How Diffusion Filters Work

For many photographers, sharpness and clarity are important aspects of an image. This is why the popularity of super-sharp lenses has been increasing. Almost all modern lenses are now extremely capable when it comes to resolution, but sometimes, this level of ridiculous resolution can become a hindrance. 

Sometimes, a super-sharp lens can produce a harsh result. I find this to be more apparent in harsh lighting conditions, like around midday. In these circumstances, diffusion filters can help take some of the edge off and produce a more pleasing look. There's also great for reducing some of the harshness in the highlights, especially in hotspots on skin. 

In a recent video, Gerald Undone discusses how these diffusion filters work by demonstrating the new PolarPro Mist Edition filters. I find it quite interesting to see the impact these kinds of filters have on the resulting image. They may not be super useful for photographers; however, for videographers, they're probably quite important. Diffusion filters are used regularly by many cinematographers and filmmakers. The softer, slightly diffused results works to produce a more "cinematic" look. I know I've been considering a set of these filters for many of the videos we produce, so it's interesting to see just how they work. 

Check out the full video linked above. 

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Mike Ditz's picture

As someone who has used Softar filters and film with Hasselblad lenses I appreciate the need to diffuse the surgically sharp images. I don't really get why today I would bake in the softness to the image when there are about a million presets and filter and tricks to accomplish pretty much the same effect digitally rather than optically.
I guess at the price the variable ND must be good (no color shift like the cheap variable NDs) but since I very rarely need ND, I will stick with the set of non variable NDs which don't polarize, but that is not always bad.

Marvin Pryce-Jones's picture

I guess it depends whether you are 'old school' & prefer to do all 'in camera' or as most these days seem to rely on post production software for their images?

As a a Pro I'm still in the 'in camera' school. Post prod is for tweaking (only if necessary) not for giving me an image that didn't exist in the 1st place!

Mike Ditz's picture

I spent a long time shooting a lot of E6 and BW film (120/4x5/8x10) and getting it right in camera. It took a lot longer and more film tests and 'hold the set" until approval came through (1-2 hour E6 processing).

I like the new tools I have as it gives me flexibility after the shoot when the client asks for a variation from the original. If I shoot diffusion free I can offer light medium or heavy, local or general softness rather than 3 $250 Hasselblad filters or god forbid a "grease job" request. Today's clients IMO want 10-30 shots per day not 2-3 so pre planning post is what I need to do sometimes.
To be honest I would much rather rely on post production software than a dark room or a very expensive retoucher working on dye transfer prints for post production.

But in my line of work the image did not exist until I created it. YMMD.

Marvin Pryce-Jones's picture

Software is the modern day equivalent of dodging, burning or a retoucher. All take time & money so the more done in camera the less time & expense spent on manipulation?
I'm all for modern image manipulation software, but I still believe that as much as possible should be done at the time of shooting to reduce the latter?

Mike Ditz's picture

Depend on your clients.
These days they sometimes plan to or want the option to change things after the shoot. The time and money for post work is built into my jobs. Either way they end up paying for it, but another shoot day is more money than a few more more hours of retouching. I usually get pretty close but 9:10 times there will be retouching.
Sometimes the shot lists are very ambitious and seeing what I can fix in PS in 7 minutes or fix on set in 30 I may choose to use PS. In my genre the days of delivering 4 or 5 perfect shots are over - now they may want 15-20 shots for the different uses.