Can a filter really help make digital images look more organic/film-like? We take a look at the new Black Mist filter from K&F Concept.
Essentially, the Black Mist filter is designed to add some atmosphere into an image. As if there was a slight fog or mist present. You can see it here in this shot of my son. Taken on a nice clear but overcast day. Using the Black Mist filter makes it look like there’s a slight haze in the distance.
Mist filters are not new. They have been around in many forms for years now. We even covered how to make your own right here. That said, it’s nice to see more filter makers bring out their own versions, which will no doubt have their own look.
To create this effect K&F concept has created a coating with lots of random dots of white and black spread across the filter.
This catches the incoming light and sort of spreads it around a little. Lowering the overall contrast and adding a soft glow to highlights. We can see this effect here by shooting directly into an LED light. Looking at both photos side by side, we can see the Black Mist filter is adding a subtle glow to the highlights.
So how does this look for everyday images?
To demonstrate, I took a shot of my son with and without the filter using the Sigma sdQ-H with Sigma 18-35mm f1.8 Art. This first shot is just the camera using window light, and a Spiffy Gear KYU-6 LED in the background to add a bright highlight.
Now add the Black Mist filter, and we get this subtle soft glow around the kyu6 while smoothing the light across the frame. I personally feel it gives the image a more film-like look.
How would this affect more demanding scenes, though, with direct sunlight and lens flares?
One of my favorite cameras, particularly for landscapes, is the Sigma dp0 with its 14mm f4 lens. With direct sunlight, though, you sometimes get a heavy lens flair with lots of green and some purple I figured it would make a good test subject.
Surprisingly the Black Mist filter actually helps a lot. The filter softens the sun and lens flares giving the image a more organic feeling, as you can see on the right.
One of my main worries about this type of filter would be a loss of sharpness. Looking at the filter, it’s almost like having a dusty UV filter attached to the lens. So imagine my surprise looking at the crops.
Sharpness doesn’t seem to be affected. At least on the ultra-wide dp0.
To make sure the filter still worked well at longer focal lengths. I grabbed my trusty Sigma sdQ-H with 70-200mm f2.8 Sport and did some more shots at 135mm f8.
First, without the filter. A typically sharp and high contrast image.
And here, with the filter, the contrast is lower as the blue sky seems to color the shadows on the dark roof but looks ok otherwise. A +1/3 stop increase in shutter was used to match the exposure. I shot both photos at daylight balance.
Let’s look at some crops, first from the bottom left at the door as there is some nice text there.
Surprisingly, even at 135mm on a high-resolution sensor, the detail between no filter and filter seems to be about the same, although with less contrast on the right, making it look a little softer.
Let’s try at the top right next to the sky, which might show any added fringing.
The brighter blue sky contaminated the darker roof, and the overall image is of lower contrast. But overall, it looks nice as the detail is still present with no other side effects.
After seeing how the filter allows highlights to affect the shadows, I wanted to take advantage of this. I grabbed some Lego, a KYU-6, and the Sigma fp with 105 Art Macro lens.
Here we can see the first shot without the filter.
And now with the filter. Notice how the deep black areas now have a bit of color in them, and the red and blue LEDs are catching all the white dots on the filter and blending into purples.
I love this effect as I would often add some smoke or vape to create a similar effect, but it can be hard to get just right. In contrast, the filter gives constant, repeatable results.
Here’s a little behind the scenes of how that image was created using three KYU-6 LEDs (2x RGB and 1x bicolor). A sheet of paper, a camera, and work took to create the scene.
Honestly, I’m really surprised by the K&F Concept Black Mist filter.
I expected a filter that looks like it’s full of dust to really destroy image quality. Yet it does what they intend it to do and no more… add some atmosphere to a shot.
Sure it’s not something you will want to use all the time but a great tool to have at your disposal. Giving you a way to soften practical lights in a scene or even skin for shooting portraits.
While I’ve been using this for shooting stills, I’m sure many more people will be using this filter for video. So here is a shot of it sitting next to my Sigma fp in a Nitze cine cage.
It can be picked up between $40 and $80 depending on the size from kentfaith.