9 Light-Pollution Filters Tested: Do They Really Work? Part 3

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And, at last, we have Park Photos (Tests 9-12) of the light-pollution filters, and my conclusions. To return to the first part of the article and the City Photos (Tests 1-5), please click here. To view Town Photos (Tests 6-8), please click here.

TEST 9A: From the park, a wide-angle image of the Milky Way showing some of the light pollution affecting the area.

Fujifilm X-T2; Samyang 12mm f/2.0 NCS CS lens; 15 seconds, f/2.8; ISO 3200. Mounted on an iOptron SkyGuider Pro EQ camera mount.

TEST 9B: Same images as Test 9A.

Fujifilm X-T2; Samyang 12mm f/2.0 NCS CS lens; 15 seconds, f/2.8; ISO 3200. Mounted on an iOptron SkyGuider Pro EQ camera mount.

TEST 9C: Same images as Test 9A adjusted universally.

Fujifilm X-T2; Samyang 12mm f/2.0 NCS CS lens; 15 seconds, f/2.8; ISO 3200. Mounted on an iOptron SkyGuider Pro EQ camera mount.

TEST 10A: Narrower view of the Milky Way as seen from the park with a 35mm equivalent lens.

Fujifilm X-T2; Fujifilm XF 23mm f/1.4 R lens; 30 seconds, f/2.0; ISO 1600. Mounted on an iOptron SkyGuider Pro EQ camera mount.

TEST 10B: Same as 10A, with WB set to fluorescent.

Fujifilm X-T2; Fujifilm XF 23mm f/1.4 R lens; 30 seconds, f/2.0; ISO 1600. Mounted on an iOptron SkyGuider Pro EQ camera mount.

TEST 10C: Adjustments made to the unfiltered image and then applied to the rest.

Fujifilm X-T2; Fujifilm XF 23mm f/1.4 R lens; 30 seconds, f/2.0; ISO 1600. Mounted on an iOptron SkyGuider Pro EQ camera mount.

TEST 11A: Normal view of the Milky Way from the park, with a 50mm equivalent lens.

Fujifilm X-T2; Fujifilm 35mm f/1.4 XF R lens; 30 seconds, f/2.0; ISO 1600. Mounted on an iOptron SkyGuider Pro EQ camera mount.

TEST 11B: Same as 11A, with WB set to fluorescent.

Fujifilm X-T2; Fujifilm 35mm f/1.4 XF R lens; 30 seconds, f/2.0; ISO 1600. Mounted on an iOptron SkyGuider Pro EQ camera mount.

TEST 11C: Adjustments made to the unfiltered image and then applied to the rest.

Fujifilm X-T2; Fujifilm 35mm f/1.4 XF R lens; 30 seconds, f/2.0; ISO 1600. Mounted on an iOptron SkyGuider Pro EQ camera mount.

TEST 12A: A telephoto view of the Milky Way from the park, with a 105mm lens (158mm equivalent).

Fujifilm X-T2; Nikon AF DC-NIKKOR 105mm f/2D lens; 30 seconds, f/2.0; ISO 1600. Mounted on an iOptron SkyGuider Pro EQ camera mount.

TEST 12B: Same as 12A with WB set to fluorescent in Lightroom.

Fujifilm X-T2; Nikon AF DC-NIKKOR 105mm f/2D lens; 30 seconds, f/2.0; ISO 1600. Mounted on an iOptron SkyGuider Pro EQ camera mount.

TEST 12C: Adjustments made to the unfiltered image and then applied globally to the rest.

The Verdict

As you can see in the above tests, the effects of the various light pollution filters are subtle, but the image is affected.

  • None of the filters had any effect on image sharpness, and none were noticeably sharper than the others.
  • The Ice, Haida, and NiSi filters all gave the image a nice bluish tint that looks more natural, in my opinion.
  • If maximum light-gathering is your mission, the Ice, Tiffen, Haida, NiSi, and Kenko filters all darken the image a bit—the Kenko by a full stop.
  • The Kenko filter only performs well when you push past a 135mm telephoto on a full-frame sensor. If you are shooting wide-angle starscapes, this filter is not for you.
  • In what was obviously an unfair test, the rooftop Milky Way image with the brightly lit building—Test 5—shows that all the filters struggled with reflections—some more than others.

These four images appear in the tests above, but I am showing them side by side to help with the comparison. Here we have the difference between a no-filter image and an image with the NiSi filter, taken 3 minutes apart.

The first pair is unedited from capture with the WB of the camera set to Auto.

No Filter
No Filter
NiSi Filter
NiSi Filter

And here, I have neutralized the WB. The filtered image looks a bit richer and the sky is darker, even though the exposure of the buildings is constant between the two frames.

No Filter
No Filter
NiSi Filter
NiSi Filter

What has your experience been with light-pollution filters? Have you always been curious about them as well? I welcome your comments, below.

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