Does sensor size matter? Well if you’re using a graduated filter then it’s definitely important to keep in mind.
A graduated filter is an important tool in any photographers’ toolbox. They are very popular among landscape photographers in particular, as they can be used to cut down the exposure of bright skies, whilst leaving the ground intact. Along with neutral density graduated filters, you can also get different colors like blue and sepia, making for some interesting visuals. These filters come in various strengths, from super-soft to very hard gradients.
When looking to purchase a graduated filter, however, an often-overlooked factor is the size of the camera sensor. A single filter will give you varyingly different results depending on whether you have a small or a large sensor, and everything in between. Therefore, it’s vital to be aware of this before making your purchase.
LEE Filters has shared some tips on Facebook, via its parent company, Panavision. These quick tips illustrate how much the look of your image changes depending on your sensor, and provide advice on how to pick the right filter for your camera. It mentions how a camera sensor size can alter the perceived softness of a filters' gradient. Generally speaking, the smaller the sensor size, the softer the gradient will appear, and vice versa. This is because a small sensor, like Micro Four Thirds, has a tighter crop, comparatively. Therefore, a smaller section of the filter is being used, softening the appearance of the gradient. This is something to note as if you do not take it into consideration, you may not get the desired effect you’re after.
Thankfully, companies like LEE Filters have created graduated filters for specific sensors, allowing for maximum control. The 150 x 170mm Very Hard Graduated Neutral Density 0.75 Filter is specifically designed for a hard gradient on a large sensor. If you used this on a smaller sensor, however, the gradient would not match. But not to worry, as there are graduated filters available in various sizes and strengths. This means that hard gradients are possible with even the smallest of sensors. There are other great options for graduated filters out there, too. Tiffen and Scheider both offer high-quality filter options for photography and cinematography.
Some may not take sensor size into consideration while buying a filter. However, as LEE Filters has demonstrated, it’s important for getting the right look out of a graduated filter. Luckily, there are many options and alternatives out there, all with their own specific purposes.