Tiffen’s new APEX filter promises it’ll let you capture long-exposure images during the day without any colour issues. David Cleland puts the claims to the test in his Tiffen APEX review.
Wex Photographic recently asked me to try out the new Tiffen APEX filter designed specifically for long-exposure photography. Although I have moved away from screw-on filters in favour of the traditional holder approach, some of the technology built into the Tiffen APEX meant it was too good an opportunity to miss.
The Tiffen APEX is designed for all lens types, regardless of the lens coating, and is designed specifically for extreme long-exposure photography. The concept is that the APEX lens allows photographers to capture long-exposure images regardless of the time of day.
The filter comes equipped with a standard near infrared blocker and a ‘Hot Mirror’ to eliminate all infrared pollution that can be an issue with long-exposure photography. Both features claim to allow the capture of long-exposure images without any compromise on colour, something I was keen to put to the test
If you have engaged in long-exposure photography then you will know these are bold claims; colour casts and colour management are often the most difficult challenges long-exposure photographers face in post-production. Most Neutral Density (ND) filters offer the ability to filter standard light but few also filter out infrared frequencies.
I decided to head out to my favourite waterfall in the small town of Crumlin, Northern Ireland. Normally I would aim to capture my long-exposure images in low light, either at the beginning of the day or during the golden hour just before sunset. On this trip, though, I aimed to be at the waterfall just before noon to maximise the mid-day April sun.
In similar circumstances in the past the longest shutter speed I could manage was 8-10 seconds with traditional ND filters. Given the claims of the APEX technology I decided to shoot in full sunshine with 30-second exposures at f/9.
I was using the Tiffen APEX with the Fujifilm X-T1 camera and Fujinon 14mm f/2.8 R XF lens. To keep things as clean as possible I attached the filter to the lens before I left on the trip and both the lens hood and lens cover were also able to attach with the APEX filter fitted, which was particularly handy.
It was also exciting to discover that the X-T1 was able to focus easily even with the filter attached. This really simplifies the whole process of capturing long-exposure images and allowed me to focus (excuse the pun) on composition and the duration of the exposure.
This in itself is a significant advantage; when I employed screw-on filters in the past, one of the biggest frustrations was the fact the camera was unable to focus with the filter attached. As a result I either had to use manual focus or focus with the filter off before carefully attaching the filter (without moving the camera) and then take the photo.
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It sounds simple written down but in reality this wasn’t as easy as it sounds, especially with cold, frozen fingers. It was a challenge to ensure the camera was perfectly steady throughout and also do everything possible to avoid dust and fingerprints getting on the lens or filter. Using the APEX filter with the Fujifilm X-T1 and 14mm lens made for an exceptionally clean process, reducing the requirement of dust-removal editing in post-production.
With all the positives there comes a negative: lenses come in lots of different filter sizes. For the Fujinon 14mm lens I needed the 58mm version of the filter, but I would need to invest in a filter for each additional lens I wish to use for long-exposure photography. Still, if you only plan to capture long-exposure images with one specific lens, the screw-on APEX is an ideal candidate.
At the waterfall I set the X-T1 to ISO 200 and put the camera in ‘T’ mode. Using an aperture of f/9 rather than calculating the exposure I decided to use the meter mode scale on the LCD screen to predict the shutter speed. I adjusted the shutter speed until the level was set at the correct exposure – in this case, 30 seconds.
On reviewing the resultant image on the LCD I was really impressed by the exposure and the colour clarity. I experimented with a range of apertures and shutter speeds and found equally pleasing images were created in camera. The fact that the camera was able to focus with the filter attached meant I was able to focus all my attention on composition.
Ordinarily I would take my long exposure images into Lightroom and carry out some level of colour balancing and enhancement, but to give a true representation of the filter as possible, all these images are straight from camera. I do think the colour accuracy is certainly something to celebrate.
The Tiffen APEX filter comes with a massive ten-year warranty and is true to the claims that the filter allows the capture of long-exposure images during even the brightest of light, with very little impact on colour.
I know many photographers who favour the model of layering ND and graduated filters in the traditional holder system, but if you are looking for a simple model for long-exposure photography the APEX achieves everything it claims. It certainly is an impressive piece of filter technology.
About the Author
David is a documentary and landscape photographer covering everything from dramatic long-exposure landscape photography through to live music. David is also an official Fujifilm X Photographer. You can see more of his work on his website or follow him on Twitter