For the photographers out there who have been brought up exclusively in the digital age, using lens filters may seem like an antiquated way of working. Generally, most lens filters were inventions from back in the film days, where things like white balance correction or even lens effects had to be accomplished with an extra piece of glass attached to the lens.
Once image editing moved to the digital zone, many lens filters became redundant as post-processing could do a similar job. However, there are scenarios where lens filters are still very much needed such as filtering UV light, especially with film photography becoming more popular than ever.
Just like when using film itself, using filters means that you have to get everything right in-camera, which means if nothing else, they are also good practice tools.
One bunch of filters, which are less commonly used today, are FLD filters, which are essentially used when shooting under fluorescent lighting. These are essentially color correcting filters that remove the green tinge emitted from this type of lighting. They can also be used for certain types of effects, such as darkening an exposure with lots of green colors or enhancing purple tints.
Like many colored filters, FLD filters can reduce the amount of light coming into the lens and many argue that the same effect can be produced in software by tweaking the white balance settings. But, if you’re a film photographer or simply want to experiment with filters, then the examples listed below are some good quality FLD filters which will sufficiently cover these bases.
1. Tiffen 77mm FL-D (Overall Winner)
The Tiffen 77mm FL-D Fluorescent glass filter strikes a good balance between affordability and quality glass. It’s always worth bearing in mind that with any filter you attach to a lens should be the best quality glass you can afford. This is especially true if you have an expensive lens, where you don’t want to degrade the quality of light in any way.
So, moving onto this offering from Tiffen which in this case is for a 77mm filter thread, with many other sizes available at different price points. This filter is aimed at providing mild correction for fluorescent or tungsten lighting.
As fluorescent lights can produce a wide range of color temperatures, it wasn’t expected for the filter to 100% correct every lighting situation, but to give general correction where possible. If you need the most accurate ways of color-correcting, then a color temperature meter will be needed to use the exact filter for each lighting situation.
Generally, this filter provides more natural skin tones under fluorescent lighting than without the filter and far more accurate colors. Similar effects can be seen on both digital and film, but if you’re exclusively working in the film realm, the Tiffen is a high-quality filter and even produces some nice purple tints, which can work effectively for landscape shots.
Another inexpensive FLD filter, depending on the size you choose, comes in the form of the Heliopan Bay 1 FLD. This filter feels like a solidly built piece of hardware, built from Schott glass for added clarity and features a brass filter ring for longer life and durability.
This unit has a 2x filter factor which produces one stop of exposure reduction, which will need to be compensated for in-camera. The brass filter ring feels extremely solid and high-quality and with the Bay 1 front mount, other filters can be attached and stacked as needed. The filter even comes with its own little plastic case for storage.
The results from this filter produce a general correction for fluorescent lighting, with a definite reduction of green tints. The effects are generally mild from this filter, but for slight reductions from the effects of fluorescent lighting, this filter does a reasonable job.
In many ways, the inclusion of the Formatt-Hitech 165 x 165mm FLD filter is not just to show a high-quality version in this category, but also to show there are other options other than screw-on filters. This filter drops onto the front of your lens with an attachment, with the advantage of allowing the quick swapping of glass. This is especially useful when you’re trying out a few options to get the best results.
This example has a 3x filter factor, which will need 1.6 stops of exposure compensation, and is made from CR-39 dyed resin. The filter is also an ideal fit for the Hitech 165mm filter holder. In use under mild fluorescent lighting, the filter does a respectable job of getting white balance levels near to 5500K, with a more natural look than without the filter.
If you need a high-quality FLD filter when shooting exclusively under fluorescent lighting, then the Formatt-Hitech is a good option.
Hoya has always been a good balance between cost and quality, with the option here coming in the form of the Hoya 72mm FL-D Fluorescent Hoya Multi-Coated (HMC). This filter is optimized to be used with daylight film, featuring a layer of anti-reflective coating, reducing reflections from around nine percent to roughly four or five percent.
This filter does exactly what it says it will and reduces the green color tints as displayed from fluorescent lighting. This particular version produces a good overall reduction of greenish tones, while also producing some nice purplish to the rose colored tints as a nice special effect.
5. LEE Daylight Fluorescent Set (Budget Winner)
LEE has been a long-standing producer of high-quality lens filters, so it’s no surprise they are included on this list. The LEE Daylight Fluorescent Set is a good choice because it comes with filters to correct for different temperatures of light for both fluorescent and tungsten lighting. Each filter reduces light input by up to 1 2/3 stops, which needs to be compensated for in-camera.
Each filter produces a general correction, producing a far more natural rendition to images. As with the other filters on this list, the results will depend on the strength of the initial lighting. But for general purposes and because there is options within the set to experiment with, this set strikes a good balance between cost and variety.
Selecting FLD Filters
While FLD filters may be seen these days as specialist offerings, they still have their place and uses. For those shooting predominantly with film, these filters are a must. If you’re using digital cameras, these filters can still provide useful effects and a great way to play with traditional filters.
As with all old school filters, it’s a good idea to have a bunch in waiting for those times when other methods just don’t cut the mustard.