Square Filters Versus Round Filters: What's the Best?

Lens filters are a great addition to any photographer's camera bag. The question is: should you buy square or round ones? Is there really that big of a difference?

When it comes to using lens filters, photographers have two options of what kind to use: square or round. Which of these two choices should be utilized will depend on the type of shooter you are and the kinds of subjects you photograph. To help make sense of all this, Michael Andrew has made a thorough video explaining both the advantages and disadvantages of both.

What I like about this video is that each type of filter's strengths and limitations are fairly addressed and summarized on screen. One common issue with square filters is the possibility of light leaks, and Andrew suggests how this problem can be solved with the addition of filter gaskets. This is a product I had no idea existed, and so, for that one tip alone, I'm glad I watched the video.

At this point, I feel like I'm leaning towards the square filters for quick changeability. Which type do you prefer to use? Have you ever had a nightmare with lens filters? I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

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18 Comments

barry cash's picture

can't hand hold you will shake the camera in a long exposure or if it not touching the front of the lens light will get in from the sides so no

As a landscape Nikon shooter, I dumped all my square filters about 10 years ago and never looked back. Good riddance to those clumsy "dynamic range band-aids" from a bygone slide film era...

JetCity Ninja's picture

lol, right to the ding ding.

Ryan Davis's picture

My understanding is that for super long exposures you still need ND filters, and polarizers can't be replaced by technology or software either. Am I missing something?

No, you didn't miss anything, NDs and CPLs are still critical to landscape photography, in fact I have a half-dozen of them and some of them are actually backups of each other because I use them so often.

I guess the thing you might have missed is, I said good riddance to my /square/ filters; my NDs and CPLs are all traditional threaded 77mm/82mm filters. ;-)

Paul Lindqvist's picture

Lee 100 filters system and their compendium, a much larger range of filters available and often higher quality.

Toney Smith's picture

Formatt Hitech, Square is my preference. They are a tool to use for a specific need.

barry cash's picture

can't hand hold a graduated filter or a reverse graduated filter and get good results with a long exposure Dumb article

Haha I used to do that a whole bunch and it works fine. Just takes a steady hand.

Keith Davis's picture

I may very well be showing my inexperience or ignorance but focusing and exposure were not mentioned in the video. I have a circular and 100mm Lee 10 stop filter. With the Lee filter system it is easy, with less camera movement, to find focus and starting exposure settings then adding the filter with foundation and taking the shot. Changing composition and focus is fast and easy. With the circular filter threaded on you cannot focus or find exposure. It is often time consuming to constantly be screwing it on and off with changing compositions and conditions.

Butch

JetCity Ninja's picture

i dont have any issues focusing or composing with a 10-stop ND in place, but then again, i shoot with mirrorless.

i'll grant you that it's time consuming, as it can take someone a whole 5-10 seconds to screw on a filter as opposed to 4-9 seconds to screw down the lock screw on a filter holder, but there's no camera movement for either if your head and tripod are of decent quality, properly set and/or weighted, and you're trying to screw on a filter and not trying to throw a changeup. it's definitely less fiddly, in regards to the 100mm system... until you start trying to swap filters while in the field, imo.

maybe i'm doing it wrong, but if i have to swap from a 10-stop ND to a 6-stop ND while the light is fading, it's far easier to screw off and on a filter than it is to slide a pane out and in of a holder. (at least until i bought the wine country system)

either way, i prefer 100mm for the ability to stack and use gradients and prefer rounds for portability and convenience.

JetCity Ninja's picture

both. wine country 100mm holder and 77mm round. depends on whether i have room in the bag or if what i'm envisioning requires a gradient.

Stuart Carver's picture

Firstly, what has he done to his eyes on that video clip lol.

I’m currently in this dilemma, I bought a square holder but have yet to use it, I use round filters and they can be fiddly but mirrorless means I rarely need to take them off to focus etc BUT I have to bracket shots quite a lot.

My main issue with the square system is how fiddly the CPLs are to get off and how much bulk they account for. One day I’ll invest in some square NDs then just use whichever suits the situation I think.

Paul Lindqvist's picture

Seems most of the shortcomings listed of the Square filters in the video are based on using cheap and crappy filter holders.

Keith Davis's picture

I agree... with the Lee system foundation there is no need to screw anything down to add or remove the filter holder. It is simply an align, pull, and release a spring loaded lever. Less than a second.

Paul Lindqvist's picture

Well, I was more thinking about the arguments of light leaks and filters falling out. Considering I use MPTV filters in my LEE compendium and walk with the rig on my shoulder when moving around I'd say I'm pretty confident neither holder or filter will come off unless an external force is applied, in fact, you would have a hard time bumping out any filter out of the holder even with force.

Light leaks have never been an issue, both my big/little stopper has foam frame gaskets.

This guy sided with Northrup in the defamation of Steve McCurry. Not a fan.

Paul Lindqvist's picture

And that related to the subject how?