Now, like any filter, I can get this thing stuck on my lens. So you want to be careful about screwing these things down too far. Also, if I have it on here, especially if I have a big stack, I may not be able to use a lens hood, or some other lens attachment.
If you want to know about working with filters and how to get them unstuck from each other, check out my specialty lenses course. I've got some tips in there. In the meantime, this is a great way to feel like you bought some new gear, without having to spend a bunch of money.
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