Techniques

Adapting Filters to Fit the Nikon 14-24mm Lens

by Steve Fines | January 11, 2010

© Steve FinesNikon’s 14-24mm f/2.8 lens is highly regarded as an excellent wide-angle lens. Many articles and lens tests claim that this lens performs as well as or better then just about all other lenses in this focal range, including primes. A few of these articles are noted at the end of this document, and many more are easily found with a web search.

In fact the high image quality this lens is capable of has generated a large number of people adapting it for use on non-Nikon cameras.

One of the most commonly listed drawbacks concerning its use, however, is the lack of ability to use filters with it. The front element is bulbous and protruding and does not allow for the typical screw mount filters that most 35mm shooters are familiar with. Yet is possible to adapt a set of filters to work with this lens.

Nikon 14-24 © Steve Fines

My Nikon 14-24 with a custom filter setup adapted from a Cokin X-Pro filter holder and Schneider polarizing filter.

I adapted a Cokin X-Pro filter holder and filters designed by Schneider Optics for use with my Nikon 14-24mm lens. One could easily use products by other manufacturers to make a suitable filter setup for this lens, or any other standard wide-angle lens with a protruding front element. In the case of the filter holder, you could even craft one from raw materials by hand.

First, I had to choose filters large enough to avoid significant vignetting. To help determine the appropriate size I set up my camera with the built in hood of my 14-24 touching a clear piece of glass.

Using black electrical tape I then made a square box with an opening of 120mm x 120mm on the glass centered on the lens and shot photos at f/2.8 through f/16 to see if there was significant light fall off at the corners. I did this test several times with boxes of different sizes.

Using this technique I found that 130mm square filter gave slight vignetting at f/2.8 with a focal length of 14-17mm, but by f/4 and above 18mm focal length it was essentially gone.

Because I was designing my filters primarily for landscape photography use and would rarely be using an aperture larger than f/8, this suited me well. If one needed to consistently shoot at f/2.8 then a larger filter would be desirable.

The Cokin X-Pro filter holder that I have is designed to hold 130mm x 130mm filters, making it perfect for my needs. It also has four soft tipped screws that allow it to be easily and quickly mounted on the hood of the Nikon 14-24, so no alterations were needed to get it to fit.

Cokin X-Pro filter holder mounted on Nikon 12-24mm lens © Steve Fines

The Cokin X-Pro filter holder mounted on a Nikon 14-24mm lens. Note the 4 soft tipped screws attached to the hood. These leave no marks and are quick to take on/off after initial adjustments. The screws pass through the adapter ring.

Some filters, such as polarizing filters, need to be rotated in order to obtain the desired effect. By adding a Cokin adapter ring to your filter holder, you can rotate the filters freely while the camera and lens remain stationary. I found that the 105mm adapter ring provides plenty of clearance around the hood of the 14-24 – a link to it at B&H is given at the end of this article.

When it comes to filters, there are many choices out there. Most Cokin filters, including those 130mm filters designed to fit the Cokin X-Pro holder, are made of resin (plastic). Resin filters do not as good a reputation for optical purity that higher end glass filters do. Those using a lens as good as the 14-24 are generally concerned with optical quality, so cheaper filters are likely not a real consideration.

Fortunately, many other companies design filters that can be used with the Cokin X-Pro filter holder. These include Hitech, Lee, Schneider Optics, and Singh-Ray. The only requirement that they be 130mm wide.

In this example I show a circular polarizer and 5 stop ND filter from Schnieder Optics. These are high end, expensive glass filters, but with an optical purity to match the performance of the Nikon 14-24.

With Schneider Optics, the closest filter they make in size is to 130mm about 6×6 inches (roughly 152mm square), so their filters need to be trimmed to 130mm on each side. Tempered glass is more likely to shatter when being cut, so it is a good idea to know what type of glass the filters you are using are made of (Schneider glass is not tempered). Unless you have the skills and tools to safely cut glass yourself, have a professional do this for you. I found a local glass shop with a water jet glass cutting device to take care of cutting my filters for me.

Another thing to keep in mind is that most filter holders of this style (including the Cokin X-Pro filter I used) use friction to hold the filters in place. I had the glass shop also grind down the edges just enough (to about 3mm thickness – they come from Schneider 4mm thick) with a rough surface such that it could slide into the holder, but not slide out when not held. This is important when you are looking through the viewfinder and adjusting the degree of polarization by turning the filter holder. The last thing you want is to hear your polarizing filter shattering on the ground!

Custom polarizer and neutral density filter © Steve Fines

My custom polarizer and neutral density filter. The ground edges have a rough surface that helps keep the filters in place and prevents them from sliding out of the filter holder.

Flare is also an issue whenever using filters. It is important to block light from coming through the gaps in the filter holder. I use an adhesive weather strip (available at any hardware store) attached to the Cokin adapter ring. While this does leave small openings where light can come in between the actual filters, in my experience this is not significant. If one wanted, then a small amount of electrical tape could be used to completely light proof the entire setup.

Weather stripping blocks excess light © Steve Fines

Weather stripping can be used to prevent excess light from entering the lens around the filter holder. Blocking this light helps prevent flare.

I use primarily a circular polarizer and neutral density filter when shooting with my 14-24 but this device can be used to hold just about any type of filter, including graduated neutral density filters, colored filters, and special effects filters. When using graduated neutral density filters, it is a good idea to cut the filter longer than 130mm on one side, so that you can vary the effect of the grad by moving the filter up and down.

Stack multiple filters © Steve Fines

Using an adapted filter holder, its is easy to stack multiple filters in front of your Nikon 12-24mm lens. Here, a polarizing filter and neutral density filter are shown together.

Additional Resources

Materials List

About the Author

Steve Fines became interested in photography in the early 1980’s - first in high school and then college where he assisted in teaching a few classes. Early on Steve had the photojournalism bug. He headed to the Middle East and had the good fortune to be in Jerusalem in 1986 when the Intifada erupted. There, he did some work for a Palestinian newspaper and went through several K1000’s. Later on Steve developed more of an interest in wildlife and landscapes, aided by the conversion to digital in the late 90’s. Since then Steve has used Canon, Nikon, and Leica systems. Currently his photographic interests focus on landscape, macro and wildlife subjects, although he is equally fascinated by the software and hardware technologies that go into processing a digital image. His website is www.finesart.com.

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